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The Bull & Last, NW5

168 Highgate Road
Phone: 02072673641

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Tris C left this review about The Bull & Last

I recall back in around 2007 this once unprepossessing boozer had a note in the window which read 'Use us or lose us'. It reopened in 2008 as a serious foodie gastropub in the true sense of the word - along with the Wells across the Heath in Hampstead, these are probably the only two genuine gastropubs in the borough of Camden that merit the adjective; as mentioned, most of the tables are laid for dining and there's a dining room upstairs which apparently offers more of a restaurant experience, if that's possible.
The pub was a coaching inn in 1820 but perhaps not when it was rebuilt in its current Victorian guise. The exterior has a fine display of planters and hanging flower baskets and some presumably Charrington's spherical lanterns; there are picnic benches. The layout is fairly conventional with a bare floor, coal effect fire, rear bar and some brown t 'n' g panelling to parts of the walls and whole ceiling with hanging metal lampshades; paint is predominantly pale grey. There's also an open kitchen which will produce smells, noise and in summer, heat - I don't care much for them.
Furniture is conventional - there are some stools to the bar so that the selfish can block it and drinkers' tables - around three - are round and small. When I first came here in 2008 the food was indeed very good; oysters with shallotte vinegar for starters. The pub also supplies hampers so that you can picnic on the Heath and starting at just £40 for two, would be ideal for locals Benedict Cumberbatch and Sophie Hunter. This is also a doggers' pub and hounds are invited to eat marrowbone and pigs' ears, presumably off the floor which sounds absolutely repulsive, especially in a place that serves food. Music played over the gramophone and it was a little bit too loud.
The barman was very friendly, thankfully not wielding an over-and-under 12-bore shotgun. Ales: one unused pump, Hallet's Heartbreaker for Worzels then Harbour's Daymer Extra Pale Ale, Redemption's Big Chief and Redwillow's Feckless at £2.25 a half which is decent value for the area and very tasty too.
This may be a good place to eat but the lack of drinkers' seating is a deterrent and the Dartmouth Arms is just around the corner. As I no longer live near here, I don't envisage a return visit.

On 17th February 2018 - rating: 5
[User has posted 834 recommendations about 822 pubs]

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Alan Winfield left this review about The Bull & Last

The Bull & Last is a nice looking corner pub that is situated close to Hampstead Heath.
Once inside in an L shaped room which is bare boarded,the seating is normal tables and chairs with small stools,there is an open kitchen to the right of the bar,food is obviously served and was doing a decent trade,though you could sit anywhere.
There were three real ales on the bar,i had a drink of XT4 which was a very nice drink,the other real ales were Redemption Big Chief and Wild Weather Betrayal.
There was decent background music playing and the pub was fairly busy on my Friday afternoon visit.
I was happy enough having a drink in this pub.

Pub visited 2/6/2017

On 6th August 2017 - rating: 8
[User has posted 6113 recommendations about 6113 pubs]

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Ian Mapp left this review about The Bull & Last

Restaurant, but as it is listed in Camra guide to best bars in LDN, I thought i would check it out.

Glad I did, as I discovered for the first time, London Session Bitter by the London Brewing Factory. Fine pint.

Food is good, but expensive.

Photos on my walking blog -

On 4th March 2016 - rating: 7
[User has posted 393 recommendations about 389 pubs]

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Pub SignMan left this review about The Bull & Last

This is an old coaching house, close to Hampstead Heath, converted to a well regarded gastro pub back in 2009. Judging by my recent visit, the food must be pretty good, as the place was packed full with eager diners tucking into their dishes on just about every table in the house. The place has a straightforward single, L-shaped room layout with the servery running along the back wall. The wood panelled bar back and counter seemed to be relatively new but there was what appeared to be a bit of original looking etched glass on a doorway set into the bar back. Three large bull heads are suspended on the rear wall, looking down over the servery, which was a distinctive, if rather strange, feature. A row of small tables with low stools running opposite the bar is probably the best spot for drinkers to settle down, although they were all occupied by diners on this visit. The rest of the room has standard tables and chairs, with a few benches popping up as the room extends to the rear left. Massive windows with venetian blinds make the place light in the day and prevent snooping in the evenings. The décor is limited, with a plain mirror on the left hand wall hung above a fireplace, a large floral display on the end of the bar and an amazing hand drawn sketch of London providing most of the visual distraction. Instead, you can watch the chefs in action thanks to the open kitchen, visible behind the bar, where a stuffed pheasant takes pride of place on the wall. Music played quietly in the background but it was mostly drowned out by chatter and the clink of cutlery on china.
Having arrived with the aim of just enjoying a quick drink, I found myself marginalised somewhat, having to prop up the bar in lieu of a free table. A decent ale range compensated for this somewhat, comprising Moor Nor Hop, Redemption Fellowship, By The Horns Diamond Geezer and Hobson’s Best, plus one real cider. Keg taps offered the likes of Williams Bros Draught Lager, Five Points Pale and Addlestones Cloudy Cider. I gave the Hobson’s Best a try and thought it was in very good shape – an encouraging sign that a place serious about food has the decency to put on well kept, interesting beers to accompany their dishes.
I was a little sceptical about this place, especially as I visited with no intention of eating, but I was left pleasantly surprised and thought that there was more than enough here to make this a worthwhile stop off for drinker and diner alike.

On 31st October 2014 - rating: 7
[User has posted 2149 recommendations about 2149 pubs]

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moby duck left this review about The Bull & Last

This could be a bit of a marmite pub, love it or hate it. As John mentions below ,very much food driven ,and on my Saturday afternoon visit the entire floorspace decked out with tables and chairs was chock a block with diners including a scattering of screaming kids,hell on earth for me and I would normally run a mile, and yet I loved this place,plenty of barstools were available to turn your back to the gastronomes behind you leaving you facing an interesting choice of beer on the bar and a range of bottles beyond,I plumped for the Bull And Last/East London Brewing collaboration beer So Solid Brew,I'm not sure what the Bull And Last part of the collaboration was apart from the name but the beer was excellent and strangely the atmosphere was excellent,some pubs have it some don't, this one does and I will gladly return.

On 9th December 2013 - rating: 8
[User has posted 1137 recommendations about 1126 pubs]

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john gray left this review about The Bull & Last

Def a gastopub but space for drinkers..The shrubs and trees round the front door are overgrowing the entrance but after you have hacked your way in you will find four handpumps with good beers from East London-Ilkley-Lateknights and Liverpool craft.Liked this pub a lot and will be back.

On 22nd September 2013 - rating: 8
[User has posted 841 recommendations about 830 pubs]

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Mark Davey left this review about The Bull & Last

I have been to the B&L a couple of times before my visit on bank Holiday Monday. Both previous visits have been as part of a large party with the prime intention of eating. As such, it never occurred to me just how many tables are reserved for dining. On this occasion, the wife and I had no reservation and were forced to sit right in the middle of the pub at one of 4 small round tables being constantly jostled by waiters, punters and buggy pushers. The beer, as always, was excellent, if a little pricey. The food was equally good and arrived quickly and hot.

What made the experience less than fun were the other punters. The couple of girls next to us were the usual Chelsea set with small dogs in bags and a lime and soda in front of them. They spent an hour bitching about men and feeding the small dogs from the food on thier plates. Screaming babies in strollers and loud yuppies on mobile phones did nothing more to impress me and I was actually quite glad to leave.

In short, the B&L is not a pub any more. It is an eating establishment that has a bar selling decent beer. If you can get in here out of meal times, it might be OK. There are stools at the bar for drinkers with no reservations.

On 29th August 2012 - rating: 5
[User has posted 292 recommendations about 276 pubs]

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Roger Button left this review about The Bull & Last

The Bull & Last is a classic example of why gastro pubs get bad reputations among drinkers. Whilst many try to juggle things around to get a good balance between drinkers and diners, it is quite clear from the moment you pass through the Bull & Last door that you are not going to stay long if you just want a drink. With 90% of the tables formally laid out for diners, I noted just a couple of small round tables in front of the bar and a few stools at the bar itself designated for drinkers.

Even more frustrating is that there is a decent selection of beers that does warrant a visit; Hook Norton Old Hooky, 3 from Redemption (Hopspur, Pale Ale and Big Chief) and Addlstone Cider on hand pump plus some top end continental draught beers. That said, even if you close your mind to the dining aspect, the drink prices will ensure that you wring every last drop from your glass. Admittedly the pint of Big Chief I had was very good but at £4.50 a pint, I wasn’t prepared to hang around to try any of the others.

The pub, sorry, restaurant itself is quite attractive, smart and tidy with a flower decked exterior and a slightly quirky feel inside. Internally it is a single slight L-shaped room downstairs with bare floors, tongue & groove ceiling and large picture windows with venitain blinds. A couple of mounted Bull’s Heads protrude from the back of the bar and there are a few potted plants, some old pictures, tankard collections and a large map taking pride of place on the far wall. Upstairs is another dining room as if the main bar wasn’t already food orientated enough.

This really is a place that seems to want to alienate drinkers in favour of diners and any potential visit should planned with a view to dining, for which it is probably quite a decent place for a meal. As a pub though, it is not very drinker friendly although to be fair, it doesn’t try hard to hide the fact.

On 26th April 2012 - rating: 5
[User has posted 1238 recommendations about 1232 pubs]

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Will Larter left this review about The Bull & Last

I've passed this way many a time but paid my first visit today. There are shrubs and ivy growing in tubs on the pavement, which gives a more homely, welcoming feel than it used to have. Inside it's a typical London street corner pub, all one big room (I didn't investigate the upstairs dining room) with a variety of dead animals on the walls. These included a hare, a fox (wearing glasses and a cap) and a brace of pheasants, but the signature pieces are the four bulls heads: a Hereford, a Highland and two others I didn't recognise. They looked as surprised to be there as I was to see them.

Other eccentricities included a large collection of pewter tankards (not all that eccentric - it's a pub after all) and an array of mortice locks, randomly stuck to the wood either side of one of the windows (OK, that's eccentric). The tables were mostly well-worn standard dining tables, with chairs to match, but there were a few smaller round tables with low stools, and a few high stools at the bar.

On the bar were five hand pumps, one with a cider, the others with four fairly unadventurous ales: Ringwood Best, Sharps Doom Bar, Hook Norton Hooky Bitter and Brakspears Oxford Gold. My half of Hooky was OK but nothing to write home about, though the price of £1.85 nearly brought a gasp to my lips.

There's a stone fireplace to the left with a very nice gilt framed mirror and some candles. I was here mid-afternoon when it was fairly quiet, though the staff were obviously gearing up for an imminent rush. With the bare boards on the floors, tongue-and-groove on the ceilings and Venetian blinds rather than curtains at the windows, I'll bet it gets pretty noisy here when there's a crowd, but it was pleasant enough for my brief visit and I wouldn't mind popping in here again on the way back from Parliament Hill Fields or Highgate Cemetery.

On 3rd February 2012 - rating: 7
[User has posted 2123 recommendations about 2029 pubs]

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Steve C left this review about The Bull & Last

This place was packed with diners in the bar area and in the restaurant areas upstairs and down. There were even a couple of girls eating at the bar and during my fleeting visit I was the only person that ordered a drink from the bar as everyone else was giving their name to be seated at their reserved table. To be honest I didn’t feel out of place standing at the bar having my nicely poured Guinness as the staff were very friendly even though they were rushed off their feet. It was also good to see Harveys’ Best, Deuchars, Black Sheep and Landlord available in amongst the sea of premium lagers.

This pub sits well with the well heeled inhabitants of the area and I’m sure that it is doing well, but I wouldn’t go here just for a beer again and if I was to take the missus for a meal it would be a special occasion as it’s not the cheapest pub.

On 16th March 2010 - rating: 6
[User has posted 3337 recommendations about 3317 pubs]