Sunday, December 4, 2011
Printers Alley Downtown
Downtown Nashville needs more places like Fleet Street. It’s a comfortable and stylish subterranean bar that serves creative and well-executed food that goes well beyond pub grub. It’s a decidedly local take on the downtown bar scene and that’s appreciated. While we love the tourists, we’re not a fan of the chain-inspired blandness that takes up much of downtown dining.
Now some folks are probably already arguing with the term local. Fleet Street has an English pub theme and that will of course inspire a fist-fight over what is an authentic British pub. Get over it. By local we mean designed for local Nashvillians, not necessarily tourists (although I’m sure they’re quite welcome). We don’t worry much about authenticity. Travel to England and you’ll find a million versions of the British pub. It doesn’t have to have a 200 year-old bar and well-worn snugs to be British-minded. Owner Glenn Henderson is a former Nashville Banner journalist, thus the British newspaper name for the joint. They have a decent, if limited, tap beer selection with some U.K. favorites, a full bar and darts for those who want some competition.
Fish and chips, Welsh rarebit, beef and Yorkshire pudding and other United Kingdom inspired dishes make up the menu, with burgers and salads to round it out. Tuck into the Shepherd’s Pie and you’ll notice a difference immediately: it’s well-seasoned and the lamb adds a welcome sweetness. The crispy mashed potato topping is rather delicate in comparison to some versions. The fish and chips are also more than expected. The fillets have a light fry and there’s creaminess to the fish. Purists can scream all they want. It’s a worthy dish and the crispy, fluffy potato wedges sit just fine with us. In fact, we suggest opening the meal with those Blackfriars fries, as they’re called on the menu. There’s a well-made mustard aioli dip for the veggie eater and if you’re with meat eaters we might suggest cheese and bacon to put the dish over the top.
The Westminster Beefsteak is on special one night and that means it’s just $15, which is a steal for this sizeable and tender, coffee-crusted tenderloin cooked perfectly medium rare. You might not taste the Guinness in the gastrique that sauces the top of the beef, but it’s still a winning combination. The side of smoked cheddar gratin is also a standout. Mushy peas are served mashed and perhaps whipped and provide a light and flavorful alternative to mashed potatoes. The German potato salad is served cold, which bothered the Wisconsinite at our table. There’s a real bite thanks to strong coarse ground mustard that I enjoyed, although perhaps not as much as the other sides.
Veggie Eater: I’m in love with this place- how often do you hear the Pixies and Radiohead on the stereo downtown? Add to this a very veggie-friendly menu and you have a winning combination. After feasting on the fabulous, but I’m sure sinfully bad for you, wedge fries, I wanted a lighter alternative for an entrée. This led to the Surrey Quays Curry, which fit the bill perfectly. Chunky veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and onions) were served in a light curry sauce with faint heat atop a heaping mound of Jasmine rice. What really elevated this dish was the addition of a few stealth ingredients, garbanzo beans and beets. Chutney is served on the side for dipping. There are many other options as well, though, including: homemade veggie burger (made with quinoa), Tottenham seasonal salad (also with beets), and the Whitechapel Welsh Rarebit. Top this all with a snakebite (cider and Bass) and you have a delightful evening out.
Meat Eater: I had a lovely time on both occasions and especially with good friends Scott and Lisa on the second visit (the Veggie Eater was out of town). There are plenty of other interesting things to try on future visits: hot chicken-style Cornish game hen; spiced dates and Stilton cheese wrapped up in bacon; and a chicken pie. Here’s hoping Mr. Henderson has a successful run with Fleet Street.
We paid $64 for two with drinks, tax and tip on one visit and $139 for three people with many drinks on another visit.