The Hansom Cab, 84 Earls Court Road, London, W8


The unique selling proposition about The Hansom Cab – an elegant Victorian boozer near Kensington High Street – is that it's been bought by Piers Morgan, the TV personality and former journalist. Mr Morgan is a curious figure: a chap who seems to revel in being disliked and to enjoy the popular consensus that he's a conceited git. By cunning and chutzpah, he has snagged himself a corner table at Planet Celebrity, advising Tony Blair, high-fiving Simon Cowell and making himself agreeable to the vice-presidents of CNN.

He bought The Hansom Cab last December, in a joint venture with his younger brother Rupert, who used to manage Guy Ritchie's ancient (est 1760) Mayfair pub The Punch Bowl, and with Tarquin Gorst, who co-owned it. (Tarquin, Piers and Rupert, eh? I can remember a time when London pubs were owned by people called Nobby, Del and Sid.) After the purchase, Morgan did lots of celebrity-schmoozing in the pub; I suspect the place is meant to attract the kind of people who'd travel miles to clap eyes on James Corden or Freddie Flintoff.

One's first impression is of cramp. It's a gastropub that's got too much bar and too little restaurant. The marble bar protrudes so far into the room that the dining tables are squashed against the wall. Eaters have to contemplate a lot of strangers' bottoms at eye-level. In the back bar, things are more stylish: lots of fancy Victorian engraved glass and black-painted walls covered with framed Jak cartoons from the Evening Standard and monochrome photographs of Parisian artisans. A porcelain pelican broods menacingly on the bar. The place looks welcoming. But you still feel you're dining in a long train carriage.

The supper menu is a stolidly English affair, full of potted this and smoked that, baked these and grilled those. It's a GK Chesterton menu and it doesn't spare the carbohydrates. "Every starter is accompanied by toast," said my daughter Sophie, "and every main course by potato." She was right. Her rillettes of pork were fine, but "the most noticeable thing about them is the pickled onion". Sophie's 16-year-old sister Clementine liked her potted duck with d'Agen prunes, but wished it was a duck-breast salad "because the flavour here is just too subtle". Angie's baked St Marcellin cheese (on toast) was deliciously runny – a more excitable version of Camembert. And what do I say about my carpaccio of fat – sorry, my 'Wheeler's of St James's Dripping on Toast'? I confess I ordered it out of sheer curiosity. Wheeler's of St James's is a world-famous fish and seafood restaurant – what would fish dripping taste like? It turned out to be five thin slices of bacon fat, with tiny traces of rasher – quite pleasing on sourdough toast but after a few minutes out of the fridge the slices begin to glisten and you start to wonder, "Why am I eating bread and dripping?".

I can describe the main courses in a few words. Clementine's rib-eye steak, ordered rare, was served medium and strangely tasteless. My veal T-bone steak was 35 per cent fat and its extremities were chewy cartilage: not nice at all. Angie's Dover sole was fresh, plainly-cooked and nicely presented, the accompanying tartare sauce perfect. Sophie's halibut was well executed and served, "but it's very ordinary," she said. "Nothing's been done to make it interesting."

The same went for the puddings. Eton Mess was rendered uninteresting by being served with the meringues un-smashed; it simply wasn't messy enough. And a free helping of vintage Stilton served beside a slice of Marco Pierre White fruitcake just looked silly, like a slice of cherry tart served with vichyssoise.

The problem with The Hansom Cab is twofold. First, the food displays no particular skill or imagination beyond the chef's ability to use a grill. It's cooked, but not transformed. And second, everything is absurdly expensive. My bread and dripping was £7.50! Halibut was £21.50, rib-eye steak £22.50, my dodgy veal was a ludicrous £28.50, as was the Dover sole. Who are they kidding? Modern London diners are becoming used to paying £30 for a seared fillet of beef in Park Lane or Mayfair – but in a tarted-up boozer in Earl's Court? Leave it, as they say, out.

A bottle of 2009 Mendoza Malbec was overpriced at £27. Our maître d', Rupert Morgan, brought the 2010, and when I complained, he knocked the cost off the bill, which was kind. A nervous chap in a suit and open-necked shirt, he was gallant with the ladies, donating a cigarette to my daughter and lending her his Zippo lighter to take outside. And our Irish waitress Laura was chatty and delightful and excellent company. I wanted to like The Hansom Cab but on its present showing the food isn't good enough, and the cooking not complex or subtle enough, to justify the absurd prices. In short, it's a restaurant that's too flipping pleased with itself. Now why would that be?

The Hansom Cab, 84 Earls Court Road, London, W8 (020-7938 3700)

Food **
Ambience **
Service ****

£120 for two, with wine

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Stars in their pies


Alan Sugar's Turkish eaterie in an Essex pub is getting a name for its well-prepared food – try the monkfish kebabs.

Ye Olde Kings Head, High Road, Chigwell, Essex (020-8559 1155)


Rio Ferdinand's Italian scores with dishes such as involtini al peperoni (£7.95) and pan-fried beef fillet (£23.95).

43 Spring Gdns, Manchester (0161 832 1400)

The Quay

Damien Hirst's Devon restaurant and bar specialises in great British seafood – try the roasted fillet of cod and mashed potato (£17.50).

11 The Quay, Ilfracombe, Devon (01271 868 090)

Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture