One of the first NW5 pubs to go ‘gastro’ back in 2004, this Kentish Town Road stalwart was under scaffolding for so long that certain concerned readers were starting to fear for its very life. In fact, we had several inquiries and tweets as to whether it was simply becoming another block of flats.
Happily this isn’t the case. It reopened the other week, shiny new signage adorning a scrubbed exterior – and a new found sexiness inside, too.
This is down to a dapper bloke called Giles Stafford, a bar consultant of many years’ experience (and the pub’s newish manager) who has set about lightly reinventing the place. There’s now a fluidity from entrance right through to the dining room. There’s low lighting, a chef’s table by the open kitchen, and the walls have been stripped back, with booths removed so it feels bigger. At the far wall, dark panelling takes the place of the chalked-up blackboard of yore.The big news – new menu aside (read all about it in our next print issue, out 25th November) – is a smart first-floor cocktail haunt. The furniture is tastefully eclectic (think vintage Mad Men), heavy-duty velvet curtains hang from the enviable sash windows overlooking Kentish Town Road, and the flicker of candles light the bare-brick back bar.
Beer monsters can try ‘schooners’, which serve two-thirds pints of interesting craft beers, but the emphasis is, of course, on bespoke libations of the Ladies & Gents or Knowhere Special variety: unusual, boundary-pushing, and using ingredients sourced locally or made in-house. It’s worth mentioning that the full range standard cocktails is on offer, too.On our midweek visit the smiley young mixologist, who had trained with Tony Congliaro, served us the house take on a negroni. In its delicate lilliputian glass (rather than the regular tumbler packed with ice), the mouth-puckering classic yielded an almost raisiny fruitiness.
But the real surprise was a creation called the Last Word, as green as the Slimer and served in a classic coupe. It proved a rather potent – but beautifully balanced – blend of gin, herby green chartreuse and Maraschino, the slightly sour Italian liqueur, with just a dash of lime juice to sharpen the tastebuds.
Thirsty now? Good: the official launch is tonight (3rd November, 7pm) so, as well as a live blues band, there’ll be all manner of freebies and giveaways. If you haven’t been for aeons – as we hadn’t, what with all the local competition these days – we reckon it might just be time to make a return visit.