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.