This warm and welcoming pub off High Street Kensington has been getting plenty of column inches since it was taken over by the Morgan brothers, Piers and Rupert, at the tail end of 2010. Having subsequently installed a top chef in the kitchen, Ollie Couillard, formerly of Michelin-starred La Trompette among other weighty positions, The Hansom Cab is now knocking out highly respectable food as well as a solid range of ales, live music and good times.
While the involvement of Piers is, for obvious reasons, the thing most websites and papers choose to focus on when talking about The Hansom Cab, it’s his brother Rupert who you will find behind the bar making sure the pub keeps ticking over day-to-day. Formerly of Guy Ritchie’s Punch Bowl in Mayfair, Rupert Morgan has the look of a man who has got plenty of stories to tell and he’s in his element behind the bar – both very valuable assets in a landlord.
The pub itself has the feel of a neighbourhood boozer, one that’s quite at home among the colossal mansion blocks nearby. The front section acts as the pub proper, with a traditional air and high stools at the bar allowing you a close-up of their five real ales and selection of malt whiskies amongst other things. To the rear, the back room is set out for eating and it’s a room with creaky floorboards, dark red walls, black and white photos of London and tables for various size of groups but, most noticeably, cutlery and napkins set up at the bar section for individual diners or people who wish to sit side-by-style, American-style.
There’s a good buzz about the pub, from early evening right through to closing time and the traditional Irish music session (every Thursday) helps elevate the pub way beyond the norm. The clientele are largely well-heeled locals and there’s a definite feeling that the owners’ connections help bring in a few more glamorous punters than your average pub.
Head chef Ollie Couillard is very highly regarded in foodie circles and at the Hansom Cab he’s settled for crowd-pleasing gastro pub fare with plenty of French embellishments and the odd curveball.
The scotch duck egg (£7) is a phenomenal way to start off. The portion size is huge and, when its crispy coating is sliced in two, the yolk is slightly gooey and the sausage meat stuffing it is ensconced in is delightfully seasoned with herbs and garlic. This is one seriously good scotch egg. Alternatively, an uncommon dish of marrow (and toast) is served diced inside the bone. The unctuous marrow is served with a little pot containing parsley and capers and the sharp, salty flavour of the capers counterbalances the fatty marrow.
Mains include a very respectable bavette a l’echalotte (£14.50), a classically French dish with a shallot and red wine sauce poured on top, or the smoked mackerel, chorizo and new potato dish, a dish that gives a nod to Spain.
Portions are so generous that a pudding may be a stretch too far but classics like the bread and butter pudding with ginger ice cream (£6) are on hand to reward those with hearty appetites.
Five rotating real ales include brews from Sharp’s and Deuchars (IPA). The wine list is way above average, too, with some very fine wines on offer and even bottles of Laurent Perrier Rose visible behind the bar should the need arise. A bottle of the Tempus Cabernet Sauvignon (around £18) blasts the senses with ripe brambly fruit and it’s got plenty of body to represent decent value for money.
After dinner, you may be offered a concoction that was originally created at the Punch Bowl, the Hand Grenade. A woozy concoction of a shot of Morgan’s spiced rum and a shot of Jagermeister served in pint glass containing Red Bull, this is not for the fainthearted and shows this pub has a party streak bubbling away below the surface.
The Last Word
It may become best-known as the pub Piers Morgan has a stake in but while he’s away hosting one of the USA’s most-watched programs, the Hansom Cab is in the capable hands of his brother and it has a top-quality chef in the kitchen. All in all, it’s a great example of how to create a foodie pub without losing sight of what a pub should be – a place for people to drink and enjoy good times.