If you don’t know (I didn’t), The Bull’s Head Barnes is, and has been since its opening over 50 years ago, a celebrated jazz concert venue. It claims to be ‘one of 12 venues which had made the most important contributions to jazz music in the UK’. What attracted me most though is that it is not only a temple of jazz, it is a very well-situated pub alongside the Thames in cute and quiet Barnes, which recently got a makeover following a new ownership. I like this trend of pubs proposing restaurant food on top (or not) of the usual pub comfort food and I was eager to try it.
With the cold and wet weather that evening, we were relieved to engulf ourselves in the welcoming warmth of the place. The Bull’s Head is huge and nicely organised; you enter in a big, lively and buzzing pub, and if you come for diner, they will lead you into a large, quieter and stylish dining room where you can have a glimpse of the kitchen (me liking that).
Nicely sat in the cosy restaurant, I started the food feast with the chicken and foie gras parfait, while my friend got the smoked salmon and pickled quail eggs. That was followed by the Devon crab for my friend and the steak with parmentiere potatoes for me. When the waiter warned me the steak is cooked medium rare for that dish, the French in me knew I chose well. The chef instantly received extra points, and I greeted the waiter with my best smile, telling him that I was pleased about this news. Dessert was a red berries crumble for me and bread and butter pudding for my friend. To wash it all, we ordered a bottle of light and fragrant Viognier.
The food, my friends, was well worth the walk into the cold and the rain. It was fantastic. I will dream for a long time of that perfectly cooked, seasoned and tender piece of rump accompanied by the lovely and crispy potatoes and the light salad, and my friend enjoyed her crab very much too. The starters were equally gorgeous, although the pickled eggs – a first for my friend and I – we were not big fans of. I guess it’s a matter of taste. The desserts were fabulous, half way through my crumble, I probably should have stopped as I was full, but it was too good to not finish it. I sneakily asked our table’s neighbours what they thought of their fish and chips, beers and the place in general, and it turns out they knew the place from before the refurbishment, and apparently they were equally enchanted.
The waiter gently showed us the way to the famous jazz room where we enjoyed the band of the evening (the Barcodes) in the middle of the very attentive and religiously listening jazz-fan crowd. By the way booze lovers, circulation between the jazz room and the pub is easy, but you need only visit if you’re picky as there is a bar at the back of the jazz room.
I would say the Bull’s Head is not typical pub food, it’s restaurant food; there’s still the fish and chips, and burgers, but that’s it. Hence, the prices are slightly more expensive than a regular pub but reasonable for a restaurant. I believe that was the aim, and it’s a nice change. The food was fantastic, the portion size spot on, the location is great and if you want even more, there is the jazz room which, even though a bit small, has great acoustics that put you right into jazz mood, with an impressive line up not failing its reputation.
The Bull’s Head
373 Lonsdale Road
Tel: 020 3437 0134