Lucy Self slips across to South Kensington for dinner at newly refurbished pub The Hour Glass…
There’s two types of pub. Sticky-floored, old-man-packed, un-food-bothered, dart-playing boozers. And craft-beer-swilling, seasonal-menu-selling, smartly-attired establishments. The first is a fast dying breed in gentrified London whilst the latter, or imitations of the latter, cross it like a particularly resourceful weed. The result? It might be difficult to swing a cat in our capital without hitting some form of public house (usually a chain), but it’s also less and less likely to be a good one (mostly because it’s a chain).
How smug must the good people of South Kensington be then, with the arrival of The Hour Glass – a practically perfect pub from the team behind Brompton Food Market. Rather heart-warmingly with the current ‘out with the old and interesting, in with the new and bland’ approach to pub-keeping, Luke Mackay and David Turcan have worked with long-time landlord Henry Gravells on the refurb, bringing in ex-Ebury chef Tim Parsons along for the ride.
We visited on a blustery Friday night and found the narrow but smart downstairs bar interior most welcoming whilst retaining an unfussy, old-man pub like charm. Upstairs, via authentically-pokey steps, you’ll find a simple, wood-panelled dining room with large mirror at one end and open kitchen at the other. The design statement may be unintentional, but to me it shouts “we don’t want you to discuss what shade of Farrow & Ball we have on the wall, we just want you to eat well.” And eat well we did. Clever yet without ceremony, made from great ingredients and smacked with a confident hand of seasoning.
To start, a mackerel fillet edged in a chargrilled coat tasting of sea and soot, sweetened with a roast tangle of candy-like peppers and freshened by a few startling leaves of coriander. Then a duck, pearl barley & penny bun broth which will henceforth be my definition of winter in a bowl. Mains showed the kitchen could do hearty (a pie of burnished gold crust and gamey insides served with a pile of buttery mash) and delicate (crisp-skinned sea bream scattered with coral shrimps coated in burnt butter and served with a dainty half lemon wrapped in muslin) in equally enviable measures.
I only had to read the five-strong pudding menu, which includes cheese from Brompton Food Market and a buttermilk pudding with damsons, to know The Hour Glass was not going to let me down on the last hurdle. But any convincing that might have been needed was quickly dispatched with a dense, jet-black slab of dark chocolate and porter cake. Served warm, melting the cornflake ice-cream and swirls of honeycomb with every greedy swipe of my swoon, it was magnificent.
Annoyingly undermining me, The Hour Glass doesn’t fit into either of my aforementioned categories, but cherry-picking the better qualities from both and coming up with something much better. So there you have it, a third type – an unpretentious pub where you can eat an elegant meal upstairs without the need for fanfare and, as we did, head downstairs for a G&T in what feels like an old-fashioned boozer.
The Hour Glass – 279-283 Brompton Rd SW3 2DY
Words by Lucy Self, our new girl about town and restaurant writer. She is an all round food obsessive and has been writing about food in London for several years, as well as having a steady day job in restaurant PR.
Pictures by Leyla Kazim.