Posts for the 'Gastropubs' Category


The Stag and Huntsman

The Stag and Huntsman

The Stag and Huntsman is a 300-year-old pub which has been converted into a fine restaurant and a country inn in what is apparently Britain’s most photographed and filmed village, Hambleden. It is a beautiful, beautiful village, located between Marlow and Henley, and is littered with quaint country cottages and surrounded by rolling fields and lush green hills. The Stag and Huntsman offers rooms, but as Hambleden is just under an hour’s drive away from London, it can also easily make for a day’s getaway, away from the hustle and bustle of the Big Smoke.

The Stag and Huntsman - London Food Blog

The Stag and Huntsman, Hambleden

The Stag and Huntsman is an impeccably run venue and offers an almost picture perfect balance between quaint and modern, refined and relaxed, helped in no small part by a most welcoming and friendly host, Marius, the manager. The Stag and Huntsman is decidedly a smart place, yet the kind that doesn’t make you uncomfortable should you pop over in casual clothes. The furniture and the colour scheme of the interiors is the right amount of cleverly calculated with a relieving touch of haphazard. The building is a historic pub, extended and refurbished such that there is almost a warren-like layout. This was rather entertaining – a sort of life size puzzle set up to test your intellectual capacity to find exits and entrances. As we wandered around the establishment, we would occasionally catch glimpses of the cooks busily poring over what would be our meal for the night.

The food that we tried was delicious, the kind of country pub dining that sets out to satisfy – hearty and comforting, precisely executed and cooked with confidence. The duck liver parfait (£8) was rich and strong, and a far cry from the effete fluffy concoctions that are sometimes peddled to diners in London with too much cream and not enough flavour. The seared scallops (£12) were daringly matched with black pudding and apple and further enhanced with some squash puree.

The Stag and Huntsman - London Food Blog - Duck liver parfait

The Stag and Huntsman – Duck liver parfait

The Stag and Huntsman - London Food Blog - Scallops

The Stag and Huntsman – Scallops

The pigeon breast (£7) was seared to perfection with a welcoming blush of pink on the inside and perched daintily on top of an artichoke. A dab of creamed beetroot and some creamed Jerusalem artichoke introduced a timely wintry touch.

The combinations of ingredients were well thought through. Moving onto the mains, the crispy seared bream fillet (£18) with creamy grilled peppers, lush romesco sauce, and fragrant roasted almond flakes proved to be a veritable fandango of flavours. However the fish itself seemed to lack that luscious vibrant quality usually offered by very fresh fish. It was a little lacklustre but the accompaniments were fabulous.

The Stag and Huntsman - London Food Blog - Sea bream

The Stag and Huntsman – Sea bream

The 10oz ribeye steak (£22) was cooked medium-rare and oozed with the flavour of well reared meat, and was generously studded with grilled organic plum tomatoes. The red wine jus (£3) was well reduced yet still allowing the original wine’s nose to be discernible, no mean feat by any means. The seasonal vegetables (£4) had been just ever so gently steamed, with a delightful crunch and their bright colours still on show. The side of hand cut chips (£4) were chunky and rustic.

The Stag and Huntsman - London Food Blog - Rib eye

The Stag and Huntsman –
Rib eye

The Stag and Huntsman - London Food Blog - Sides

The Stag and Huntsman – Sides

The bread was the common wholemeal variety, so little disappointing considering the strength of the rest of the food. We thought a strong, good sourdough would have worked really well here.

A dessert of raspberry panna cotta (£8) was a joy to eat, with wonderfully prepared laywer of raspberry tea jelly, pistachio crumb and granite. Yum!

We stayed the night and our room was upstairs – a bridal suite with a spacious bathroom containing his and hers and an old-fashioned bathtub and quaint antique furniture. The room was impeccably clean and smelt wonderfully fresh. The heating was so powerful, you would not need to wear pyjamas to walk around in the middle of winter. It didn’t contain the softest of bedding, but the room still offered a charming overnight experience.

The Stag and Huntsmans - London Food Blog - The bathroom

The Stag and Huntsmans The bathroom

In the morning, we spent over an hour savouring our full English breakfast. We requested a change from the usual boring baked beans with avocado, and the standard fried or scrambled eggs with eggs benedict. And the staff duly obliged! The homemade hollandaise was a delight and truly delicious. Overall the breakfast was wonderful. What a treat!

The Stag and Huntsman - London Food Blog - A modified English breakfast

The Stag and Huntsman – A modified English breakfast

We had arrived on a Saturday late afternoon so there hadn’t been enough light for us to peruse the outdoor garden.
In the morning our eyes were treated to the sight of a very pleasant garden at the back of the pub with English white cast-iron garden furniture. There was also a crab apple tree with bright scarlet fruit ringed by yellow leaves serving as a backdrop in the high blue sky. This garden would no doubt make for a wonderful spot for afternoon beers in the middle of the summer.

The service The Stag and Huntsman was excellent: genuinely friendly, tactfully watchful, yet not obtrusive at all. The staff genuinely looked as if they loved what they were doing and as a result they offered up the perfect balance between efficiency, watchfulness, friendliness and reserve.

We really had a nice stay at The Stag and Huntsman. The overall experience of dinner, bed and breakfast was truly enjoyable and charming.

Note: Co-written with Artour (Instagram: @Niftynoshing)

Likes:

1) The entire venue was a delight.
2) The food was delicious and well executed
3) Hambleden itself is worth a visit.


Dislikes:

1) The fish dish was the weakest link.


Food rating:
3.75/5
Service rating: 4/5

Price: About £30 to £40 a head for food, excludes drinks and service. For room rates, check with the venue directly.

Website: http://www.thestagandhuntsman.co.uk/


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The Porchester

The Porchester is a gastropub located in the heart of Bayswater. Part of the Young’s Pub Group, it is a colourful local completed in warm autumnal colours. The interior skillfully strikes a balance between a modern and a traditional English pub. Similarly this concept carries through to the menu which is traditionally British but cooked with a modern flair.

To begin, we couldn’t resist ordering a few items from the bar snacks. The chicken wings (£4) fell off the bone and were slightly charred which gave them a lovely caramelisation. Cooked with chilli, they also offered up a light kick of spiciness. A ranch dressing was a nice accompaniment to these subtle yet spicy wings as it provided a deliciously cool and tangy contrast.

The Porchester - Chillied chicken wings

The Porchester – Chillied chicken wings

The chorizo and black pudding scotch eggs (£3.50) was the standout from the bar snacks. The black pudding and chorizo paste struck a great balance in the scotch egg as it was soft and subtle without undermining the delicate flavour of the runny egg. The textural contrast between the soft gooey interior of the egg against the crunchy crumb coating made it even more scrumptious.

The Porchester - Chorizo and black pudding scotch egg

The Porchester – Chorizo and black pudding scotch egg

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The White Hart – Harting

On a recent weekend trip to West Sussex we stopped off for a meal at The White Hart, a charming country pub in the cozy village of Harting. The White Hart represents the essence of a quintessential English pub. It was full of warmth and character with a lovely spacious beer garden. It was sunny when we went and we got the chance to enjoy a drink outside before our meal. The White Hart is located near the A3 and is within driving distance to Uppark, a National Trust property where H.G. Wells spent time when he was a young man.

The White Hart

The White Hart

We tried several starters and our favourite was the delicious chilled tomato gazpacho with peppers and basil (£5.50). It was beautifully creamy and sweet from the freshness of the tomatoes and with just the right level of consistency. The use of peppers added a pert contrast, and some fragrant basil created a lovely perfume over the dish.

The White Hart - Gazpacho

Gazpacho

Pan seared scallops with mussel fritters and curry (£9.50) was also tasty. The scallops were plump and juicy and nicely cooked if a little salty. The curry sauce was decent but a little overpowering against the delicate scallops. There was also some mango in the dish that provided a pleasant counterpoint with its sweetness and the mussels were lovely and crispy.

The White Hart - Scallops

Scallops

A piece of seared foie gras (£8.50) was also enjoyable, being nicely cooked and firm in texture. A fried duck egg with a rich runny yolk accompanied the foie gras and was perched on top of a slice of light and airy brioche.

The White Hart - Foie gras

Foie gras

To the mains, and a lamb rump was full of flavour and very tender. Accompaniments included a delicious smoked aubergine puree and some goat’s curd that added a delightful touch to the dish since the heat of the meat gently melted the curd, thereby creating a creamy effect. There was also a side of Mediterranean vegetables which were well cooked but were a touch over seasoned.

The White Hart - Rump of lamb

Rump of lamb

A 10oz Rib eye steak (£24.95) was tasty but a little chewy in parts. Alongside the steak was some sautéed spinach, hand cut chips, shallot rings and a wonderfully smooth and smoky onion puree. The hand cut chips were excellent with a crunchy exterior and a soft centre.

The White Hart - Rib eye steak

Rib eye steak

The White Hart - Hand cut chips

Hand cut chips

The desserts were also really enjoyable. A raspberry soufflé was a little lopsided but it was otherwise well made with a delightful airy texture. It was a little sweet however but this was tempered by the accompanying rose ice cream which was yummy and aromatic and which worked wonderfully with the soufflé. Scoops of baileys and honey and lavender ice cream (£1.50 per scoop) were appetising.

The White Hart - Raspberry soufflé

Raspberry soufflé

We really enjoyed our visit to The White Hart. The seasoning needed some tweaking in parts, but otherwise the menu was well thought out and the cooking showed some off some solid skills. The service was friendly and welcoming but needed to be more attentive in parts. That said we really enjoyed dining at The White Hart. The cooking was solid and smartly executed, and the cozy country setting makes The White Hart a charming find.

Summary Information:

Food rating: 3.75/5
Service rating: 3/5

Prices: £24 to £43 for three courses, excludes drinks and service.

Website: http://www.the-white-hart.co.uk/


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The White Swan

The White Swan, located on Fetter Lane near Chancery Lane, is an old-fashioned boozer which has long enticed the city crowd with its fine selection of ales and refined gentile feel. But it also serves as a gastropub, with the first floor area being transformed into a smart but not overly fussy dining room styled with an art-deco touch.

The food is also classically British and smartly done, teetering on high-end without being too over the top. The ground floor pub also serves food, and although its menu includes a burger and fish and chips as options, the other items are rather smart with the likes of dishes such as confit duck leg and slow roasted pork belly. Migrate upstairs to the main dining room, and the a la carte menu becomes more creative with the added option of a tasting menu.

We decided to go for the tasting menu, which was a rather reasonable £55 for six courses. Our amuse bouche was a crab salad with cucumber and tomato which was lovely and fresh and blended with a creamy mayo that tasted distinctively homemade.

The White Swan - Crab salad

Crab salad amuse bouche

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The Only Running Footman

The Only Running Footman is a wonderfully quaint pub/gastropub whose name pays homage to the footmen who were in service to the households of Mayfair in Georgian times. The role of the footman included such tasks as carrying lights after dusk, paying toll-keepers and generally paving the way for safe passage for his aristocratic master’s carriage. It was here at The Only Running Footman, known as The Running Horse during those times, where the footmen congregated for drinks after their duties.

The pub’s full name is actually ‘I Am The Only Running Footman’ and has been the venue for many a pub crawl, mystery tour, etc. Most notably it served as the inspiration for a novel of the same name by detective fiction writer Martha Grimes.

The ground floor acts as the pub proper with the first floor holding the dining room. It’s a small space, but it is nevertheless plush and cozy with its inviting leather banquettes. The look of The Only Running Footman is smart, and the food is equally smart and more refined than might be found at the average gastropub.

We started with a tian of fresh Cromer crab with avocado and melba toast (£11.50). There was a decent amount of crab meat which was deliciously sweet and fresh. The avocado purée worked as a nice accompaniment to the crab. It was beautifully smooth but we wanted for a slightly richer, deeper avocado flavour.

The Only Running Footman - Tian of crab

Tian of crab

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Marquess Tavern

Marquess Tavern is a cozy local pub located on Canonbury Street in Islington. The main focal point of the pub is the central bar, and circling the bar are tables where customers can sit and enjoy a drink or have a bite to eat. Marquess Tavern won the Time Out Gastro Pub of the Year award in 2006, however the current layout of the pub (where there is no dedicated separate dining area) suggests that Marquess Tavern’s focus has shifted from gastropub to boozer.

We tried the quail wrapped in smoked bacon (£7.25) with beetroot and orange. It was a pleasant dish with the quail being tasty and moist. But there was no caramelisation on the quail and it needed more browning on the skin for greater flavour and a more superior finish.

Marquess Tavern - Quail wrapped in bacon

Quail wrapped in bacon

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Great Queen Street

Great Queen Street is owned by the same group that also own Anchor and Hope, a gastropub which has carved a name for itself with its inventive British cooking and its use of head-to-tail ingredients. Great Queen Street’s menu plays less reliance on offal cooking, but it is similarly classically British. Its makes good use of seasonal ingredients, and as such the menu is ever changing. Great Queen Street is a rustic looking venue – the furniture is dark, and the lighting is kept low. Located on Great Queen Street in Covent Garden, it’s a perfect spot for a bout of casual central London dining.

A starter salad of ham, egg, beetroot and horseradish (£7) was absolutely scrumptious. There was something heavenly about how the salty crispy ham blended with the earthy sweetness of the well-cooked beetroot. A half soft-boiled egg was perfectly cooked, and the horseradish dressing gave the salad a lovely kick. This was a wonderful marriage of flavours, all of which combined beautifully together.

Ham, egg, beetroot & horseradish

Ham, egg, beetroot & horseradish

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The Grazing Goat

The same people behind The Thomas Cubitt in Belgravia have produced another charming rendition of a public house with The Grazing Goat. Situated on New Quebec Street just off Portman Square, The Grazing Goat is more than just a pub serving an interesting array of beers, wines and cocktails. The first floor also plays home to the restaurant, and on the floors above there is a hotel with eight guest rooms. It was to the restaurant that we went – a delectable dining room furnished in the vein of a posh gastropub with blond oak panelling and soft muted lighting. The overall effect was a charming ambience that made you feel right at home.

A starter of seared Scottish scallops (£11) was tasty and nicely cooked, with accompaniments including a salt cod and herb potato purée and some citrus lentils. The purée was smooth and pleasant, but you couldn’t really taste the herbs, and the lentils were very acidic. The result was that the saltiness of the cod purée and the acidity of the lentils overpowered the gentle flavour of the scallops. This dish lacked for balance and needed something more delicate to make it work.

Seared Scottish scallops

Seared Scottish scallops

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