North London does Sunday pub lunch places really well. There’s the Scolt Head in Dalston, the Drapers Arms in Islington, and countless places littered around Hampstead. I was recommended The Bull & Last by a friend who spent the entire tube journey from Kentish Town to Clapham North telling me how shit Clapham is for boozers (I agree – but I actually live in Brixton/Herne Hill which is pretty good, hello The Prince Regent and The Florence , so ner). I was visiting the gorgeous Sapphire with The Chef so decided to pop in, especially as it’s sister pub to the Prince of Wales in Putney which he’s always banging on about. What I didn’t know is that it’s a bit of an institution – while we were there countless locals, tourists and non-Northerners turned up to a 2-hour table wait, some of whom had taken an expensive taxi across London to get there. It’s also Giles Coren’s local which he raves about, calling it “some of the best pub food I’ve ever eaten“. The Chef said something along the lines of it was the best pub roast he’d ever had in London. So you get the picture.
My suggestions are: book a table because there were streams of people coming in and being told to wait for hours. We didn’t and we were very lucky to get a seat. Eat a home-made giant Scotch egg (£3 bargain) at the bar – runny egg and lovely meat, delicious. If necessary, have a spicy Bloody Mary (£6.50) pre-lunch. And a nice bottle of red over lunch – it’s worth taking your time over. We had a Monastrell Syrah (£19 ) but they sell Altos Los Hormigas, the malbec I drank in Argentina and the vineyward where my friend Aileen works, another good sign.
I got a pretty much non-stop commentary from The Chef on the merits of the food – alternated with eating happily in silence. It was fantastic. The charcuterie board of duck (£10) was delicious and interesting and brilliant value – proscuitto was lovely and the ducks’ tongues tasty quack and the rillettes fatty and good and the terrine rough and tasty and loved the sides of celeriac and guerkins and pineapple chutney to take the edge off the fat (The Chef’s commentary) and the soft parfait pate was to die for and I hate the phrase “to die for” but it’s appropriate here. And then the partridge roast (£14) – I know nothing about partridges apart from their propensity to sit in pear trees and don’t think I’ve ever eaten one. But it was delicious and rich and meaty and came with rich gravy that had reduced for hours (The Chef’s commentary), chestnuts, foie gras with partridge heart and liver, bright green cabbage, chipolata wrapped in bacon, roast potatoes and carrots. Man, my mouth is watering just writing about it, and it was truly delicious. Much more than a roast you could do at home and than you get in most pubs. There were extra tastes and flavours and time and love put into every plate. Come to think of it, that comment came from The Chef too.
Anyway, for all that grub and booze (we were stuffed and a bit tipsy) it came to £36 each so it’s not an everyday Sunday lunch place unless, well, you can afford to live in Kentish Town. It would certainly be the perfect birthday / celebration Sunday place. The staff were super lovely – a perfect mix between friendly and organised – and it was the kind of place we could have stayed for hours, regretting leaving before pud (and The Chef before a second bottle of wine). Hugely recommended and if you can’t make it North then go to its Putney sister – only don’t take an expensive cab across London to get there unless you’ve booked beforehand.