When my stateside friends visit London, I usually assume that as much as I love Huong Viet, my friends have not come to Blighty to say they ate Vietnamese food. Instead, I end up suggesting we eat gastropub food and Indian food, which are two types of eating that I think are uniquely plentiful in London. [Well, OK, maybe uniquely isn’t quite right re: Indian food . . . I mean, you could go to India, but you hopefully see what I’m saying . . . .]
The Eagle gastropub opened in 1991, and if you’ve ever read about the history of gastropubs (such a popular reading topic, no?), the Eagle is invariably mentioned as the first one, because the Eagle’s owners geniusly invented the word.
Although the Eagle, located near Exmouth Market, is just a 20 minute-walk from our flat, I’d never been there until yesterday. With so many gastropubs opening up all the time (and my belief in evolution, I suppose), how could the 16-year-old Eagle still be going strong?
Hey, well, everyone makes mistakes. Because a fellow London blogger visited the Eagle a few weeks ago and raved about it, Jon and I decided to check it out yesterday night. The Mediterranean-influenced food, while no-frills compared to what’s served now in most gastropubs, was pretty good.
We dropped by at around 9:30 pm, and although the Eagle was packed and has a no-reservations policy, we didn’t have to wait too long for a table. The room is high-ceilinged and dark, and compared to most gastropubs these days, it has a slightly grungy feel. I imagine old French bistros used to feel this way: loud, convivial and with rickety tables and chairs.
Snagging a table near the bar, we looked at the chalkboard menus and were sad to see the grilled lambchops-and-rice dish had been crossed out. Suddenly we felt the urgent need to order, lest the kitchen run out of other yummy-sounding dishes! So we bellied up to the bar and ordered two glasses of rioja, a veggie bruschetta, skate and runner beans, and Napoli sausages with figs and cannelloni beans. (These days, gastropubs are a lot more like restaurants, and servers come to your table to take your oder, but not so at the Eagle. They’re the original and sticking to it . . . ).
The portions were enormous, which made me feel better about having spent £10 on grilled sausages and beans, basically.
Presentation (as you can see from my photo of said sausages) was not a priority, but I did love how charred and smoky the sausages were from the grill, and the figs added a nice, tangy sweetness. If you’ve ever tried to find sausages in London with a spicy kick, then you’ll enjoy these as much as I did. The beans were just filler, and I think a better carb of choice would have been a good hunk of fresh bread. Believer in self help that I am, I just raided the bread basket.
The bruschetta was toweringly huge and could easily have been a main course, which explained the £7.50 price tag. It’s a grilled, thick slice of bread piled high with roasted vegetables and topped with a honkin’ large ball of surprisingly un-tasty buffalo mozzarella. It wasn’t awful, but having grilled a lot of veggies lately, I’ve done a lot better at home.
Overall, a good experience, and I appreciate all that the Eagle has done for the London mid-priced dining scene. That said, with all the excellent gastropubs closer to my flat, I’m not sure I’ll head out to the Eagle again soon.
If you don’t feel like cooking on a weeknight and crave simple, well-prepared food, the Eagle’s a perfect choice. And if you go, go with a group so you have a fighting chance to finish the large portions.