The Pig and Butcher, 80 Liverpool Road, London N1

Unlike its predecessor, the Pig & Butcher lets you enjoy its food as you please.

Before the Pig and Butcher turned up, there was a pub on Liverpool Road called the Islington Tap. It was rather good, with decent ales, friendly staff and an inoffensive clientele. But on its main window was a strip of verbs instructing potential customers on what to do: "Eat. Drink. Chat. Party. Laugh."

The Tap is no more, and quite why I couldn't begin to guess. But two things always struck me about its rules. First, it was a breach of the unspoken contract between publican and patrons – come into my house, pay your way and do as you please, within reason – that made English public houses the envy of the world; and second, it was the inevitable consequence of a new puritanism and health zealotry in which emissaries of the State tell us not to smoke, drink excessively, or eat the wrong kind of quinoa. It was as if the Tap had taken those warnings now on cigarette packets, and applied them to a pub setting.

In direct, pleasing and probably intentional contrast, its successor advertises no such instructions. And that it is a magnificent public house – from the people behind the Princess of Shoreditch and the Lady Ottoline, with excellent cocktails and a reasonable wine list – is doubtless related.

A short, sublime menu full of meat butchered on site completes the victory. There are six starters, eight mains, four desserts and a cheese board.

To start, Matt gets the monkfish scampi and aioli (£6.95), Charlie gets the red and white endive with home-cured bacon and blood pudding (£8.95), and I get the goose rillettes with cornichons and toast (£5.95). It is a triple triumph.

The batter on the monkfish is a little too greasy, and couldn't be described as light; but the fish inside is moist and muscular and stands up well to the aioli, whose quotient of garlic could be fatal to a post-dinner smooch. The endives, meanwhile, are crisp, the bacon comes in giant salty lardons, and the blood pudding has a very rich but not bullying flavour. And my goose rillettes are ideal: neither completely smooth nor so rough as to demand prolonged chewing. The cornichons are wrinkled and pungent. The only letdown is the plain brown toast, being an inch deep, which is too thick for the rillettes, and hogs precious space in our stomachs.

Moving on to mains, and the 28-day-aged Herefordshire sirloin comes medium-cooked rather than medium-rare, as Matt had ordered. In not sending it back, he shows the kind of grace and flexibility that will be required when he is my best man next year, and I his. In any case, the steak is almost unimprovably delicious; and the double-dipped chips come with an excellent parsley sauce whose constituents – parsley, spring onions, cornichons, capers, and Dijon – culminate in a hummus-like texture. The steak knife, by Tramontina, is basically a machete, as if the kitchen suspect the cow could spring back to life.

My Chart Farm venison haunch comes with soused cabbage and beetroot (£15.50), and Charlie's chunky peperonata (£11.50) has a pungent and smooth goat's curd. Where the steak, like the monkfish starter, is intimidatingly big, these two dishes are compact.

Poor Matt, who had both those larger dishes, now orders a rhubarb-and-apple crumble with vanilla ice-cream (£5.95), a giant sugar boat which, though expertly done, is just too much to digest.

My greedy gob has no such problems with an exquisite chocolate mousse with hazelnut praline (£5.95), so fabulous I could have three. But there is a problem with the accompanying cherry ice-cream – and twice over. First, it doesn't turn up and the kitchen has to be reminded. Then what arrives is a spherical pink glacier devoid of cherry flavour. This is annoying and disappointing respectively. But our waitress is so utterly charming that the sighs and sorrow soon pass.

Very avoidable mistakes (overcooking the steak; the ultra-chunky bread; the cherry ice-cream travesty) means the 9/10 I want to give this place, and which will probably be warranted on your visit, just can't be justified. I have to mark the meal I had. So it's the score below and my gracious thanks to a pub with the right degree of temerity: no silly instructions on the windows; but panache and not-far-off-perfection inside.



The Pig and Butcher, 80 Liverpool Road, London N1, tel: 020 7226 8304. Dinner, Mon-Weds; lunch and dinner,Thurs-Sun. About £110 for three, including wine

Farm-fresh fodder

Riverford Field Kitchen

Wash Barn, Buckfastleigh, Devon, tel: 01803 762 074

As you might hope at a farm, it's the excellent fresh produce (especially unbeatable veg) which is the real highlight of a meal at this communal-tables dining-room, and the puddings are memorable, too

The Frontline Club

13 Norfolk Place, London W2, tel: 020 7479 8960

A leading media club with a dining-room open to all whose menu showcases the best of British, much of it from the owner's farm

The Parrot Inn

Forest Green, Surrey, tel: 01306 621 339

A lovely old pub serving dishes, often using meat from the owner's farm, that are simply cooked and simply delicious

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
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

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam