We’re all being told to support local produce and buy British. And when it’s the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as well as the all-important year that the capital hosts the 2012 Olympics, it seems that people are embracing everything about the British Isles. So how does this translate into food?
Well, apart from the washed out BBQs from the rather wet Jubilee weekend, not to forget the strawberries and cream that await us at Wimbledon, there are some exciting restaurants to explore which pride themselves on quality British food.
Belle tested out The Hampshire Hog – a cosy yet trendy gastropub in Hammersmith’s King Street. Tucked in between high street shops and businesses, its narrow front hides the surprisingly light and airy haven which appears as you walk through the door.
It’s often the best bit when you first arrive at a restaurant and take in the atmosphere around you. And our first impressions of the Hampshire Hog were of a bustling and warm den filled with happy people. As we walked past the sleek white bar to a candle lit array of tables at the back, I smiled at how quaint it was. Potted plants were placed on every table and odd wooden chairs were scattered across the room. One table was surrounded by old church pews which contrasted with the giant steel lamp shade which hung above and the sparkling modern chandeliers which adorned the walls. It was a delightful mix of old and new.
We sat by the windows which joined onto a beer garden lit by sparkly fairly lights and ordered a Sauvignon Blanc.
As the waitress began to pour, I realised the wine bottle was made from 100% biodegradable plastic, in line with their environmentally friendly ethos of sustainability. Many of their wines are organic and come from European wineries (ours came from the Loire Valley) to minimise their carbon footprint. I was loving this place more and more.
The restaurant was opened by Abigail Osborne and Tamsin Olivier who ran Primrose Hill’s acclaimed gastropub, The Engineer. They opened the Hampshire Hog in November 2011. And chef Chris Lyons – who worked at the two Michelin-starred Ledbury – came on board. We had great expectations.
I ordered seasonal asparagus from Secretts – a family farm based in Surrey. It arrived served on a bed of caramelised onions with a sour contrast of grapefruit on the side. On top was an oozing poached egg and a small serving of morcilla (black pudding). It made a surprisingly rich yet tasty starter.
My guest enjoyed a pea, broad bean and wild garlic risotto which was a bit on the large side for a starter. The flavour was somewhat lacking but the subtlety was made up for by the delicious parmesan crisps which were scattered on top.
Only afterwards did I spot the baby octopus with minted yoghurt salad which triggered my curiosity. One for next time, perhaps. I then ordered salmon – their fish of the day. My guest went for the sirloin steak and chips. In keeping with our theme of British-ness, it would be rude not to.
The salmon had a lovely crispy skin and sat on a bed of sweet red cabbage and soy sauce. The sirloin was a little tough for medium rare. But originating from O’shea’s – a sought after Irish butchers in Knightsbridge – this was a high quality cut. There were also enough chunky chips to feed an army.
Our sizeable portions didn’t stop us ordering a ‘pudding’ for two – a plate of five miniature desserts including chocolate torte, citrus sorbet with honeycomb, tiramisu, shortcake and good traditional English Eaton Mess.
We’d have enjoyed pondering over our Sauvignon Blanc a little longer, as the food came surprisingly fast.
But as we sipped on our tea and admired our shabby chic surroundings, we felt relaxed and at home. If there was any doubt that 2012 was the year of celebrating Old Blighty, the Hampshire Hog made us reasonably proud.
The Hampshire Hog, 227 King Street, London, W6 9JT, 0208 748 3391
by Lucy McGuire