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Bull and Last

168 Highgate Road, London, England, NW5 1QS, United Kingdom

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Originally a 19th century coaching house, The Bull and Last, and since 2009 it has developed a reputation as one of London’s top gastropubs. Chef Ollie Pudney worked with Richard Corrigan before moving here. The odd name is supposedly due to “The Bull” having once been the most northern pub on the road as you left London, so the coachman would shout “The Bull, and last stop”. The dining room is upstairs, a fairy bare room with rustic tables and a menagerie of stuffed animal heads on the walls. The room’s lighting is very murky indeed, but noise levels are reasonable.

The list offered 41 wine labels, ranging in price from £18 to £99, with a median of £30 and an average mark-up of 2.7 times retail, which is not bad for London. Examples were Paddy Borthwick Riesling 2012 at £30 for a wine that you can find for £12 in the high street, Fernand Girard Sancerre 2010 at £40 compared to a shop price of £14, and Sesti Brunello di Montalcino 2007 at £99 for a bottle that retails at £46.

I was impressed with wild mushroom and truffle arancini (£6.50), the crisp outside containing a rich mix of mushrooms and rice scented with truffle (easily 14/20). Crab linguine (£9) had good pasta mixed with brown crab meat, chilli, basil and a seafood bisque, garnished with Parmesan, the richness nicely cut through by the chilli (14/20). 

Fish and chips (£15) tonight was less enjoyable than I have eaten here on previous visits. The batter was a little clunky, the haddock not having particularly good flavour, though the pea puree on the side was very good and chips were fine (12/20).

Roast venison loin (£25) was cooked pink and came with celeriac puree, pistachios and salsify, with a well-flavoured croquette of venison on the side, the seasoning of the dish enjoyable punchy (14/20).

Plum pudding (£7.50) was very well made, garnished with toasted almonds, the fruit sharp enough to cut through the richness of the crème anglaise (14/20). Finger-shaped doughnuts (£8) were even better, delicate, sweet and gorgeous, served with yoghurt sorbet and chocolate sauce – very impressive indeed (16/20).

The bill was £76 a head, with plenty of good wine to drink. Service was friendly and efficient. I have always been fond of the Bull and Last, whose cooking is, at its best, very good indeed, its atmosphere relaxed and welcoming. 

Further reviews: 17th Oct 2011

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