Victoria Purcell soaks up the atmosphere, and discovers a great menu, at West Norwood’s newest pub, Knowles of Norwood 

Some good friends of mine recently moved to the Tulse Hill/West Norwood borders and revel and telling me about their trips to West Norwood FEAST, roasts at Tulse Hill Hotel and now, good beers at the new Knowles of West Norwood.

The reasons to be jealous are stacking up, especially with the new West Norwood Picturehouse cinema due to open next year. So I demanded we meet for drinks at Knowles when it first opened. The place is huge, with a conservatory and garden still due to open. The interior – playing on the building’s former life as a hardware store ­– is an eclectic, cosy mix of wall-mounted tools and communal workbenches with cosy banquette seating and an elevated dining area, sheltered from the hubbub by display shelving dotted with bric-a-brac. We were impressed, so a couple of weeks later we returned for dinner on a Friday night.

The place was heaving, but we got a table in a cosy corner towards the back. This did slow down the service, but the staff were as helpful as they could be during the Friday evening rush. The menus are pegged to old record covers and ours, on the week of his death, happened to be a Bowie album. Serendipitous, I thought. The menu leaves your average pub grub way behind in the dirt. Sure, it has mac ‘n’ cheese, a burger and fish and chips on it, but it also has inventive dishes like black pudding croquette with stilton and chestnuts, which I devoured as a starter.

It’s intense but not overpowering, the croquette crunch complementing the soft texture of the black pudding, topped with a wisp of kale and bolstered by a kick of hot chilli sauce. In the name of balance, I followed up this meat-eater’s dream with fantastic vegetarian dish – sweet potato, spinach, tofu, coconut and chickpea curry with wild rice and a cornflour fritter. I was on a superfood mission and it was delicious – spicy and creamy with that moreishly dunkable fritter.

My boyfriend, bless him, much prefers his pub grub simple and unadulterated. Beige, essentially. So he ordered the mac n cheese (a side dish) to start, followed by the Knowles cheese and bacon burger, with fries and pickles, plus a burger relish that he raised an eyebrow at but I thought really makes it. After a couple of pints of Birra Moretti (him) and two large glasses of cabernet sauvignon (me), the Friday fatigue kicked in. So while the sticky toffee pudding was tempting, off we toddled, leaving those with more stamina to raise their glasses to the weekend.

294-296 Norwood Road, West Norwood SE27 9AF;

The Knowledge

Two courses for two, excluding drinks, around £30

Good for…
Restaurant-quality food in a relaxed, pub atmosphere

What to eat…
I highly recommend those black pudding croquettes

What to know…
A conservatory and family garden is due to open soon

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