There’s a new place in town: it’s directly opposite Twickenham station, on the way to ‘Craney McLaney’ (aka The Twickenham Rough but I don’t like that name!).  It’s called The Crane Tap and for those of us who remember M Bar & Grill, it’s part of the same group (Gaucho), but with a far better, better value menu. 

It’s a bar, a restaurant, somewhere to meet friends for a coffee or a cocktail, a weekend brunch venue, or a place to drop in for a quick snifter on the way home from work.  And it’s rather nice!  It’s also dog and child friendly, so the ideal place for a family outing.

We took Crystal Poodle there for a night out the other day to check out the menu and ambience.  The interior has had a bit of a face-lift since the M days, but the restaurant seating and layout is much the same, with an open kitchen at the back.

The menu is, very sensibly, quite limited.  It’s based on the signature dishes at M and Goucho.  We started with a Twickenham Session IPA (£6) and a Rosemary Paloma (£10) while studying the menu. To start, we shared a portion of Wagu Scotch Egg (£7) and chicken satay (£6). Both were well-presented, generous portions, and excellent.  The satay had homemade peanut sauce and delicious pickled cucumber, while watercress, and a tasty smoky sauce accompanied the egg. Next time I go I want to try the courgette fritters with fennel and lime mayo – just £4 a portion.

As it’s part of Gaucho group, I couldn’t resist a steak.  James, the manager, persuaded me to have a rib-eye (£26) but there was also a rump at £13.  Knowing I had a small poodle seated on her blanket beside me, I opted for chimichuri sauce on the side so that I could surreptitiously feed her some titbits of plain steak.  Reader, the steak was magnificent and cooked to perfection.  My husband chose the beef and Malbec pie (£14) and he was pleased to find that it was a ‘proper’ pie, with a top and bottom pastry crust, as opposed to the bowls of stew with a sheet of pastry that so often constitute a pie nowadays.  I managed to sneak a tiny taste of the filling – it was beautifully seasoned and very tasty.

There are five side dishes on the menu and we opted for chips (with Parmesan and truffle mayo as suggested by James) and sautéed peas with mint, chilli and lettuce, well priced at £5 and £3 respectively.  Again, everything was really good – our only small niggle was the chips being served in a small, deep, bowl heaped with cheese and mayo, making it difficult to share as those chips on the top were rather overwhelmed!

The pudding menu is again very concise:  we asked James if the crumble was a ‘proper’ one with the topping baked onto the fruit.  He admitted that the kitchen did in fact serve crumble topping made separately, so that meant sticky toffee pud with milk ice cream (£5) was a no-brainer as far as my husband was concerned.  I initially opted for no dessert as I was replete, but James kindly brought a children’s portion of the ‘Snickers’ for me to try. I’m jolly glad he did, as it was delicious, but very rich!

Wines are reasonably priced starting from £5 a glass.  We had the Sangiovese (at £6 a glass or £22.50 a bottle).  The wine list is quite extensive, but very well constructed, and again, sensibly priced.

I think that this new concept should work well in Twickenham – it certainly ought to!  We now have a great venue where we can meet friends and neighbours, and enjoy well-priced, beautifully cooked, food in a relaxed and friendly ‘local’.  We’ll be back there trying the weekend brunch soon. 

 The old adage ‘use it or lose it’ certainly applies, so I’d urge you to pop in sometime soon and check it out for yourself.