56 Chiswell Street, London, EC1Y 4SA, United Kingdom
Website: View bar's website
Recommended for: Cocktails
While we're on the subject of being unpretentious, we thought we'd head to Tom and Ed Martin's new City pub. If you've not heard of them, they are frightfully nice public school-types who take average and run-down boozers, pull them apart and put them back together better than they were before. As a magazine that can be pretty snobby about pubs per se, but we like pubs done well, and the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms (formerly the St Paul's Tavern) fits that criteria.
It still looks like a pub from the outside but you'd hardly refer to it as such once you've crossed the threshold. It's light and airy, contains the eponymous and plushly appointed Dining Rooms (the place is actually attached to a new hotel that's part of the Brewery Conference centre), and they serve cocktails.
And the cocktails are not half bad. Well presented, sometime strong concoctions, many containing traditional British fruits and herbs or homegrown spirits and wines. A Clover Club was a rather alarming pink hue, but we were promised it contained homemade raspberry syrup, and anyway it tasted damn good (even if it was erroneously listed as a 'Martini'). An English Cobbler, containing Somerset 5-year-old premium apple brandy, Tawny Port, Cointreau, fresh orange and pineapple, was surprisingly strong - enough to put hairs on your chest. No thrown together Mojitos or weak Cosmos made here, thank you. Alongside the cocktails is a long wine list and a selection of craft beers among some bigger-name brews.
If this is the future of pubs, then we like it.