Monday, May 2, 2011

The Dandelion

Aren't there already British pubs in Philadelphia? Last I checked we had the Artful Dodger, Elephant & Castle, The Dark Horse, etc. There's a hand pulled beer or two at almost any good gastropub these days.  And how many places have fish & chips on the menu? Seems like the British never really left us after occupying our fair city for a few years there back in the 1770's.  

So what makes The Dandelion any different? Everything. Before you even walk in, you notice the meticulously crafted exterior, reminiscent of Victorian town houses that make it feel like you're walking the rainy streets of London. Upon entry, you are greeted by a tightly packed bar offering draughts of Wells & Young's Bombardier and Fuller's London Porter, excellently mixed drinks like gin & bitter lemon and Pimm's deluxe, and legitimate casks of warm, barely carbonated tasty English bitter (beer for you non anglophiles). 

Pimm's Deluxe - with Beefeater gin, lemon and muddled cucumber 
The menu is an impressive array of excellently interpreted British classics - yes they actually exist. Perfect deviled eggs (so happy these are making a comeback on Philly menus), Welsh rarebit (basically cheesy toast),  and the cheese board are all standouts on the appetizer list. Even the salad of butter lettuce, apples, walnuts, stilton cheese and honey vinaigrette was memorable. I don't say that about salad too often.
Cheese plate with blue, red leicester, white cheddar 

The Sunday roast - available only on Sundays and Bank Holiday (of which there seems to be one every other week) was substantial. A huge hunk of sirloin, served alongside a watercress salad, roasted root veggies, horseradish sauce and a huge yorkshire pudding hit the spot for me. The gravy was tasty without being heavy - perfect for sopping up with that pudding. 
Sunday roast of beef sirloin w/ yorkshire pudding and horseradish sauce.  
Fish and chips done right is something to marvel at. A super flaky crust, using beer batter keeps the fresh caught cod moist and flaky inside. A squeeze of lemon and dipped into fresh made tartar sauce brings about a complex medley of flavors that makes you feel good inside; like when you used to climb the rope in gym class. Crisp chips, hand cut, triple fried and served hot are the Garth to this Wayne of a meal.
Fish & Chips
The lamb shepherds pie was also a winner. A molten vat of tender chunks of lamb in it's own gravy with winter vegetables, hiding beneath a layer of mashed potatoes. Desserts were decent, but nothing that would bring me back again. The menu hits it's highlights on the savoury side, not the sweet.

The real draw of Dandelion is the incredible atmosphere that Steven Staar has created. With what feels like 25 different rooms, there's nooks and crannies that rival an English muffin - it might be the ultimate place to play hide and seek. On our first visit the server was excellent, filling water glasses, offering recommendations and walking us thru the menu. The second go-round left something to be desired with an inattentive girl that seemed to have better things to do. Tables are tough to come by lately, but you can always try to get a seat at the bar or stop in for afternoon tea and biscuits (I'm not kidding). We saw outdoor picnic tables on our last visit, which promises a few extra seats now that the weather is here. Tally ho!

Food Baby rating: It's a Boy!

The Dandelion
124 South 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 558-2500

Lunch: M-F 11:30 - 3pm
Brunch: Sat & Sun 11:30 - 3pm
Dinner: M-Tr 5pm - 11pm
            Friday & Sat 5pm - 12pm
            Sunday 5pm - 10pm
Afternoon Tea: 3pm - 5pm

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