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The Hat and Feathers Restaurant (Clerkenwell, London)

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2 Reviews

Hat & Feathers / 2 Clerkenwell Road / London EC1M 5PQ / Tel: 020 7490 2244.

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    2 Reviews
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    • More +
      15.04.2007 12:40

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      Hope to be there soonest.

      Not a review as such, but I just wanted to say that I was the last manager of the old Hat and Feathers back in 91. It was my very first pub and I loved the place and the people, and I am just so delighted that this beautiful example of a Victorian pub is open again. Although I now live in North Wales, I can't wait to go back and see The Hat and Feathers again. The very best of luck to all of you, Eric.

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      03.04.2007 11:09
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      A little pretension never hurt anyone!

      Last night, Snarf & I celebrated our 2 year anniversary, and we wanted to celebrate! As usual Snarf & I left it until the last minute to discuss plans - Sunday night to be precise (our anniversary was on Tuesday). After a quick discussion, we decided to go for a meal - the only other options were Bloomsbury Bowling lanes or something along those lines, hardly very romantic. Very quickly, we decided on The Hat & Feathers.

      We had passed by the derelict shell of the building that is now very proudly The Hat & Feathers on many occasions in our two years together, guessing what the place was going to be, was it going to be a gastro pub? A drinks only pub? A restaurant? We had no idea, then 4 months ago, we noticed that it was finally open, and decided that we needed to try it at some point, but just never got round to it, now seemed as good a time as any, so Snarf got out his blueberry thingy and checked the tinter-net for some reviews & noticed that toptable.com was offering 50% off food - job done, it was booked.

      ~Getting there~

      I have attached a map, but it is really easy to find, the closest tube station is Barbican, come out of the station, and turn left, towards Clerkenwell Road, you will get to the cross roads (Prêt, Starbucks & Pizza Express are all on the corner), The Hat & Feathers are opposite - this will take you about 4 mins (it took me 4 mins and I was wearing ridiculous shoes!). Alternatively you can go to Old Street or Farringdon tube station, it is still within walking distance.

      Hat & Feathers
      2 Clerkenwell Road
      London
      EC1M 5PQ

      ~The mood~

      I arrived at The Hat and Feathers at about 7:15, we were due to have dinner at 8, but I quite fancied a drink (Snarf was running a bit late because he's Snarf) before we ate. Going through the doors you arrive in the bar area. There is a big wooden bar in the middle & the room is sort of split into two sections, by a big arch. The first thing I noticed was that it was non-smoking, but on closer inspection, only half of the pub is non-smoking, so I very swiftly moved to the smoky half of the bar (ah go on, let me enjoy it whilst I can!).

      The décor is lovely, you can tell it is all very new and that someone has thrown a lot of money at the place. After our meal, we were sitting at the bar talking to the Matîre d' and have discovered that they have tried to restore the place, as accurately as possible, to its original splendour. Coving lines the top of every wall & ceiling join, which has had gold leaf applied, meticulously, by hand, according to the Maitre d' if the craftsman managed to do 2 meters in a day, that was considered a good day!

      Everything about the place was beautiful, the attention to detail is apparent, creamy walls & a dark wood bar, matching tables, chairs & bar stools, upholstered in a tasteful cream covering, none of this mish mash "shabby chic, French" stuff going on. Every aspect & detail has been thoroughly thought out, from the gas lamps dotted around the walls to the beautiful chandeliers, hopefully this is a good indicator of the standard of food that they will provide.

      I stepped up to the bar & took a look around, it seemed very relaxed, but very plush and luxurious at the same time. A bar tender turned up very quickly (turns out he was the manager) & I ordered my drink, and he apologised, checking if it was ok that they only served doubles - they clearly don't know me well enough (yet)! I noticed that their house gin was Tanqueary, but there were a lot of others on offer, I even noticed the new purple Gordon's Sloe Gin. I mentioned that we were booked into the restaurant and asked if it was easier for me to pay for my drink now or if I could set up a tab - the tab was promptly set up and when I offered my card to go behind the bar he declined.

      I moved to a table and settled in with my drink & started to look around, the majority of the crowd were after workers, the bar was relatively empty, but it was a Tuesday night at the end of the month, so this really is to be expected. Snarf arrived 15 mins later (very apologetic) got his drink and we started to settle in.

      ~Gastronomic delights~

      Some of you who are familiar with my food reviews, may need to look away now - because I loved the place, so be warned if you are hungry!

      Snarf and I were very hungry, my stomach had been rumbling since I arrived, and I had purposely gone easy on the amount of fodder that I consumed during the day, so the minute the clock ticked 8, we were making our way up to the restaurant, on the first floor.

      We were lead up the original wooden staircase (some work still needs to be done, a bit of varnish maybe), by the manager, it was actually a lot bigger upstairs than I had expected, there was a gentleman in the corner dining alone & what appeared to be a business dinner, 5 men in suits, the décor was again very simple and elegant, white table cloths, dark leather chairs, very restaurant feel to the place, you would be shocked to remember you were sitting above a pub. We were seated by one of the windows and promptly bought menus & offered drinks, we decided to order a bottle of water first and then decide on wine (I will cover the drinks in greater detail further in a bit).

      The first thing that you will notice is that the menu is small, this is not to say that it is limited - the price is £22.95 for two courses (starter and main), very reasonable and we were in theory getting 4 courses for £22.95 with our 50% off deal.

      I had already taken a sneaky peak at the menu online & decided on my main course, but was still undecided about my starter. I was torn between the Seared Foie Gras or the Scallops & Frogs Legs. In the end I went for the Foie Gras (£2 supplement) & Snarf went for the Scallops (£2 supplement), we both chose the venison for our main course.

      Having ordered we sat back and relaxed, our waiter came over with a bread plate, offering 3 styles of bread, white, brown and a random looking roll thing (it looked a bit like a mini jam roly poly). The bread was very fresh & before I could even finish my bread, our starters were being bought out, so here comes the good bits:

      ~Starters~

      Seared foie gras, yoghurt, wilted shoots, raisin. (supplement £2)
      Recommended wine for this starter is Castel de Suduiraut, Sauterness, 2002 (£5.95 per glass)

      This comes served on a rather large square plate and two small round pieces of foie gras, sat on the wilted shoots, and a line of yogurt running up the middle of the plate, dusted with what looked like orange zest & a tiny blob of raisin (more of a marmalade) about the size of a 5p piece - very nouveaux cuisine.

      Verdict:
      The first thing I noticed was that I kept getting faint whiffs of something citrusey, at first I thought that it could have been coming from Snarf's plate, but in the end worked out that it was my yogurt. I tasted all the bits first on their own just to see what flavours I had to play with and was pleasantly surprised, the yogurt was light with a hint of citrus, not overly creamy, the raisin "marmalade" was very good, tangy & sticky, yet not overpowering, will compliment the foie gras perfectly. The foie gras had been seared, cutting very easily, first thing that you notice is the very light gamey flavour, not at all overpowering, just enough to taste it. At first I thought that it tasted a little greasy, but this could have been down to the wilted leaves, they did go very well with the foie gras, a little garlicky & although, as I mentioned greasy, you really wanted to hold it in your mouth and just let the flavours seep out onto your tongue. The only thing I could pick out was that one of the slices of foie gras had a slight charred taste to one of the sections I cut out, but it was on a tiny, tiny piece of the cut and to be honest, probably not even worth mentioning.

      Pan fried Scallops, tempura frogs leg, butternut bavorois, tomato jus. (supplement £2)
      Recommended wine for this starter is Chablis ler Cru montmains, G Tremblay 2004 (£8.95 per glass)

      They were extremely generous with the scallops, it made my starter look positively tiny (which it was, but that is beside the point), there were probably about six scallops in total laid on the plate, there were two decent sized frogs legs, nicely presented and separated from the scallops with a line of tomato jus. The butternut bavorois (a sort of solid mousse) was served as a small disk, a little larger than a £1 coin, with a lovely delicate flower arranged on the top.

      Verdict:
      The Scallops were beautifully delicate, there was just a hint of scallop taste, but they just melted in your mouth, the only way I can describe it would be to compare it to expertly cooked tofu. The butternut bavorois complimented the scallops nicely, there was a sweet taste to the bavorois, but not at all over powering, not even enough for you to notice, just enough for you to realise that there is another flavour present, other than the scallops. The frogs legs were well cooked as well, the tempura was light and fluffy and the taste of the frogs legs was very delicate again, so complimented the dish perfectly, there wasn't a hint of grease, which would have ruined the dish completely. The only point to raise here is that Snarf wasn't sure that the scallops had been cleaned properly as he got a couple of gritty bits - if the scallops had been soaked in flavour, you never would have known, but again, another point probably not even worth mentioning.

      ~Main Course~

      Loin of Venison, celeriac puree, chocolate oil & toffee
      Recommended wine for this main course is Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa 2004 (£4.25 per glass)

      The amount of venison that you are provided with looks very small, served on what appeared to be wilted roots, there was a tower of potato with a roasted garlic on the top, it did look slightly phallic and I did have a little giggle to myself, next to the venison was the toffee sauce arranged in a little heart shape, with the chocolate oil over the top, the celeriac puree was served in a thick line and there were drops of chocolate around the plate. There was also a tiny red berry on the plate (which we later discovered was a tiny frozen tomato).

      Verdict:

      This was a really interesting dish and was begging to be tried, again I checked all the flavours available and then went about combining. The most surprising thing is that the toffee is most definitely toffee, and the chocolate is most definitely chocolate, however the chocolate oil had a faint bitter cocoa taste, but could have passed as a jus. The celeriac puree was very, very delicate, it was really creamy and the taste and texture perfectly complimented the venison, with a tiny smidge of toffee. The wilted roots were the same as those used for the starter and again complimented the venison, which if eaten on its own was almost dry (not in a bad way though, the rich gamey flavour still oozed out). Going back to the toffee and venison combo, strangely enough, the toffee really does go well with venison, the slightly "burnt" taste to the toffee really brings out the flavour of the venison and the celeriac works to make sure that the taste is not too overpowering or sugary. I really could not make the teenie tiny dollops of chocolate work, and would suggest that they are merely for decoration. The chocolate oil (or jus) worked to make the venison much more juicy and the slight cocoa bitterness really accented the light gamey flavour. I mentioned above that there was a small frozen tomato on the plate, when I tasted a bit of it I decided that I was going to save it for my last mouthful, it was very refreshing & sweet and cleaned the palate well. The only thing that I could comment on was that compared to the explosion of flavours the roasted potato tower was positively bland, but I still ate it - good for mopping up the chocolate oil!

      ~Sweet Nothings~

      Snarf and I were pretty full but the food had been so amazing, we had to go for a desert, but we decided to share, it was a toss up between the tonka bean cheesecake or the chocolate fondant - we went for the chocolate in the end!

      Chocolate fondant served with white chocolate ice cream, chocolate jelly & mint (£5.50)
      Recommended wine for this dessert is Monbazillac Cuvee Abbaye, 2002 (£8.50 per glass)

      When we ordered the dessert, we knew that it would probably take a little while as the fondant needed to be cooked - we weren't wrong, they did indeed cook the fondant and it did take about 15 mins, but when it arrived we were very impressed, the fondant was slightly leaning to one side, but hey, these things happen - there was a decent (small) scoop of ice-cream & the chocolate jelly is not at all what you would expect, it looks like a tiny chocolate pyramid, a line of think chocolate sauce went down the middle of the plate and there was a small line of finely chopped mint to one side.

      Verdict:
      The first thing that we did was sniff the fondant, the smell was gorgeous, it reminded me of warm chocolate fudge cake being baked in an oven, the fondant was then split, starting from the top, waiting for the gooey chocolate to ooze out, which it did. Everything about the fondant was perfect, it had been expertly executed and perfectly cooled. The white chocolate ice-cream was very delicate and could have passed for plain ice-cream (if such a thing exists) it is clearly home made and tones done the chocolateiness of the fondant. The chocolate jelly is not at all what I expected, to be honest chocolate jelly does not conjure up very positive images, but this was divine, really thick and chocolately, it had a sticky jelly-like consistency when split, but melted in your mouth, as chocolate should, it reminds me of the chocolate inside a Ferrero Rocher. The chocolate was definitely the same chocolate that appeared in small decorative blobs on my plate of venison. The only thing that I could not understand on my plate was the mint, finely chopped, but with little to no taste, at first we thought it may have been sugar, but it was tasteless, this did not detract from the dish, I am just not sure why it was there in the first place.

      ~Drinks~

      There is a wide selection of wines available, prices range from £5.00 (per glass) & £22.00 (bottle) through to £325 (bottle) for sparkling wines & champagnes, white & red wines start from £3.20 (per glass) & £14.50 (bottle) through to £97 (per bottle).

      Snarf and I opted for the Bourgogne Pinot Noir Dom Remoissenet 1997 (£6.75 per glass or £28.50 per bottle) & believe me it was worth it. I wish I was as knowledgeable about wines as foods, because I would love to write a full review, just for this wine itself, but would not have the vocabulary to do it justice. All I can say is it smells so good that when you sniff it, you hope that you will never stop breathing in, like the food that we had it was light, fruity and very gentle, almost feminine, taking the wine to your lips, the taste is centred on the tip of your tongue, as you swallow, there is a little dryness, but not too much, I can highly recommend this wine to anyone & if you ever get the chance, do pay that little bit extra for this amazing wine.

      As this restaurant is set above a pub there is a wide selection of international beers, a really good selection of spirits (as mentioned earlier, they only serve double measures) & some tasty looking cocktails (prices start at £6 or £4 for shooters).

      Another thing worth mentioning is that there is a wine recommendation for each dish on the menu which is well worth considering, especially if you are not confident enough to match the wine with your foods.

      One thing that we were disappointed in was the coffee, Snarf ordered a double espresso and it was really not nice, even a lump of sugar didn't help it, it was horrifically bitter and thick after everything that our pallet had been used to over the course of the evening. I would suggest staying away from the coffees.

      ~Overall Verdict~

      I was extremely impressed by The Hat and Feathers, the food was very carefully prepared and thought out, moving it to a level above your ordinary good restaurant, although not Michelin standard, but with a little more time, who knows? I think that The Hat and Feathers is a welcome addition to the new "gastro style" pub that has been springing up and I think that certain restaurants in the area, such as The Fox, need to sit up and take note, because they have some serious competition.

      A lot of people may be put off by the idea of tiny portions & tiny amounts of foods, but the food is so good that you do not need anymore, too much of a good thing and all that. Snarf and I were both extremely hungry when we arrived and left more than satisfied, we left with the warm contented glow of knowing that you could not eat any more, but were not uncomfortably full. With all the food being so flavoursome it made you eat smaller mouthfuls, just to savour & enjoy the way that everything had been so perfectly put together and carefully thought out.

      Service was impeccable and definitely added to the whole experience, throughout the course of our meal the waiter and Maitre d' were attentive, but never constantly in your face, the dinning room had a lot of mirrors on the walls, which is I think how the serving staff managed to see what customers required without being seen. Wine was topped up often, as was water, tables were scrapped at the end of the meal before dessert. At one point in the meal I left the table to go to the bath room and sort of folded my serviette and placed it on the table, whilst I was away a waiter came over and discreetly folded it properly for me and neatly placed it to one side, which I thought was a lovely touch, and would probably go unnoticed, had Snarf not pointed it out. The high standard of service even continues downstairs in the bar/pub after your meal, the maitre d' continued to serve us in the bar area and chatted away, which was lovely.

      Our whole bill, which included, 2 starters (each had £2 supplement), 2 main courses, 1 dessert, 1 bottle of wine, a double espresso, 2 bottles of water, a gin and tonic (double tanquery), a bottle of Magners & service came in at £84, which Snarf and I both agreed was very reasonable, so much so that we decided to leave an extra £10 towards the service and slink on down to the bar to have some more of their lovely Bourgogne.

      I will definitely be going back to The Hat and Feathers and would rave about it to anyone who I could make listen, all that I can say is that if you fancy trying it, take advantage of the toptable offer whilst you can, but to be honest, how can you go wrong for £22.95 for two courses of superb food, if I am honest, I would have expected to have paid £22 for my main course alone.

      ~Useful stuff to know~

      Website:
      www.hatandfeathers.com

      The 1st floor restaurant wine list & menus are available on this site.

      There is a bar menu for those of you who are not feeling that flush, or want a good lunch, starters begin at £4.50 & main courses go up to £15.95 for a slow roast fillet of Aberdeen Angus, anchovy crumb onion puree & horseradish.

      Two courses in the 1st floor restaurant is £22.95, which is well worth it, the menu is seasonal and changed regularly, every 2-3 months.

      ~Opening Hours~

      Monday - Friday
      12:00 - 14:30
      18:00 - 22:30

      Sunday (Dinner & Sunday Lunch)

      Pre-booked "power-breakfasts" 07:30-09:30

      On the ratings below, there is not an exceptional rating, this place needs to be separated from the riff raff! :P

      Thanks for reading - oh god I have rambled on a bit - any that have skimmed are forgiven

      xxx

      *Also on Ciao*

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