Popular Wimbledon Common pub is back – better than ever after a makeover.
Just because it’s a cliché doesn’t mean it’s not true – London really is made up of villages. Although most of these have disappeared, up on the hill in south-west London, Wimbledon still has a villagey feel. An upmarket village certainly, with its blend of chic shops, restaurants and handsome period buildings, but a village nevertheless.And like every good village it has a pond, a green and a good pub – the Hand in Hand.
Long-established, well-known and popular, the Hand in Hand has recently re-opened after renovation, and it’s looking – and tasting – better than ever.
The outdoor area is great for summer (and for Christmas Day overspill) while the low ceilings and fireplace make the inside cosy for chilly nights. You can sit and eat almost anywhere in the Hand in Hand, inside or outside. Some areas though, like The Bakery (which harks back to the pub’s 19th-century origins), have been set aside just for dining.
Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, the Hand in Hand offers good and hearty home-made food and the best beers. Starters include standards like smoked salmon and soup but also some things you won’t see that often on a menu like artisan bread & beef dripping. The potted Devon crab (£8) comes with a delightfully aromatic wild garlic mayonnaise but most spectacular has to be the Spring asparagus with heritage tomato vinaigrette & spring peas (£8).
Also with a nod to the pub’s bakery past, pies are the Hand in Hand’s signature dish. Made to order in the pub’s kitchen with parsley and black pepper suet pastry, they really are must-try. There’s pork and apple, chicken bacon and mushroom, caramelised red onion, mushroom and spinach but the stand-out is the Angus chuck steak & Ox kidney (£16).
For a start, it’s a proper three-dimensional pie. Not a small dish with a bit of puff pastry on top which disintegrates as soon as it’s touched by a knife and it’s got lots of filling. Pie-fect, in fact. Served with buttered greens, mash and gravy, the steak is tasty and the kidney earthy, both lovely and tender.
As well as pub standards like Cumberland sausage & mash, beer battered cod & chips, burger and steaks, there are some enticing fish dishes. The Skipper’s Catch is whole baked plaice with a generous helping of Jersey Royals, asparagus and samphire (£16.95).
Sundays see roasts on the menu – Angus beef sirloin, pork belly and chicken, all served with roast potatoes, Yorkshires and veg.
Main course portions are generous so you may not need a dessert, but since when has need had anything to do with it? The puds aren’t for the calorie-conscious – unless you stick to the sorbets or the celery that comes with the cheese – but are old school comfort food: ice cream, jam roly poly & custard and vanilla rice pudding & rhubarb. The apple & rhubarb crumble & custard (£6) is crunchy and full of fruit, the sticky toffee pudding, salted caramel sauce and ice cream is sticky but not stodgy, and a great excuse for a glass of pudding wine.A pie throw from the expanse of Wimbledon Common, the dog-friendly Hand in Hand is a natural place to head for after a long walk with or without a faithful hound by your side. You can enjoy a well-earned rest and a pint with free dog biscuits (for dogs only…) and a chance to win the ‘Dog of the Day’ award (also dogs only…).
Featured in ‘The Good Beer Guide’ for over two decades, there’s plenty for beer lovers to enjoy, Young’s Bitter as well as a selection of real ales, featuring Hogsback, Adnams and the local Wimbledon brewery. The Hand in Hand’s tasting paddles give you a chance to find your favourite by sampling several small glasses. The wine list is split by theme (e.g. Whites – Crisp & Fruity, Aromatic & Spicy; Reds – Soft & Fruity, Savoury & Complex). There’s no house wine as such but the least expensive choice is excellent quality.
The pub has a range of areas which can be reserved for private parties – birthday dinners or family lunches – or private meetings. The Farriers and The Illustrator are semi-private spaces which enjoy the bustling but muzak-free atmosphere of the main bar.
Although the excellent food brings in many guests from round and about, with many regulars dropping in for a pint or two, the Hand in Hand remains a local in the truest sense.
And it will do as long as Andrew, the waistcoat-clad, larger than life (and unrenovated) landlord, has anything to do with it. He runs a monthly Ale & Supper night offering beer and pie pairings while making sure there’s always a big pub welcome to all, both two and four-legged.
The Hand in Hand Pub,
6-9 Crooked Billet,
Monday to Thursday: 10:00-23:00 Food served: 10:00-22:00
Friday and Saturday: 10:00-00:00 Food served: 10:00-22:00
Sunday: 11:00-23:00 Food served: 11:00-21:00
Looking for alternatives in Wimbledon and South London? We love the Ivy Cafe with its pretty garden terrace for alfresco dining in Wimbledon. We’re also raving about Park’s Edge Bar and Kitchen on the edge of Brockwell Park, Herne Hill. Do you have any recommendations we should try? let us know in the comments below.