WHEN Abigail Osbourne and Tamsin Olivier – daughter of actor Sir Lawrence – moved their business after 17 years at the hugely popular The Engineer in leafy Primrose Hill to King Street in Hammersmith more than a few people, me included, might have raised their eyebrows in surprise at the decision.
It seemed like a big gamble but it is one that already seems to be paying out judging by the number of diners and atmosphere I encountered when I made a midweek visit.
The Hampshire Hog opened it doors last October on the site formerly occupied by the Ruby Grand. It is situated just a short stroll from Ravenscourt Park and certainly strikes an impressive pose from the street at night with its smart bright frontage and lighting, and the crisp, clean design is continued once you step inside.
The Hog also lives up its gastropub claim with a good modern menu thoughtfully put together and delivered by head chef Chris Lyon and his team. I was impressed by the variety which includes four hugely appetising looking salads, as starters or mains, and three meat, two fish and two vegetarian options for mains.
The food is complimented by the light and airy décor of the Hog with its smart bar and large eating area and a cosier second designated dinning space. The wooden floors and tables, good lighting and well placed vintage mirrors all add to the ambience and make dinning very relaxed.
Comfortably seated at our table I could not help overhearing the conversation of some fellow diners declaring how “the place had been transformed from its previous life and how fantastic it now looked.” My partner said I was too nosey listening in to other people's conversation, I said it provides useful background information!
On to the more important matter of the food. My starter of double baked cheese soufflé with a spicy tomato and chilli compote and basil and preserved lemon oil (£6.50) came beautifully presented and tasted equally good. It was further lifted by some exquisite English goat's cheese curd on top of the perfectly cooked soufflé.
Fiona, was more than satisfied with her tender and juicy seven-hour spiced lamb shoulder on toast with pomegranate and spiced nuts (£7), which added a great crunch to the warm sensation of the spicy lamb on the tongue.
From my vantage point I could see the kitchen staff working hard – it looked a pretty slick operation - and the most popular dish appeared to be the O'Shea's of Knightsbridge sirloin, chips and café de Paris butter £19) as a steady stream left the kitchen during the evening.
I was tempted by the fish of the day for mains - a grilled grey mullet with pepperonata, purple sprouting broccoli and salsa verde (£15). The mullet was fresh, well cooked with a lovely crispy skin and the colourful pepperonate added a nice balance. However, the broccoli was far too salty for my pallet and did not add anything to the dish.
The slow-braised pork belly with shaved carrots and peppers in a bok choi and soy broth (£15) was a triumph for Fiona with the subtle Asian flavours of the broth mixing perfectly with the sweetness of the tender, moist pork.
Our bubbly French waitress (from Paris) persuaded us to not to skip puddings and I am glad she did.
She promised the chocolate fondant with honeycomb and ice cream (£6) would be something special – and it was. The fondant had a pleasing intense Chocolate aroma as it hit my taste buds and oozed out a delicious rich sauce as I cut through it. Add hints of honeycomb and ice cream to the mix and it tasted as good as it looked.
Fiona was similiarly impressed with her choice and flavours of ice creams (£5). Crunchy smooth peanut butter and a lovely caramel influenced dulce de leche, which originates from Argentina.
I was also glad to see The Hog takes it wine seriously with a varied and interesting list at sensible prices - a good selection of which are available in Pot sizes. I would recommend the Vin de Pays, Domanie de Mont d'Hortes a crisp and fruity French Chardonnay (£25) which added to an extremely pleasant night at a welcome addition to the King Street dining scene.