The Bull and Last is between Kentish Town and Highgate, and has a traditional pub feel to the main room. There is an upstairs area that is open on busy times like Sunday lunch or for private functions, but the main room is at ground level. On a blackboard is a list of the various suppliers of produce used, such as Secretts farm for vegetables, an indication of a place that cares.
The pub name is partly explained by the trio of stuffed bull’s heads over the bar, but the meaning of the “last” in this context is seemingly lost in the mists of time. The menu is appealing British pub grub, with starters at around £8-£9, mains in the range £16 - £22 and desserts around £6, give or take. The menu appears to be printed in approximately 4 point font in italics, which is fine if you are under 25 years old or an owl, but may challenge customers with more elderly eyesight, which these days includes me.
The wine list is short but nips around the New World, with selections such as Tim Knappstein Riesling 2007 at £22 for a wine that costs around £8 in the shops, Five Ashes Shiraz 3004 at £35 compared to a shop price of about £19, and even Louis Roederer champagne (my favourite non-vintage champagne) at a fair £55 compared to £38 in Oddbins (though you can do better if you hunt around). Tap water is served automatically at the table.
At a recent meal I had excellent linguine with brown crab, spring onion and chilli, the pasta having lovely texture, the chilli just enough to enliven the can without overwhelming it (15/20). Fillet steak (from Dedham Vale) was fine, cooked properly and served with a good Bearnaise sauce, salad leaves and triple cooked chips (14/20). The chips, while triple cooked, are quite large, and for me this works less well than when they are smaller since the smaller ones are crisper: it was an interesting contrast with the near-perfect ones at Dinner earlier last week. Still, the chips themselves were still really good, despite this minor caveat (maybe 16/20 for the chips). Rhubarb crumble was also good, the rhubarb not too tart, the crumble having good texture (14/20).
The notes below are from a meal in April 2009.
A starter of eel salad was enjoyable, with dressed rocket leaves, potato, red onion slices and horseradish, as well as a poached egg in the centre of the salad. This was a sensible combination of flavours, the eel had good flavour, and the horseradish cream added a nice bite (13/20). Celeriac soup was topped with mace and hazelnuts, and had both deep flavour of celeriac and a punchy taste of wild garlic, served with crusty bread (14/20).
For main course fish and chips involved haddock with crispy batter, home-made tartare sauce and a little dish of peas; my only criticism is that there seemed a lot of batter relatvie to fish, but it tasted fine (14/20). Above all it featured triple-cooked chips, which to me is the very best way to make a chip, giving a crisp coating but properly cooked contents; these were thicker cut than the ones I make at home, but were carefully cooked through (17/20).
For dessert, chocolate fondant was very well executed, with a slightly liquid, gooey centre, served with excellent honeycomb ice cream (16/20). Service was friendly. The bill for two with a bottle of wine was just £78. This is the kind of pub food that is so often promised but hardly ever actually appears on the plate. The chef used to be a sous chef at the Lindsay House. The excellent food and appealing menu, combined with fair prices are clearly drawing in the punters: they did 100 covers for lunch today, and had two sittings for dinner. If this was nearer where I lived I’d be back here all the time.