As the respectable young lady that I am, a few months ago I’d tend to pass this pub by with a fast pace and perhaps even a shudder. The joint was known pre-April for its late-night licence, and it ain’t for nothing that its nickname was The Flying Bottle (or, to those less in the know, “that dodgy pub on the corner”).
But when I visited last Friday, I hardly recognised the place. Thanks to its massive glass windows, I could see from the street that all that was happening inside was that nice people were drinking nice beer, having nice conversations and eating nice food. Why wouldn’t I want to go in and join them?
This modern Free House is now looking spic’n’span outside and in. Antique themes are clearly represented through wooden classroom tables and church seats (with space on the back for your prayer book/copy of the Hackney Citizen), exposed brick walls on two sides and the most charming stained glass windows. However, Fornasetti’s famous face wallpaper on the back wall, the open-plan kitchen in one corner and rather bright lighting add distinctive modern touches that remind you that you’re in Stokey’s trendiest new bar.
A trendy bar that also happens to provide a very, very impressive selection of real ales, ciders, beers and wines. Four ales are served permanently on tap – Jaipur, Urban Dusk, Hophead and Dark Star American Pale Ale, and guest ales change with each week – when I visited those being guzzled in the short-term were Brodie’s Americana Fountain, Thornbridge Pollards and De Koninck Original.
Add to that a wide selection of beers (eight on tap), ciders (three on tap permanently plus one guest), squillions of bottled brews plus a pretty decent wine list, there’s frankly more than enough choice for me, and probably for you too. Thankfully the staff are trained in all things beer, plus there’s a handy menu going round with two lines of appetising description for each beverage. However could I resist Mort Subite Kriek 4.5 per cent, which, “enriched with cherries, matures soft in oaken casks”?
“This area is really nice,” Kosovanborn manager Yll Rozhaja, told me. “It’s really up and coming. There are people here who know about ales. The only way to attract them is by bringing new ones.” And if you talk to him about what you want to drink, he’ll do his best to make it happen.
Yll constantly checks online forums and blogs to see what people are saying about his bar – then implements the necessary changes to ensure his drinkers stay satisfied.
Though I didn’t try the food, others on my table had given the wild mushroom risotto the thumbs-up before my arrival. Leafing through the menu, I saw that it offered grub such as a charcuterie board, grilled prawns, the Jolly Butchers burger, fishcakes, plus enough stuff to keep a vegetarian happy for a couple of visits. Mains are around a tenner and desserts £4.50, and there are also daily specials and Sunday roasts.
And so as I sat absorbing the chatty-and-not-rowdy atmosphere of the new-style Jolly Butchers – there’s no telly and the music’s barely audible – I felt glad that there was a place on my doorstep offering proper ales and a calm, friendly setting in which I could experience them. I was 100 per cent sure I’d be popping in again soon.
The Jolly Butchers
202-204 Stoke Newington High Street
020 7241 2185