There has been a lot of noise recently about Herbert. He is apparently a Nottinghamshire lad, born in 1870, the son of a Butcher, who lived with his 9 siblings at 129 Mansfield Rd. He was a keen local footballer and when he eventually moved to Turin to work for an Italian textile merchant with links to a local Nottinghamshire lace manufacturer, he continued to play. From Turin he moved to Milan where he helped set up a local football team that was later to become A.C.Milan and he is, as such, thought by many to be its “founder”. This is, apparently, a “big thing” in the world of football.
So when a new city centre pub was opened on Bridlesmith Gate (next to its brother-in-arms Junkyard – with whom it shares a garden and kitchen), named after Herbert there was much interest. Moverover, the pub opened in a delightful but neglected classic and rather iconic building down a city centre ginnel. Describing itself as “urban village pub”, I decided to check it out for lunch.
Well it is a fabulous building and the interior architecture has clearly been lovingly renovated and modernised. However, it all seemed a bit odd. First, it wasn’t only “modernised” but also “modern”, with sleek wood and metal and trendy furniture. I felt a bit as though we were going to lunch at Hopewells Furniture Store.
The place was virtually empty, not only of customers, but also, and rather oddly it seems to me, of anything at all to do with the eponymous Mr Kilpin (apart from a bit of info on the beer mats). I assume this was deliberate, but it still seems to me that to raise the profile of this chap in such a way, to then create a space with almost no reference to him or AC Milan, or football or anything at all is an odd choice. Granted, it’s clearly designed to be a cool, laid back space, and not some naff football memorabilia themed pub but still, for there to be nothing at all about the chap seems peculiar.
Still, service was friendly so we ordered lunch. The lunch menu is………limited. Basically toasted sandwiches. However, if done well, a restricted menu is not necessarily a bad thing.
I ordered the “crispy chicken, bacon, Emmental, seasonal slaw, ranch sauce, sourdough” (but asked for the sourdough to be replaced with the farmhouse white) with a side of onion rings. The husband went for the Fish Club “smoked mackerel, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo on farmhouse white”) with a side of Sweet Potato Fries. Not much could go wrong there, you’d think.
It looked fine when it arrived, so I’m thinking £7.50 for a toastie may just be worth it. The first onion ring I bit into, I couldn’t chew as the tough outer layer of onion was still attached.
But after that the onion rings were pretty much as good they looked, light and crispy batter, soft and melt in the mouth onion inside. From there on, it was a bit downhill.
The toasted sandwiches had presumably been sitting for a while as the char-grilled bottoms were pretty soggy by the time I go to them – not good, and I am not sure how this bread was “farmhouse white” ? My bacon was soggy, fatty and barely cooked.
The crispy chicken was very crispy, but the breadcrumb coating tasted very “Southern Fried”, when I asked our server what the chicken was cooked in she said “oh a mixture of spices and things” implying it was done in-house. Was it? Hmm.
The husband’s mackerel toastie was ok, although the bread was rather vigorously chargrilled, but the sweet potato fries were so, so salty that they were inedible and we left most of them.
Our meal, with a couple of beers came to £27.
When the server breezed over to collect our plates, virtually all the fries were left and more than 3/4 of the food on my plate was untouched. Did she ask if everything was ok? (which it patently wasn’t), nope, she asked “Are we all finished here?” and whisked the plates away. Even when we came to pay (same server) by which time the kitchen must have seen how much food was left, were still weren’t asked if everything was okay with our meal. A bit odd, no?
I wanted to like the Herbert Kilpin, I really do like the building and their onion rings (bar one) but I just don’t get it. Is it a pub? bar? restaurant? I don’t know, I’m not sure it has found its personality yet…it is a strange place and I don’t expect I will be going back.