Book review: The Bull & Last, by Ollie Pudney and Joe Swiers
Located in an enviable location on the edge of London's Hampstead Heath, the Bull & Last is so much more than just another boozer.
The business has been run for 12 years by head chef Ollie Pudney, who spent three years working for Richard Corrigan, and Joe Swiers, a former waiter at Corbin & King's Wolseley restaurant. This 300-page tome lovingly provides a fascinating history behind the 300-year-old inn, which recently reopened following a refurbishment with the addition of six bedrooms.
As well as providing an insight into how the pub got its name (it stems from the coachman's call for "the Bull" as the last stopping-off point in the days of horse-drawn carriages) and past landlords, the book also pays homage to the locals, location and team behind the operation.
When it comes to the 70 or so recipes, there is much that is typical pub grub, be it Scotch eggs, a superb selection of pies (smoked haddock, shellfish, bacon and leek, alongside rabbit, smoked ham hock and mustard) and the full repertoire of Sunday roasts.
What I particularly liked are those dishes which exude a culinary flair that are not only impressive for a menu found in a pub, but for any venue. Take the breakfast dishes, enormously popular at the Bull & Last, as a case in point. Who cannot be impressed by sweetcorn fritters with crisp pancetta, avocado and poached eggs or Moroccan merguez sausage stew with eggs, dill yogurt and coriander?
Bar snacks – whether it is pumpkin tempura with soy and sesame dipping sauce or brown crab and rice croquettes with squid ink aïoli – pack a punch. Hearty flavours follow through to the big plates too, with sticky lamb ribs with a pistachio and herb sauce a winning dish for meat lovers, while a three-cheese cauliflower dish with Gruyère, Taleggio and Cheddar offers a satisfying option for vegetarians.
The Bull & Last is a comforting, big hug of a book which highlights the vital importance so many pubs play. Pudney and Swiers, together with their co-owners Fred Fleming and Jonathan Collins, have created a true gem of a business.
The Bull & Last, by Ollie Pudney and Joe Swiers (Etive Pubs, £30)
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