Test Driving the Drapers Arms - our first meal out post-Lockdown

drapers arms islington reviewThe post lockdown pub look - with half the tables but 100% of the atmosphere.

So this is where you went for your first post-lockdown restaurant opening?

It is. To be honest, we wanted to stay local for the first big night back and we also wanted to support a neighbourhood business. Plus, we haven't been to The Drapers Arms in an age, so it seemed like a good place to pick.

When did you go?

This was the first night back - Saturday night.

drapers arms islington reviewThe new look for landlord Nick Gibson.

What sort of measures were they taking for social distancing etc?

To begin with, even before you get into the pub there have been steps made to make sure there's not an unseemly bunching up of desperate-for-a-drink Londoners at the door. Folk with reservations and those who are walk-ins are asked to queue separately. Right now, all of the pub and upstairs restaurant is bookable with the rear garden being for walk-ins only.

At the door, you're met by staff wearing face masks (almost every member of staff we saw was wearing one) and a hand sanitiser station. There are also hand sanitisers on every table too. The menus and wine lists are all paper and single-use only, while napkins, cutlery and dishes are all placed on the table by staff who then step back while guests draw it closer to them.

Is it a bit sterile?

Not a bit. What it does is it makes you relax, knowing that they've given serious consideration to ensuring the safety of their guests. Order up a cracking martini from owner Nick Gibson and you're away. It really was a truly excellent martini, and by god that first drink out felt good.

Here's what we had:

drapers arms islington reviewPork & parsley terrine, piccalilli & toast (£8) served not rigidly fridge cold, but at a perfect temperature for spreading all over that toast.

drapers arms islington reviewJerk quail with summer slaw (£9)

drapers arms islington reviewSalmon, pea veloute, Jersey Royals, bacon & grelot onion (£21) - looking for summer on a plate? You've found it.

drapers arms islington reviewSteak & red wine pie (£16) - even if 50p wasn't donated to Action Against Hunger from each pie purchase we'd have loved this wonderful suet crust pie. As it was, it just made it even better.

What about wine?

Owner Nick Gibson (who also brought us the Emile pop-up on Curtain Road) is responsible for the wine list here. There's a decent selection by the wine, carafe and bottle with the house wine at £6.50 up to a magnum of Sassicaia for £370. Our first choice of the Assyrtiko wasn't available so he suggested a Bourgogne from Goisot (£43) which was a perfect - actually probably better - replacement.

Room for dessert? 

Only barely - we're out of practice at this eating out lark. And while we were tempted by the wonderful cheeseboard, we ended up sharing this instead.

drapers arms islington reviewStrawberry cheesecake (£8) simple and delicious.

Overall thoughts

The sum total of world happiness was definitely raised a notch by those dining-in and working in the Drapers this weekend. The staff seemed genuinely happy (and at times, even emotional) to be back doing what they love and the buzz in the room was palpable. 

There's a reason this North London gastropub has such a loyal clientele. Honestly, we couldn't have asked for a more gentle and affirming return to restaurant dining.


More about the Drapers Arms

Where is it? 44 Barnsbury St, Islington, London N1 1ER

When does it open? Open now - starting with Thursdays to Sundays in July.

How to book: Book online.

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Twitter @DrapersArms


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