Names can evoke so much can’t they? Sometimes when I hear the name of a certain ex I feel the urge to pull out my hair while simultaneously kicking literally anything within a 5 foot radius. Hearing ‘Tom Hardy’ can make me do a strange and rather awkward girly dance and I won’t go into detail as to the reaction ‘Conservative Party’ produces but it involves bared teeth, a rude salute and sudden increase in decibels. So what was my initial reaction when being told I was off to The Hope and Ruin on Queens road… well apart from realise that it was a pretty good description of every single one of my Friday nights for the last decade it caused an equal mixture of trepidation and excitement.
Previously known as what now seems rather boringly The Hope, this assault to the senses has to be by far one of the trippiest and coolest venues I’ve been to for a while. While still housing a very popular music venue upstairs, the pub itself has now metamorphosed into a mixture of a Budapest style ruin bar and the decorative stylings of a madman. There is a wall dedicated to old TV screens and retro mechanical radios, all of which are intertwined with twinking fairy lights. A swooping tree-like installation hogs much of the glory but only narrowly outshines a humoungous macabre clown and a tilted piano at the entrance. However the pièce de résistance is unequivocally the kitchen itself which is in fact a caravan that nestles in the corner and is open plan enough so you can see the chef hard at work. In a place so fantastically bizarre it makes sense that the food is unexpected too, and its offering of Poutine (the national food of Canada, and consisting of chips, cheese, gravy and a variety of scrumptious toppings) doesn’t disappoint.
I started with a decent size glass of Malbec De L’Hospitalet (£4.75) which was plummy, rich and almost too easy to want to guzzle. Surveying the menu, and being very happy that I was going to get to eat lots of chips, me and my companion went for Jamai-Canadian Poutine (£8) which is chips, cheese, gravy, grilled peppers and jerk chicken, and the Poutine topped with smoked bacon, sour cream and chives (£6.50). The first thing to note was that the ratio of gravy to chips and cheese was masterful. I was a bit worried that the dish would be sloppy, and that the chips would be soggy and lacklustre. This was not the case at all. The chips still had lots of bite, and were perfectly fluffy and well cooked, and the cheese was plentiful and half melted/half still solid which was exactly how it should be. The gravy itself was stunning, and after speaking to Tom later and enquiring as to his gravy secrets we discovered that it is actually quite a laborious process of reducing veal stock for 12 hours- a process that is definitely worth it! I can’t help myself getting cross when places scrimp on the more expensive ingredients, but that wasn’t the case here as there were vast amounts of spicy, succulent chicken and peppers on the first poutine, and a very healthy smothering of unctuous sour cream and lots of bacon on the other.
After chomping and picking and stuffing silly amounts of poutine into our rather large and food-silenced gobs, we shared a Hog Dog (£7.50). Here you get a bockwurst sausage topped with slow roast pulled pork shoulder in a brioche sub with homemade slaw and BBQ sauce. This was as delicious as it sounds- the pulled pork was so juicy that I looked like I needed a bib for most of my bites, and the homemade slaw and BBQ sauce was crunchy, smoky deliciousness. Taking in the weird and wonderful surroundings it’s obvious this would be the most perfect place to come with friends and nurse a hangover, or equally kick off the night before a mad one. Knowing me and my penchant for repeatedly visiting places I really like, I imagine I’ll be here for the pre and post hangover option more than once.
Words by Lucy Hallett