Monsieur and I have been househunting in earnest of late. That means Very Busy Saturdays. We set off straight after breakfast and spend most of the day with real estate agents, checking out kitchen appliances, the direction of the sun versus garden aspect, whether windows are sash or double-glazed, finding out if there’s a chain to consider. You get the picture. This is hungry work.
Recently we found ourselves between viewings, assessing the amenities of Abbeville Road in London’s Clapham South. There were places to eat and we had appetites to satisfy. We decided to chance our luck on an establishment called Newtons. They had a gastro-burger on the menu and Monsieur was in a Burger State of Mind.
We were greeted with professionalism and warmth, despite being walk-ins without reservation. The dining room was empty when we arrived, but was soon buzzing with locals of all ages – from toddlers to retirees. As we settled in, I surveyed the room and thought how sensible they were to top their white tablecloths with a layer of the paper cloth variety. These people know what they’re doing and it shows.
Monsieur dove into the á la carte menu, ordering a starter of squid and the Aberdeen burger – 8 oz of Scottish cow with bacon and melted cheese, a golden, lightly-toasted bun and stack of hand-cut chips. For the virtuous diner, there was an afterthought of salad on the plate, just in case all that carb-action arrived with a side plate of guilt. Monsieur demolished the lot, sin and virtue united.
I’d decided to try out the Newton’s set menu, which was not just an incredible bargain in these times of soaring prices, but also had dishes that I really wanted to try. I went for the two course option at £8.00. For that, I had vegetable tempura, which was absolutely divine, especially the warm battered chunks of creamy avocado. It was plated up with a small salad of shaved vegetables that could have been pictured in a guide for how to use a mandoline to best advantage. The dipping sauce was just what you’d expect with tempura – and blessedly not too salty, as is too often the case. Monsieur nabbed some of my tempura whilst I tried his squid. I don’t know where Newton’s fish supplier lives, but I’d like his number. This was a properly cooked, juicy song from the sea. “I can’t fault it.” said Monsieur. For us, at the starter stage of a meal, this statement often turns into a curse. I looked at him hard. He stared back at me. It was all in that one look. We were still recovering from a disaster of a food delivery experience the night before (that establishment’s menu has since been relegated to The Bin Department). In the interest of keeping our faith in purveyors of food, we hoped like mad that the Newton’s burger would live up to Monsieur’s expectation. By the grace of Zeus, it did.
My set menu main was a plate of penne, tossed with fresh salmon and courgette in a cream sauce. Sounds run-of-the-mill on the page, but it was better than most, thanks to the flavour pouring out of the herbs and slivers of red onion. I make this dish at home, so I can be quite a fuss-pot when it comes to other people’s versions. If Newtons ends up being in my new ‘hood, I’d probably save myself the toil over a hot hob and pop down to request a portion of theirs. Seriously, it’s that good.
We didn’t have time for dessert on this occasion, but if you add one to the set menu, it comes out at a total of £10.50 for three courses. The first time we saw the price printed on the page, I rubbed my eyes to check my contacts were working. It’s the best value for money in a London eatery that Monsieur and I have encountered in some time. We’ve since returned twice to break up the house-hunting and left both times whispering “can’t fault it”. What’s more, the staff are friendly and we hope they’re getting used to our faces because they’re going to be seeing a lot more of us, for the vegetable tempura alone. In summary? Newtons of Abbeville Road: you rock.
33 Abbeville Road, Clapham South, London SW4 9LA
Tel: 020 8673 0977
Follow Newtons on Twitter: @newtonsclapham