It’s not easy to stand out as a pub in East London. The competition is rife, with busy boozers sat on practically every corner, and hipster food joints popping up anywhere and everywhere they can. Gastro pubs particularly need a sprinkling of magic to make themselves a go-to spot. Luckily, the newly revamped Princess of Shoreditch, has exactly that, and more than just a sprinkling.
Having pressed the reset button during lockdown, the pub’s upstairs dining room, accessed via a spiral staircase in the corner of the main bar area, now serves a food menu focused around British provenance, courtesy of exciting new head chef Ruth Hansom. At the age of just 25, Hansom, has already been on a lot of people’s radars for a while thanks to an impressive few years culminating in reaching the Great British Menu final. However, on the evidence of our visit, it could be her food here at the Princess of Shoreditch that cements her as one the finest young chefs in London.
An array of dainty snacks arrive first looking almost too good to pop in our mouths; a crispy tube of light chicken liver parfait came dotted with a sour cherry gel, while a cylinder of goats cheese was wrapped in a thin layer of heritage beetroot and balanced with a gentle honey sweetness. Triumphant starters included a gloriously tender black pudding and walnut crumb-topped veal sweetbread sat in a smudge of spiced carrot puree, offset by the gentle bitterness of pickled plum slices. Seeing offal done this well almost makes you wonder why ever bother with the expensive cuts?
A main of mallard was perhaps our highlight though; cooked to utter perfection, the depth of gamey flavour in the meat was complemented wonderfully by the sweetness of the caramelised Roscoff onion, and lifted further by a prize sauce. There was no let up on desserts either, despite the approaching 10pm curfew (which, it must be said, was calmly negotiated by the fantastic staff) - an impressively risen greengage and almond soufflé proving to be a real showstopper.
Drinks-wise the cocktail list makes for intriguing reading, with a number of unusual house combinations on offer; we particularly loved the delicately balanced Scotch Violet which had just the right amount of violet liqueur to stand up against the peatiness of the Laphroig. Meanwhile, a fantastic and not overly long wine list sensibly avoids the current obsession with going all natural and provided lovely options to complement every dish.
What adds to the sheer delight of this new chapter for The Princess of Shoreditch, on top of Hansom’s food mastery and the awesome array of drinks, is its complete unpretentiousness; all the elements of a traditional pub are still at play here but have been elevated to dizzying heights. You’ll be hard pushed to find pub food both as special and reasonably priced as this elsewhere in London.