THE HAT AND TUN : ANOTHER MISSED OPPORTUNITY
I have finally come up with an explanation for why I have disliked every meal I have had at a pub run by Tom & Ed Martin. They are decent chaps, I am sure, and the fact they are taking otherwise languishing old boozers and restoring them to some of their former glory with sensitivity and taste can only be applauded.
Yet, the food in all those DH have tried (with the recent notable exception of HP’s meal at The Botanist) The Gun, The White Swan, The Empress of India, The Well and The Prince Albert has ranged from middling and expensive at best to downright lousy and expensive at worst.
Now they have a new gaff and, true to form, the inside of The Hat And Tun, formerly Deux Beers, in Farringdon has been given a new lease of life with a sparkly back bar and a couple of real ales pumps. Unfortunately, the food is also true to the form of the rest of their pubs.
The lunchtime menu (they are only serving snacks in the evening) reads well with a list of British classics that would, if properly executed, bring a glad tear to my eyes. When the young waitress told me that their all their starters, including pork pies, scotch eggs and sausage rolls, were made in house, I had high hopes that this place may just buck the Martin Brother’s streak of poor luck as far as DH are concerned.
Any optimistic hopes were dispelled thirty seconds after I placed my order and heard the word “service” being barked as I was presented with a £3 Scotch egg. If you want to know what a proper Scotch egg looks like check out HP’s post on a meal at The Harwood Arms. This, well this was a travesty and compared unfavourably to something I once bought at a Budgens Express on the way home after a night on the piss.
Main courses too offer up British favourites of yesteryear, Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash and a range of pies, which come with mash and liquor. For £10 came a smart option to include a pint with your pie & mash. The beer was well kept and served at the correct temperature but, I do wish pubs would train staff to pull a full pint without you having to go through the rigmarole of asking for it to be topped up EVERY SINGLE TIME.
When my plate arrived, the mash was under seasoned and undistinguished, the pie case was tough enough to top an Ultimate Fighting bill and, while the filling of steak & ale was tasty enough there was simply not enough of it to make the effort of excavation worthwhile. More bizarre was the liquor, the famous sauce staple of every London pie shop. Here, instead of the bright green sauce flecked with parsley and thickened with the water from boiling gelatinous eels, was a thin gruel of no discernable taste speckled with lonely herbage.
And there in lies the truth of the matter. It is all well and good spending time and effort on refurbishment to persuade a new audience into pubs but, you should give the chef the same amount of time as the contractor. If you are going to offer up potentially wonderful dishes to persuade a doubting crowd that British food is something to be proud of, you should at least find cooks who know how they are supposed to look and taste.
Meals like this just confirm my suspicion that food at places in this group is prepared by people who don’t know what they are cooking for people who don’t care what they are eating. A great shame and another chance missed.
At just shy of £15 for lunch, the food should simply be, well, better and, as I pulled my woolly hat over my wing nut ears and stepped out into Farringdon Road, I couldn't help but think they should ask the man who does their pub fitting if he can cook. He, at least, knows what he is doing.