At {Pub}licity in Bellevue, the early reports are encouraging 

Read All About It

Read All About It

The ink-stained wretches who populate the ranks of print journalism spend a lot of time haggling over where their stories deserve to appear. At outlets with the traditional broadsheet format, hierarchy starts on the front page, or "A1," where the meatiest of breaking news goes. In the Scene, hard-hitting news stories merit the early pages, while arts and entertainment coverage (and columns like this one) reside in the "back of the book."

If you listen to the doomsayers, such information triage soon will be moot, when newsprint goes the way of the typewriter. By the time that happens, Bellevue's newspaper-themed restaurant-bar {Pub}licity will have had a chance to develop a hint of the quaintness of a traditional British pub, and that's a headline to look forward to.

As a predictable consequence of its location in a New World strip mall, {Pub}licity currently lacks the Old World charm of the traditional British public houses that it seeks to replicate. The wood paneling still shines too bright, the walls and floor echo too much, and there are too many flat-screen TVs overhead to mistake this place for a venerable village local.

Be that as it may, there's a big story here — namely, a well-executed and creatively updated roster of pub-grub in a neighborhood that could use some local flavor.

Located in the strip at the southeast corner of Highway 70 and Old Hickory Boulevard, {Pub}licity is the second act of a team that formerly ran the Snappy Tomato franchise in the same location. This fall, Kevin Alexandroni, Simon Sedek and Uzi Shmueli unhooked themselves from the pizza chain and restyled the storefront as a dark-wood-and-newspaper-decked British-style gastropub. They hooked up a phalanx of televisions and a bank of beer taps dispensing local favorites Yazoo and Blackstone and European stalwarts Guinness, Kronenbourg and Maredsous.

In the grub column, there are Her Majesty's usual suspects. Fish-and-chips was an admirable rendition of the classic, with flaky planks of white fish deep-fried into golden beer-battered mittens and served with house-made tartar sauce and a pyramid of waffle fries.

Moules frites, a nod to the days when fishermen stopped off in seaside pubs to sell their wares, was a bountiful bowl of mussels in rich herb-infused white-wine broth, with garlic bread for sopping.

Shepherd's pie arrived in a mini cast-iron skillet, with a thick stew of ground beef, carrots and peas beneath a hearty blanket of mashed potatoes. As if co-opted by its stateside cousin, pot pie, {Pub}licity's take on the British classic wears a topping of puff pastry.

General manager Melinda Johnson, an alumna of popular M Street establishments Tavern and Virago, takes some credit for the inclusion of the veggie pasty (pronounced PAST-y), a turnover-style stuffed pastry. Rarely found in these parts, Cornish pasties are a favorite food of Harry Potter character Ron Weasley; as a self-professed Hogwart's nerd, Johnson all but insisted on adding pasties to the menu. {Pub}licity's version is adapted from the crimped half-moon of the workingman's handheld lunch into a puffed triangle that requires a fork. We were impressed by the medley of portobello mushroom, eggplant, mozzarella and sun-dried tomato inside the golden pocket, though we would have liked a more generous serving of the filling to balance out the leaves of crust.

A few more top headlines include artichoke hearts hand-trimmed down to the tenderest leaves and fleshy stem, coated in panko, deep-fried to crisp bronze and served with bacon aioli; a trio of soft grilled flour tortillas loaded with grilled beef medallions, bright chimichurri and crisp slaw; and fried calamari with a perfect consistency of soft squid inside a greaseless blond coating. An equally deft hand at the fryer produced chicken schnitzel sliders, a pair of diminutive fried-chicken burgers with virtually no traces of oil in the coating.

We particularly appreciated the column of salads, including spinach and arugula with roasted beets, mozzarella, spicy pecans, and the option of grilled shrimp or chicken.

Here's the bad news: The burger was a disappointment, overcooked and served on grilled focaccia that fell apart under pressure. Here's the good news: A little fine-tuning and you've got a half-pound of Angus beef for $8.

Conversely, $12 mac-and-cheese was much ado about — and much to pay for — a sturdy but unremarkable bowl of pasta.

Ink-stained wretches also like to talk about "burying the lede." That's what they call it when a story fails to list the most important facts up at the top. Here's a textbook example of lede-burying:

{Pub}licity serves chocolate-dipped bacon.

Yes, in a culinary stroke of excess that belongs above the proverbial fold, six strips of bacon — chocolate-coated, maple-candied and applewood smoked — arrive upright in a mug, like so many pencils in a pencil holder.

It's still early in the news cycle. Shuffleboard and darts are still on their way, and a boisterous crowd of regulars would go a long way toward absorbing the echo. For now, when it comes to ambiance, {Pub}licity has about as much in common with the pubby taproom at the Guinness brewery as the nearby T.J. Maxx has in common with Harrods department store. But time, traffic and the wear-and-tear of a little spilt lager will eventually add patina to the too-shiny booths and bar. When the atmosphere catches up to the food, {Pub}licity really will be something to read about.

{Pub}licity serves lunch and dinner daily until 11 p.m.


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