Not Your average fish and chips.
Stephen Starr’s latest, the Dandelion Pub, opened with a splash on New Year’s Eve. The British–style gastropub is in a mansion–like building that takes up the entire corner of 18th and Sansom Streets. The restaurant looks like the inside of a classy taxidermist’s home: charming old world portraits hang on the wall, stuffed animals (not the teddy bear kind) line mantles and dim lights haunt the three–floor manor. No wonder, as Starr paid a rumored $3.5 million for the place.
Aside from the almost creepy decor, Starr hit a surprisingly new note on the interior. The towering restaurant is refreshingly homey, unlike some of his other hot spots. Roomy tables and an inviting bar inhabit the many nooks and crannies of the building. The setting itself is enough to transport diners to a classy London pub.
However, it’s unclear why Starr decided to tackle English grub; the Brits are not known for gastro greatness. Still, Dandelion is simply British, complete with shrines to dogs and beer casks as well as a vibrant menu boasting modern takes on English classics.
We started with fish cakes ($5), three fried balls of poached cod and peekytoe crab offset by a lemon–garlic mayonnaise and a tomato–horseradish dip. Both sauces complimented the cakes, which had a potato–like texture. The flavor was spot on.
Surprised to see scallops on a British menu, we proceeded with caution. The seared scallops ($15) sat atop black pudding, braised Brussels sprouts and a balsamic jus. The dish seemed out of place on the menu and proved to be out of place in our mouths as well. The scallops were salty and the dish felt schizophrenic.
The main course menu boasts many a classic English fare: fish and chips ($21), lamb shepherd’s pie ($16) and Cumberland sausages ($14). We chose one of the house specialties, rabbit pie ($19) and a home–style favorite, macaroni and cheese ($9). The rabbit pie was reminiscent of chicken pot pie with a perfectly cooked pastry puff leading entry to a creamy mixture of rabbit meat, onions, mushrooms and bacon. Though rich, the dish was bold in flavor.
The macaroni and cheese, served in a piping hot skillet, was adorned with braised ham and English cheddar cheese. This dish, also rich and creamy, was oddly similar to the staple dish by the same name at Starr’s other restaurant, Jones. But nonetheless, the homey pasta was decadently delicious (yet, again, oddly placed on an English menu).
Not ready to leave without trying Dandelion’s signature triple cooked chips ($5), we ordered a side and were not let down. The thick potato wedges were soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, the perfect “chip.”
As if our stomachs could bear anymore, we splurged on the house’s favorite dessert, a hot chocolate pot ($7). The piping hot chocolate souffle was brought out in a small pot accompanied by pistachio ice cream, which was devilishly delicious. The lava–like chocolate melted in our mouths.
Like Starr’s other restaurants, Dandelion is pricey. But perhaps diners pay for a ticket to enter the unique house–like eatery. With no other British competition around, Dandelion may attract those craving gourmet (and somewhat odd) pub food for a hefty bill.
18th and Sansom St.
Don’t Miss: Chips