For many, cocktail bars aren’t the most enjoyable of spaces. They feel a little sterile... overly worked... They play backing soundtracks that are just a touch too loud and go a bit mad with filament lightbulbs in the name of ‘mood lighting’. Good cocktail bars, thankfully, avoid those faults, but a good many more don’t. In such cases, trusty pubs are a better alternative. They seem cosier, the chairs softer and their real fireplaces make them warmer in more ways that one. Looking to offer a balance between a cocktail bar and a pub is an ambitious task, but by Jove, we think we’ve gone and found one. Enter The Winchester.
You're a couple of minutes walk from Angel tube stop with all its borderline shoreditchness, The exterior clearly tells you what The Winchester once was: a pub. And it's kept the pub vibe going throughout which means no filament lights or slate. Concrete has been banished to the quarry. What you’ll get instead is quintessential Victoriana – wallpaper that would fit into The Jungle Book’s background art, globe drinks cabinets and a grand-looking gramophone – arranged in the room’s L-shape design. There’s also a second downstairs bar with additional seating which opens up on the busier nights. With subtly themed rooms like ‘The Copper Beech Cabin’ and the ‘Enchanted Forest’, The Winchester laughs at the confines of your ‘traditional’ pub. Not like, in a mean way or anything. More in a ‘let me show you how to do it better’ kind of way. And haven’t they just.
Music: House, Commercial, Indie, Live
Dress Code: None
Train Station: Angel
Address: The Winchester, 2 Essex Road, London, N1 8LN
In a sense, you’re in a pub with a cocktail selection larger than the beer list and that is pretty novel. If Americana could be distilled in a cocktail, then a ‘Bourbon for Breakfast’ – a mix of banana purée, maple syrup and Evan Williams bourbon – is where you’ll find it. It’s a essentially a bourbon-milkshake. The Jaffa’s glorious Jaffa cake garnish make the delicious mix of Kahlua, dark rum and triple sec all the more palatable. There’s a reasonably sized kitchen in the back. Main meals are meat-heavy affairs – burgers abound – and light bites, breakfast and lunch are available too. House music plays to get you in the mood for dancing and resident DJs play on the weekends until 4am.
If you’re looking for a chilled out space, with plenty of drinks to go around and enough food options to make a night of it, then you’ll find it here with everyone else. On the quieter nights, a spate of people will be having dinner and cocktails. Thursdays are popular affairs with the late 20s and early 30s crowd taking the 2-4-1 cocktail deals and running with them... and then stumbling a little later on. Sundays are quieter but the 2 for £20 roast dinner deal will help you recover from your slight (Who are you kidding? Your massive!) headache from last night’s shenanigans.
London is an environment filled with stress and with noise. Sure, it’s nice to have everything you have on your doorstep, but with every all singing/all dancing bar, club or restaurant in town screaming out for your custom, it can sometimes be all be a bit much. Sometimes, it takes all that to come to the realisation that, actually, less is more. At The Winchester, you’ll be offered a bit of rare respite from the madness. You know, a chance to just have a nice cold pint and wait for it all to blow over. You didn’t really think we’d go a whole review of The Winchester without a Shaun of the Dead reference did you!?