Less than a year ago I reviewed this pub, a pleasantly refurbed spot among Georgian townhouses away from the rabble of Upper Street. Already, it’s under new ownership, spruced up yet again – and has become even more appealing.
Looks-wise, it’s not a world apart from the 2011 version: the beautiful original island back-bar with the ’60s ‘Watney Red Barrel’ signage remains, and the smart back garden remains a draw in warm weather. A huge hymn board-style display details the huge range of beers – but it’s here the similarity with the old Earl of Essex ends.
Nowadays, almost every new pub tries to sell itself on a ‘craft beer’ offer, but not all manage it on this scale. There are 11 on keg, five or six on cask, plus a couple of quality ciders. The range covers Britain from Devon to Cromarty via Ilkley, before jetting off to the Continent, Scandinavia and the USA. And it gets even better – finishing touches are being applied, I’m told, to an on-site Earl’s Brewery. Yes, it’s turned into a brewpub. The owners plan to make unusual beers (a mustard brown ale is in the pipeline, apparently) for sale in the Earl and elsewhere.
Staff are happy to offer tastings and know their stuff, and a peek at the Earl’s website, with its enthusiastic ‘Beer of the day’ entries, suggests this pub will become a serious stop-off on the capital’s craft beer trail.
On the menu, dishes are all listed with beer recommendations. Whether we really need a suggested beer match for a fishfinger sandwich I’m not sure, although it’s a nice touch.