As a proud Northerner, there are few places I would rather frequent than a good old fashioned English pub. I feel a little sorry for Londoners as I walk past the remains of grand old pubs that have since closed their doors for good. My heart sank last year when I first saw the Cadogan Arms on the King’s Road had closed; it was one of the few pubs in the capital that felt like it could have been at home in any one of the hundreds of smaller towns and villages around our beautiful island. However, up on Essex Road I recently found a new home away from home.
Ever a lover of a good pun, I was instantly drawn to Hops & Glory before I’d even set foot in the door. Set in a grand 19th Century building, huge windows allow inquisitive passers-by a glimpse of the delights that lay within its oak doors. The Hops & Glory had been a taproom since 1890, until it’s renovation last year transformed it into an inexorably comfortable pub and dining room complete with a narrow, open kitchen.
Both drinks and food menus showcase some of the best local produce; a session at the bar would take you on a long, and inevitably drunken, journey through some of London’s best independent breweries (including TMRW favourite Crate) — I felt duty bound to sample the Hops & Glory Pale Ale and I wasn’t disappointed! My dear friend Milly isn’t a fan of beer so treated herself to an Espresso Martini. I didn’t even have a chance to ask how it was before she squawked ”MY GOD!” ‘nuff said.
After taking a seat next to an ineffably warm radiator, we perused the menu and giddily decided we were there for the long haul and three glorious courses would be devoured. For some time there has been a certain stigma attached to pub food, especially for vegetarians, but here Milly had almost as much choice as me — not that she needed much time to settle on her choices of yellow beetroot and coddled egg salad, followed by an intriguing celeriac steak with creamed spelt. The yellow beetroot was sweeter than the usual purple, although it still had the customary kick, and the salty eggs with a smattering of sorrel created a truly flavoursome forkful. I was lucky enough to try some before Milly stopped just short of licking the plate clean…more of that later.
Dining with a vegetarian allowed me to indulge in a meat feast. Starting with possibly the best, and certainly the most original, ham hock I’ve ever had; lovingly pulled and with a healthy dose of saltiness. Served with a gorgeous pea cream and drizzled with lemon and oil, I felt more than sorry for Milly that she couldn’t try any. When it came to mains I chose a rare bavette of beef with celeriac aioli, grilled onions and duck fat chips. The beef surrendered under the lightest of touches and melted away in the mouth, while the aioli added a subtle creaminess that balanced out the heavy smoke of the onions. And the chips. My god, the chips. As I gleefully tucked in, Milly was thoroughly enjoying her celeriac. A pleasant surprise to us both (Milly had nursed a long held grudge against celeriac), the soft steak sat on a bed of creamed spelt, wild mushroom, and goat’s curd. The richness of the spelt and celeriac was undercut perfectly by the goats cheese, and the varied textures made the earthy flavours even better. Ordinarily we wouldn’t have needed the side of creamed spinach, but this was exceptional spinach, and we ensured the bowl was scraped clean.
Reclining in our wooden chairs, we sipped a bottle of 2012 Château Fleur Ursuline, the oak and fruity tones of which paired perfectly with my beef. Once we’d recuperated we tackled desserts, opting for the ominously titled ‘Chocolate Nemesis’, and the ginger parkin: both eagerly recommended by Mia, who had looked after us so well all evening. The parkin was drenched in a teeth shattering butterscotch sauce and topped with Yorkshire rhubarb: a battle of sweetness and spice, it was bloody beautiful! The Chocolate Nemesis lives up to its name, it was one serious chocolate dessert. Somewhere between a ganache and a melting pudding, it’s served with a welcome scoop of vanilla ice cream to tone down the richness. Yet again, the plates were left bare by the last spoonful, albeit somewhat slower than the previous courses – and our audible admiration prompted the table next to us to order the same.
By the time we inched up out of our chairs we were the only diners left, the bar now lined with staff, a few locals and a Staffordshire bull terrier who very quickly befriended Milly. We thanked the chefs and bid them all a fond farewell with the promise to return very soon as we stumbled slightly into the blustery Spring night. After a stroll to Angel tube we couldn’t contain our tipsy selves when we read the most appropriate “Thought of the Day” — “the more you weigh, the harder you are to kidnap…stay safe, eat cake!”
More info: The Hops & Glory
Words by HQ