A review of Westminster’s Blue Boar Smokehouse
Westminster is one of the most intriguing parts of London but it can also be one of the most soulless. It’s an area that is inhabited by politicians and civil servants and it is the haunt of tourists. It’s a place of regal pageantry and ceremony but equally, it’s not a place that true Londoners flock to for food or drinks. Yes, of course, the tourists head to see the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and 10 Downing Street, but locals don’t venture to these historical landmarks all that readily apart from if summoned by Her Majesty, the Archbishop of Westminster or David Cameron.
With the opening of the Intercontinental London Westminster next to Scotland Yard, city centre residents truly have good reason to reconsider their reluctance to consider the culinary offerings of this area. The restaurant and bar at this new hotel, the Blue Boar Smokehouse, is, I would suggest, a great addition to the London restaurant scene and head chef Jon Ingram’s “testosterone-fuelled menu” of meaty delights is most definitely innovative, unusual and spectacular.
I dined at the Blue Boar on a quiet Monday lunchtime with their vivacious PR Jennifer-Anne Sutcliffe. I had sadly missed the launch party Sutcliffe had organised earlier in the month and it was fascinating to learn from her that The Steeple Times roll call and party loving stalwart David Pun had turned up with Mick Jagger’s ex, Jerry Hall. We did laugh about how such an odd union could have come to being. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to conjure up a suitable explanation.
The restaurant itself is named after the 14th century Blue Boar’s Head Inn that stood on the site until it was demolished in 1899 but apart from its name, it bares little resemblance to a public house. The decoration is simple yet elegant and one could just imagine Francis Urquhart of House of Cards legend plotting the downfall of his contemporaries here. No doubt budding future Cameronites and Millibands will indeed be spotted whispering over pulled lamb shoulders and perhaps, even, a Blair-Brown style Granita pact could even happen at a table at the Blue Boar.
The art collection of the Intercontinental London Westminster has been sourced by a specialist curator named Peter Millard. It is described as capturing “the essence of British political life” and is themed around being “knowing about the way the world works”. Alongside Gerald Scarfe and Martin Rowson cartoons are two works by Agamaria Pasternak. These contain the faces of every current Member of Parliament and in addition montages of the eras of Tony Blair and John Major before him illustrate memories of recent political history. Much thought has plainly gone into this collection and it is indeed appropriate given the setting.
The restaurant’s menu cleverly combines the use of the best quality British produce with the American pit style cooking of Tennessee and the Deep South. Slow cooked meats and wood-grilled steaks are the order of the day and Ingrams’ 12 spice rub is certainly his signature.
To start, we began with sautéed wild mushrooms served with a crispy duck egg on toast (£8). This simple dish was well executed but the true highlight were the Blue Boar ribs that followed (£8/£15). Spicy and not too sweet, these were as far away from what you’d traditionally expect of ribs as Ken Livingstone is from ever owning a Rolls-Royce. The tender, fleshy meat, which is smoked for some 24 hours, was exceptional and I can genuinely state that I’ve never had ribs as good before.
Though the option of a “carpetbag” Hereford fillet steak stuffed with oysters sounded tempting (£27), I opted for a Yorkshire rose T-bone veal steak. I very much enjoyed it and other dishes such as glazed pork belly served with Coleman’s English mustard and honey (£14.50) sounded equally tempting. To accompany the steak, I tried a portion of the smoky bacon baked beans recommended by Miss Sutcliffe and the restaurant manager. The flavor was perfectly balanced and these are well worth trying.
To conclude, the offering includes options very much suited to the political classes. With dishes similar to what might be found in the dining rooms of the Houses of Parliament, diners can try Cambridge cream (£7), vanilla baked pineapple (£7) or sticky toffee pudding (£5). I plumped for a bread and butter pudding served with marmalade ice cream (£5) and found it most satisfactory. All in all, I’d conclude that this was a meal deserving of a mention in anyone’s edition of political dispatches. Jon Ingram is a chef worthy of great accolade and a plot will no doubt ensue to ensure that this restaurant receives the accolades that it truly deserves.
The wine list at the Blue Boar offers a mix suitable for both wealthy lobbyists and those suffering as a result of George Osborne’s latest budget. Wines start at around £26 a bottle but what truly impressed me – and what I shall certainly return for – is the collection of vintage gins. This is a paradise for any gin lover and with Booth’s Gin topping the list, it is plain that much research has gone into this element of the bar’s conception.
Additionally, for those looking for a new place to brunch on a Sunday, the Blue Boar has a “feasting table” each week. Available from 12.30pm to 3pm each week and priced at £45 per adult and £15 per child, the deal includes unlimited Bloody Mary’s and Buck’s Fizz. In addition to what the Blue Boar call a “butcher’s board” featuring ham hocks, venison and smoked chicken, the offering also includes a seafood bar with oysters, prawns and herrings and a whole selection of salads.
If you are passionate about fine meats, make a beeline for the Blue Boar. Just be sure also to keep an eye out for Bo-Jo under a hog’s head in a hidden corner. It’s probably not as surreal as it sounds.
Blue Boar Smokehouse & Bar, 37 – 45 Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9LQ. Telephone: +44 (0) 20 3301 1400. Website: http://www.blueboarlondon.com
Follow the Blue Boar Smokehouse on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/blueboarlondon