A pavement smoking-and-drinking seating area consisting of planks of wood placed on beer barrels doesn’t promise much. However, a peek inside the flower-fringed open window reveals that this is an agreeable little place, a cosy, ages-old pub decked out in ancient copper utensils, London street signs and remarkable pop memorabilia.
Where once fine and varied sausages were the main selling points of this well-hidden pub near Charing Cross post office, now it’s sought-after ales. The board outside details the current selection, while around a bar counter eminently suited to being propped up, obscure beer mats tell of ales from yesteryear. It’s not only ales – at present Sambrook’s, Thornbridge and Dark Star – but traditional cider and perry, too. Sausages still sizzle away on the hob beside the bar, where cheery regulars chat with the staff or study the racing form.
Rose Street wasn’t always the domain of puzzled tourists sipping pints of Bombardier. Squeezed between Garrick Street and the old Covent Garden market, this dog-leg alleyway was once the haunt of whores and bare-knuckle fighters, the latter hosted at this low-ceilinged tavern when it was called the Bucket of Blood (the poet Dryden was beaten up here in 1679). Estrella and Peroni make welcome appearances as draught options, though most seem to stick to bottled Corona or Beck’s. Food comprises ploughman’s lunches and doorstep sandwiches; heartier meals (sausages, roasts) can be taken upstairs or in the back room.
Brightly logoed and Benelux-themed, the smart Lowlander’s expansive, long-tabled main space is easily filled, thanks to an impressive range of draught and bottled beers, a fine kitchen and likeable staff who are well up to what is, given the bar’s popularity, often a tough job. Some 15 tap beers, by the half-pint glass or two-pint jug, include Palm Spéciale, St Louis Premium and Poperings Hommelbier, as well as more familiar compatriots.
Irish by professed nationality but global by nature, this gleaming hostelry with a busy terrace does a fine line in international beers and hearty fare. Underpinning it all are draught stouts and ales; in the case of Wrasslers, made to a century-old recipe. Along with the semi-titular Porterhouse Red are An Brainblásta (at 7%, it lives up to its name), the gentler TSB and a pungent Oyster Stout.
Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka bartender Mr Lyan, is a London cocktail dignitary – he's worked in some of the city’s most pioneering bars and now has his own range of mixed spirits in Selfridges. He opened his first bar in Hoxton in 2013, and hot on its heels is this second one. Number two couldn’t be more different. Dandelyan has a prime spot off the lobby of the new multimillion-pound Mondrian hotel in the former Sea Containers House. Dandelyan is run by a team of super-slick international-hotel ‘servers’. White Lyan set out to shake up the cocktail scene by dispensing with ice and all perishables, and Dandelyan’s menu is just as groundbreaking – ingredients include 'chalk bitters', 'crystal peach nectar’ and the archaic-sounding 'dandelion capillaire'. The bar might be glamorous, luxurious and even a bit formal, but the drinks show Chetiyawardana’s invention and attention to detail. Ford & Warner (£12.50) was a fruitily fearsome blend of gin, 'bittered blackcurrant', dandelion flower and lemon, garnished with a little frozen cube of blackcurrant sorbet. An Evil Manhattan (£12.50) didn’t live up to its name but did contain a house-made beer 'vermouth', rye whiskey and bitters. Everything here has a hint of the garden about it, and everything is surprising without being show-off, and most of all, inherently drinkable. Dress up before you drink up; it’s that sort of place.
Venue says: “Come and try Dandelyan's fourth chapter, exploring the different ways that botany has played a role in human vice and guilty pleasures.”