The Jugged Hare, Barbican

Along with its sister pub, The White Swan near Chancery Lane, The Jugged Hare has been running its seasonal wine and food tasting evenings for a while, allowing guests to sample five themed courses and five wines for £60-65 a head. The most recent was an asparagus and English wine evening, to celebrate English Wine Week and the short but sweet asparagus season.

The Jugged Hare itself is an upmarket gastropub with a warm, homely feel. It also has a substantial seated area specifically for dining, which is nicely separate from the post-work hubbub of the main bar. However, it was their opulent Josephine room in the basement (so opulent in fact that the walls were simply glass cabinets with bottles of champagne in them) that served as the location of our ‘quintessentially English’ meal, which was hosted in conjunction with the Bolney Estate in Sussex.

Most people on our table had bought tickets, which they all agreed were great value, but my attendance was in the spirit of adventure. Was it physically possible to consume five courses of asparagus in one sitting? Prior to the meal, I had had visions of plates towered with asparagus. But in fact, except for the first course, which was a plate of delicate sprue asparagus with a tasty duck egg vinaigrette, the green stalky vegetable served more as a well-seasoned garnish or decoration accompanying each course, all of which were consistently excellent.

The Bolney Estate has been producing predominantly red wines since 1972, but the four wines we sampled from them were a mixture of reds and bubbly. Their Cuvée Rosé, which was served with the second course of grilled purple asparagus, Dorset crab croquette, confit lemon and chervil compote  (this is the high standard of food you’re being served) was particularly drinkable. It was subtle, not like so many of those overly tart rosés that are out there. Incidentally, my guest and I could have easily demolished an Ambassador’s Reception-style pyramid of the crab croquettes.

Another wine highlight was the 2011 Pinot Noir, which was really blackcurranty and complimented the poached lamb. The lamb was accompanied by the most unlikely but actually delicious combination of ingredients you could hope for – devilled kidneys…nettle purée…and of course asparagus.

I feel I should point out that they did manage to get an asparagus into the dessert: ‘white asparagus and rhubarb cobbler’. The asparagus was only a small part of the pudding, which I personally was grateful for, because although soaked in sugar syrup, its texture was too vegetabley for me, even when I tried to pretend that it was a long piece of rhubarb.

As for the atmosphere of the evening: helped along by jovial, knowledgeable hosts, welcoming waiting staff and all that wine, the evening was lively and sociable, with guests seated round big tables bonding with strangers over spring veg.

Theme nights occur fairly regularly, such as the evening of Aireshire Veals held on 19 June, so check the website for more information. Whether the theme ingredient is your particular favourite or not, the surrounding food will be worth venturing there for if it’s anything like their asparagus night (not a sentence I ever thought I’d write).

The Jugged Hare
49 Chiswell Street

Tel: 020 7614 0134


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