This legendary pub music venue reopened as a gastropub in April with a cocktail bar, the Boulogne Bar, upstairs.
Young’s clearly doesn’t worry about competition. They’ve turned Kentish Town’s venerated Bull & Gate – formerly a music venue that hosted some of the biggest acts in British music – into a ground-floor gastropub with a cocktail bar upstairs. The competition? Two outstanding subterranean cocktail bars (Ladies & Gentlemen and Knowhere Special) mere seconds away.
The Boulogne is different in one crucial respect: it has windows and a great view. It’s also a more obviously ‘done-up’ place, one large room and one small one kitted out to look like a gentlemen’s club, and a baby grand piano where a singer performs Wednesday through Saturday.
Various things didn’t work right. Waitresses cruised the room but didn’t seem to know quite what to do: we had to place our own order at the bar. The proprietors are trying to sell the place as a sophisticated cocktail bar, but booming noise from downstairs (and full-volume hip-hop when the pianist wasn’t on) kind of spoiled the effect. And the cocktail list tried too hard to be inventive.
But we had a good time sipping a well-made Negroni and Martini. The piano player creditably covered ‘Billie Jean’. A heaving Friday crowd of wage slaves morphed into weekenders before our eyes, and the staff was dead-friendly. The Bull & Gate is a pleasant place to spend an hour or two and a welcome addition to the Kentish Town boozing scene.
And the name? For a few centuries, the pub was a coaching inn called the Boulogne Gate. Boulogne became Bull and. Now we’re back to Boulogne. Europhobes will wince.
|Venue name:||Bull & Gate||Contact:|
389 Kentish Town Rd
|Transport:||Tube: Kentish Town|
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Average User Rating
4.3 / 5
- 5 star:2
- 4 star:1
- 3 star:1
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:0
Absolutely love the Boulogne bar! So stylish, amazing decor and laid back feeling about it. I could sit in there happily most weekends with a cocktail or 2. We were fortunate enough to time our visit with live music, piano player/singer who was fab. Can't wait to go back. Staff were friendly and accommodating.
Popped in to the Bull and Gate last night (14.4.15) for a drink to check out the refurbishment. There are some good points and some bad! The refurb is very nice and the whole space has been opened up and is bright and emphasises a lot of the original fixtures and fittings. The drinks selection is great - both beers and wines - with 4 (!) beers on tap just from local Camden brewery and many others. I chose the Young's 'Special', which was excellent and then the Camden Pils (always sublime). Wife had a glass of Chablis, which she enjoyed. However, the prices for drinks are pretty steep - e.g. Camden Hells is £5 and the wine is between £4.70 up to £7.50 (ish) for a small glass! Anyway, the food looked very tempting so we decided to stay and try it out. Hmmmm, is all I can say. My monkfish was just rather weird and wrapped in rubbery, over-salty bacon type stuff, resting on a large pile of very wet but crunchy fennel and random bits of orange - not good. Wife had apparently good grainy squash salad thing. Desserts - I had a (hot!) lemon tart which was a surprise but actually quite nice (though served with ice cream, not crème fraiche as advertised), wife had crème brulee which was pretty awful - scrambled in places, much too heavy, did not taste of cardamom at all (as advertised) and the sugar on top wasn't even properly bruleed! Prices were reasonable if the food had actually been good. Service was good throughout, with staff still obviously learning the ropes, but coping fine. Generally promising but drinks prices will have to drop and food quality will have to increase markedly if it's going to do well. I'd give it 2.5 but I'll go for 3 as it's sunny.