"The kitchen excels at some dishes, but others are overlooked"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
I have to confess to never having liked The Engineer, the famous Primrose Hill gastropub/celebrity haunt. I didn’t think much of the food, which was overpriced and served in small portions, and I found the staff snooty on more than one occasion. On my third visit I walked in with a friend, who was immediately told there were no unreserved tables. The friend misheard, thinking the waiter was referring only to the tables inside, and went out to the terrace to see if there were any spaces. “I told you already, there are no free tables” he growled as he walked passed us. I left never to return, despite living a minutes’ walk away.
In October last year the lease expired and the owners, Mitchells & Butlers, refused to renew. Abigail Osborn and Tamsin Olivier, who ran the pub for 17 years, had to leave despite a campaign in their favour with backing from Noel Fielding, Harry Enfield and John McCririck no less.
But shortly after this the duo opened The Hampshire Hog in leafy Ravenscourt Park. The décor immediately reminds me of The Engineer; stylish, more restaurant than pub. The white walls and a high ceiling make the dining room and the “pantry” at the front bright and airy. The kitchen is in full view of the diners, and an attractive outdoor area has plenty of greenery.
The food turns out to be rather hit and miss. The slow cooked Moroccan lamb on toast is fantastic; chunks of lamb have been marinating in spices, rendering it tender and flavoursome, sprinkled with crunchy pomegranate seeds. On the other hand the asparagus, poached egg, morcilla and pink grapefruit is a hotchpotch combination. The morcilla is a lovely slice of rich, spiced black pudding, but the egg is rubbery and the chewy ends of the asparagus stalks should have been trimmed. Scattering grapefruit over the top is well, just wrong.
The same happens with the main courses. The grilled sirloin is a very satisfying, juicy cut of meat with a smoky aroma; it comes with chips that have the skin on, adding a welcome earthy note. However the roast cod has toughened due to being in the oven too long, although it does come with a creamy leek compote and a tangy tomato fondue that are both good.
There are other plus points: a fluffy Eton Mess is very moreish, there is a good selection of wines by the glass, carafe and bottle that won’t break the bank, and the staff are friendly and attentive. It’s undoubtedly very popular, as the room is bustling with well-heeled ladies-who-lunch and smartly dressed businessmen on the Friday lunchtime I visit. It’s just that, while the kitchen excels at some dishes, others appear to be overlooked. Could it be, perhaps, that the main draw isn’t the food?
Leila reviewed The Hampshire Hog on Tue 03 Jul 2012