This pub opened in May 2021. Although it has its own entrance, it is within the Conrad London St James hotel. The Blue Boar is a casual sister restaurant of The Pem in the same hotel, with both kitchens notionally being overseen by Sally Abe, formerly head chef of the Harwood Arms, London’s only Michelin starred pub. However, despite the marketing, it seems that Ms Abe is in a consulting role only, and that the person in charge of the kitchens a both restaurants is Mick Riordan, the executive chef of the hotel since 2015. Mr Riordan was previously head chef of the St Pancras Renaissance hotel. The menu offers various pub staples including fish and chips.
The wine list was, to say the least, sparse on information. Would you like a “Chardonnay, France” or a “Malbec, Chile“ perhaps? I would probably rather have a Malbec from Argentina, which is famed for them, though Chile has some excellent Malbecs too, but mostly I would like to know the grower and the vintage. This is a bit like going into a car salesroom and being offered a choice of “Italian car, blue”, or “German car, white”. No one remotely interested in wine would be confident ordering from such a list. Apparently the wine list is about to be refreshed, and it really, really needs to be.
I started with a Coronation chicken scotch egg. Given that I am a big fan of Scotch eggs, such as the wonderful venison one at The Harwood Arms, and also of Coronation chicken, this seemed like a safe bet. However, although the dish was made to order, the coating was crisp, and the egg was (just about) soft in the centre, the Coronation chicken mix entirely lacked the curry flavour that is surely the whole point of Coronation chicken? There was some seasoning but I would have struggled to identify this as Coronation chicken at all if the dish had not been labelled as such. Raisins were served separately rather than integrated into the dish, which seemed a little odd to me (11/20).
Better was a sort of deconstructed mackerel rillette dish, the mackerel pate served in a kilner jar topped with pickled cucumber and herbs, with toast to one side. The pate had quite good fish flavour and reasonable texture, though for me it was a touch under-seasoned. The sourness of the pickled cucumber worked well with the fish, though this was still not a patch on the mackerel rillettes I had eaten just days earlier at Noize (13/20).
Battered cod and triple cooked chips were also quite nice. The fish had fairly crisp batter and was cooked well enough, the cod flaking well. The chips could have been a touch crisper but were otherwise fine. The “pub curry sauce” on the side was a little odd though, it being overly sweet and again seemingly unacquainted with anything resembling curry, even curry powder. There were also some crushed peas to the side, which were fine (12/20).
For dessert, an apple and almond tartlet had some quite decent pastry with finely diced cubes of apple and plenty of almonds. The ice cream with it was necessary as the tart itself was rather dry (12/20). Coffee was from Portioli, an Italian brand based in Milan. This was a mix of arabica and the cheaper robusta beans. From the coffee brand’s own website I could see the following florid description: “Italian coffee with a unique and insurmountable power: it moves in time, yet is constant in time. Its rich flavour endures.” Er, OK. Sadly, it just tasted to me like cheap, industrial coffee with a quite rough taste. This is another area where it would be easy to improve the customer offering. At least at sister restaurant The Pem they have a Nespresso machine and the rather good Kilimanjaro blend from Nespresso.
Service was excellent, led by a manager who had previously worked in Marlow at The Coach and the Hand and Flowers. The bill came to £55 for one person, with just water to drink. A typical cost per person sharing a bottle of modest wine of puzzling provenance might come to £65 or so. Overall, this felt like a work in progress with quite a lot still to do. It was not a patch on The Wigmore, for example, which is another pub within a hotel. Hopefully in time some of the issues that I encountered here can be addressed.