It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a hungry man or woman in possession of a not particularly expansive fortune, must be in want of a decently priced unpretentious place to eat and drink around the King’s Road. It is even more universally acknowledged that they are not likely to find it, considering the High Street’s transformation from the home of punk to neo-capitalist playground. Truisms are made to be broken however, and so I took a notably spiky-haired friend of mine to historic Chelsea pub The Pig’s Ear to see whether they’d been able to avoid succumbing to the creeping menace of gentrification.
At first glance The Pig’s Ear is practically the platonic ideal of a gastropub; rather than overcommit to pointless gimmicks the pub is all hard wood, chandeliers, barstools and intimidatingly large clutches of esoteric spirits. It is, in a word, retro, but the kind of retro that dances right on the edge of mildly eccentric. In a world of high concept tourist traps where novelty trumps comfort (and value for money), The Pig’s Ear’s lack of pretension is definitely a point in its favour. The dining area is an informal collection of tables spaced around the bar (along with a fancier room upstairs for those hankering for a more refined dining experience) which provides a lively atmosphere, though the temptation to repeatedly hit the bar whilst waiting for the food to arrive can prove practically all encompassing.
Once my friend and I were cosily ensconced in a wood-panelled corner of the bar, we soon got to grips with the menu, which was very much what you’d expect for a gastropub, with plenty of meats for a cosmopolitan carnivore to get to grips with. I started with the crispy lime and chilli squid with a relish (£8.50), which like all good squid proved compulsively edible, but proved somewhat forgettable. In contrast my friend sprang for the warmed salad of avocado, smoked bacon, Portobello mushrooms and baby spinach with crispy croutons (£7) which was a delight; the avocado in particular was fantastically creamy (I am very particular about my avocado considering that as a millennial I have exchanged the possibility of home ownership for it) and along with the above average bacon it’s definitely worth your seven pounds.
For our mains I tucked into Slow Roasted Pork Belly and crackling with Dauphinoise Potato, fennel seed, roasted carrots and Red Wine Sauce (£17) that could have turned Morrissey into a raging carnivore, guarding the meat from the roving grasp of my jealous companion with the steely eyed determination of a man fully prepared to stab his dining companion with a fork. My associate, realising that his attempts had been baulked, went for the seared bream fillet, roast fennel and capers with cherry tomato and anchovy cream sauce (£18) which he was fiercely protective of, so I could only sneak small tastes when he was otherwise concerned with his wine. Thankfully this was a fairly regular event. As such I can report back that it was delightfully flavourful and rich and going by his doleful look at his finished plate, I sensed that his only regret is that there wasn’t more of it.
Once we were done we discovered that the Pig’s Ear must be haunted by some kind of ghost as we found ourselves propelled as if by magic to the bar where we remained for quite some time. If you’re prepared to risk that kind of ghostly intervention then the Pig’s Ear could not be recommended more highly as a rare bastion of unpretentious Chelsea.