The Drapers Arms
REVIEW May 28, 2009
Overall Value
3
out of 5
Food 
Service 
Ambience 
3
£46
  • Food
  • Service
  • Ambience
The Drapers Arms, 44 Barnsbury St, London, N1 1ER

In a quiet part of Islington, an elegant Georgian boozer recently relaunched with gastro-ambitions; the straightforward English food is the weakest part of a ‘package’ which, overall, offers good value.

It’s very difficult not to like this handsome pub, which is both spiritually and physically well removed from the tawdry delights of Islington’s Upper Street. It’s already had one spell of success as a gastro-destination, then it went downhill, and ultimately into liquidation.

Now it’s been relaunched by a likeable young team, one of whom is the offspring of the lady invariably known as the doyenne of the London restaurant critical world. Expect many reviews.

The new incarnation is not so very different from the old, in that the building is – almost self-consciously – allowed to speak for itself. There is almost no decoration to distract from the Georgian sobriety. The effect can be uplifting, particularly in the bright upstairs room, flooded with light from five great sash windows. There is also an attractive garden.

The food is rather like the décor: entirely unornamented. This is an admirable aim, but it needs to be carried off with panache if the results are to be at all notable. We’re not frankly sure they’ve quite managed it.

This was a solo visit, but even one person can sample a fair proportion of the short menu. The dishes we had were all fine, but none made any real impression. Perhaps unfortunately, the best effort – tasty brown crab on crusty toast – came first. Thereafter, neither an omelette (a crucial test for any kitchen) nor a bavarois hit any sort of heights.

Prices, however, are not demanding, and the service tries hard. If you don’t seek the place out with unduly high culinary expectations, we suspect that you may find a visit here quite a pleasure.

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