Drinking in London pubs is often an expensive pastime. Many places try to mask that: a handful even advertising 2 thirds of a pint for under £5 and shrinking with embarrassment when they confess that a full pint nears a loftier 7 quid. It’s understandable, given how difficult it is for a venue to turn a profit after rent, overheads and proper wages for the team. For this reason, The Old Queen’s Head is a pub marvel. Not only does it keep its head (and shoulders!) above the water, but it’s struck a balance between your typical cosy local and, when the lights turn down low and the clock nears twelve, a venue fit for cracking late-night entertainment. We - or rather the royal we - were thoroughly impressed.
It’s a 10 minute walk away from either Highbury and Islington or Angel stations. The downstairs bar - the lower portion of which is decorated with jade-blue tiles - spans the length of the left side. The rest of oak-panelled room is filled with tables surrounded by stools. Several hefty leather sofas fill the remaining space. It’s like a hunter’s cabin and intellectual’s paradise rolled into one, with stag heads and ornate chandeliers made from their antlers hanging from both walls and ceiling. Although there may not be a Queen's head on display, busts of Aristotle and the iconic skull of Yorick survey the scene from the bar. Alas, how we knew him! The layout in the other rooms adjusts according to the night’s entertainment: chairs are cleared to make way for dancing and they’re brought back again on comedy nights for people to laugh themselves off of.
Music: Live, Acoustic, Indie, Rock, Electro, Alt, Hip Hop, House, Disco
Dress Code: None
Train Station: Essex Road
Address: The Old Queen's Head, 44 Essex Road, London, N1 8LN
Like all good pubs, their draught game is strong. Pentonville Oyster Stout, from the Islington-based Hamerton brewery, has an unusual brewing process (fresh wild Maldon oysters are added to the boil) but the taste – like a creamy pint of Guinness – is smooth. It’s a drink to savour and sip slowly. A half of that, served in a fetching flute glass, came in at £2.75. Other pints like the consistently enjoyable Brewers Gold and N1 are available too. Sambucca, Jager or tequila shots, 6 of which cost £17, and Jager bombs at three for £12 will suit the faster drinkers. Beachhouse-like music plays when it’s quiet and the evening selection varies massively – Psych-Pop, Garage, Hip-Hop, House – so check the ‘What’s on’ guide so you know what you’re in for.
This is the sort of place you could come with your mum on a Sunday afternoon for brunch and then come back in the evening to get rowdy with your mates. It’s perfect for groups who cram together to escape the cold, wet weather outside and who are ready to discuss the hot topics of the moment. While we were there, we overheard people talking about Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May, Brexit, their new flat, water pressure, film, music and Donald Trump. And there are regular punters too, including that guy who comes in for his one pint, speaks with the staff as though they‘re family and trots off home again. What a cutie. We love that guy.
On each table at The Old Queen’s Head sits a small black card. On the front is the Queen. On the inside is printed: ‘We live to throw a party’. And it’s true, they really do. Few places are able to catapult you back to an age where pubs were comfortable, home-from-home-type places while also push you into a modern venue with a crowd and team that’s as warm a group of old friends. Arise, Old Queen’s Head, come forth and receive your OBV (one brilliant venue) for your services to Angel and nightlife.