STAYCATION SPECIAL – The Bull & Hide, Liverpool Street
Welcome to Social Concierge’s Saucy Sleepover, where we’re out to prove that a romantic weekend away doesn’t have to mean leaving the city.
In fact, as we’re about to explain, it doesn’t even have to mean leaving the City.
Did you notice that Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday this year? What luck! The Most Romantic Day Of The Year® made at least 50% more romantic by the fact that there was no work the next day and we were free to stay up all night getting sauced (and saucy). And in The Bull & Hide, we found just the place to have the perfect lover’s sleepover in London town so you can recreate Valentine’s Day any time you like.
This three-tiered venue just off Liverpool Street boasts a warm, boozy pub on the ground floor, a hearty gastro venue on the first floor and seven plush boutique rooms tucked away on the three floors above. It’s equal parts raucous and romantic, and it makes for one loved-up layer-cake of a lover’s date.
For clarity’s sake, The Bull & Hide should probably be referred to as The Bull, and The Hide. While the two venues share a building (on Devonshire Row, a narrow, easy-to-miss passageway just across the road from Liverpool Street station) and are under the same management (there’s also the Kent winery, Hush Heath Estate), they’re distinct enough that they should really be treated as two separate stops on one romantic itinerary. It’s a gastro-pub, sure, but the ‘gastro’ and ‘pub’ are – how can we put this? – rather better acquaintances than friends.
On the ground floor, The Bull (that’s the pub bit) is friendly, loud and a bit lairy in the way that most licensed establishments within striking distance of the Square Mile are. Drop in on a weekday lunchtime or evening and you’re sure to encounter the usual crowd of men in suits getting mildly to moderately pissed: it’s all good, clean fun, but you wouldn’t want to host a romantic soiree here. Sparks are more likely to fly in All Bar One.
One floor up and far from the madding crowd, The Hide feels like a different proposition entirely. This low-lit, low-ceilinged room plays host to some seriously comforting and well-executed food.
The vibe at The Bull is notably more relaxed on Saturdays (our staycation day of choice) when it’s well-worth whiling away a couple of hours sampling the range of posh beers and English fizz on offer. Try the Balfour Brut, a heady, salmon-pink sparkling rosé grown by Hush Heath, the Kent winery which owns the pub.
It’s “pub grub” at The Hide, and as such you can expect the usual pewter buckets of chips – sorry, frites – and burgers arranged artfully on slabs of driftwood or slate. All very familiar. But there are some inventive dishes nestled among the usual suspects, too, such as apple and celeriac soup (“Tastes like parsnip!” points out the blackboard, helpfully) and little fennel fritters that look like Catherine wheels and come with a spiced mayonnaise.
Elsewhere, look out for a lobster and prawn “burger” (their inverted commas, not ours) served with fries, lettuce, tomato, gherkin and no bun – no bun! That incited a heated debate on what is, and what isn’t, a burger. Skip dessert. The portions are on the large side, and a full three-course meal is likely to leave your stomach bloated and your carnal appetite in tatters. (How many romantic Valentine inspired evenings, we wonder, have come to an unsatisfactory conclusion as a result of overeating and drinking? The same question must surely be asked of wedding nights. Anyway.)
The next step on your lover’s weekender is a short climb (or long, depending on which room you chose) up to your suite. The staircases are narrow and winding and the walls are painted with cute motivational phrases like “keep going!” or “nearly there…,” which all add to the sense of anticipation. The rooms, when you reach them, are tasteful and neutral, save for a few quirky touches such as a silver birch branch for a clothes rail.
There’s a little pantry in the corridor with a fridge stocked with beer and treats, so the party doesn’t have to stop when you reach the top. It’s a cosy, country guest-house kinda vibe, and if it weren’t for the view out of the window and the soft, distant cries of the last few drunken bankers as they meander their way home, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re a long way from Liverpool Street station. So let’s crack open a bottle and pretend that we are. Get the lighting right, run a bath and throw in some essential oils. “Oh, darling, isn’t it good to escape London every once in a while?”
The Order Part II – Breakfast
Breakfast is served downstairs in The Bull, which is barely recognisable in the morning light. Sit in the window and eat a light breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs washed down with a bowl of coffee. All of London awaits. Same time next year, darling?
Follow The Bull & Hide on Twitter (@TheBullLondon) and keep an eye out at 6pm each day when any available rooms go on sale. But ssh, don’t tell everyone. This is one to keep to yourself.