From the people that brought you Princess of Shoreditch comes a new gastropub by the name, The Pig and Butcher. It’s taken over what was previously The Islington Tap on Liverpool Road. Living in Islington myself, I wanted to know if at long last a genuinely good gastropub had graced our pavements.
As you walk in, there’s nothing particularly striking or different about the place. It’s as characteristically sylvan and low-tech as you’d expect the inside of an English pub to be. As I made my way across to the dining area, seemingly every member of staff acknowledged me with glee as if I was Luke Skywalker walking down the aisle at the end of Star Wars : A New Hope to collect my medal for decimating the Deathstar.
Venison Scotch egg £3.50
All the meat comes courtesy of Chart Farm in Kent. The carcasses are butchered and smoked on site on the upstairs level of the pub, affording the chefs more flexibility in what cuts they use to maximise flavour in their colossal Scotch eggs for example. The runny-yolked eggs are coated in a mishmash of flavoursome cuts of venison which trumps its peers at say The Harwood Arms where the meat in the Scotch egg tastes of next to nothing.
Pork rillettes, cornichons & toast £5.95
A starter of pork rillettes is made using shoulder, knuckle and cheek cuts which were cooked slowly in fat. When sufficiently tender they are shredded and allowed to cool, resulting in something closely resembling a pâté, which you may spread as such on the toasted bread provided. The flavour of pork fat presides over the meat cuts, but I didn’t find that to be a bad thing as I adore the taste of fat. Spreading it on the toast with a bit of gherkin simultaneously fires off salt, sour, oil and crunch in your mouth as you bite into it.
Rabbit & summer vegetable broth £5.50
Better yet is an oh so slowly cooked broth of practically disintegrating rabbit meat and various vegetables. The broth itself so fully realises the essence of the rabbit, it’s as though it’s been distilled.
Chart Farm venison & marinated garden vegetables £16.50
A main of slightly oversalted venison is served just about medium rare, with a slightly under-reduced jus. The garden vegetables are wonderfully cooked, but it’s the salsa verde that steals the show, uniting the dish in all its herby/anchovy glory.
Dark chocolate tart, avocado & lime sorbet £5.95
Dessert was a humble dark chocolate tart with an accompanying avocado & lime sorbet which was more lime than avocado, but tasted good. The tart was ok but not as rich or cool as I’d have liked, so it was a bit like eating a little slab of my own flesh.
Along with the food, the wines are utterly affordable. Good news for those who don’t enjoy having their wallet swallowed up whole for the sake of a meal. Across the board the staff exude an innocence and warmth, from the waitresses to Jack, the front of house to the barmen. I made the most of their hospitality by sticking around for the next few hours with my boxing buddies, sucking the bar dry as the Olympic opening ceremony ensued onscreen in all its historically selective, organised chaos.
The Pig and Butcher may not have the finesse or creativity of the recently opened Upstairs at The Ten Bells in Spitalfields, but then, no other gastropub in London currently does. It is however a welcome addition to Islington and immediately sits on top of the pile of restaurants and gastropubs in the locale.
food : 7/10
service : 8/10
ambience : 7.5/10
value : 8/10
The Pig and Butcher
80 Liverpool Road, Islington, London N1 0QD
020 7226 830