Coming on like first time parents dead set on out-doing their peers, the folks behind Victoria Park’s The Hemingway agonised over it for long enough they saw fit to baptise its baby sister pub, The Hunter S. . Instantly familiar if you know the former but blessed of a better space and some amazing touches internally, God it’s a shame about the name. I mean, I get where they’re coming from, running with the writer thing, the onus evidently being on ones with a rep. But, while I know he was a piss head and a pugilist and used to knock around with Nat King Cole, at least Hemingway’s catalogue carries a bit of the man’s own considerable weight. Landmark though Fear and Loathing… is/was, as far as this generation’s concerned Thompson is all about the excess, and probably now mined mainly by the sort of shithead also taken with Howard Marks. I don’t know, maybe it shows an appreciation of their audience, being in De Beauvoir and all. Maybe all these staggeringly pretty people would be here anyway if they’d just kept it simple.
Otherwise this is an excellent boozer. There are some near things in this part of town – The Talbot and The Scolt Head show glimpses, for example, the Duke of Wellington is solid but scruffy – but the Hunter S. is the most complete. It wins out, really, by combining a fancy yet functional aesthetic with some genuine application around good bar product. There’s enough of the safe and sound – Landlord and a superb Sharp’s Cornish Coaster – to offset the comparably kitsch – Lowenbrau, anyone? – and a concise cross-section of the current – bottled Brooklyn, among others. But the look and feel is also great. The ceiling has the most incredible copper leaf recess from which hangs the showiest of chandeliers. The handsome over-kill of stuffed animals lining the walls are too many not to presume they aren’t deliberately overdone. And the toilets, the Gents anyway, are a reason in themselves to pay a visit here. Fear it, though – if you’re anything like me on a hangover, the ‘art’ in there is likely to have you re-emerge feeling fruity and with renewed focus.
As it happens I was in the grip of hangover whilst there, hence hankering after Fish and Chips. Easy on the eye in terms of a plateful, a largely lovely take on the classic was hamstrung rather by the kitchen’s determination to do chips differently. Not so much hand cut as hand carved, they were robust enough that even triple-cooked they’d have been brittle. There was enough right with it, however, and enough else about the menu to go back for. Service wise it’s a little laid back, and intermittently icy at the bar, but generally well-intentioned and you get a good sense of who’s in charge. At least if the guy I’m talking about isn’t already, he absolutely should be.
Yep, really decent addition to East London’s pub landscape, this. And don’t people seem to be acknowledging that? Sunday evening and, for anyone who landed much after us, there was a distinct shortage of somewhere to sit. With that in mind the management could probably afford to be more economical with the practical population of what’s truly a fantastic space. Not only would it make commercial sense, but would help preclude the sort of slovenly, full length, feet up behaviour brought by one trendy prick ostensibly set on converting a smart settee into a chaise. Oi, Ratface? Yeah, you. Would you do that at home….?
Wishing y’all a long hot Summer.
Sorry it’s been a while…
Photos not lifted from elsewhere for once. Arse courtesy of Crowy.