This venue has closed.
Will Yorke’s Vine Leaf was a heady attempt at recreating the British gastropub, but seemingly overnight it became Stuff’d, a… heady attempt at recreating the British gastropub. Hmm. The ‘transformation’ mostly involved a giant logo on the front of the building. Without that and the newly painted interior, it would easily be mistaken for its predecessor. The bigger changes happened on the menu. Food here is now, as the title suggests, ‘stuffed.’
It’s a cute gimmick, but one that is thankfully not shoved down your throat. The gist is simple: food will come in a bun, pie, pita or crust. The house speciality is pork sausage that can be eaten either solo on an unadorned plate (30RMB) or crammed into a caramelized-onion-lined baguette with a side of fries and a side salad (60RMB). This is smart; pork is super cheap in China (the Government even has a secret pork reserve). With four types ranging from the juicy, herbal mix in the British ‘Herbie English’ to the unfortunately drier, spicy chorizo-inspired ‘siesta,’they’re all huge portions of well spiced, textured meat in a tube.
In fact, nearly the entire menu will give a carnivore a toothy grin. There’s a lot of spicy sliced meat inside the pepperoni calzone (68RMB), which is jammed with so much mozzarella that it leaks out on to the plate. It’s easily big enough to share between two. These titanic sizes are more reminiscent of a protein-packed Thanksgiving feast than a casual lunch. Consider the Scotch egg (48RMB), an oozy, runny egg wrapped in enough sausage meat and breadcrumbs to make it about the size of a tennis ball. After smashing the crust, the rich yolk mixes with the meats over the spilled interior.It’s a savoury, burly beast, and big enough to be a main course.
One concern with the previous incarnation of this restaurant was how much customers were plonking down for what they got. With portions now the size of small houses, this is no longer a problem. The flaky, buttery crust on our steak and ale pie (78RMB) contained plenty of tender beef that swam in a lake of savoury gravy. The sides of peas and carrots were pretty, but were more of an obstacle to merely finishing the colossal pie.
Stuff’d’s rebranding results in a better incarnation of the pub concept than what was there before. Yorke brews his ales next door, with the hoppier, fruity Longbowman English Ale (40RMB) and the more American-style Pilgrim’s Progress (40RMB) refreshing enough even by themselves. The Blonde on Blonde (35RMB) proved itself heavy, syrupy and less appealing. We’re not complaining – another plate of the hearty, stick-to-your-ribs fare could see us lounging there all day. Stuff’d has finally got the gastropub right.