The Horseshoe, Hampstead

Beetroot and goat's cheese barley risotto, The Horseshoe, Hampstead

Barley, roasted salted beetroot, roasted squash, goat’s cheese, rocket (£12.50)

Good-value is not one of the accolades Hampstead is ever going to win; it’s so fancy that it would be more at home in the Cotswolds than the M25. But there is at least some good food nestled amongst the cobbles and French clothes boutiques, and the Horseshoe seems a likely place to find it, for good gastropub design often leads to good eats, and this place ticks all the trendy boxes. It’s even the home to Camden Town Brewery, for god’s sake, which is so trendy it couldn’t bear to call itself Hampstead Village Brewery.

But the promising menu, cute reclaimed wooden school chairs with kids’ names painted on their backs and bearded staff could do nothing to hide the fact that the barley risotto was terribly boring in all but its colour. The beetroot that was to thank for the shocking pink (which, by the way, is not really a shade I’d aim for in a dish) was nowhere to be seen, leaving little more behind than E-numbers would have done. What did manage to linger was that faintly earthy flavour that it often brings, as if the chef had seasoned with salt and cracked black soil. Also omnipresent was the gentle tang of goat’s cheese, which would have gently complimented any of the promised squash, except there were only about three bits of that in the whole bowl. I’ve made it sound worse than it was; it was absolutely fine. But £12.50 for risotto in a pub at lunch is steeper than Parliament Hill, especially when it’s so boring I didn’t even finish it.

I think we might have been unlucky here. I’ve had drinks at The Horseshoe before, it’s usually doing a roaring trade and I’ve never noticed diners leaving half their meals behind. I’d drink there again, too; I’m a sucker for a handsome boozer. But I definitely won’t be going near any more of their barley risotto.

The Horseshoe
★★★✰✰   £££
28 Heath St, NW3 6TE, 020 7431 7206

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