All that existed before 1995 is quaintly called "old Charlotte," since that seminal year brought such events as the first season of the Carolina Panthers and the performance of Angels in America to the city. Also in 1995, a small 70-seat British pub opened on the backside of Park Road Shopping Center.
I wrote a glowing review of Sir Edmond Halley's Restaurant & Freehouse. I had followed chef and co-owner Tobin McAfee from Chin-Tso (in the spot most recently occupied by Big Daddy's on East Boulevard) to Sir Ed's and devoured his Hong Kong egg rolls at both places. Svend Deal, another partner, had become a fan of the British-styled neighborhood pub on his rugby jaunts to England and Australia. Thus, Sir Ed's was born.
Then last July, after 15 years in business, McAfee left and Sir Ed's shut down. Deal, who had ended his ownership in 2002 and is now an attorney, decided to resurrect the concept. With some spiffing up and a new ownership group, Sir Ed's opened again last November. Among the new ownership team are Jeff Roberts, the original bartender; General Manager Helen White, a 10-year vet of the pub; and Yojany Caceres, who has been in the kitchen for a dozen years now and heads that crew.
Sir Ed's continues to be a quietly harmonious enclave of white stucco walls, dark wood and a welcoming bar, and, without windows, it has a subterranean Batcave feel. The interior has that sameness in English-speaking pubs everywhere.
The menu lineup, though, is distinctly American — chili, quesadillas, wings, burgers and nachos — with some brilliant exceptions. The dish sure to hook even the most reserved dining patron is their bellwether fish and chips: a loudly crunching, lusciously succulent white fish. Eschew the tartar sauce for a dash of malted vinegar. This is an impressive rendition of a classic only in need of a newspaper to snuggle in.
But the shepherd's pie, which gets a big thumbs up for using lamb (rather than the commonly used beef), is listless in a soupy sauce. Likewise, the fried goat cheese is imprisoned by a moat of cabernet sauce and sweet apple slices. Better is the ostrich meatloaf and a salad wedge interspersed with bits of apple smoked bacon and diced tomatoes.
But Sir Ed's food is not designed to be transcendent. This is not a trendy gastropub — just a pub with good food and great beer. The portfolio on draft includes Fat Tire, Harpoon, Bass Ale, Newcastle Brown Ale, Old Speckled Hen, Smuttynose, Stella, Harp and, of course, Guinness — and a fresh tasting Guinness at that. Beer is served by the yard, the Long Glass, which is fun to watch since once tipped, the beer flows quickly.
The crowd changes throughout the night from families to "mates." The full menu is served until close at 2 a.m.
The pub is named for Sir Edmund Halley, who became famous for mathematically deducing the elliptical path of comets and predicting one's 76-year return cycle. Halley probably would have predicted the return of his namesake pub as well. The food consistently raises the bar for bar food, while the atmosphere is warm and quite the place to draw patrons back.