Review: Blogging the Rubicon

Caesar (yes, that one) instigated a war by crossing the river Rubicon, so when I heard that a new venture had opened, and taken its name from this historic act of war, my interest was piqued. Let’s see what Crossing the Rubicon had to offer.

They had invited around 40 bloggers, of various shades of disrepute, and as with most new venues we were all keen to try the wares and see just how provoking the menu and approach was. The short answer, never judge a bar by its name (as you wouldn’t a book by its cover), but do judge it by the quality of its food (and beverages). The very short answer, good food and beer are served here!

The longer answer then…

With strikingly painted walls, and a more spacious and open feeling than it’s Squid & Whale incarnation, first impressions are good and a little more refined than the aforementioned venture. It has a nice laid-back feel, the staff were all friendly and welcoming, and it feels like the kind of place you could drop in on a Saturday afternoon, end up staying for dinner, then roll home after last orders with ease…. or maybe it’s just me that does that? Given the array of beer on offer, it wouldn’t be for the want of trying, mind you.

On to the evening itself, once we were all in and seated we were told we would be given a sample of a variety of dishes; a few starters, a few of their curries, and a dessert. Add in some of the excellent beers available and my palate was excited to get tucked in.

Starters included a fresh, thin onion pakora, black pudding pakora, veggie haggis pakora, and crispy chicken pakora. Each was good, the chicken edging it by remaining succulent and fresh and far removed from the usual stodgy fare we all know, with the onion pakora a close second and more of an spiced onion gratin, subtle changes that made all the difference to these dishes.

With those all swiftly dispatched – amongst lots of ohhhs and ahhhhs of appreciation – we moved on to the main courses. Described as ‘Indian tapas’ you’d probably order 2 or 3 of the main courses, and some breads/rice to accompany them.

We got to try several of the main dishes including a coconut heavy Sweet Potato and Carrot korma (a firm favourite at our table), a Tarka Dhal which had a nice kick, a Crispy Tofu Mutter and Gobi Khali Mirch which both came with a tomato sauce that was a little on the watery side for my liking, a Dhal Makani which was rich and subtley spiced, a wonderfully smokey Tandoori Butter Chicken, and finally, my least favourite dish of the night, the Venison Madras which was a bit too heavy on the Juniper for my tastebuds (but others enjoyed it, such is the joy of a mixed crowd!).

We also got to sample a few of the wonderful beers on offer; I opted for a flight including an XPIPA (Wylam & Yeastie Boys), a Crossing the Rubicon (Drygate) lager, and a Redact (Williams Bros) red ale, and also got to try the Bombay Dazzler (Bundo Bust & Northern Monk) a subtle cloudy ale, and the wonderfully named Disco Forklift Truck (Drygate) a gentle mango ale, and the Strawberry Beer (Timmermans) which was delicious but I think a half pint would be the limit as it’s quite sweet.

I was pretty full by this point but it felt rude to refuse the offer of dessert… and boy was I glad I said yes! Described as a ‘chocolate pot’ on the menu, that is over simplifying a deliciously rich, dark chocolate dessert, with a hint of orange and a tiny tickle of chilli, which we found out was made with tofu (I’d have sworn heavy cream and butter!).

And with that, the evening drew to a close. I wander home along Great Western Road, nicely sated, with a new ‘place to take friends when they are in town’ venue safely tucked away in my pocket.

If you are in the area, it is well worth a try, the joy of tapas style eating – order too much food just to try things – and some excellent beer choices, all for a reasonable price. What’s not to like?