Review: We taste test the seasonal British menu and check out the makeover
Everyone in Wimbledon knows the Hand in Hand pub is in an idyllic spot on the Common, and will need little convincing that it's the perfect spot for a meal or a cooling drink on a balmy Spring evening.
But it's had a recent makeover, with more room for diners and drinkers, and I went along with two friends to check out the new look as well as test the menu.
As I approached the pub to meet my friends, I was impressed with the scale of the outdoor seating area. My last visit to the Hand in Hand was in the depths of Winter, so I didn't linger over the patio area then, but it felt like it had since been enlarged.
Inside, it still has a variety of spaces suitable for inimate dining, groups of friends or meetings. These have been named The Garden Room (which overlooks Wimbledon Common), The Study Room, The Farriers and The Illustrator. The main bar remains - as it should - the focal point of the pub, complete with a traditional Young's picture of Prince Charles pulling himself a 'Young's Ordinary' bitter.
I have to admit that the new dining area, created from the former kitchen - now moved further back into the historic building, foxed me as it was where my friends were sitting and it was the last place I looked. Still, I soon found them and was handed a menu promising fresh British produce, locally sourced where possible.
The emphasis of the starters was definitely on British-based food - including seared Angus hanger, Lincolnshire poacher and rocket (£8) and Severn and Wye smoked salmon, shallots, caper, parsley & blood orange dressing (£8). I had decided to save myself for a main course and pudding, but my friends each ordered potted Devon crab, hand pickles, seaweed & wild garlic mayo and sourdough (£8) (pictured left).
While they enjoyed their first taste of the Hand In Hand's menu and two clean plates were taken away, they did comment that the butter around the potted crab was just a bit too hard to make for easy eating. Another minor gripe was that the bread for my gluten-free friend didn't arrive until after she'd finished her crab.
We stuck with the fishy-theme with our main courses, despite being recommended to try one of the handmade pies - including free range British chicken, smoked bacon & chestnut mushroom (£15.50). It was interesting to note that the "Skipper's Catch", landed by the crew of the Catharina in Brixham (a whole-baked plaice dish at £16.95) was already sold out for the day.
I picked the pan-fried hake, tomato vinaigrette and braised chicory (£14.50). The dish included bacon-crushed potatoes, but I asked for Jersey royals instead, which was no problem. My friends went for Young's beer-battered cod, thrice-cooked chips, tartar sauce and crushed peas (£15) and Scottish mussels, samphire, seaweed and wild garlic mayo and fries (£16). We were served promptly and our table of food is pictured at the top of the page.
My hake was a generous size and was perfectly cooked. The vinaigrette sauce was an unusual, but tasty, dip. The Jersey royals were just gorgeous and I was glad to have been able to have those instead of the bacon-crushed potatoes on the menu.
My friend's cod was bigger than the plate and the chips were traditionally done. While we knew the "crushed peas" were not traditional mushy peas, she felt they were a tad dry. But the cod was the main attraction and couldn't have been better, with all the chips soon disappearing as well.
The Scottish mussels also came as an impressive portion and the sauce enhanced the taste of the seafood. The dish of fries alongside was so large that I had to help my friend finish it!
While my friends shared a bottle of Spanish white wine - Valdemoreda Viura (£22.50), I opted for a 'paddle' of real ales. My paddle consisted of three 1/3rd size glasses, each with a different real ale (£4.70).
I just about had room for dessert after the main, and opted for the chocolate brownie, toasted nuts and vanilla ice cream (£6). One of my friends had eaten her fill, but the other went for apple and rhubarb crumble with custard (£6).
Our dishes are pictured on the right. As you can see, the brownies - there were two of them - were huge and I couldn't finish them! The nuts were a lovely addition, and it would have been an ideal dish to share. The crumble was also a big size and although the topping was not as moist as my friend was hoping for, the fruit content was luscious to help complete a wonderful end to the meal.
The new dining area we were in is definitely an added bonus to a pub which is already popular on the Wimbledon dining and drinks scene. The ambience was spot-on - we could hear ourselves chat and there was a pleasant 'hubbub' around us, without being able to overhear other people's conversation. As an aside, we liked the pub glasses too!
By Sue Choularton
May 29, 2019