Pies and pints still dominate at the Butcher’s Hook and Cleaver, but this is a chain pub with a distinctly contemporary feel to it.
Smithfield oozes history, but a decade of change means the area now offers an engaging mixture of the traditional and the cutting edge. The Butcher’s Hook appears to have a foot in both camps. One of the Ale and Pie House chain operated by Chiswick brewer Fuller’s, it opened in 1999 when a butchers shop and a former bank were knocked through.
The interior is lavish and spacious, one wall adorned by a series of panels depicting the carnivorous capers of Georgian Londoners. Hogarth would have approved. There is plenty of seating, stools for drinkers and more formal tables and chairs for those eating, while an ornate staircase leads to the ‘pie room,’ the whole thing illuminated by some rather grand chandeliers. Fuller’s has a reputation for splashing the cash when it comes to pubs, and it certainly shows here.
While in many ways the emphasis is on tradition, this must rate as one of the funkiest Ale and Pie Houses you’ll ever visit. Customers, largely a mixture of City suits and medical staff from nearby Bart’s Hospital, drink and eat to a soundtrack of dance music or kitsch classics while apron-wearing kitchen staff wait expectantly behind the bar. It’s almost a gastro pub. Almost. A selection of vintage board games is available for when the conversation about gilts or gallbladders dries up. At times you could just as easily be in Shoreditch rather than Smithfield.
The grub here is mostly traditional English fare, despite the paella pan hanging from one wall. Pies range from steak and ale, and chicken, ham and leek (both £11), through to the positively bucolic Hampshire rabbit, bacon and Fuller’s wild river pie (£13.50). For those who can’t make up their mind, the ‘brewmaster’ board offers four mini pies and a selection of ale samplers (£14.50). A pie of the day (£13.50) and a pie and a pint (£11) are other options. There is a small range of sandwiches and soups as well as macaroni cheese (£9) and fish and chips (£10). The portions are generous but the service can be slow.
Fuller’s impressive range of ales dominates, and the powerful ESB and ever-dependable London Pride are usually in tip-top condition. Black Cab Stout and London Porter are both worth a slurp, even on keg, while there’s also a good selection of bottled ales and lagers. The available draught lagers offer no surprises. A decent wine list embraces worlds old and new with a selection of reds (from £3.90 a glass, £11.20 a carafe) and whites (£4.40, £12.50) that covers most bases. Service at the bar could certainly be improved upon.
The Last Word
‘The Hook’ boasts a great location, cool vibe and good food and drink, but hit and miss service lets the side down.