Beer, barbecue & blues

There’s no feeling blue at the The Grey Horse when there is good food, good drinks and great music finds Paul Critcher

When The Grey Horse pub near Kingston station closed for refurbishment in 2014 there was universal (or at least Kingstonversal!) alarm that the town was to lose yet another much-loved music venue. Fortunately for Kingstonians, following a major update that saw the pub’s interior transformed, music is still very much on the menu at The Grey Horse, and even better so are whisky, barbecued food, cocktails and craft beer.

The last time I ventured inside The Grey Horse was for a friend’s 40th birthday celebrations where a special tribute act called The Smyths, who put on an 80s-busting set that Morrissey, Johnny Marr and Co would have been proud of, was performing. Other than the band and a lot of poor Dad dancing, the thing that most stays in my head was how dark it was. All that’s changed now with the back of the bar (where the band performed) now a large open kitchen – complete with charcoalfuelled oven – filled with light through the cathedralesque ceiling windows (There is a light and it never goes out!). The front of the pub remains very pubby – smart and stylish but nevertheless still a boozer, but walk through to the main dining area, and the combination of open kitchen, industrial chic and choice lighting are neatly off set with a long padded banquette servicing a bank of tables for two and then high, long tables for larger groups.

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At the back a doorway leads to another area which is home to the Ram Jam Club, an intimate live music venue that also hosts quizzes and comedy nights, of which more later.

So the pub’s new interior ticked all the boxes and our fellow diners looked the part – smart, youngish and attractive – but what about the food? Well, it’s all about the indoor barbecue experience, so you can expect burgers, ribs and wings, although to be fair the veggie alternatives have been well selected. We plumped for the Iberico pork baby back ribs and the crab cocktail for starters. The crab cocktail was a tasty combination of sweet crab flesh with accompaniments in the shape of charred gem lettuce and charred avocado that genuinely worked. Meanwhile the baby back ribs were delightful, no nasty cloying sauce here, instead a heady mix of sweet melt-in-the-mouth meat combined with a deep rich marinade that was strong, spicy and rich all at once.

Although my dining partner and I were both tempted by the classic burger, for the sake of variety I tried the beef Royale burger. My wife was more than happy with beautifully cooked medium rare burger, which was served with smoked bacon, American cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato, dill pickle, mayo and ghetto sauce, and accompanied by skinny fries. Meanwhile I took on the towering Royale with some trepidation, would I make my way through all of the above with the addition of short rib and a breaded portobello mushroom? You’ll be pleased to know that my appetite prevailed and that the burger was delicious but filling, definitely filling!

The Grey Horse has a decent enough wine list but it was the many craft beers that took our fancy and we both enjoyed the distinct styles of lager that we chose – the dry- hopped Brooklyn and the classic Meantime London. Pacing ourselves for the possibility of a pudding, we took our time and sipped both the lager and the atmosphere – lovely!

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My waistband was feeling it, but for the sake of research we pushed on, electing to share a dark chocolate and peanut butter tart. The accompanying salted caramel ice cream was sweetly delicious and as for the tart – decadence on a plate and oh so good!

Having more than sated our appetites, we wandered through to the Ram Jam Club where jazz and blues act TJ Johnson was tinkling the ivories accompanied by a double bass player and saxophonist. In the words of Morrissey: ‘What difference does it make?’ To my mind, quite a lot – live music served up at a small intimate venue like this is increasingly rare, so well done the Ram Jam for keeping it alive and giving us the chance to experience great jazz and blues right here in Kingston every Saturday night.

The Grey Horse 46 Richmond Road, Kingston. 020 8617 9860,
Tickets to the Ram Jam cost £8.50 in advance

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