The Bull & Last, Kentish Town

This past weekend was absolutely glorious with the sun shining both days so to go for a for a nice long walk followed by a pub lunch was the perfect Sunday activity.

With sunglasses on I met Laura at Belsize Park around lunch time, where she showed me around her new neighbourhood. We then walked across Hampstead Heath and onto The Bull & Last for our 2.30 reservation.

We liked the pub immediately. The decor is traditionally pubby with some nice touches, like double doors to the loos, stuffed animals and hunting trophies.

The groundfloor was really busy and quite loud when we walked in, perfect for chatting with friends, but it was nicer to eat upstairs in the more quiet dining room, like we did.

Last year the pub won an Observer award for best Sunday lunch and as we walked through the pub we could see just how popular the roast beef with yorkshire pudding was. It looked delicious but after a walk in the sunshine we were up for something a bit lighter. All the maincourses were quite heavy so we had two starters each instead. Well I did anyway. :)

I chose a salad with beetroot, horseradish, smoked eel and cod’s cheeks and it was an absolute delight. It had different textures (smooth eel, crunchy beetroot crisps, creamy horseradish) and lots of nice flavours. Laura had some of it and we also had a side of triple cooked chips. I mean, how could we resist?

They were lovely and crisp on the outside and soft in the middle and served with homemade mayonnaise. Need I say more?!

Instead of the maincourses we chose a board each; fish for Laura and meat for me. They were huge and it would have been perfect to share one for two people as a starter. As a maincourse it was definitely enough and we were pretty full by the end of it.

The fish board consisted of a haddock croquette, sprats, mackerel paté, potted shrimps and beautiful gravadlax (with beetroot for the colour I presume) and soft soda bread.

My meat board was equally packed with goodies; the chicken liver parfait was velvety smooth and probably my favourite as well as celeriac slaw, thin slices of duck breast, duck rillette and a lovely ham hock terrine. The pig’s head was shredded pieces of meat in a croquette and the bread was toasted and brioche-like. I enjoyed it all, although some things could have done with a tad more seasoning.

As I said, the boards were quite filling, but not having icecream on a sunny day is almost a crime, so we had a scoop each after a little breather.

Laura’s prune and armagnac is above and my mint chocolate chip is pictured below.

We spent around two and a half hours in here and enjoyed every moment. The service was good and relaxed and you definitely didn’t feel rushed. And since we were part of the late lunch service they probably didn’t need our table until dinner service a bit later anyway.

As soon as we stood up it hit me how full I actually was, so we decided to walk some more to digest the food. After a stroll to Highgate and over the Heath we were back at Belsize Park and it was time to go home.

We had a lovely Sunday and to go for a nice long walk combined with nice food is just great. We will definitely be back to eat our way through the menu, which might prove a challange as we were told it changes every few days…

The Bull and Last
168 Highgate Road
London NW5 1QS 
020 726 73641

A Scandinavian Christmas, part I – Christmas Eve

The way we celebrate Christmas in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia is slightly different from the UK, and I thought I would tell you a little about it.

We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, and this is how we do it in my family:

12 noon: Luncheon with pickled herrings, smoked salmon or gravad lax, smoked eel, mustard dressing for the salmon, boiled eggs, rye bread, Edam cheese (that’s Christmas cheese in Sweden), beer and snaps.

3pm: Donald Duck’s Christmas on teve. Every year the whole of Sweden watched this old Disney program about Donald Duck and his friends. Jeremy Cricket presents it, and receives post cards from Cinderella, Santa, Mickey Mouse, Goofey and the latest Disney film. This is usually when my parents take a well deserved nap on the couch.

5pm: Our relatives arrive for the evening, we usually start with some warm glögg and ginger bread.

6pm: Dinner starts. First course is meatballs, small frankfurters, potato bake with anchovies, Christmas ham, caramelized cabbage, red cabbage, maybe some sprouts, breads and cheese. We drink snaps, beer, wine or julmust if you’re not drinking. I usually bring crackers from the UK, so we have a British touch as well.

Next couse is salted ling, poached, with a mustard bechamel sauce and boiled potatoes. Not my favourite, but it is a classic.

Dessert is a take on rice pudding, but it is more porridge like and we add lots of whipped cream. Served with a warm coulis (mother usually makes one with cherries and one with raspberries). In the serving bowl we hide an almond in the porridge and it is a game to see who gets it. This way everyone eat until they burst. Whoever gets the almonds reveal it once all the dessert is eaten. What happens to the person who gets the almond varies, but in our family we have adopted the Danish tradition of giving that person a present, a so called mandelgave (almond gift).

8pm: We retire to the sofa, so full from dinner and around this time Santa comes to visit (at least when there are children present). We usually just hand out the Christmas gifts from underneath the tree.

Afterwards we have coffee and lots of Christmas cakes, then lots of homemade sweets, chocolates, clementines, dates, figs, nuts etc gathered at a table so everyone can help themselves.