Peter Morrell takes a cruise down the Thames to enjoy an evening in this historic riverside location
The Trafalgar Tavern is quite close to my home in South London but my wife and I decided to take the more scenic route to get there. We jumped on the commuter boat service run by MNBA Thames Clippers from Embankment Pier to Greenwich. On a warm early summer’s evening we passed many iconic London landmarks, the Globe Theatre, The Shard and Tower Bridge before arriving at the pier by the Cutty Sark.
The Trafalgar Tavern is a few minute’s stroll away down the Thames Path which runs in front of the beautiful old Royal Naval College. Part of the building is now occupied by the Trinity College of Music and as we walked past we were treated to the sound of classical music wafting through the windows.
At the far end of the college grounds is the Trafalgar Tavern, a handsome building right on the bank of the Thames, and it looked gorgeous basking in the glow of the setting sun. The Trafalgar Tavern opened in 1837 to celebrate Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar. 175 years later it remains a landmark, combining old world glamour with contemporary drinking, dining and entertainment.
Entering the building you are stepping back into history, the venue has been frequented in the past by such literary luminaries as William Makepeace Thackeray, Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens. The latter was so fond of his local watering hole that he used it as the setting for the wedding breakfast in his final novel, Our Mutual Friend. Now it has a bar and restaurant downstairs while the first floor is used for events like weddings, anniversaries and business conferences.
The ground floor restaurant serves good, imaginative food. Examples are starters of scallops, foie gras terrine and whitebait with mains featuring favourites like miso glazed cod, char grilled rib-eye and sausage and mash for the traditionalists. However we were going to have dinner upstairs to sample some of the food which is served at weddings and other functions.
The event space on the first floor is stunning, it’s a series of interconnecting rooms each with large windows giving uninterrupted vistas over the river. The largest room, the Nelson, can accommodate up to 200 seated guests, ideal for even large weddings.
We started by sampling some of the canapés which are typically served before the meal. They included caviar with cucumber and dill crème fraiche, prawn cocktail with a marie rose sauce and iceburg lettuce, sesame crusted salmon and parma ham wrapped asparagus. These were all very fresh, with good combinations of taste and texture, I was particularly impressed with the ham and asparagus. The canapés were served with a choice of chilled extra dry prosecco or a refreshing Pimms.
We moved in to the Nelson Room to eat, this was an elegant and exceptional dining space. Our starter was kiln smoked salmon with a selection of heritage beetroot. The dish was attractively presented, the salmon had great depth of smokey flavour and it was interesting to compare the tastes of the various varieties of beetroot. It was a good introduction to the light and fresh style of food.
The main course was rare roast lamb rump, a cut which has become very popular recently. This was served with Dauphinoise potatoes, sugar snaps, baby carrots and a red wine and rosemary jus. The meat was succulent and tender and the vegetables well-cooked with the jus adding an extra taste dimension.
Wines with the meal were aromatic whites and spicy reds, the Trafalgar has a good wine list with examples from both old and new worlds. The whites feature grapes like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio while the reds have, amongst other varietals, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon and malbec. Prices start at a very reasonable £19 a bottle.
Our final course, the pudding was an individual Fruits of Forest cheesecake with a raspberry coulis and mint, a very satisfying and slightly decadent way to finish the meal.
Whatever the event guests would be very pleased with a meal like this. And it was only a sample of the chef’s full repertoire, there are many other dishes to choose, from rib of beef to vegetarian lasagne so all food preferences can be catered for.
In terms of its position, elegance and cuisine the Trafalgar Tavern is the ideal venue of a memorable occasion. You don’t however need to wait for a special day, just hop on the boat or get the DLR to Cutty Sark and soak up the splendour of Greenwich and the Naval College before having a meal.
The Trafalgar Tavern
London SE10 9NW
Tel: 020 8858 2437