The Bull, Highgate

My first attempt at going to The Bull didn’t go well. I’d been wandering around trying to find a pub that wasn’t packed on a Sunday afternoon and I found one; it was The Bull. It was deserted; I wasn’t even sure it was open. I cautiously approached the doors and peered in, seeing fridges filled with bottles of Becks and a couple of dead-eyed staff staring out, their blank stares seemingly willing me to come in and give their day and their lives some meaning. The place had all the charm of a branch of Foxtons, and if things are so bad that you’re looking to me to give the place some life then frankly the battle is already lost.

Enough of that, though; this was a year or so ago and isn’t relevant. This is just the prologue, the There and Back Again to the main article’s Fellowship of the Ring. There’s a period after my first visit where the place closed down and the premises were taken over by squatters but, like those bits in Rings where five pages are devoted to an Elvish poem or some shit, it’s safe to skip over this period without worrying about missing anything.

So anyway, The Bull re-opened a few months ago without the squatters and the Stepford Staff and became a much more attractive proposition. Spread out over two floors with some open fires and sofas the place doesn’t ever get too claustrophobic or uncomfortably crowded (admittedly that’s coming from someone who’s ideal pub has a patronage of just one, i.e., himself). It’s airy yet atmospheric though if you get sat by the fire then you will be in danger of combusting as it gets pretty enthusiastic some times.

Every meal I’ve had so far has been a success; rib-eyed steak with beer-glazed onions and chips; stuffed chicken breast with mash; pulled pork with jalapeños and pineapple. Starters tend to be interesting, with raw tuna tacos, smoked lamb’s tongues and breaded sweetbreads on the menu; it takes a brave pub to serve up the thymus gland but The Bull managed to pull it off. There’s also starters for the normals; ribs and wings and whatnot.

Special mention must go to a bourbon-glazed fillet steak, perfectly cooked and accompanied by a wedge of blue cheese bread and butter pudding, which I didn’t realise was a thing that could even exist. Basically a plate of pure umami, and as such it nearly brought me to tears.

Normally I wouldn’t mention the beer, because, you know, pubs, they serve beer generally and it’s an unremarkable thing to comment on. There’ll be a couple of ales by Fullers or Shepherd Neame and the rest will be all, I don’t know, Fosters and Stella Artois or something else that normally gets bought by the crate in Sainsbury’s to be consumed in front of the TV while the sport is on.

The Bull is different; in addition to a wide range of beers from Bavarian trappist monks and Brooklyn breweries, The Bull brews their own under the name of The London Brewing Company. My standard choice is their Best Bitter, but I’ve since enjoyed their Galena Red, their dark Winter Ale and a Christmas ale brewed with mince pies and brandy and officially named ‘π-eyed’, bringing some much-needed mathematical constancy to the micro-brewing world. There’s also a lighter ale named ‘Golden Mean’, which makes me think someone there has at least a polytechnic education behind them.

I can’t explain what they’re like in more detail as any conversation about the hoppiness of a beer, or lack thereof, makes me fall asleep faster than the drink itself. Sorry about that. They’re all pretty good though.

The Bull
13 North Hill
London, N6 4AB
tel: 020 8341 0510