Sunday, 20 September 2009

Bull and Last

I first read of this place on Gourmet Chick's blog and have wandered by many a time on the way to Hampstead Heath, it's a short walk from where I live.

Then, when Simon of Dos Hermanos organized the most excellent evening, Dining With Dos Hermanos, at chef Ollie Pudney's highly lauded and Time Out nominated best new pub in London (they were robbed) I thought it was high time I returned and posted my thoughts on the venue.

Incidentally, the Dine with Dos Hermanos event was a triumph, my first time attending one of Simon's gatherings, and the food was remarkable. The mutton and the trifle were my stand out dishes and it will always be remembered by me as the first time I tried (and actually quite enjoyed) calves brain.

Anyhow, I returned for dinner at The Bull and Last with Thomas and we started things off with one of Pudney's fantastic scotch eggs. Explaining what these are to Thomas was fun, they don't have them in Germany, Thomas thought it tasted like breakfast! Scotch eggs, as I remember them from childhood - a picnic essential or Christmas evening buffet stalwart - are horrible, rock solid and fairly tasteless morsels. They have seen a gastropub resurrection over the last few years and with succulent, well seasoned, moist pork meat surrounding a still runny and richly golden egg, it's easy to see why, with a little care and attention, these have become a mainstay bar snack.

To start I opted for the steak tartare. This was my favourite of the appetizers we sampled Dining with Dos Hermanos and I was keen to try more than a mouthful and was very happy to see it on the menu. The meat was well seasoned with a nice amount of capers. This was served with a couple of pickles and some toasted sourdough.

I enjoyed this but it was not as good as the canape. This is due to the egg yolk to meat ratio I think. The canape version had less meat and still a whole egg yolk, see Kerri and Ben's fabulous pictures of the evening (including the tartare) here. As a starter I felt less impressed visually than I was with Monday night miniature offering, they really were beautiful but the taste was the same. I would have liked more egg yolk is all. The yolk used for the canape was a quail yolk, this offering was from a hens egg I believe.

Thomas had the fish selection to start, a mixture of various bite sized pieces of fish fried in a light batter, served with aioli and a wedge of lemon. This was fine but neither of us were as impressed with the first course as we had been with the bar snack.

The downstairs dining room at The Bull and Last is the bar, all tables are available to reserve for dinner making his more of a foodie than a drinkers establishment, those wanting only a drink may use the tables until the diners arrive which is nice. The kitchen is visible (part of it at least) to the right of the main bar. This did mean that it got very hot in the room which made it slightly uncomfortable, as did the air being thick with smoke at one point, we left that evening with our clothes and hair reeking of smoke.

For my main course I followed Simon's advice and had the fish and chips. Gourmet Chick claims these to be the very best chips in London and I concur that they are indeed up there. I am yet to try those at Quo Vadis, many claim these reign supreme.

I was a little disappointed by the size of the battered fish but that's the greedy person in me. There was more than enough and the accompanying tartare and mushy peas were every bit as good as the chips. The large gherkin was quite brilliant too. This was a great take on a classic pub dish.

Thomas had the veal for main which came with beautiful girolles, wilted spinach, a rich meaty sauce, all topped with shavings of parmesan. The meat was delightfully tender obviously the star of the dish. Pudney certainly knows his meat and how to cook it. There is certainly due care and attention paid to the sourcing of quailty ingredients and their subsequent preparation at The Bull and Last, something which should guarantee success for Pudney, this is the second of his outposts in London, the first, The Prince of Wales in Putney, I am keen to visit.

We both felt there was room for dessert, I had the chocolate brownie sundae and Thomas had the pannacotta. Both were exquisite, I didn't snap these as I was feeling a bit tiddly taking full advantage of the fine ales and ciders available by the pump. We also had a lovely glass of champagne each, a fine way to end the meal.

There were some downsides to the experience on this occasion, we were sat right next to the kitchen, a negative not only due to the fact that we left smelling lightly charred, but we seemed to be sat in a corridor for the waiting staff. Despite this we often had trouble getting their attention. This in stark contrast to the service on prior visits, this was a busy Friday night. With a couple of tweaks The Bull and Last can become a wonderful venue, all the right ingredients are there. I would rate the evening Dining with Dos Hermanos a 9.5/10.

Bull and Last
168 Highgate Road
Kentish Town

Bull & Last on Urbanspoon


Helen said...

I also thoroughly enjoyed the food at Dine with DH and I want to go back for another meal. I will admit to not liking the calves brains though. That fish and chips looks mighty fine.

Anonymous said...

I dont know about raw egg on raw mince - sounds a bit dangerous to me!

Lizzie said...

Like Helen, I also enjoyed the food at Dine with DH - not so much the calves brain though. I also love love love steak tartare, so it's good to know someone else to get it.

Boo said...

I wouldn't say the brains are one of the nicest things I've ever eaten, I was pleasantly suprised though.

I love the Bull and Last, so happy it's just around the corner from my place!

Anonymous said...

The main courses look great, we're hoping to go back soon too as we both thought the food was great.

Shame about being seated near the kitchen though, I hate when that happens.

Dan said...

Another great review - you've been eating in some cracking places lately (Apart from Cafe Renoir hahaha).

Interesting that you can compare the experience with the dishes you had on the dine with DH evening. And you live nearby? Lucky you.

Boo said...

Kerri - the main courses did stand out, it was a bit disappointing we were in the midst of the waiting traffic. Too cold to eat outside now unfortunately!

Dan - I know, I love having this place in the vicinity! The dine with DH evening definitely stood out (as it should) but it's definitely worth a visit without Simon et al.