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Lily's Clapham Review

Katy Harrington takes her Beard to dinner and finds a few hits and misses

Written by . Published on August 18th 2011.


Lily's Clapham Review

FOLLOW the swarms of single professionals carrying their Sainsbury’s bags and gym gear around the corner from Clapham Common Station and you will come across Lily’s. Those familiar with the area may remember this upstairs eatery in its former incarnation as a Thai restaurant. No doubt many a punter in the downstairs pub, The Frog, stumbled up the narrow stairs after a few pints looking for a Pad Thai in the past, but now the top floor restaurant has been all tarted up into an altogether swankier establishment. 

The accompanying sauce got top marks, but that’s all fur coat and no knickers a far as I’m concerned.

Lily’s is selling itself as a comfy-enough-for-lunch-but-posh-enough-for-dinner type destination. It’s certainly stylish, if oddly shaped. The main area is a long, narrow corridor of tables for two, with dark wood, a built-in bar and a private section for bigger parties down the back (cordoned off with chain curtains, presumably so you don’t have to watch the other plebs eat). Basically, Lily’s is a meat and fish joint, big on steak and fresh seafood, so as a non-meat eater, I knew reviewing a restaurant that prides itself on its grill would be patently unfair…unless…I brought along the most carnivorous alpha male I know, who from herein shall be referred to as ‘The Beard’. 

Lily40 CopyPrawn cocktail

To start, The Beard chose prawn cocktail with gem lettuce and marie rose sauce. Not very hunter-gatherer of him, but it is the kind of boring starter you scoff at when your date orders, only to later wish you had ordered it too. Now prawn cocktail isn’t about cooking, it’s about assembly, so to get it wrong would be crime, but it was decent – big prawns, fresh lettuce and a good marie rose. Happily though, my cornish crab mayonnaise with english peas, lemon and salad trumped it. Note to the kitchen:  whoever’s idea it was to put juicy green peas in with soft salty crab meat, should call MENSA because it was genius.

Now Monday night, the typical off-night for the kitchen and waiting staff ‘A-team’ might be seen as a tough night to do a review, but I never really went along with the idea that suckers who eat out on a slow midweek night deserve any less than the weekenders. If I’m paying the same prices as the Saturday night crowd, I expect the same standard and service. Case closed. At Lily’s I couldn’t help but feeling that despite a chef who knew what he was doing, we were dining somewhat ‘off-peak’. In fairness though, what you can’t reasonably expect on a Monday night is a buzzy restaurant alive with Friday night atmosphere, and Lily’s was a little dead. This was helped greatly by friendly and professional service, but still, a little music would have been welcome.

Fruit De Mer 2Fruit de mer

At the only other occupied table, a first date, (which was going badly…what? I told you it was quiet!) the couple ordered the seafood platter of fruits de mer for two (£55), which looked a great sharing option, generous and beautifully presented, but unfortunately they seemed to preoccupied recounting how many calories they had consumed that day (not enough) to enjoy it.

Eavesdropping over and onto the mains. My pan-fried lemon sole (£16) (a fairly lowly fish in the hierarchy) was good if not great. Served whole and on the bone, the meat flaked off easily and was juicy and soft. I would have been happy with that alone, but had ordered a side of earthy tasting baby jersey royals and for once I was not at all jealous of The Beard’s tasteless, lukewarm triple-cooked chips (£3).

Lilys 023 The options from the grill included Herefordshire poll rump steak (£14), a rib-eye (£16), gloucester old spot pork chop (£14), Wiltshire downland lamb cutlets (£14) and Spatchcock baby chicken (£12), all served with a gigantic grilled tomato, and a choice of red wine jus, wild mushroom or green peppercorn sauce. The Beard scarcely glanced at the menu before selecting the Herefordshire poll sirloin steak with field mushroom sauce, but disappointingly it was not cooked medium rare as requested, and was chewy. The accompanying sauce got top marks, but that’s all fur coat and no knickers a far as I’m concerned.

A word of warning about the menu – real veggies (not cheats like me who eat fish) might be short on choice…unless they are gnocchi fans. To me, eating gnocchi to about as pleasant as eating something you find rolled in dog hair behind your fridge, yet for some reason chef’s feel compelled to offer it as a universal veggie option.

To drink, a bottle Chablis La Colombe (£30) was at the top end of a decent selection of wines. It disappeared rather rapidly as the attentive waiters (two fine fellows) never let our glasses get empty.

Dessert was hit and miss. The hit was mine – a white chocolate brownie (generous enough for two) served with vanilla cream, delectable, even if it was more an afternoon tea cake than an after-dinner sweet.  The Beard’s profiteroles were most definitely a miss – tough choux pastry, a scant cream filling and all in all, like chewing boot leather dipped of chocolate, but he munched on like a trooper regardless.

Lily’s has a lot going for it, the deck (which was empty due to torrential downpour) is, in finer weather, a great place a pre/post dinner drink. The food is mostly well cooked, unpretentious, generous and fairly priced, the service a damn sight better than the average neighbourhood restaurant and the hungry working singletons of Clapham will no doubt appreciate having an option like Lily’s on their doorstep…bar the handful of beer hounds who’ll miss their Saturday night Thai take-away. 

 

Lily's
32 The Pavement
Clapham Old Town
SW4 0JE

 

Rating:         12.5/20
Breakdown:   
6.5/10 food
                        4/5 service

                        2/5 ambience

 

 

Follow @tweetkatyh on Twitter

 

 

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

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Mark GarnerAugust 18th 2011.

geat review this. where did you find Katy, Casey?

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