After a £500,000 refurbishment, the restaurant in the big Old Coulsdon pub has really upped its game, and left STEVEN DOWNES counting the calories
Now we know our loyal reader is not too fussed about the hardships and “challenges” (ha!) faced on a daily basis by the editorial team at Inside Croydon Towers. But it is an important consideration, in these cash-conscious times: how can you conduct a pub review without breaking the laws on drinking and driving?
Ruling out the 12 quid to get an Uber that never shows up, the answer, of course, is the 466 bus.
On the evening in question, Transport for London got us all the way from central Croydon to Old Coulsdon surprisingly swiftly, in just 20 minutes, possibly a little less.
The bus sped through South Croydon and passed Purley almost without stopping – there were few passengers at 7pm on this weekday evening, although two or three did get off at Tesco. Only after we turned on to Stoats Nest Road and as the engine strained going up Coulsdon Road did you get a sense that we were climbing up to the downs.
And there was no chance of us missing our stop on the dark winter night, because just like the Swan and Sugar Loaf and Red Deer, the Tudor Rose in Old Coulsdon has its name included on the bus stop and route.
Importantly, unlike those two other famed bus stop pubs, the Tudor Rose is still operating as intended, trading as a pub, having re-opened last weekend after a £500,000 refurbishment that has brought a splash of fresh glamour to this corner of Croydon.
Here’s an important declaration of interest: iC had been invited to try a meal “from our delicious seasonal menu, plus all associated drinks for you and a plus one”, all costs covered by the pub’s owners, Mitchell and Butlers. So it is entirely possible that our critical faculties may have been swayed a little by such hospitality. You, the reader, will have to decide.
I am quite happy to state that what we found at the Tudor Rose, we mostly found very agreeable, although there were a couple of small niggles.
What was once a Harvester is now very much a high-end restaurant, with the bar in this substantial mock-Tudor building with its tall twisted chimneys, gables and timber framing updated to serve cocktails as much as pints. Indeed, herein was one of those (personal) niggles: for a pub, the real ale offering is disappointingly limited.
We paused before going to our table, to take the time to have a quiet drink in one of the snug booths that are dotted round the bar area, with comfortable armchairs and tasselled light shades. There’s a Chesterfield sofa around the corner, but this has less of a “cosy country pub” feel to it, and more a sense of the decadence you might find in an up-scale night club. Smart and chic.
So while dogs and ramblers’ boots are welcome in the bar area, with Farthing Downs and Happy Valley a short stroll away, this might not be the market that the pub’s management had in mind when designing the refurb. Once the weather warms up, and the 120-covers pub garden area becomes a viable place to visit, that impression may change.
The Tudor Rose’s emphasis now is very much on dining, and fine dining at that, with prices that reflect that top-end pitch.
Between me and my guest, we both had starters and a main and a £32 bottle of wine, which totted up would have cost us close to £100. It was all wonderfully presented, with some interesting dishes on offer, and some very attentive service. It was a West End-quality experience, the sort of thing I have not been fortunate enough to enjoy anywhere in Croydon since Albert’s Table on South End closed its doors for a final time.
It has been a tough time in the hospitality trade these past few years, even without having to cope with covid. So a half-a-million investment in a pub restaurant is ballsy, to say the least.
The works had all been turned round remarkably quickly, in little more than a month after the busy Christmas period. It had been finished very recently, too: the paint on the toilet doors still had a sticky freshness when we visited last week.
The Tudor Rose is a significant part of the Old Coulsdon local economy. It has about 25 full and part-time staff, many deployed in the kitchen with head chef Paul Milton, who joined the pub six months before the refurb. Most seemed to be working on the preview night when we attended – all part of the training process to get the place up to speed for its grand opening.
This did tend to the waiting staff to be a tad over-attentive: being asked if everything was alright with my meal when I had just taken my first mouthful of my mushroom-based starter was probably just a bit too keen…
The enthusiasm and excitement over the re-opening was palpable. We asked one of our waiters what it was like working there. They had been full-time in hospitality for eight years, including working in central London. “Without doubt, this is the best place I’ve ever worked,” they said, which was encouraging.
We got to meet the general manager, Vikki Wilson. “We’re over the moon with how the refurbishment has turned out,” she said. “Our team are excited to welcome our returning regulars, as well as new customers who can see for themselves just how wonderful the pub now looks.”
Now those that know me will understand that calorie counting is not something that has ever been a consideration. So to get a menu that includes, in small print, “Adults need around 2000kcal a day”, strikes me as a bit odd. Apparently it is a thing now, so you’ll be delighted to know that, according to our menu, that night I consumed 1,545kcal while my guest gorged herself on 1,832kcal.
I didn’t check the wine list to see how many empty calories we necked from our bottle of Mouton Cadet Bordeaux, which does sort of render the calorie counting exercise on the menu a little pointless.
And loyal readers will be well aware of the selfless sacrifice that the Inside Croydon team regularly undertakes. Ideally, the Chef’s Special, a 16-ounce, 28-day aged Chateaubriand, might have been my pick, coming with thick-cut chips, onion rosti, roasted mushrooms and a choice of two steak sauces (1,703kcal, in case you were wondering).
But at £54.95, this comes for two to share, and my guest and I agreed that in the interests of the broadest review of what the Tudor Rose has to offer, we should each order something different, however much our tastes might coincide.
My creamy baked mushrooms, cooked in vintage Cheddar and white port sauce with garlic and rosemary crumb, was just a bit… well, bland. On arrival, it looked like I had been served a mushroom crumble. The sauce beneath the crumb lacked the intense cheesiness I expected.
On the opposite side of the table, however, the pan-fried king prawns with chilli and feta was much more on the mark. The tomato and chipotle chilli sauce provided just the zing required, and the prawns were perfectly cooked.
The pan-roasted lamb rump, one of the menu’s recommended dishes, was also of the highest quality, the meat arriving slightly pink and soft. Served with potato terrine, shallots, green beans, something called “edamame” (a Japanese soyabean dish, apparently), all in a red wine sauce, this will have matched anything you might find on one of those posh, multi-starred places in central London.
Any disappointment I had had with my starter was soon forgotten when my maple-glazed slow-cooked pork belly and scallops arrived. With a bit of crackling stuck into the meat like a boat’s sail, the pork was succulent and soft, the carrot and red pepper puree providing an interesting flavour contrast, as did the tasty Bordelaise sauce. The scallops were melt-in-the-mouth.
The portion size for both mains was generous, but I could have happily gone back for seconds…
The current menu also includes a broad selection of other steaks, burgers, sourdough pizzas and salads, and if meat is not your thing, then there’s a proper vegan menu, too, which provides more than the usual token “V” dish found on most restaurant menus.
And don’t be put off by the top-end prices in the menu on which we indulged, and might be for romantic dinners or the smartest of special events, like the Inside Croydon office party. The Tudor Rose is currently running a special offer of two-course lunches on weekdays for £15.99 per person, and they have traditional Sunday roast lunches available from around the same price point.
So if you want to impress mum on Mothers’ Day, the new-look Tudor Rose could be the place to go. Though you better book quickly before all the places are taken.
We certainly will be paying another visit very soon – probably on a spring evening after the clocks go forward, when on the way there we can enjoy the spectacular views over the downs from the top deck of a 466 bus.
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Looks fantastic – and local – I’m going very soon!
How did you get home after all that Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Pauillac?
And it was quicker on the way back. Mostly downhill…