Replacing the Ruby Grand on Hammersmith’s King Street, The Hampshire Hog is a smart food-focused pub brought to you by a lot of the same team who built The Engineer in Primrose Hill into such a favourite with local luvvies and famous faces. There’s already a huge buzz about their new venture, and as most of the team have worked together previously, they’ve hit the ground at a fair old canter.
The food and drink scene just keeps getting better in Hammersmith. Recent openings include the arrival of the Ginger Pig butcher and the ale-specialist Duchess of Cambridge, as well as this new venture. Outsiders may consider this part of King Street fairly uninspiring, as it’s not the most pretty part of the borough and you do get the local alkies congregating on the nearby church steps, but it’s great place to live as there are good schools, the Thames and Ravenscourt Park within walking distance and lots of tasty independent restaurants close by.
The new owners have done a great job in injecting new life into this venue. Gone are the blackout blinds and dark and moody interior; in come scrubbed pine woods, a gleaming white paint job, posh wallpaper and expensive vintage mirrors. They’ve created a little airy pantry space at the front which focuses on coffee (from Caravan in Exmouth Market) and all-day munching, while the capacious bar area now offers extra covers for food. The actual designated dining area is a fairly compact space to the rear past the visible pass of the kitchen, and the leafy garden out back remains one of the best in the area.
It’s not often a new pub is instantly rammed and crackling with life, but The Hampshire Hog is. Practically every seat in the house is taken by local families, couples and twenty and thirtysomething groups of friends. If anything, the sheer buzz of the place may be a little intrusive at peak times in the dining room as the space between tables is slim and you’ll have to listen to your neighbours conversation whether you like it or not. There’s no doubt about it though: this pub brings a different dynamic to an area that’s got lots of good pubs but not many with a buzzy vibe like this one.
Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, The Hampshire Hog is aiming to be an all-day affair. There’s still one or two teething problems – the dining room is prone to get smoky when the kitchen is working at full pelt and the back doors aren’t opened due to the cold weather, but this is sure to be addressed.
Visit in the evening and you’ll find a modern international menu offering very un-pub-like dishes such as sashimi. Other signature dishes have obviously been refined in Primrose Hill and transported to W6. The osso bucco Milanese (£15) is a thing of wonder: the unctuous veal meat falls off the bone and bone marrow at its centre is so good you may want to pick it up with two hands in order to excavate every bit of fatty goodness from its core. It’s probably best not to do this in public. Served on a viscous bed of meaty gremolata gravy, it’s a cold weather smash-hit. Across the table, a roasted piece of cod (£13) with flawless mash, wilted spinach and a parsley sauce also elicits a very positive response. Mains do provide the highlights of the sitting even if a starter of char-grilled butternut squash starter (£6) with chilli, capers, pine nuts and mint is pretty damn good. Slightly less successful is a green papaya salad served cold with medium-rare beef (£6): the beef is a shade too chewy and the salad lacks a bit of extra pep from some chilli. Desserts are more the sort of thing you’ll find at a typical gastro pub – crumble, panna cotta and treacle tart – and cheese comes from Neal’s Yard.
Caravan coffee, cocktails using local distillers Sipsmith’s gin, and their own Hampshire Hog bitter: this is one pub with impeccable taste. A face-wincing Sipsmith’s Negroni (£7) is on the aperitif menu and cocktails are definitely are a big deal here, stretching through a range of signature and classic concoctions. Most cocktails cost around £7 and pints are just shy of the £4 mark – competitive for the area.
The Last Word
This little piggy may be new to this part of town, but with its slick new design, excellent food and drink menu and buzzing atmosphere, it’s already right at home. Primrose Hill’s loss is most definitely Hammersmith’s gain.