The word gastropub annoys me. Almost as much as ‘artisan’ does. It just sounds so up its own arse, which in a pub it translates to them believing they need to use italics on the menu and name the provenance of every ingredient, right down to the beer the fish has been battered in- recently it was Camden Hells batter- like I really care. It also usually means my single most hated thing will make a cameo on the menu- triple cooked chips. Two big fingers to that gastronomic tosser Heston for brining these damned things to the earth. The Bull and Last is caught somewhere between still being a local boozer that serves good grub and being a posher ‘artisan’ gastropub that has embraced all of the frustrating and unnecessary things that come with name- think silly little pots for sauces, eating off wooden boards.
Set on Highgate Road just a couple of minutes walk from the Soho House 3-in-1 joint, it has gained a solid reputation over the years and claimed the Best Sunday lunch award back in 2011. It has a great local pub vibe, and even on a Tuesday night it was a full house. With a great list of ales and beers to choose from there’s a lot to love about this place.
To start things off we shared the charcuterie board (£16) which would have easily been enough for 4 to share. What I loved about this was that for once a charcuterie board wasn’t all neat and tidy. The food was spilling off the edges. There wasn’t carefully folded and displayed slices of cut meat, this was rough and ready, it was proper pub food. There was plenty to get your teeth into and enjoy, especially the ham hock terrine and the chicken liver parfait which were both top notch. This is as good a sharing board as you will find in London.
The fish and chips (£14) came with some of the best chips I’ve had in a long time. They were crunchy, salty and filled with piping hot fluffy potato. If only there’d been more- a side of skin on fries sorted this out though. The fish wasn’t the biggest catch and even though the batter was good and free from the chip-shop grease, it was a little on the bland side. A tiny portion of mushy peas and tartare sauce should have been notched up a scale. I hate it when mushy peas are served in stupid little pots, and these were more crushed peas rather than your classic chip shop mush.
My partner went for the chicken with cauliflower puree, cauliflower and barley (£20). This tasted great, especially the charred chicken skin, but was it really a £20 main. For a pub meal that isn’t a steak, this is pushing the boundaries. It also came on one of those annoying boards that are just frustratingly difficult to eat of, especially when the chicken came with a gravy that you just couldn’t mop up. The waiter even asked if we needed a plate to transfer the chicken onto. Why not just put it on a plate to start off. That aside, we licked the board clean.
We were too stuffed to move onto dessert even though the banoffee sundae was doing its best to seduce me and so we got the bill which at £73 for 2 pints and 2 course meal was a bit overpriced. The quality of the ingredients shone through and there is no doubting that the chef knows how to bring the best out of them, and for this reason I will definitely be coming back. Maybe it’s because of the accolades and reputation that the prices are fairly high, but then again it is comfortably the best gastropub in North West London.
168 Highgate Rd, NW5 1QS