Once upon a time we had a local pub that we frequented on a regular basis. It wasn’t a posh pub, nor was it an old man’s pub; it straddled that nice comfy middle ground between gastropub and young trendy bar. We used to regularly pop in for a glass of wine and bite to eat. We had work nights out there, attended a load of birthday celebrations including a New Year’s Eve party. But then it all changed. The ‘pub-that-served-simple-but-tasty-food’ became a full-fledged gastropub, swapping most of the drinking tables for eating spots. As prices increased the quality of the food declined, drastically. With a dwindling clientele in search of something better it tried to revamp itself into a brasserie, unsuccessfully.
Walking past this iconic pub that in its heyday saw celebrities likes Billie Piper and Chris Evans sitting at the bar, not forgetting the heavily publicised Sean Bean stabbing from 2011, it felt like the soul of the place had also decided to stop frequenting… alas the doors of The Hill finally closed.
On learning the pub had been taken over by new owners, who were given it a complete overhaul, that included changing the name back to its original Victorian title, The Load of Hay Tavern, Elldrew started wondering if a new local was emerging!
We decided to give it a retry, not once but twice, and both in the same week, even before it had had its launch party; once for dinner and the other for their Saturday ‘Bottomless Brunch’ (£15 on top of food costs for bottomless Prosecco, Mimosa’s, Bloody Mary’s and house wine over a 2 hour seating).
What was Elldrew’s verdict? It has potential despite a handful of teething problems, and it was only Week One so that can be forgiven. Also the food isn’t quite perfect, yet, but it’s on the right track. Some highlights included the melt-in-your-mouth Mac N Cheese bites and the BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado & tomato) on toast. The guacamole served with the poached eggs was fantastic! Dishes that need attention are the crispy pork belly with apple slaw: this dish really needs jus or something more wet on the plate, it was literally a piece of pork belly with some slaw, but tasty all the same. The battered hake was on the small side and the poached eggs were a bit over cooked (but then they had to pretty much simultaneously poach 12 eggs for all of us). Again, it was Week One and practice makes perfect.
All in all though we did like it and we will be back for sure. The service was friendly and bubbly, the prices were just right for a local “tavern” and the redecorated venue makes it look more “now” and much more comfortable. We loved the Bottomless Brunch concept and the Bloody Mary’s were sublime (as 8 of us rolled out after the lunch they may well want to reconsider the concept if they wish to make any profit!). We wish it success and hope the locals get behind The Load of Hay Tavern, it’s great to have the return of a local (albeit a new local).
The Load of Hay Tavern
94 Haverstock Hill, London, NW3 2BD
T: 0207 267 0033