The Old Street area used to be a case study in bad urban planning. After the Luftwaffe had lain waste upon random buildings, dual carriageways were whacked on top; residents moved out, and small businesses died. It’s a wonder the Three Crowns survived at all, dwarfed as it is by brutal modernist buildings on all sides. A green-tiled exterior still reads ‘Barclays Stout and Ales’, but even as the pub was reopening in May, the building’s landlord was chipping this century-old facade off.
A new generation of pub enthusiasts are reclaiming this corner site as their own though. The new owners have their priorities right: a big bar at the front, a good selection of craft beers, lots of appealing bar snacks, and quieter tables further back at the ‘smart end’ if you want a full meal.
Beers rotate but Meantime brews are a constant, including its Yakima Red, an amber ale. On our visit, ‘guests’ included Hackney Brewery Best, and Wells Eagle IPA. The bar was rammed with edge-of-City entrepreneurs, well-groomed and studiedly cool, in contrast to the diverse hairstyles and body art of the chefs working in the open kitchen.
Salted duck was cut into clean slivers, the sharply pickled endive and watercress cutting the fat. Cod had been crisped on the skin side, but once sat on a watery stock of artichoke hearts and potato, the fish quickly went soggy; the garlic in a well-made aioli rescued the dish.
Blood oranges topping a meringue had been cooked down so that what remained was mostly white pith. Much better was a pistachio tart, topped with a dollop of stewed rhubarb and Jersey cream.
The cooking may not have been perfect, but the fair pricing, decent beer and good attitude go a long way.
In a discreet dining room, refuge from the hubbub of the busy bar, head chef Lee Urch cooks food with recognition of the season and the provenance of the ingredients, serving fish, fowl and flesh married to accompaniments that savour taste, texture and colour.
Enjoy lunch and dinner in an understated, wood-pannelled restaurant heightened by eye-catching wall art. If you are looking for real food, cooked simply, seasoned intelligently, joined by a diverse drinks list in comfortable surroundings, then you have just found it.