The Jugged Hare – Chiswell Street

Peter Morrell is impressed by the simplicity of the food at this new gastropub.

When I was younger and working in the City of London and in Clerkenwell it was a culinary desert. There was nothing between ‘very expensive” and “pub grub”. The ensuing years have seen that situation change with the area now a veritable oasis of foodie delights.

At the forefront of this culinary revolution is the ETM Group who own a number of eateries in London including The Hat and Tun near Hatton Garden, The White Swan in Fetter Lane and the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms.

They have recently added another property to their portfolio, The Jugged Hare. This is a conversion from traditional old ‘boozer’ into a comfortable and stylish gastropub right next to the Barbican Centre. The building is part of the old Whitbread brewery which is Grade II listed so the refurbishments have been both sympathetic and high quality.

The Jugged Hare has a lively bar at the front decorated with stuffed animals including, of course, a hare. There is a good range of cask beers and bottled beer, including their own specially commissioned pale ale.

The restaurant area, which features an open kitchen, has large windows which give the room a light and airy feel, enhanced by the white tiles covering the vaulted ceiling. Although we arrived at about seven o’clock most of the tables were occupied which gave the atmosphere a lively buzz and this continued all evening reaching its peak at about 9:30 when a Barbican performance finished.

After a friendly welcome from the greeters we settled down to peruse the menu while munching on warm, fresh baked bread. The starter menu has an unashamedly British influence with best of season produce to the fore and the appearance of some foraged items like nettles in the onion, blue cheese and quail egg tart and wild garlic in the leek and turnip broth.

The main courses come from a combination of  rotisserie, grill and oven. The emphasis is on fresh, seasonal, British ingredients sourced from suppliers who are preserving rare breed stock and producing artisan food.

Highlights were the Yorkshire wood pigeon, the Tamworth pork loin, the range of fish from Billingsgate, the pot roast quail with smoked bacon and chestnut mushrooms and the Cumbrian Longhorn cuts of steak.

After much anguish my wife chose the breaded skate knobs with garlic mayonnaise for her starter and I went for the honey roast kiln salmon with beetroot and horseradish. Both dishes were well presented and the portions generous. The skate, which can be temperamental, was fresh as a daisy and my salmon was moist and had a lot of flavour.

I had spied the steak hanging in the glazed meat larder earlier, its deep burgundy colour a sure sign that it was well hung. So the rib-eye on the bone was my choice of main, this prompted my wife to order the special of the day sirloin steak. Chips are part of the package but we added a side of cabbage and bacon for good measure.

The steaks were both excellent, moist and tender with a deep, mature taste and ably supported by the chunky hand cut chips, the cabbage and gravy from the rotisserie.

One of the The Jugged Hare’s strong suits is the wine, an extensive list of well chosen old and new world varieties with prices from a reasonable £16.50. There is a high tech machine that dispenses vintage wine by the glass and keeps it in optimal condition.

To accompany the starter my wife had the guest cava, the Castillo Perelada very dry and biscuity while I sampled a fresh and fruity gamay from the Loire, the Domaine St Nicolas. The lightness of the wines allowed the natural flavours of the fish dishes to show through.

As the mains were red meat something more robust was called for and a glass of Domaine Guillaume from the Cote du Luberon fitted the bill perfectly. A blend of syrah, grenache and carignan it had strong red stone fruit and spice notes to counterbalance the steak.

The puddings were reminiscent of my schooldays, black treacle tart with Jersey cream and lemon junket are just two examples. My wife is a bread and butter pudding devotee so her choice was simple, I finally selected the home-made honeycomb ice cream but if you don’t have a sweet tooth then there is a good range of artisan cheeses on offer.

The puddings were well executed and brought the meal to an enjoyable conclusion.

Sourcing good ingredients and cooking them so that they are allowed to express their own flavours is a difficult feat to pull but head chef Richard O’Connell and his team have done it with some style. It is a showcase of how good British dishes can be, simple but very satisfying.

Also a word about the front of house staff, they are all charming and knowledgeable about the food and the wine.

The Jugged Hare is only a few steps away from the Barbican centre so is ideal for a pre or post performance meal and priced at £22/£27 for 2/3 courses. For a la carte expect to pay around £50 per head including wine and service.

In summary a great meal that had been cooked with care and served with a skill in attractive and relaxing surroundings.

The Jugged Hare
49 Chiswell Street
London, EC1Y 4SA
Tel: 020 7614 0134 /

Review date 12th April 2012