Hammer and Pincers – Gastropub / Fine Dining – Leicestershire (Loughborough ish)
It takes quite a bit to tempt me from Nottingham and surrounding areas but Hammer and Pincers seemed to fit the bill. Out towards Loughborough this gastropub is quite different from anywhere in Nottingham, a more casual venue but with ambitious cooking. It is pretty unassuming on first appearance, parking near a child’s play area tells you their trade isn’t just the Saturday night fine dining folks. You enter to a small area for a drink and a couple of small dining rooms that are clad with wooden beams. Simple but attractive. There are a la carte and tasting menus as well as a cheaper set menu option for lunch and midweek evenings. As our dinner time was fairly late it was 3 courses from the a la carte.
Decisions were difficult with plenty of dishes that sounded exciting, wild boar ravioli ended up getting my vote. One of the first things to notice about the Hammer and Pincers is that they love a big plate. Maybe a travelling salesman was on commission by the inch? I couldn’t find another reason for it as it didn’t do much aesthetically for me. It might only serve to make you think the portion sizes were smaller than in reality. One thing they did very well was their bread, two interesting and diverse options that we were offered several times.
To the food itself and my ravioli. The pasta was well constructed, thin enough to show talents on display in the kitchen. The boar filling was also good, particularly in simple combination with the parmesan shaved on top of the rocket. Half way through eating the dish I remembered it had said cauliflower on the menu, the promised puree was in such short supply I couldn’t believe it was intended to be that meagre. The seemingly inconspicuous Marsala wine broth was anything but. The flavour of it was too salty for me and it dominated the other elements of the dish.
Duck is one of my favourites so was at the top of the list for main course. Things didn’t start well with the presentation, the bird seemingly hadn’t been rested long enough and it had ‘bled’ significantly onto the plate. The arty swoosh of mushroom too had been poorly executed, sloppy. Flavours were sound and there was a little pot of confit leg which was tasty, sadly the duck itself was overcooked which really let the whole dish down.
I hoped rhubarb and custard would provide an accomplished end to a distinctly mixed evening. It was pretty, in spite of arriving on a vast piece of crockery. It was almost excellent but the balance was a little out. More of the custard was needed in order to cope with the sharp rhubarb. Honeycomb featured in the headline of the menu so I expected it to be more prominent. It is perhaps a good job that there wasn’t more of it, acridly burnt and bitter.
The level of criticism might feel harsh but when my duck cost £21.50 I expect really good things. This is more expensive than anywhere I can think of for a main course locally, without a Michelin star that is. Service also seemed stretched as if they were shorted staffed, I was often seeking to catch someone’s eye rather than feeling that they were attentive. I really wanted to like the Hammer and Pincers, it has greater ambition than the likes of Hart’s, perhaps most similar to La Rock. Despite costing more the Nottingham’s fine dining destinations sometimes it just doesn’t pay off. The flashes of skill were there, however the instances of poor execution crept in far too frequently on this visit.
Restaurant website: http://www.hammerandpincers.co.uk/