Despite being one of the wealthier areas of London, Hampstead has a dearth of really good, high end places to eat. By far the best food is to be found at the Wells pub, which i've visited on numerous times over my three years of living in the area and I thought it was high time I wrote a review of the place.
The Wells is situated close to the heath and the main downstairs pub reflects this with dogs being welcomed inside, big comfy sofas to relax on and there is a general laid back feel to the place.
For special occasions and for more formal dining they also have an upstairs dining room that is open throughout the week. The menu isn't anything fancy and combines a number of traditional dishes (bangers & mash, steak) with more unusual ingredients such as barbary duck and venison. Generally the food is uncomplicated, but highly accomplished and I've yet to have a bad meal there.
My latest visit was for Sunday lunch and I went along with Grace and my parents on a cold and miserable day looking forward to a filling, wholesome lunch. We weren't disappointed.
From previous experience I know the Wells are pretty generous with their portions and that the desserts are especially good, so as we'd been out the night before we skipped starters and went straight into the main courses.
Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding
Don't worry, the roast beef did come with veg (it's hidden behind the yorkshire) and was, as usual, delicious. Three, generous slabs of rare, melt-in-the-mouth beef were packed full of flavour and were served with the sort of rich, meaty gravy that I could almost drink neat. The veg was perfectly cooked and my only complaint would be the roast potatoes. I like mine really crispy and whilst these were soft and fluffy in the middle, the outside had no crunch. Overall, a very good Sunday lunch.
Mam was delighted with her sea bream. The fish was light and delicately cooked and combined well with the accompanying tomato and basil reduction. Again the accompanying green beans, kale and potatoes were perfectly cooked and it was a good all round dish.
Venison with blackcurrants, pumpkin puree, kale and parsnip crisps
I've had this dish on two previous visits and it's fantastic. The sweetness of the blackcurrants, pumpkin puree and accompanying sauce perfectly compliment the richness of the venison. As a lover of all things parsnip the crisps are an added bonus and provide a contrasting texture and crunch. It's a really top dish and shows off the skills of the kitchen and their understanding of flavours and ingredients. Excellent.
The Wells' pannacotta is also a favourite of mine. It has a firm texture, more vanilla flavour and is sweeter than other pannacottas I've had and I prefer their version over blander, milkier ones I've had. It came with a fig and strawberry sauce, which wasn't as good as the blood orange version I had in the autumn (which was one of my fav desserts of the year), but still went well with the pannacotta.
Sticky toffee pudding is a long standing family favourite and my mam is a particular expert on all things sticky toffee (her favourites remain the Cartmel Village Shop one).
The pudding itself was a little dry, but came with plenty of toffee sauce to make up for it and was a good, if not spectacular version.
Service was friendly, chatty and efficient as usual and overall it was another excellent meal at the Wells. The kitchen consistently turn out good, unpretentious food and it is by far the best food I've had in and around Hampstead. It's not cheap and comes with the almost customary 12.5% service charge, but I believe it's money well spent and deserves the various accolades it has won. I'm going to miss having it on my doorstep!