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Hill on Haverstock Hill

94 Haverstock Hill London NW3 Tel: 020 7267 0033

Michelin have just published their first Eating Out in Pubs Guide to the United Kingdom. Out of the 500 countrywide that made the grade, only forty in London achieved this prestigious accolade. One of these is The Hill

, which has recently re-opened after a major refurbishment. In the heartland of a very rock and roll part of Camden, it has long been the drinking den of many a north London celebrity. As if to prove a point the first person I saw when I walked in was Chris Evans, as this is the sort of place where he would feel confident that no one is going to bother him.

The pub's interior is something of a drawing room cum wine bar. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, the mood laid back, with funky soul music playing at a low level. Overall the atmosphere is that of an exclusive private club, not a gastro-pub at all, and plenty of cosy tête à têtes were being conducted around the room. The new décor was very much to my taste, a sort of faded French elegance. Slim Corinthian gilded beams and pillars gave way to a contemporary, Boho style dining area, with velvet chairs, 18th century mirrors, chandeliers and blue and gold French Rococo styled walls. The official dining area only seats about twenty and is rather cramped, however, meals are served throughout the room, and, weather permitting, on their smart new terrace complete with space heaters.

The fairly short but enterprising menu consisted of five starters, nine main courses, and four puddings. My guest had her eye on the baked ratatouille tart to begin; yet by 8.00pm on a Thursday evening, they had, surprisingly, run out. The remaining choice consisted of the soup of the day - haddock and chorizo chowder, or a grilled king prawn Caesar salad, a platter of cured meats or a tuna fish Niçoise. So not a great choice for vegetarians. My guest asked if they could do her a vegetarian Niçoise: they obliged and she was extremely pleased. It was very fresh, colourful, with plenty of fresh herbs, different lettuces and beautifully sliced tomatoes and peppers. It was attractively served with the correct, warm wedges of egg and both green and black olives with a very tasty dressing. I chose the chowder which had a velvety texture, plenty of substance, however I found it a little on the glutinous side, with a rather bitter aftertaste for my palate.

I was drinking a very smooth and buttery chardonnay from Argentina, it was lightly oaked, with a hint of vanilla. My guest tried a glass of the house white, La Croix 2003, a humble French vin de pays. A mild bouquet, dry, not too grapey - her verdict, a good, honest and pleasant quaffing wine!

One of the three blackboard main course specials was a grilled lamb steak served with sweet chilli glaze and pumpkin puree. The generous helping of lamb was seared and succulent and came served a with good jus, the chilli glaze adding a peppery kick. It was artistically served in a bowl style platter, the meat nestling on a nutty pumpkin purée and a French bean base, all receiving very good marks. This went well with a glass of Rioja, Marques De Grinon 2001, which was smooth and fruity, with almost a port like quality.

My tower of spinach, crisp fishcake and poached egg with chive hollandaise was pure comfort food, a wonderful texture of tastes, all very well cooked, the fishcake, meaty and robust, the egg, creamy and not overdone. This was accompanied by a glass of Italian Pinot Grigio, 2003 from Mezzacorona, it had a light bouquet and good, grapey overtones.

To finish, I had a poached pear and Masala Sabayon. This came trendily served on a rectangular plate, the firm but tender pear being saturated in the superb sabayon sauce and finished with a drizzle of coulis - divine!. Our other choice was the fruit and nut brownie with vanilla ice cream. Again it was attractively presented, the home made ice cream flecked with real vanilla, served separately in a ramekin dish, the brownie resting on a lake of sauce very similar to that served with my pear. The brownie, although a little on the dry side, was very nutty, and in fact, we decided, almost a chocolate equivalent of Christmas pudding.

The bill came in at £72 including service. Overall, this meal just got better and better. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of pub culture, however, I would be thrilled if The Hill was somewhere I could call my local.

Louise Elgin, October 2004

For more information about the Hill and its siblings, goto:

The Hill is open Mon-Sun 4pm - 11pm for drinkers and closes at midnight for diners.

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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