Combining a buzzy front pub area with an easy on the eye, expansive dining room, the Jugged Hare is a well-oiled operation offering quality British ingredients and fine wines and ales to an appreciative audience of City folk and local creatives.
Almost in the shadow of the brutalist Barbican Centre, the Jugged Hare is the second venue from the highly regarded ETM Group in the immediate area – the slightly more formal Chiswell Street Dining Rooms is the other, a bar-restaurant that’s been very popular since its launch in 2011.
Your first port of call is the pub section, with its eye-catching glass cabinets behind the bar displaying a fetish for taxidermy. The floor space here is compact to say the least so it’s likely to become a mass of heaving bodies come peak City evenings – Thursday and Friday evenings are particularly rammed. Manage to navigate your way through the throngs and you’ll be presented with a very smart sunken dining room which extends back a fair distance. A combination of white tiles, glinting copper panels and exposed brick line the walls and ceiling, and tables and chairs are laid out for anything from couples to large groups. The kitchen, positioned on one side of the room, is very much on display and high stools at the pass allow diners an up close and personal view of the chef’s at work. The best seats in the house are found to the rear, where curvy lipstick-red leather booths wrap seductively around the walls. This section also has a wall dedicated to the humble hare – a gallery that has more than a bit of a Watership Down vibe going on. There’s another spacious room downstairs which is used for private functions and parties.
On a busy night you’ll struggle to find a seat in the bar such is the Jugged Hare’s appeal with local workers. Persevere through to the dining room, though, and you’ll be rewarded with a much more composed setting for dinner and drinks. Staff are all very well-drilled and a young fella, who was last spotted working at the Cadogan Arms in Chelsea (also ETM), is faultless in his approach.
Fresh, seasonal British ingredients (meat from Cumbria, seafood from Billingsgate Market etc) is the name of the game here, and the open-plan kitchen has a secret weapon in its armoury: a rotisserie that does a fine line in spit-roasted meat.
Amongst a long list of meat and seafood starters you can find the occasional lighter dish, like the daily special of firm and crunchy steamed asparagus served with a warm poached hen’s egg and a dreamy béarnaise sauce: a perfect combination.
Steaks from the charcoal grill are a particular highlight: a fatty, marbled piece of rib-eye on the bone (£27.00) is drool-inducing good; the crimson meat is wonderfully succulent and tender and it has a nicely charred crust from the grill. Fat chips and a meaty gravy from the rotisserie complete what is a premium-priced dish but it’s one that compares favourably with the likes of the award-winning Hawksmoor - a good job as they’re pitched at about the same premium price point.
There’s a concise list of desserts but most people will struggle to find the appetite for stodgy classics such as the bread and butter pudding or the treacle tart. Kendal cake chocolate parfait (£6.00), a rich and slightly sickly mousse presented in a ramekin jar with a few blackberries for company may seem a slightly lighter option but it packs a lot of bittersweet cocoa flavour into every spoonful.
Joining forces with the most excellent Sambrook’s brewery, the Jugged Hare has created their own pale ale, a zesty little number that’s available in large bottles (£5.50). Interestingly, other young diners choose the likes of Dark Star’s Espresso from the bottled beer menu, while Redemption’s Trinty and Sambrook’s Junction (£3.50 a pint) are among four well-kept cask ales on draught. The commitment to quality food and drink extends to the wine list where ETM’s own house wine offers great value for money at £16.50 a bottle before extending through a huge list that includes a monthly focus on a particular grape. This allows them to showcase outstanding tipples like the Plenilunio Malbec (£9.60 a glass, also available in a smaller ‘flight’ size).
The Last Word
Rather than rest on their laurels, the ETM Group have rolled all of the best bits of their other venues, with the addition of some new ideas and flourishes, into one very polished package at the Jugged Hare. Whether you work in the area or you're visiting the Barbican Centre, it’s well worth checking out.