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.