Sanders is the man behind the Tavern Group, proprietor of DeSha's, Downtown's Scottish-themed Nicholson's Tavern, and the newest addition to the troupe, the English-seasoned Pub at Rookwood Mews at the Rookwood Commons development in Norwood.
The Scene: Though barely two months old, the Pub has already found its niche in the area's dining and drinking scene among other popular spots, such as P.F. Chang's, J. Alexander's and Buca di Beppo. And just as you would at the others, be prepared to wait for a table at dinner time and for standing-room-only crowds at the bar on weekends. Weekdays, the pub opens at 4 p.m., so tables fill up with the after-work crowd, especially on Friday afternoons and evenings.The establishment exudes Sanders' affinity for British-pub style, highlighted by the massive, handcrafted bar, smack dab in the center of the room. Tall round tables and smaller antiqued seating choices are tucked into intimate nooks. My favorite is a corner room furnished with a small loveseat, two stuffed chairs and a few tables for setting down your pint. It's a great spot for a date or for a cigar and a Scotch after dinner.
The Scoop: Although similar in feel to its Scottish cousin, Nicholson's, the Pub is smaller and more intimate, like an authentic neighborhood English pub. And, like a true English pub, the emphasis is on the drink (as noted by the difference between the multi-page, spiral-bound drink menu and the one-sheet, folded-in-half food menu). But don't let the limited food choices deter you: You'll find a variety of snacks and tavern-style fare for a hearty meal.
Salads are better here than at Nicholson's, with several to choose. Grilled Asparagus Salad ($5.95) is tossed with toasted almonds and tangerine slices, topped with a homemade oregano vinaigrette. Even the side English Garden Salad ($3.50) is a decent size, and fresh, too.
According to one server, the most popular "shareables" include Tavern Crisps ($4.95), a plate of homemade crisps (potato chips) topped with cheddar, bacon, green onions and barbecue sauce. Smoked Prawn and Haddie Dip ($6.95) is a rich, creamy, cheesy dip with chopped, smoked shrimp and haddock, served with more crisps. Even the messy, sweet Hong Kong BBQ Wings ($7.50) passed the "husband test."
Our happy hour crowd liked the Toasties ($4.95) best for sharing. The fresh baguette is stuffed with a variety of ingredients (changing daily), toasted then cut into little chunks that fit perfectly in one hand so you don't have to put down the pint in your other. Our favorite was the tomato-and-cheddar combination, served on a bed of crisps.
Even though it is listed as a starter, I tried the Crab Cakes Gibraltar ($8.50) for my dinner one evening: two decent-sized cakes, breaded and fried, and topped with a "toasted cumin aioli" -- a spicy, mayonnaise-based sauce -- that gave it some kick. I also ordered a side of Fries with Yellow Curry Sauce ($3.50) since the Lipitor seems to be keeping my cholesterol in check. These are the same fat, tasty steak fries you'll find at Nicholson's, and the spicy curry sauce is a different -- and tasty -- twist. (It comes on the side in case you're a little wary.)
Fish & Chips ($9.95) are the real deal, just like the Brits. Huge, beer-battered haddock, fried and served with those chunky little steak fries, tartar sauce and lemon wedge. Cotswold Chicken Sandwich ($7.95) is two chicken breasts, marinated in Worcestershire sauce and topped with bacon, onions and Swiss. London Broil ($8.95), Bangers and Mash ($8.95) and Shepherd's Pie ($6.95) round out the pub fare choices.
The Fuss: Although the food more than passes muster, make no mistake: This is a pub. Fortunately, Sanders shares his love of draught imports with the rest of us by offering an impressive selection of English, Scottish and Irish brews and even the tough-to-find Belgian Hoegaarden White (a wheat beer). All the popular ones are here -- Bass, Guinness, Harp's, Tenant's -- plus some not-so-common favorites like Belhaven's Scottish Ale, McEwan's (an ale), Old Speckled Hen, John Courage and Carlsberg from Denmark. Want the hard stuff? The Pub also features more than two dozen single malt scotches, ranging from $7 to $31, or a sampler of three for $12 or $21. Cigar smoking is also permitted.It's hard to imagine a more perfect time for a cozy English pub than during the cold days of winter. But the soon-to-be-transformed outdoor landscaping will make way for an outdoor patio in the warmer months, perhaps offering even more seating for what is already proving to be a city hot spot.
Go: 2692 Madison Road, Rookwood Commons, Norwood
Hours: Monday-Thursday 4 p.m.-midnight; Friday 4p.m.-1 a.m.; Saturday Noon-1 a.m.; Sunday Noon-midnight. (Kitchen closes one hour earlier than bar.)
Payment: Major credit cards
Red Meat Alternatives: It's an English pub ... strict vegetarians can choose from salads, Ale Battered Mushrooms or Tavern Crisps. Fish and chips, chicken sandwich and occasional salmon specials also available.
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