WHEN it’s cold, wet and dark outside, there’s nothing better than cosying up in a pub.
And if the place happens to date back to the 18th century, have a 1930’s mock-Tudor exterior, a garden full of sculptures, and mouth-watering onion rings then be still my beating heart, because it’s not just the cholesterol which is making me woozy with joy.
The earliest mention of the pub is in the parish register of St Mary’s, in Lewisham, in 1733 mentioning a “Richard Peke from Sippenham, ye Dolphin” who is thought to have been a farmer as well as a publican.
The Tudor-style exterior was done in 1936, making the large pub even more impressive in an otherwise desolate Sydenham Road.
The inside doesn’t disappoint with plenty of space, lots of places to sit and stylish wood panelling. More unusual flourishes included a tableau of 1940’s pin-ups in the toilets.
There were other customers propping up the bar and taking advantage of the armchairs and although I was sitting alone for some time, I didn’t feel uncomfortable.
I tried the Rekorderlig Pear Cider, which I’d never heard of before, and it was too sweet but still went down pretty easily.
The wine list was varied and well priced, the cheapest bottle costing £15.90.
There was a good range of pub classics and more adventurous meals with prices being on the expensive side for main dishes but quite reasonable for sharer plates.
I went for the rump steak with chips and onion rings, grilled tomato and blue cheese butter (£14.25).
The steak was good but was more rare than medium-rare so a little underdone for my taste however the blue cheese butter was delicious.
My companion went for the 8oz Homemade beef burger with spicy smoked chipotle mayo, crispy smoked bacon, melted Applewood cheese, served with fries (£10.50).
I must say I was a little jealous and ended up eating more than I should have of his burger which he was none too happy about. The meat was tender and juicy, perfectly complemented by the spiciness of the chipotle mayo.
The fries were also excellent and a lot better than many of the recently-opened, much-lauded burger joints.
The onion rings were my personal highlight: crisp, full of flavour and not too greasy.
It was too cold to sit in the garden but it looked amazing and includes sculpture and walkways. I will definitely be back there in the summer months to take advantage.
There is also a range of board games which the staff dutifully bring to your table on request.
I recommend The Dolphin, which is only five minutes from Sydenham Station, but feels like a mini-oasis of country pub charm.
121 SYDENHAM ROAD, LONDON SE26 5HB
HOW THE DOLHPIN RATES:
DECOR: ***** Rustic and spacious
DRINK: **** Diverse range of wine, beers and ciders
ATMOSPHERE: ***** Warm, cosy and welcoming
STAFF: ***** Friendly and attentive
PRICE: *** Not cheap but worthwhile for the goods
FOOD: **** Mostly excellent