last week i had the immense pleasure of heading over to my new local pub, the signal in forest hill, for a blogger's evening to sample the new menu, meet the new management, and become acquainted with the new pub's cleverly created cocktail menu. it's a cold day in hell that i get invited anywhere in south east london, so when i do, and when the venue is only a short stroll from my house, deciding whether or not i'll head along is hardly a big choice for me to make.
once inside the very warrrrrm pub (lovely open fire, very grateful, thank you muchly) i caught up with zoe (the company's head foodie) and ed (the pub's head important man) about this new pub brand "hippo inns". essentially born out of boredom and from the husband and wife team who previously owned geronimo inns, the two have set about creating a new brand of pubs that deliver more than just good food and even better drink.
the signal is the brand's first pub, but after chatting to zoe and ed a bit about the brand, i'm told that no matter where the next pub opens there will be basic expectations that each new venue must meet. each hippo pub is created to be a place that the local community will want to chill out and relax in, and will cater to all with a large emphasis on being a friendly place for neighbours to come to and feel as if they are in an extension of their own homes. with live music nightly, comedy nights, and even a film club every monday, the signal certainly appeals to the whole community - for one reason or another.
then, came the talk of food. as head foodie, zoe spoke to me so passionately about her newest menu and the direction for all the future menus, and before long i was begging her to let me eat some of it. the signal's food offering is a real throw back to the simplicity of open fire cooking from the original ale houses. the spit and grill concept will always be available for the customers to watch being cooked and experience themselves, and the menus will always showcase the best in british ingredients.
the drinks menu in the signal was certainly no different. with a selection of local craft beers on tap, a well as the token standard brews to keep the locals happy, the main saloon bar was an eclectic mix of real ales and lagers, imported and affordable wines, as well as an ~impressive and heaving selection of london's best liquor behind the bar. the upstairs cocktail bar's menu boasted an impressive list of drinks created by the head mixologist (formerly of mahiki in the south west), and i was more than happy to get my hands dirty sampling those while we waited for the food to be served. fyi - the forest hill mule is bloody delicious, 10/10 would recommend.
when it came time to sit down to eat, i was starving. with a sample spread from the menu on offer to keep us salivating for the rest of the night, we tucked straight in. a whole roasted chicken with meat so tender it fell away from the bone; a cheeseburger so perfectly cooked that the meat juices, melted cheeses and sauces mixed together and dripped down your arm; fresh beetroot salad, perfectly seasoned and a variety of dressings to choose from; hand cut chips, dusted in sea salt; cockles sitting in a bath of garlic and chilli and white wine broth; fresh sour dough loaves, still steaming, fresh from the oven. it was a spread made for a kiiiing. and i was eating it. and i was in heaven.
despite bottles of delicious barossa wines slowly pickling my insides, and the chicken taking far too long to finish because of how easily it was falling off the fork, eventually it was time to leave. like, legally, because of liquor licences, not because of choice. but thankfully as mentioned, the pub is only a short walk from mine, and i was still home and in bed by midnight. midnight on a school night too. bonus points! the hangover on friday was totally worth it, and to have met and spoken to some really passionate people really was the icing on the cake.
the pub game in south east london is certainly on the rise, and with the signal joining the squad there's more choice than ever. next time you're out and about in forest hill - my recommendation is to definitely check the pub out, and get your hands on their incredible rotisserie. you can find it here.