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

Perfect pork belly

Crackling. One of my favourite English words actually. I just think it describes exactly what a crackling is. You totally get that it is something crispy that cracks, but it still sounds appealing.

And crackling certainly is appealing. I LOVE that British people in general fight over the crakling when they eat pork belly for Sunday lunch. In Sweden animal fat has been taboo for a while, but it is coming back now. And in Denmark you can buy cracklings in bags, just like crisps, with different seasonings. Love it!

I have cooked pork belly a few times now, as it was totally new to me when I moved here, it has been a bit trial an error. I have learnt though, that the key is to cook the meat slowly on low heat for a few hours, then turn the heat up to crisp up the crackling even further. Then it helps to let the meat rest for a while before serving and fighting over the crackling.

Porkbelly with roasted root vegetables, broccoli and a creamy sauce.

The perfect porkbelly, serves 2

ca 400 g porkbelly

salt, herb salt or ground herbs (like sage, oregano, parsley)

white pepper

Heat up the oven to 125C. Cut lines in the fat  in a check pattern if this is not done already. Rub with plenty of salt and the herbs. Make sure it goes down in the cracks. Season the meat all around. Cover a roasting tin with tin foil and place the meat, fat up in it. Place in oven and cook for 2-3 hours. When the meat is really tender, turn the heat up to 180C for 10 minutes to crisp up the crackling even more. Let the meat rest, covered in tin foil, for a few minutes before serving. 

Roast lamb shoulder with roast potatoes and red wine and porcini sauce

I thoroughly enjoy the Sunday roasts so common in this country, and it is certainly the season for it again now. So last Sunday we had the frist roast with roast potatoes for a while, and it was lovely!

I used a half shoulder of Welsh lamb and was actually really pleased with the result. The oven was only on 150C, and I browned it before roasting to give it more flavour, and to get tender meat I rested it for 30 minutes. This left crispy bits on the outside and pink tender meat on the inside.

We also had perfect roast potatoes, red wine sauce with porcini and roasted root veg. A perfect Sunday supper!

Roast shoulder of lamb , serves 2

whole or half shoulder of lamb, bone in. (mine weighed around 800 g)

butter/oil for frying

4 rosemary sprigs

2 whole garlic cloves

a splash of red wine

Season the meat on all sides, don’t be shy with the salt. Brown it in a hot frying pan with the rosemary and garlic in the pan as well as oil/butter. Place it on a wire rack over a tinfoiled-lined roasting tray. Add the wine and place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat (not by the bone). Place in 150C oven until it reaches 58C inside. Wrap in tin foil and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Roast potatoes, serves 2

ca 6 large Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and cut in half

2 tbsp duck or goose fat

salt, white pepper

Place the potatoes in a pan and add biling water just to cover them. Parboil for 5 minutes. Add the fat to a roasting tray and let it heat up in the oven. Place the drained potatoes on the tray and turn to coat them with fat. Season. Roast for about 35 minutes or until crisp and golden in 175-200 C oven.

Red wine sauc with porcini mushrooms, serves 2

a handful dried porcini mushrooms

water

200 ml red wine

meat juices

200 ml single cream

1-2 tsp concentrated beef stock

1 tsp mild chilli sauce, a pinch of sugar or a spoonful jelly

salt, pepper

Cover the mushrooms with water. Squeeze to get rid of excess water, but keep the water. Chop roughly and fry in oil (in a non-stick saucepan) until browned. Add the water from the mushrooms, red wine and meat juices into the pan and let it reduce for 5-10 minutes. Add the other ingredients and season to taste. Bring to the boil and let it thicken slightly before serving.

Roasted root vegetables, serves 2

2 parsnips

2 carrots

a chunk of swede

1/2 red onion

2 sprigs thyme or rosemary

2 tbsp olive oil

salt, pepper

Peel and dice the root vegetables. Peel and cut the onion into wedges. Mix it all in an small roasting tin with the olive oil. Add the herbs/salt and pepper (a lot). Place in 175C oven, preferrably covered with a baking tray not to brown, until soft.