We were off to see the venerable Nick Cave on a stormy Sunday night (pathetic fallacy I’m sure), an excellent gig by the way, and needed somewhere to eat around Hammersmith. Bar a few solid gastropubs around there, I haven’t been to (or heard of) many inspiring restaurants in this part of town. But I was excited to see the harshly evicted team behind the Engineer in Primrose Hill had opened the Hampshire Hog just down the road opposite Ravenscourt Park. The Engineer was a cracking local food pub which the pubco Mitchells and Butlers forcibly took over from the landlords, presumably because they saw how well it was doing.
After a 10 minute walk from Hammersmith we walked in to a capacious and strangely quiet pub. It was a stormy night so the whole street seemed quite quiet which may explain it. The large drinking area revealed another large dining area at the back with a few people eating at least. Service was friendly but seemed a bit confused with several people offering us drinks and menus. Ah, and the menus were laminated. A terribly small point I know but given the persona the pub was aiming for and the heritage it was supported by, I was surprised. All the ales were off (another bad sign for a pub) so I sought out some wine. The wine list seemed well balanced with a mix of prices and old / new world, although dominated by Sauvignon at the pricier end. We picked the nicest non-Sauvignon they had, a Chardonnay, but were told eventually it was sold out. A bit disappointing on a quiet night with a fairly short wine list but it happens. We went for a riesling described as dry although it was sweet which was doubly worse as it was barely cold. Once chilled in the ice bucket it was nice for me at least, the wife was less keen.
Onto the food. The menu is a bit confused, both in terms of lacking a location or focus and also adding in some quite odd combinations. Dashing between Asia, Greece, the Netherlands and England just for the starters is fine but you need an overriding theme to a place. We chose a 3 fish terrine to share as a starter combining smoked salmon, mackerel and cod. With pickled vegetables and toast. The plating was pretty sparse and unappealing, the vegetables’ appearance made me laugh with half a carrot and half a cherry tomato face down. And the terrine looked neat in a Neapolitan ice cream sort of way. Speaking of which, it was fridge cold and hence still quite firm. Very mildly fishy with not much to distinguish the layers, it was more like a cream cheese spread with a hint of fish. The pickled vegetables were also very lightly pickled but nice enough, more were needed. Oh, and the price, in a pub way of town, was £7.50. It felt lazy for that price, a reasonable size but bland.
Mains were slightly better at least, despite the hour wait between a very quick starter and very slow main. I’m glad they weren’t busy! I had cod with barley and sauce gribiche. The fish was served as a nicely cooked chunk, bar the skin which was flabby and soft still. The interior was soft and moist. I love barley and that was also well cooked to a firm bite, mixed with the very garlicky, tangy gribiche it made for a good side. Possibly too much garlic, it did repeat for a bit but I appreciated the punchiness at the time. The wife went for chicken served with redcurrant sauce(!), skinny chips and asparagus. Two slightly lonely out of season asparagus spears supported a large bit of chicken and redcurrant sauce. A bit like a guilty Ikea meatball visit, it was sweet, meaty and OK. The chicken was dry though, and the chips needed a harder fry. Oh, and the repeated chive garnish on both was amateurish when you see both together.
In a word, disappointing. Not desperately bad, my main was moderate in fact. But given the heritage of the place, and the pricing, I would have hoped for more. More focus, more interesting dishes and more attention to detail. I would probably head back for a boozy afternoon and casual lunch with mates if they were going there, but won’t be heading back for dinner.