There’s been much musing in the foodie world of late about the word ‘gastropub’. Has the term – which only came into existence in the mid-’90s – become so devalued as to be worthless? It is certainly over-used. But perhaps all words need to go through a misuse stage, before people work out whether they are useful enough to be worth preserving? (‘Restaurant’, for example, must once have been a fashionable new word – two subsequent centuries of debasement haven’t made it entirely useless.)
By any measure, this heart-of-Hampstead newcomer seems one of the truest gastropubs to have opened in recent times. To start with, its feel – a bit boho, but not quite scruffy – is precisely right. Service, too, is almost perfect. It may look casual, but you get the feeling that the staff – in a good way – really ‘own’ the place. Our main courses, for example, failed to turn up, and it emerged that this was down to a failure of communication. “So sorry. Would you like another carafe of wine while you’re waiting.” We’ve barely sipped our complimentary vino, and the missing food arrives.
Jolly good it was too. Just the sort of direct fare a small (open) kitchen can sometimes do well. That’s not to say realisation is perfect: proper gastropub cooking is robust, and here – with dishes such as pork belly with mash and cabbage – it can sometimes teeter into heaviness. Best tip, then, is perhaps to start off lightly- perhaps with rock oysters, accompanied by good shallot vinegar, and some great crusty bread – and to leave space comfortably to scoff one of the classic English puddings. These – in the great London gastropub tradition – are quite a spécialité de la maison.