From the outside, the Hare looks like a regular sized traditional boozer, which I assume it was for a long time, but it now boasts a dedicated dining room that is located in the building next door (formerly part of the Brewery itself). As such, the dining area is larger than that seen in most restaurants and seats 70 people. There's an open 'theatre' kitchen and a walk in wine room. Furthermore, downstairs, there's a private room that can accommodate a further 50 people. Tagged as the 'latest creation from ETM', it's clear that The Jugged Hare has been the recipient of significant investment, and overall, it works. There's much to like here and it has to surely be one of the City's more comfortable venues to eat and pass time.
The attractiveness extends to a menu that reads well and where there's a good range of available foods, with starters for example embracing everything from tomato soup through to tripe. On the menu there is of course hare, and being the time of year, Yorkshire grouse. We assume that as we progress further into the game season, other favourites such as partridge will also make an appearance. While the menu is generally priced in line with its peer group (City speaking), the grouse comes in somewhat dearer at £38. Not knowing at this point if the kitchen can actually cook, that seemed a leap of faith too far so we decided not to.
We did choose among the starters the day's special: lobster, crab, crayfish and pea risotto. When it arrived it came in a pretty generous size including equally generous amounts of lobster and crayfish. With the crab worked through it also, it really did deliver on flavour though texturally it was alittle stodgy and would have benefited from being a little looser. Breaded skate knobs were fine so at this point we do have a quite favourable impression of the place. With the mains however, they somewhat let themselves down.
On the pan fried fillet of cod, they had just stopped short of getting the skin right but more importantly, the fish cream sauce was more like skimmed milk, so thin it was barely there. A whole roast baby chicken, smoked bacon, Caesar salad was also disappointing. The Jugged Hare make a selling point of their 'state of the art eight spit rotisserie' yet the baby chicken had dried out somewhat while the salad, served in a hard to eat pot was drenched in a bland Caesar dressing. The chicken and salad come served on a relatively small circular wooden board that's hardly fit for purpose. Not sure why restaurant's seem so wedded to serving things on wooden boards still. Finally, on a shared dessert, the salted caramel chocolate pot, it lacked any noticeable salt denying the very point of the pudding.
We were slightly sad at the end because we were already on side and they lost us with the mains. Yet for our criticisms of the mains, the food here is close to being good, it just currently, on our visit and in our opinion, falls the wrong side of the line. It's good enough for a City meeting but not in our view good enough (yet) to be a destination restaurant. The venue is smart, the service good, our starters fine and the drink options excellent, while the menu overall is a menu we want to eat from. But when you are priced at the same level as somewhere like Jason Atherton/Paul Hood's Social Eating House, main courses have to deliver. If they can change up a gear, they could easily be a contender for best place to eat in the City, and we genuinely hope they do, for there's a lot to like about The Jugged Hare.