Drapers Arms, Islington

Truth be told, I’m not a pub person. The dingy decor, pungent odours and sticky carpets in the pubs we went to during uni didn’t help, not to mention the cheap plonk that’d leave me hiding under the duvet the next day, swearing never to drink again. While these traditional boozers are still around, there are also many gorgeous gastropubs in London offering in high quality food and beverages. The Drapers Arms is one such place, and since it’s located near my neck of the woods, it was time to create some new pub memories.

To start, we shared the crispy pig’s head: deep-fried balls on top of raw pear slices and served with roasted onion and watercress. I probably wouldn’t have picked this dish for myself (especially when mussels and an onglet tartare are on the menu), but was glad I was persuaded to try it, as the meat was tender and flavourful, while the mustard vinaigrette and onions sharply cut through the slightly fatty taste.

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Our mains were suet crust lamb pie with chunky chips and the tartare with bone marrow toast and mustard. I love a good pastry, and this one was so crunchy and light, which gave the dish texture when combined with the soft lamb, baby carrots and garlic cloves (which weren’t strong, luckily for Chef Savla, who would’ve ended up in the spare room otherwise!). The only thing that let it down a little is that there wasn’t quite enough meat.

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The onglet tartare came loose, and with capers instead of cornichons. Until now, I’d preferred a finer grind and a more compact presentation, but the larger chunks work better as you chew them for longer, thus prolonging the experience. These were piled high onto rich, velvety toast, which added some serious depth to this French classic. There are many reasons why I love steak tartare, and one of its major plus points is that it doesn’t get cold while you’re taking photos and setting the world to rights!

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Having had a Galeta salted caramel brownie earlier in the day, I couldn’t bring myself to have another dessert, which is as rare as being able to walk down Oxford Street in a straight line during peak shopping hours. And there were some tempting options: Neal’s Yard cheeseboard, coconut cake, chocolate cake, peanut ice cream…

The Drapers Arms is a charming neighbourhood pub nestled in a quiet corner of Islington. The atmosphere was very welcoming, with a nice buzz both in the upstairs dining area and pub downstairs. It feels like it’d be a great place to hang out for Sunday lunch with friends and/or family, which is exactly what I plan on doing the next time I visit (note to self: avoid a post-breakfast treat and leave room for dessert).

Budget: £35 pp (1 starter, 2 mains, 1 bottle of wine and 12.5% service).

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