The Spaniard's Inn, Hampstead
Nestling between various bits of Heath, The Spaniard's Inn is a beautiful contender for one of London's oldest pubs. Rumour has it that Keats wrote Ode to a Nightingale whilst sitting in the beer garden and it has various other literary accomplishments under its belt, firmly marking it as a historic heavyweight of the North London pub scene. We don't live far and as a result, can be found at The Spaniard embarrassingly frequently, either dog watching in the pretty garden (complete with BBQ and lots of handy covered and heated bits) or cosied up in the old fashioned dining room, but always, always eating one of their famous Scotch eggs. Now, I don't like Scotch eggs per se - funnily enough the all too common combo of cold cheap sausage meat, pappy flourescent orange breadcrumbs and a whiffy greying hard boiled egg doesn't really do it for me - but this is something else. Exhibit A, below:
As you can see, this is no ordinary Scotch egg. This is a 'gastropub' (UGH) Scotch egg and one that I make everyone who ever comes with me to the Spaniard try. The lovely warm wobbly egg yolk is encased in the most delicious sausage meat known to man, properly seasoned and squidgy and porky, and then swiftly crumbed and fried into absolutely filthy proportions. I've had similarly good offerings from The Prince of Wales in Putney and The Bull and Last on the other side of the Heath on the Highgate/Kentish Town border (they used to have the same excellent chef, but PoW looks pretty different now and I haven't been there for about five years so don't quote me on that) but if you know of a Scotch egg that could beat it do let me know (will travel!). The Spaniard's is £5 and never goes off menu, which is a relief.
We shared the Scotch egg and moved onto mains where I went for gnocchi with heritage tomatoes, goat's curd and sauce vierge. The gnocchi were like little pillows just on the right side of chewiness with a good comforting starchy bite and have really prompted me to perfect my own gnocchi at home, which are severely lacking compared to these beauties. The goats curd was a welcome change and delivered a good hit of creamy indulgence with a goaty sharp twang and really set off the tomatoes, which incidentally tasted like they were made with pure sunshine - literally bursting with summeriness. The sauce vierge was the right ratio of olive oil:herb:lemon and the entire dish was a big yes from me, particularly as it wasn't that naughty. Here it is:
Rich was slightly less restrained and went for the fish and chips which are fancied up in a cider and tarragon batter and come complete with posh mushy peas and homemade tartare sauce. The chips are double cooked and are reliably crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, so yummy but why are they never like you get in an actual fish and chip shop? Fish and chip shop chips are the best. Writing this on a mild post-birthday hangover was possibly not the cleverest idea as now I cannot stop thinking about fish and chips in many many guises. *Dribbles*... *Remembers number of calories consumed yesterday due to birthday and tries to ignore fish and chip related thoughts*...
He only let me have a little bit of his, so I can't add much more I'm afraid, but suffice to say it was very nice indeed. Other things that are nice from the current menu at the lovely lovely Spaniard include the Barnsley Chop (better than the steak), the chargrilled squid and the burger (another stalwart). If you are lucky enough to see the lesser spotted wing rib of beef sharer (NOT the sirloin) then order it sharpish, especially if they are doing it with the bone marrow that day - you won't regret it.
They also have an impressive selection of beers to choose from, so even if you're not in the market for food, you can do much worse than to come and enjoy a hard earned pint of Camden Hells after a walk on the heath on a weekend.
PS. I've just managed to add a comments box below, so I will love you if you use it!