When I first arrived in Crystal Palace this pub was a no-go area for me and the gang. I don’t even recall the name but remember it as a black fronted, shabby boozer which wasn’t massively inviting. When it shut some of the locals where understandably upset, as it signified another step further towards the ‘gentrification’ of this SE suburb.
The makeover was drastic. Even the name changed – and so was born the The Sparrowhawk. It’s a stylish pub – lots of stripped wood, vintage cups and saucers holding tea lights, and plants dotted around – all without being twee. Huge windows flood the pub with light. Wall hangings range from copper jelly moulds to 19th century botanical prints. There’s a couple of huge tables for large parties, some high tables overlooking the bustling street and cosy tables for smaller groups. There’s also the ubiquitous battered leather sofa for drinkers settling in for the day. I
‘d describe it more as a food pub although I know people that happily just drink here of a Friday night. NB 2 for 1 cocktails every Friday 9.30-11pm which I’ve yet to sample.
So today I have a long overdue catch up with a friend. We meet a 1.30 and we’re still there at 6pm. By then we’ve been joined by another two friends on a break from Saturday chores about town. Its very fluid here – people seem to be eating and drinking throughout the day making it a relaxed affair, particularly if you’re after a spur of the moment meal. However booking is advised for Sundays and on their food offers slots.
It’s a eye-wateringly cold day so we want some hearty warming food. I opt once again for the Shepherds Pie (the third time I’ve ordered this) because basically its bloody lovely. Chunks of tender lamb not mince, and some crispy cheesy mash potato on top make this a winner, all served with spicy braised red cabbage. My friend opted for the beef stew with dauphinoise – a thumbs up from her. Sitting with a nice glass of red – it was time for a breather. We then uttered the fatal sentence ‘We’ll just have a look’ when the waitress offered the dessert menu. We chose to share something – both of us drawn to the Arctic Roll. This led to a nostalgic conversation about Vienetta and other 80’s gems. We wondered if this was going to disappoint. The waitress told us the whole dish was homemade including the ice cream and that punters had been thrilled to see their childhood favourite on the menu. It was lovely – a tangy raspberry coulis balanced the flavours of the ice-cream and sponge. An avalanche of cream and almonds completed this gem of a pudding. This surpassed Bejam’s standards in 1982.
The Sparrowhawk offers gluten free and veggie options and goes for seasonality which we’ve come to expect from gastropubs these days. Cheese and charcuterie comes from Good Taste a few doors down.
The pub sits on the corner of the Crystal Palace ‘triangle’ – so right in the heart of the action. For this reason its always busy. Some of the CP pubs cater for a slightly younger crowd – here its a pretty mixed bag which makes it welcoming no matter who you’re with. You’ll often find events taking place upstairs in their function room such as comedy nights, markets and life drawing classes. Its dog and baby friendly too so is a big draw for families and those with furry friends.
We pretty lucky with the foodie pubs around SE19 but this for me is one of the best (and best value) and one I’ll go back to time and time again.