Tuesday 12 June 2012

Dalston Drinking

The Fox, The Railway Tavern, L'Entrepot

Cheap rent and an industrious spirit have long been at the heart of East London’s reputation for innovation, trend setting and start-up businesses. While street food, cocktail bars, clubs and niche industries have thrived in the last decade, until recently brewing and craft beer were significantly underrepresented in the area. Apparently there were a few people looking to correct that situation, and in a very short time the area has welcomed East London, Redchurch, Beavertown, London Fields, and Hackney Brewing amongst others. The craft beer pub landscape has also seen some recent additions, as imperial stouts and IPAs start to compete with ginger mojito’s and espresso martinis on a Thursday night session. The variation and novelty of craft beer which appeals to drinkers is matched by the appeal to proprietors, who can cash in on the acceptance of high prices and increased marketing savvy of the brewers.
        With less of a commuter presence and a more localised, community feel than Shoreditch to its immediate south, Dalston has long been a good place to drink and eat. It just got markedly better, with The Fox reopened and refurbished as a ‘Craft Beer House’. An unfortunate location has this proud looking building on a rather ugly stretch of Kingsland Road, the contrast felt sharply on entering the handsome, comfortable and spacious bar/dining area. It feels like a proper pub – lots of dark wood and a simple, raised bar overlooking the basic space. The beer selection is very kind to lovers of pale, hoppy beers – American kegs with some big hitters in Sierra Nevada and Anchor Steam cry out to be consumed, and Bernard have a 3-tap permanent font to themselves. British beers take the limelight on cask, with more light and hoppy styles on show from some excellent microbreweries like Bristol Beer Factory and Dark Star. Some darker stuff would please a few more people, and I would really like to see a focus on London beers on draft, as opposed to just in the fridge (though there are several to be found here). This is not the biggest or rarest selection in town, but it was carefully selected and had quality and reputation as a running theme.
        The short, snacky menu looks ideal for the mood and style of the pub, and on our visit the chips were damn good, the first real test of any pub kitchen. A great draw here is a small but nicely kitted out roof terrace, a quiet sanctuary for a contemplative pint in the warm air, or just a great place for a cigarette, if you have not been converted to clean living by the smoking ban. This feels like a fantastic mix of the traditional and the modern, with the focus on quality beer not overriding the desire to provide a relaxing and sustainable drinking environment for anyone who might fancy a tipple, whatever that may be. The obvious concern to mention from our visit was that it was nearly empty, a symptom perhaps of the location, but hopefully something which can be remedied by the launch of a proper website and social media presence.  
         This is a destination pub by itself, but if you were in need of an excuse, The Railway Tavern is a short walk away and is also worth a visit. This pub comes from the clever people who own the Pineapple in Kentish Town, one of the best in an area full of great drinking spots. On a quiet, attractive residential road a few minutes from the epicentre of Dalston, it is a compact space, with a shallow bar at the front supplemented by some appealing nooks and corners. Good to look at from both inside and out, it has a lazy afternoon feel about it, as though its pulse never quickens and voices are rarely raised. The emphasis is on cask beer, with 6 hand pumps dispensing real quality, with Brewdog, Dark Star, Thornbridge and some local stuff from Sambrooks on show on our visit. Adnams Ghost Ship was particularly good, and some Meantime keg lager was also appreciated, especially with the decent enough Thai food being served up at sensible prices. The general impression here is that you get what you put in – they provide a chess set and some board games, some decent beer and comfy seats. If that isn’t enough for you then hit one of the livelier, louder bars a few hundred yards away. But if what you want is a pleasant, unobtrusive place to meet a friend or read the paper, then look no further.

        Also worth mentioning if you are in the area is the fantastic L’Entrepot, a new wine bar on Dalston Lane. Set back from a dull stretch of road, this wine shop, warehouse & bar hybrid looks clean and fresh inside, cavernous and industrial yet sleek and accommodating, while also providing big park benches on the street for summertime drinking. A broad and interesting menu of concisely described wines by the glass, all at affordable prices and all very nice, is bolstered by a range of beers from Kernel and Redchrurch. A simple, appetising collection of small dishes to accompany the wines and a knowledgeable staff make this establishment a great place for something different, as you are unlikely to find somewhere quite like this (or as good) in other areas of London. Very cool and very impressive.

1 comment:

  1. Checked The Fox out on Saturday after you mentioned it. Liked it a lot - that roof terrace is awesome. Same deal though ... lunch time Saturday and there were 4 people in there (including us).

    Only has two cask beers on which was a bit disapointing.