RESTAURANT review: The regenerated Princes Avenue, in Hull, boasts a host of bars and eateries. Dave Lee visited The Boar’s Nest.
The transformation of Hull’s Princes Avenue over the past decade or so has been a thing of wonder. A once moribund thoroughfare has flowered into a bustling, cosmopolitan micro-community, with some marvellous bars and eateries. It’s now a real boulevard of bonhomie.
The Boar’s Nest was one of the earliest arrivals on the new “Prinny Ave” (as the locals delight in calling it) and has been steadily turning out a brand of modern British fare with some success, though little wider recognition, since 2004.
The restaurant is an intelligently converted Edwardian butcher’s shop and has the feel of a lived-in, Belle Époque-era gentleman’s club. The décor is shabby chic with hints of the original butcher’s shop retained in the flooring and some of the walls. It’s very comfortable, particularly in the upstairs bar, but the table we were shown to was a mite on the tight side.
The menu, by head chef Simon Rogers, offers seven well-considered, seasonal starters and the same number of tempting meat and fish mains. No option for the pickier veggie. Starters are £5-£7.50; mains £13-£23 and desserts £5-£6.50.
The wine list contains some lovely pressed flowers but very little useful information on the wine beyond its name, country of origin and price. We ordered an Australian Shiraz which was suitably pleasant; however, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to screw top bottles. I know the arguments for their growing acceptance but they rob you of the tiny bit of theatre an uncorking brings.
A surprise appetiser, consisting of a mixed meat pâté served with warm focaccia, had a piquant vinegary punch and set us up nicely for the starters proper.
It was only when they arrived that we realised we’d both chosen egg-based dishes. My dining partner had asparagus soldiers with soft-boiled duck egg while I enjoyed warm black pudding scotch egg with chunky tomato salsa, mushroom toast and Cumbrian pancetta.
The scotch egg black pudding had a robust yet yielding texture and surrounded a perfectly cooked quail’s egg. The salsa, toast (more akin to wafer-thin crostini) and, particularly, the pancetta, all played their part in a very well-constructed and thoroughly-demolished dish.
On the other side of the table, the asparagus was cooked immaculately but the duck egg was slightly underdone and its enticing yolk presented more dipping opportunity than the five dainty asparagus spears could match.
Mains consisted of bacon-wrapped rabbit loin with Colman’s potato purée, peas and girrolles and Bridlington shore-caught cod and potato mornay with buttered summer green vegetables.
The fish dish looked like a large, un-battered fish cake and was surrounded by a pretty weave of tender wild asparagus and fresh peas.
We were offered salt and pepper, which was fortunate as the fish needed a little help, but it had an unexpected yet welcome smokiness and the “shore caught” part of the description helped offset the guilt of ordering a seriously endangered fish.
I was unsure what Colman’s potato purée would be like, but it was wonderfully fluffy mash, and the sharpness of the mustard worked well with the bacon to lift the taste of the small roundels of rabbit loin and a rich jus, soft girelles and more of those perfect peas. A simple yet sumptuous dish.
The staff were efficient, polite and welcoming. And when the puds arrived, the waiter was as happy to accept our compliments as we were to be presented with vanilla crème brûlée and warm chocolate melting pudding “macchiato” with banana shortbreads.
The top of the crème brûlée cracked as it should do when smacked with the underside of a spoon but it seemed to have been the victim of an over-eager blowtorch and was slightly bitter with no identifiable vanilla taste.
The chocolate pudding was meltingly rich but the shortbreads had no taste of banana.
We both had three courses and an appetiser, which left us impressed with the cooking but some way short of feeling full. Although this is a generally positive review, we were paying the thick end of £100 for a meal which, all things considered, was not a knock-out experience.
* Boar’s Nest, 22-24 Princes Ave, Hull, HU5 3QA Tel: 01482 445577 www.boarsnesthull.com
* Open: Noon-2pm and 6.15-10pm Monday to Saturday, noon-3pm Sunday. Two-course set menu £18.50. Three-course set menu, £23.