Childhood Memories: The Warden (Tavern) Beefeater Grill

Luton doesn’t have many good restaurants. It had even fewer when I was a kid. But we went out to dinner regularly as a family, either to the local Beefeater or, in later years, to our favourite local Chinese restaurant, long since closed.

Nearly without fail, my sister and I would order prawn cocktails to start and big fat steaks, cooked medium rare and woe betide the chef who thought he knew better and sent them out medium well. Pops would delight in our weekly horror as he not only ordered his steak well done but egged them on to make sure it really was. Mum was never a big red meat fan and switched between the fish, chicken and vegetarian options.

As teens, we frequented the pub side of the Tavern instead of the restaurant, it’s probably where I had my first pint of beer, southern comfort and ice, tia maria and coke!

Until recently, I’d not been back for more than twenty years.

But recently, my sister and I decided to drag Pops out of the house for Sunday lunch while mum was away birdwatching. Since he fell off a horse in Nepal a few months ago, broke some ribs and fractured his back (he ain’t ever gonna age gracefully, not that we’d have it any other way), he’s been forced to stop his daily gym workouts and hasn’t really been able to do much walking either. We left the choice to him and he suggested the Tavern; still being a regular and knowing many of the staff by name.

Of course, it’s been refurbished since my last visit, probably a fair few times, and it was weirdly familiar and unfamiliar all at once. It’s a Beefeater pub, they’re a chain, they all look the same, you know the style…

BeefeaterLuton-132516 BeefeaterLuton-134829

Feeling nostalgic, my sister and I both chose prawn cocktail (£4.99) followed by a 10oz Rib-Eye (£16.79), medium as per the waitress’ recommendation. She rightly pointed out that this fatty cut needs a bit of extra cooking to melt the fat, which makes it much tastier to eat. We added peppercorn and brandy sauce (£1.49) and upgraded the chips to Ultimate ones for an additional 69p. (That’s £18.97 for the complete dish).

Prawn cocktail was proper old school with a basic salad, lots of fairly bland but perfectly acceptable prawns drowned under a classic cloying Marie Rose sauce. Served with brown bread (and butter on request) it was exactly what I wanted. Of course, it could be improved by big fresh jumbo prawns but sometimes chefs are so keen to add their own twist that they lose sight of the pleasure of bouncy protein covered in sweet pink goo!

The rib eye steak was surprisingly good, far better texture and taste than I expected and the cooking was just right. Accompaniments were all good and whilst it wasn’t the very best steak I’ve eaten, it was certainly better than many I’ve been charged far more for in central London. It wasn’t a bargain either, I think the price is high for the restaurant but fair – with the exception of the T-bone which is £1 more, it’s the most expensive item on the menu.

Pops did comment that it was better than usual. It’s one of his regular choices and he says it’s not consistently as good as the ones we ate on this visit. It goes up and down, though it’s always the right side of acceptable.

In other good news: somewhere along the way, in the 30 or so years since our regular family visits, Pops has gradually switched from ordering his meat well done to medium rare. But he still likes to make the joke about visiting McDonald’s on the way home!

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6 Comments to "Childhood Memories: The Warden (Tavern) Beefeater Grill"

  1. Mamta

    A trip down memory lane! We usually went on Fridays, didn’t, we?
    They are of course ‘beef-eater’, but they could have a slightly better vegetarian selection/choice! I end up having either a risotto or fish and chips all the time!!

  2. Kathy

    Kavey, so delightful is this review! I felt like I was alongside you for this trip down memory lane. Sorry to hear about your Pops’ spill, and I’m glad he’s healing now. I’m certain a delightful meal with “his girls” helped immensely in that regard.

    Don’t know if you’ve found this to be your experience or not, but here in my part of the States (where red meat is “grown” and definitely appreciated), I find some restaurants here just “get it” with steaks or they don’t. By that I mean they know a good cut of beef and the optimal way to cook it or they never do. Sounds like your “old favorite” does and always did. Reminds me of a place in Ann Arbor v. close to my heart.



    Kathy, Beefeater is just a chain, they aren’t particular great with sourcing or cooking, but they’re generally one of those “you-know-what-to-expect” kind of places…

  3. sandi

    How lovely, I do love reading about childhood memories, fab you got to revisit. I can not recall going as a kid, it was considered ‘posh’. We used to eat out at the local Chinese or Indian place or occasionally the pizza/Italian. Hope your dad is feeling a bit better now.


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