The Pig and Butcher, 80 Liverpool Road, Islington, London
Julian spotted cool new gastropub The Pig and Butcher one day on his bike ride into work. He liked the look and sound of it, Googled it, read a great review and decided we had to go. Despite its blood-and-guts name being a little rough on my veggie ears, I was a good girlfriend and said “go on then…” So we made a Sunday lunch of it and went with Emma, Jez – Em’s bearded hubby, more of which later – Tara and Tom.
Thanks to Em’s intrepid booking four days earlier, we snagged a much-sought after table for 6 for 2pm (booking in advance is essential). As you’d expect from an eatery with a name like this, its daily changing menu specialises in meat, meat, meat – all butchered on the premises. For real veggies, there was a risotto dish, and for bad-veggies – aka pescetarians like me – there was a fish dish, caught that day.
The good news is, despite its all-round slaughterousness, P&B’s interior is light and airy, with huge windows, white paintwork, pale wood, a buzzing bar with all the usuals and cocktails and craft beers, ceiling fans that bat languorously and lull you into a pleasant Sunday afternoon stupor, and a humungous metal bull’s head sitting on one of the walls. Aside from that tiny detail there’s no abattoir chic round here.
One look at the menu – made up of six starters, four meat mains, four dessert options and a cheese board – and our carnivorous blokes were swimming in a sea of their own dribble. “Pig’s head on toast!” gushed Julian (£5.75). “Goose rillettes,” slathered Jez. So that is what they had (£6.25). “Piggin’ awesome,” said Julian as he tucked into his swine bonce while Jez loved his goose rillettes – a pâté-esque affair – so much so that he rubbed the toast that came with it all over his beard so no one else would could have any.
The rest of us sidestepped the starters and went straight for mains. Emma and Jez, and Tara and Tom, went for the roasted whole Cornish chicken for two to share, which arrived in a baking tin (£14.50 per person). The crew were in raptures; there was enough chicken to feed an army; the veggies were delicious, the roasties perfectly cooked – crisp on the outside, fluffy and smooth inside – and the Yorkshire puddings were so big Princess Eugenie could have worn one as a hat. Our only gripe: not enough GRAVY! Seriously, why do restaurants – good and bad – never give you enough bleedin’ gravy? You never hear of people complaining about too much gravy! Why?? It’s one of the unexplained mysteries of the world along with crop circles and M&S’s small bottle of still water being suspiciously 40 pence more expensive than its big bottle.
Poor old Julian couldn’t have had the chicken if he’d wanted to what with me being a non-chicken eater, so it was a good job he was on the hunt for more hog. He chose the slow roasted Old Spot pork shoulder with apple sauce (£14.50). His verdict? There was absolutely snout wrong with it; it was piggy perfection. As for me, well I went for the skate and heirloom tomatoes (£15). And the tomatoes were lovely. Why can’t I buy these jewel-coloured lovelies in the supermarket. The skate? It was like eating a plastic comb. Goddamnit I didn’t realise skate was so bony. I can’t abide admin while eating. I just want to tuck in. Don’t get me wrong, when I wasn’t pulling shards of skeleton out of my teeth, the fish itself was quite good. But still: never again.
Despite all of us feeling like big porkers after our meal, we decided to order desserts to share. When in Pig and all that… So, J and I shared an apple and blackberry crumble (£5.95) which was fine, but maybe a bit too sweet. Still, it looked pretty. The others shared baked lemon custards, peaches and shortbreads. While they attested to the fact that it tasted good, they all grumbled that the portions were too small.
Maybe the waiting staff had taken one look at us and decided it was in our best interests…