We've been saving up this post for a while. Like a pair of love-lorn teens unable to express ourselves, we really haven't known how to put it, to do justice to it.
The Sands End, my friends, is like the Gisele Bunchden of pubs. We love it.
Maybe it's because the menu is to die for, and food comes out perfectly every time.
Maybe it's because, living so close, we get that nod of recognition from the staff, some of whom have become friends, that makes you feel like you're coming home, rather than leaving it.
Maybe it's that shabby chic, higgledy-piggledy decor that just treads the line between elegant, cosy and quirky.
Maybe it's because they serve the best goddam scotch egg ever to grace the British Isles since Fortnum and Mason served them up in 1738... probably better! It's warm, the egg still manages to be gooey, it's perfectly seasoned and trust me - you'll never be able to eat one of those supermarket imitations ever again.
Maybe it's because, if it's good enough for Prince Harry & co (I NEVER spot celebrities, let alone royals, so that evening was pretty exciting) it's more than good enough for me.
Either way, whether we're looking for a white wine spritzer and a gossip, the perfect venue to have the parents treat us to a Sunday Roast, the scene for a first date (cosy and intimate, whilst still lively) or a place to while away an entire day with friends, gradually picking our way through the menu, browsing the Sunday papers and becoming more raucous as the wine and ciders flow.... this always seems to be the first port of call.
Nonetheless - we could eulogise all day. But it would seem biased (we know - it basically already is biased) if we didn't submit The Sands to some sort of review.
But which occasion to choose? There are too many to think of. So we'll go with the principle of recency, and review the Sunday lunch I recently had with friends.
I was first introduced to the Sands End by the boy, who actually used to live further down Stephendale Road (and now I've ended up here - could this pub be the missing link?) and so it's become somewhat of a tradition to get a meal at the Sands when he comes to stay. This time, another friend was over from Germany also who really wanted a good pub lunch, so the choice really did seem obvious! After the initial panic when we burst through the doors at 12pm opening time, only to find that every single table had been booked up (this place is popular!) - the staff were really accomodating and did some table battleships for us - we settled in and greedily perused the Sunday menu.
Now I have to admit, I'm somewhat a creature of habit when it comes to this place, and every time we come I insist that between me and the boy, we order the oysters and a scotch egg to start. This is not a culinary match made in heaven I know, but they're both so good that I can never decide between them so my greedy little tummy has to have both (my stomach is a brat!). So it was fantastic to have a third party to get out of this starter rut and see what else the Sands can serve up as a first course. John had the pork rillette - a kind of grainy pate - which was charmingly served up on a slate, with the rillette inside a traditional chutney jar. I'm not really into my pate, but both boys were in raptures over it, so we'll give it the big thumbs up. Especially as I'm a real sucker for nice presentation.
True to form, the oysters were incredibly fresh and served with a perfectly balanced garnish, and the scotch egg (described above) was just as gooey and delicious as ever.
For the mains we ordered the Roast Beef, the pork belly and the pheasant. The roast beef was perfectly pink, the pork belly was succulent and the meat pulled apart in that delightfully easy way (like you're ripping off bits of candy floss) that indicates it is cooked just-so. BUT the piece de resistance was the pheasant. I mean, my pork was really good, but as soon as I had a bite of that pheasant a case of serious food envy beset me. It was rich, yet tender, and just so so yummy. All three dishes were served with perfect roasties (fluffy and slightly salted on the outside) and a selection of vegetables that had been lightly caramelised, adding yet another layer of flavour to some plates which already tasted pretty damn good.
All in all, two courses and some drinks for three came in at just over £80. That's not the cheapest ever, but a) this is Fulham, since when has dining out been cheap? and b) this place has a deserved reputation as a bit of a culinary destination. It's dining area is always full. In fact, I notice it is proudly displaying a recently acquired badge that says "Recommended in the Guide Michelin 2011". 'Nuff said.