Renovated Magnolia worth the visit
While we weren't crazy about the over-done faux distressed look (the ceiling looks particularly unpleasant), the "gastropub" upgrade at Magnolia is spot on. They've added a nice, long communal table and upgraded the menu considerably while still staying in the pub tradition. This means that those who are simply looking for a respectable fish and chips or a burger and fries will still get those -- but for those wanting something more, there's quite a lot.
The updated menu includes a few more simple snacks and also charcuterie and cheese plates (the charcuterie apparently changes). There are also house made sausages with a choice of 2 sides for $12 (quite a longish list of choices including beluga lentils), including a vegetarian sausage selection. The lamb sounded quite good. They've kept their well seasoned calamari too, but now serve it with a tasty, if disconcertingly grey, squid ink aioli.
Then there are the other things, which change with seasonality and availability. I was seduced by a modern take on shepherd's pie. This was made with braised short ribs and ox tails, topped with mash potatos (supposedly seasoned with horseradish, but this was not detectable) and a little bit of bone marrow butter, and served with two types of baby carrots and watercress seasoned with a light vinegrette. Rather than being baked in its own dish, this was a version assembled in a deep dish of a sort they seemed to be using for many of the new entrees. It was rich and delicious, and perhaps the most expensive thing on the menu Saturday night at $22.
Also delicious looking -- and tasting according to the guy sitting across from us at the big table -- were two sand dabs. These had each been boned out and then reassembled with a spinach stuffing, and were served on fregula with a lemony sauce.
We hadn't been to Magnolia for quite a while, so sampled several of the beers on cask. For our taste -- which tends toward English real ales -- the Mild was great and the most English, while the Bluebell Bitter, was ever, a flavorful beer.
Will definitely be back.
I am completely disappointed in the "new" Magnolia. My BF and I have been going here regularly for 4 years and have weathered its ups and downs, but we've never had a worse experience than we did last week.
We went in there the Thursday night they re-opened and stood at the bar for a few minutes, trying to get someone's attention to put in our name for a table. We were the only people standing at this point. One waiter we've had many times before (who is a fantastic server usually) saw us and promised he'd be right back with a list to put our names down. After he went by us again four more times, it was clear we were not very high on their priority list so we left. Very few if any tables had food, so I guessed that kitchen complications were causing them distraction and even if we did get our name on a list it would be a very long time before we were seated. What really bugged me was that there was a manager not four feet from where we were standing, just sort of hanging around -- not interested in asking us if we wanted a beer or if they could put our names in for a table.
Forgiving the 'opening night' complications, we went back Friday just to try to grab a beer. Again we stood at the bar for several minutes trying to get someone's attention to no avail. So we left again, trying not to take being ignored two nights in a row personally.
Gluttons for punishment we are, we went back on Saturday and managed to get two seats at the bar for brunch. We waited far a while (3 minutes?) to be acknowledged by the admittedly friendly bartender, and it took at least ten more minutes to get a beer. My tortilla espanola arrived cold and soggy, but my side order of housemade sausage was completely forgotten until I asked after it. It came after I was done with my entrée and was very dry and salty. They took it off the bill.
My BF loves their beers, so I'm sure we'll be back for that if not for food. And hopefully we will feel more welcome when we do. But I surely won't be recommending this place to anyone else.