This little beauty, called the Holly Bush in Hampstead, has been my favourite for the last 5 or 6 years. I like it best because of the atmosphere - it's homely and welcoming, and a nice place to sit and drink (and eat, too). It's not only got a great menu, it also has real ales as well as draft Hoegaarden and Leffe. It's also got many little nooks and crannies downstairs where parties of 2 to 6 could fit easily with a modicum of privacy, as well as sofas and chairs upstairs for those people who only want drinks. There's even a legend about a resident ghost - the pub has no table service, but for some years, customers used to give their orders to a waitress who would promptly disappear. The orders never reached the kitchen of course...
22 Holly Mount
London NW3 6SG
+44 20 7435 2892
There are a number of things that are usually on the menu here. For starters there's a pint of prawns and quail eggs. The pint of prawns is standard - the prawns are no fresher than anywhere else. The quail eggs though, are fresh and simple - boiled just set, and you sprinkle them yourself with black pepper and salt. I also recommend the salads. The Pretty Lady has occasionally had them - smoked mackerel and roast duck on our last two visits.
Veal shank is great whenever it's been on the menu - usually stewed until it melts off the bone, accompanied by mash or fondant potato and whatever vegetables are in season. Other than that, it's something of a potluck, as the menu changes weekly (or even daily), and there are occasionally gems available. As a guide the chef is very good at red meat, less good at poultry, but I think there's been some turnover over the years, so it's a rule of thumb, no more.
Puddings are a bit hit and miss. To be honest I'd go for the stickies, the brandies, whiskies and dessert wines. This pub has an excellent selection, ranging from Italian sweet wines to 3 varieties of cognac. And an interesting Benrinnes which I have yet to try...
3 September 2008: TFQ = 24, CS = 23, S = 15, AD = 10, VfM = 6. Total = 76 points.