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Victory for pub named after Nelson’s Emma

Quality is high and prices are low as venue named after the ‘it’ girl of the late 1700s serves up slam-dunk spicy food

13 December, 2018 — By Tom Moggach

Dishes at the Lady Hamilton include Chicken Karaage

FOR most of us, the story of Lady Emma Hamilton is lost in the fog of history. Born into poverty, she rose through London society and later became mistress of Admiral Nelson, with secret trysts at The Castle pub (now-defunct) in Kentish Town.

“She was the ‘it’ girl of the late 1700s… the ultimate feminist” explains manager Poppy Wheldon, who’s named a brand new pub in her honour.

Lady Hamilton has opened on the corner of Kentish Town Road and Holmes Road – previously Camden’s Daughter and, prior to that, O’Reilly’s.

Slam-dunk spicy food is provided by Yuu Kitchen, a pan-Asian restaurant from Spitalfields – more on their invigorating cooking later.

The pub’s previous incarnation never quite clicked. Opened by The Camden Brewery at the peak of its popularity, the taproom struggled to attract regular custom.

The white-tiled interior felt clinical and cold; the food and drinks list was uninspiring. The brewery’s sale to AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewery, also proved a turn-off to some loyal fans.

Thankfully, the new owners of Lady Hamilton have strong pedigree. They run Tapping The Admiral and The Pineapple nearby – two of the best free houses in north London.

The vibe at Lady Hamilton, located half way between them, is designed to be subtly different.

There are fewer real ales from the cask (two, at last count) and more craft beers from key keg, with most from small breweries.

The high-street location draws more passing trade and, at weekends, a potentially younger crowd.

The décor has returned to its former warm wood. The ornate ceiling is painted in hues of copper, grenache red and mushroom grey. The shiny tiles are gone, replaced with mirrors behind the bar.

Look closely and the finer details coalesce around the theme of strong women. Paintings by Vladimir Tretchikoff, including the famous Chinese Girl, dot the walls.

The wooden spatulas, given when you place food orders, are inscribed with icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Boudicca. The wine list is also notable – all the producers are female.

The food menu majors on bao: steamed buns from China and Taiwan which are enjoying their moment in London. Filipino flavours – salty, sweet and sour – also make their mark.

The pillowy bao come with various fillings and pickles: braised pork belly; crispy tofu; shiitake mushrooms; or crispy broccoli with red cabbage and roasted garlic aioli.

Sharing dishes include crisp-fried chicken wings, kimchi fries and edamame. They offer larger rice bowls, too.

Quality is high, prices are low. The head chef is Jon de Villa, who worked for nearly a decade in swanky Nobu. His skills are revealed in small details. A zingy jalapeño dressing lifts the smokey, earthy flavours of grilled cauliflower, for example.

At request, most dishes can be tweaked to make them vegetarian, gluten-free or vegan friendly.

This is a pub with feisty food and strong character. Lady Hamilton is back – turning heads in NW5.

Lady Hamilton
291 Kentish Town Road, NW5

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