The flurry of publicity garnered by this large, airy pub upon its 2009 reopening was at least partly down to the media’s love of its own – one of its owners at the time was Ben Maschler, son of veteran Evening Standard restaurant critic Fay. However, such connections can only take a place so far, and the Drapers Arms has thrived because it understands its clientele (well-to-do Islingtonians glad to be away from the Upper Street fray) and delivers what they’ve come to expect from an above-snuff local: namely, pricey wines, varied beers (Harveys Sussex Best, Sambrook’s Wandle, Truman’s Runner), neutral decor and thoughtfully seasonal cooking. The first three were very much present and correct when we visited, but the food was a little more hit-and-miss.
Things certainly started well: smoked sprats were a perfect match for a mild horseradish and some pickled red cabbage, while a bowl of devilled sand eels came with an appealingly piquant tang. The mains, though, were less successful: lamb’s leg steak arrived in an ocean of butter, while the kitchen’s idea to serve caesar salad with quail worked about as well as one might have feared. We’ll put it down to a sloppy night; take care when you order, and you should come away happier than we did.