76 Paul Street EC2A 4NE,
Tel: 020 7729 9270
Cost per person without wine: £34 THE NEWLY revamped Princess of Shoreditch describes itself as a “gastropub and restaurant”, which might be seen as having your cake and eating it, but the owners have grand ideas. In the bar downstairs you can get souped-up pub grub at souped-up prices (a tenner for a pie, £13.50 for a lamb chop), but you can’t reserve. You can in the upstairs dining room, however, which has a smarter atmosphere, and is reached via an elegant, iron spiral staircase. The tables have crisp white cloths to emphasize that you are no longer in a pub – even though you are – and the menu has even more elevated prices. Sitting on a quiet corner just off the main Old Street drag, there’s been a pub on the site since the 18th century, and it remains a rather lovely place to visit. The redesign has given it a suitably distinguished feel, with chic grey/green walls, low lighting, and a cosy ambience. You can get your pint of ale (from independent local breweries, including one offering something called Side Pocket for a Toad) in a cheery beer jug. As a place out east to go for a winter pint, it’s a winner. As a place out east to head for a good meal, it’s okay, though the dining room never really feels like more than the upstairs room of a pub, whatever the proprietors’ aspirations. You still have to go downstairs and wade through packs of drinkers if you want to use the loo, after all. But I like it anyway – it’s a chattery, buzzy place when we visit on a Friday night, full of Shoreditch trendies packed in snugly and overlooked by black-and-white photos of music hall madams.
It’s a little too pricey, but this is a smart, superior gastropub in the East End.