Thursday 31 May 2012

Shoreditch Supping

Mason and Taylor, Electricity Showrooms, Jaguar Shoes, Sebright Arms

Shoreditch drinking can be a mixed bag – too self conscious, expensive, but some really fun, little known and quirky places are dotted around. One of the only beer centric pubs here (there is huge scope for more – I have even heard Brewdog are looking) is Mason & Taylor. Clean and casual, with lots of natural light and simple furniture, it feels more like an organic café or a branch of The Gap than a drinking establishment. The bar presents small but effective draft beer selection – Hophead and a changing seclection of other small breweries on cask, with 5 or so beers on keg, including an emerging Shoreditch favourite, Brooklyn Lager, and all are available in one tasting flights. Downstairs contains a basement bar with a more elicit air, and this is the best place to get squiffy on pints of Cannonball and Jaipur. The bottle list is broad and well chosen and is designed to be paired with the very decent food on offer – rabbit and pigeon with a Bristol Southville Hop or a rauchbier with home smoked mackerel . It all feels a bit clean cut and restrained for this type of venue and the location on Bethnal Green Road, perhaps trying to please everyone, but offers a pleasant alternative from East-End boozers and has a more relaxed, open and accessible feel than many of the new craft beer led pubs.
A lot of front - Mason & Taylor
         Slightly more in the fold of hip Shoreditch pubs is Electricity Showrooms, just off Hoxton Square, with a funky revolving wooden door leading into a spacious and sparse room, knowingly treading the line between cool urban bar and old fashioned drinking pub. In the evenings it is more of a hangout for trendy people to meet each other, but in its quieter moments there is good coffee, food and beer to be enjoyed. Fish finger sandwiches with Brooklyn Lager is a winner, and the and the rest of the short pub classics menu is easily matched by a solid craft keg offering (Thornbridge, Camden Town and Sierra Nevada are usual suspects) and a couple of rotating cask beers, often from London breweries. A little light on character and bar staff knowledge, it is still a genuinely decent place to down a few while in this part of town. That is, if you are feeling wealthy – prices of bo food and beer are steep by anyone’s standards.

            Dream Bags & Jaguar Shoes – possibly the campest bar name in London – falls right in the middle of the shabby-chic Shoreditch ethos, full of people whose outfit’s look like a charity shop 80's range when it actually cost more than your flat screen. The name makes sense once you see it - the building used to be two separate accessory vendors – and once you get inside it's pretty good. Tasty pizzas at fair prices are served all day, and although the thrown-together, picnic tables in a laundrette vibe may not be for everyone, it is oddly fun. Ignore the different-but-dull lager on draft and have a cocktail, or better yet, some local beer. A good cross section of local breweries have their creations available, some are just a short walk away. From the large London Field’s range, the bitter and fresh Unfiltered Lager, and the rich and floral Apollo IPA are very good, but take a risk and have the Great Eastern IPA from Redchurch Brewery, which provides is a heady punch of ripe tropical fruit, caramel and alcohol and on top form can be sensational.

The Lucky Chip in action @ Sebright Arms
          The Sebright Arms is a great place to drink. Indifferent looking, and tucked away in a forgotten stretch of East London nestled among large building estates, it has a real local boozer atmosphere. Smokers stand in the small alleyway outside posing as a beer garden, while inside it is large, dimly lit and unremarkable, a den designed for drinking steadily and heartily. A few hidden corners allow clandestine meetings between illegitimate couples exchanging their soap opera dialogue, while the small area masquerading as a dance floor is home to cougars in short skirts and geezers in Ben Sherman shirts. Since a relaunch as a craft beer destination with the much lauded Lucky Chip burgers in house, the nights are busy and loud with hipsters and trendies, beer geeks and social media pilgrims. They come for East London Brewing, Redemption and Brodies on cask, Meantime and Camden on keg and Kernel in the fridge. They order the Kevin Bacon burger and fries, and they are happy this has been ticked off the 'must visit' list on whatever website they like. The burgers are great - soft, sweet buns meet rich, crumbly beef with the holy trinity of salt, fat and sugar in full effect. The chips are salty and inconsistent but it matters not with a pint of Big Chief. The cask beer can be a touch too warm, and the pull of twitter-approved food and beer on the social media crew feels unsustainable in this location, but for now, this is a gem.

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