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cat and mutton

For an objective web-based column, making a judgement call based on geography is subjective at best, more accurately, naive and pointless. Still, there has to be some of me in my posts and so for the purposes of this review I’m going look at the map from from where I am on it. Just so you know.

There are still places in London that, being a hard and fast West London dweller (think anywhere in a line from Fulham to Notting Hill, Chiswick if I’m feeling rural), that when I go there it genuinely feels different. I don’t mean swapping Georgian terraces in Kensington for mansion blocks in Earls Court different, I mean ‘I’m not convinced this is still London’ different (the pull to mention something about Kansas in this paragraph is surprisingly strong but I won’t weaken).

We at Publocation actively seek out these places and although the locations will be different for most of the people reading this I think the feeling is a common one, it’s a lot of fun to go drinking in very different places than you’re used to. One such place for me (there are a number) is Hackney.

Hackney is not all, of course, the Hackney of this review. There is another, edgier side, as with almost every other London suburb, but this one makes even my 6’1” frame move a mite more briskly between Hackney Central tube and the dubious safety of the nearest minicab office. The point is that you will need a taxi (or a bus) to get to this place from the tube, it’s definitely NSFW (Not Safe For Walking). We would, of course, without hesitation, venture into far more disconcerting environs for the sake of our craft than even the most sinister corners of E8 can bestow should the need arise, but today’s pub isn’t located in one of them so I’ll leave the survival techniques for another review.

The pub of this review is in a part of Hackney that has carved out one of those painfully cool niches for itself over the years and is almost entirely populated by young, arty types; older, arty types and random suited geeks dotted around in between. The majority of people either have far more than their fair share of hair or barely any at all and there seems to be a lot of people trying very hard to look as though they don’t care what they look like. This isn’t a criticism (although the pub has received a lot of it because of this), it’s just an observation, as I said, I like different.

At the end of Broadway Market, the Cat & Mutton is the epicentre of all this not-so-effortless fashion-homage and serves the purpose well. The pub itself is stunning (in a pub sort of way, not in a La Sagrada Familia sort of way, keep it together), high ceilings, big window frames with big pieces of glass and a glut of original features. The bar/kitchen pass/pulpit stands at about 5’9” and adds to the sense of worship. The grill is behind half the bar and nearly all the tables and chairs are vintage stock giving it that familiar (for familiar read ‘done to death’) gastro-bar feel. There’s art on the walls and a pool table upstairs that was annoyingly being sat on by a bunch of skinny-jeaned kids I reckon we could’ve taken down (taken down to Chinatown).

The drink prices took me back West for a minute, more K&C than Hackney, but there’s effort made. A decent draught range: Adnams and Spitfire, seven draught lagers, mostly premium and the compulsory organic draught ciders. Plenty of bottles and a classy wine selection (bottles from £13.50 to £45) means you could meet a big work-related group and even the fussy ones (why are there ALWAYS fussy buggers in a work group?) would find something they’d settle for as long as they weren’t paying.

The menu changes regularly, mains are all between £8 and £14 and the food sounded, looked and tasted good. ‘Calves liver, mash, crispy pancetta, Swiss chard, sage jus’ was my pick and I’m glad of it (all foodies HAVE to eat offal if it’s on the menu). Service seemed prompt enough but to be honest I wasn’t really paying attention, if I don’t have time to think ‘where’s my $%*#@$?! food?’ then that’s good enough  for me.

The beauty of drinking somewhere different is you get to go home with nothing but a memory of the best bits, it’s like giving kids back, and the memory of the Cat & Mutton is a pleasant one.

It’s vibrant, arty and ever-so-slightly wanky but my local definitely isn’t, so I thought it was great.

Bobby

4 Stars

Where: Cat & Mutton, 76 Broadway Market, London E8

When: Wed 4th Nov 2009, 9pm

Unpublicised: Seats are much-of-a-muchness but get in early if there’s a few of you. Menu is ever-changing and drinks are across the board so whatever you fancy really. Pool table upstairs if you’re in time to kick the oiks off before they multiply.

Closes: Sun–Thur 11pm, Fri/Sat

Tel: 020 7254 5599

Website: http://catandmutton.co.uk/

Menus: see website

Interest: Sister pub just around the corner

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