Chef Jamie Leeds has expanded her Hank's Oyster Bar locations and even opened a new British pub/restaurant in the way up and still coming Columbia Heights neighborhood (CommonWealth Gastropub (www.cwgastropub.com) at 14th and Irving, NW under the eye of Chef Antonio Burrell (Viridian, Bis, Gabriel). This is a pretty amazing accomplishment in today's economy, and while the "pub" was not super busy last night, it was doing fairly well. Luckily, this created a lower noise level than I was expecting, and that's always a blessing.
The ambience is a bit dark, and I needed to ask for a flashlight to read the menu as the lone flickering candle on the table was pretty useless. I was given a torch (that's British for flashlight) and it was sorely in need of fresh batteries, but I persevered and managed to order a bottle of 2004 BODEGAS Las 800 Granacha Blend from Priorat that was full-bodied, tasty and has some wonderful smokiness along with lingering tart cherries that worked so well with all the heavier food and sauces. There are dark wood tables, leather banquettes, wooden chairs and a nice outdoor patio when the weather is warm. The decor is somewhere between the UK and the USA pub-style, but comfy and warm.
Samuel chose the DOG in a PUFF with CHIPS which is a sausage-type hot dog partially wrapped in puff pastry (which he instantly discarded-even though it was superb). The "chips" were of the thick steak-like American variety and were steaming inside and very tasty. They managed to stay flavorful even way into the meal, and were perfectly fried and crisp on the outside (but not greasy in the least). Each table gets an amazing tray of pickled veggies(beets, carrots, cauliflower) and corn relish that we HAD to refill and then get extra for a doggie bag; it's THAT GREAT! The bread is less exciting, so stick to the veggies.
I started with the SMOKED TROUT ROLLMOPS, a superb chilled filet rolled around and served on a superb creamy POTATO SALAD. It is a large and filling portion loaded with flavor, and perfect on a warm or hot evening, although I loved them last night when it was 50degrees out! Will went for the totally traditional British items and got a gastro-variation of things he grew up with: SCOTCH EGGS are tasty little quiche-like cups with a hard-boiled egg center usually served alone, but here enhanced with a choice of three sauces: HONEY MUSTARD--a bit sweet, but nice SPICY AIOLI-which was creamy and rich mayo and not spicy at all (Will liked this the best) and a GREEN SAUCE of herbs (cilantro, etc) that was a perfect foil to the egg and made the best combination in my mind.
His entree was the CUMBERLAND BANGERS & MASH with ONION GRAVY which was actually one large sausage on a bed of creamy yummy to-die-for mashed potatoes in a superb sauce (which again is a gastro-turn, as Will is used to having them with baked beans back home).
I could not decide between the Flank Steak and the special of Grass-Fed BEEF MEATLOAF with Sauteed GREEN BEANS, MASHED POTATOES and SHERRIED MUSHROOM GRAVY, but our server Jonathan (who will commented has excellent teeth) said that the while his favorite is the steak, the specials are not always available, and I can always come back for the steak. He was right. The meat and sauce were divine as were the creamy potatoes. The beans were cooked perfectly and the portion was monstrous. There were some cayenne peppers in the meat, but also an Eastern spice I could not pin down (nobody in the kitchen could help and Chef Burrell was out; Chef Leeds was there but way too busy with another group).
Will and I split the STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING which was a superbly created cake-like pudding with a caramelly sticky toffee sauce. Only the dollop of whipped cream was unwelcome as way too American. In the UK, the pudding would have sat in a pool of overdose cream custard as well! Besides, I never care for whipped cream.
We had a great time and look forward to returning to a little spot of the UK here in DC!