If I was the sort of person that felt ashamed about the food they liked, then fried chicken wings would be a total guilty pleasure. But life is too short to feel embarrassed about the food that makes you happy. And chicken wings, with their crispy batter encasing juicy meat, with no airs and graces but to get in and use your hands, are a simple, but delicious pleasure. The Rose Villa Tavern in the Jewellery Quarter has been gaining a bit of a reputation for their chicken wings for a while now, so when they mentioned a new menu was brewing and specifically mentioned those chicken wings, I knew it was about time to revisit the place.
Their new food menu has built on the Americana vibe that they’ve been rocking for a while. Sure it’s a bit weird that this glorious Victorian Grade II listed building has a menu which would be more at home in a town in Texas, but somehow sat in the sunlight streaming in from those glorious glass windows it sort of works. There are some dishes that you’d expect on such a menu; burgers, hot dogs, classic American sandwiches, nachos and fries, as well as a few dishes that you don’t see quite so much.
Anyway, those wings. The Rose Villa Tavern’s crunchy fried chicken wings are definitely what they promised. They can be ordered in batches of six, twelve or eighteen with a number of sauces. Personally though, I like my fried wings to have enough flavour to cope without the need for sauce and these lived up to that. If you’re feeling generous, the wings (which feature as part of the small plates), would make a good accompaniment to some of the sharer options, like the chilli cheese fries which come loaded with chilli (meat or three bean), melted cheese, onion and American mustard. Personally though, I’d just order some all to myself.
Of course burgers feature heavily on the Rose Villa Tavern’s new menu, with eight different varieties and the option to add bacon, friend onion and/or cheese and to switch regular to sweet potato fries. There is a classic House burger, a chicken burger, and a vegetarian burger which comes with friend minted halloumi. But the menu also includes a Bacon Cheese which includes American cheese, candied bacon and love…take of that what you will. The Codfather burger is a beer-battered fried cod fillet which makes a nice alternative to a fish finger sandwich (although I bloody love fish finger sandwiches). The American Meat burger comes with a beef patty and beef brisket, which always struck me as a lot of food but I guess that’s sort of the point.
If burgers, hot dogs and the like aren’t your thing then the new menu has expanded out the lunch offerings with sandwiches and salads too. Salad wise it’s mainly the Cobb salad which can have blackened chicken, cod or halloumi added to it to make a more substantial meal. Frankly ordering salad whilst dining out always felt to me like a strange thing to do but the blue cheese, crispy bacon and avocado make it more indulgent – and the blackened chicken was nicely cooked on the one I tried. There’s also a grilled avocado, chorizo and warm cherry tomato salad which sounds nice, if you like that sort of thing.
Whilst the menu is chockfull of meat, there are some surprises on the menu too – namely the Hipster Pasta Option, which is a vegan twist on a carbonara. It uses pureed cauliflower and almond milk which isn’t quite rich enough to recreate cream and felt a bit powdery to me, but it is a decent effort at creating a vegan option on a pub menu. It’s interesting to see that catering for vegans is becoming something of a thing on pub menus these days, which is never a bad thing.
It’s also worth mentioning the house specials which include pulled brisket cannelloni, ribs, gammon and crab cakes, as well at meatloaf. Maybe it’s just me, but years of watching American TV shows has made me wary of meatloaf, but the one we tried wasn’t nearly as dense and impenetrable as I’d been led to believe and had a nice flavour alongside the white gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect beforehand, given American diner menus have been popping up all over the city, which seems like a bit of an excuse to make a menu full of burgers, fries and hot dogs. Sure the Rose Villa Tavern’s menu includes these, but there are also some nods to other traditional American dishes which give it a much more rounded menu. And those wings…it’s worth going back for them alone.
Disclosure: I was invited along to a complimentary menu tasting, although admittedly this was a while ago. There was no obligation to blog about it and certainly none to say nice things, but when I’ve dragged myself to the JQ and brought my camera, it would seem a shame not to post something.