A Good Old East End Rub-A-Dub | Draft House Birdcage | 80 Columbia Road, London E2 7QB
What do get if you take a run-down East End pub and let Charlie McVeigh (of the Draft House group) work his magic? You get the Draft House Birdcage! The pub is by no means trendy, what it is, is a proper cosy and homely public house. Yes, it has been refurbished, but it had to be. This once popular boozer (on Columbia Road of flower market fame) had gradually slipped into decline, now it’s back to its former glory.
Sure there are modern touches, filament bulbs, some neon and bespoke Draft House wallpaper but it’s somewhere locals and destination drinkers will equally feel at home. There’s even talk of a Queen Vic style EastEnders singalong night, with local buskers playing cockney classics around the old Joanna!
They have kept it simple by only taking two east London favourites – pie and beer. The pies are by Square Pie and the craft beers hand-picked by master rectifier and distiller, Max Chater of Bump Caves. There’s a selection of draft and cask beers/lagers/ales on seasonal rotation. Plus a massive range of ‘beer in the fridge’, split into sections such as IPA, Sour, Dark, Belgian style etc.
Of course they also serve a full range of spirits and a decent selection of wines too, but what sets this pub apart are the Optic cocktails at just £5. Yep, £5! These pre-made drinks are dispensed from the customised BIG JOE optics behind the bar. Saff had a sweet and caramely Treacle – raisin infused Diplomatico Anejo, Bump bitters and apple, while I saved myself for the beers!
The choice of house pies, £6.90, are served with mushy peas and a choice of liquor (thin béchamel with chopped parsley) or caramelised onion gravy, you can add an extra dollop of creamy house mash for £1. The pies are Steak & Ale, Chicken & Bacon, Spinach with Sweet Potato & Goat’s Cheese (v) and the Daily Special. For those who can never decide between short crust and puff pastry, these pies have both in one – a puffed lid and sturdy short crust wall, packed full to the brim with hearty ingredients.
It’s tricky to pick just one beer from the comprehensive collection of draft and cask beers, luckily they serve a sellection of different measures. That said we skipped these and both went for the bottled beers. I like to drink Guinness so the Hercule Stout £6.95, 9%, 330ml from the ‘Dark’ section was recommended to me. A comforting Belgian beer served in a beige ceramic tankard with Poirot’s face on it (yes really). Saff loves her wheat beer and went for a Westbrook White Thai £7.65, 5%, 355ml. This American Belgian style beer was light and refreshing with hints of lemongrass and ginger root. I just about had time for 2/3 of a pint of Troubadour, Obscura £5, 8.5% – a gorgeous reddy-brown coloured beer with malty, almost chocolatlely taste – at 8.5% it’s definitely a beer for sipping!
We loved the feel of this pub, a great balance of old and new, it somehow managed to be traditional yet contemporary. What a fine local for those lucky enough to live nearby, we have never even set foot in the pub across the road from our house, we need a Draft House in Kent please Charlie!
80 Columbia Road, London E2 7QB
Telephone: 020 7739 5509
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 4pm – 11pm
Friday 4pm – Midnight
Saturday Noon – 1am
Sunday 9am – 10.30pm
Book a table online
Nearest station: Hoxton (8 mins walk) or Shoreditch High Street Station (10 mins walk)
We ate as guests of Draft House Birdcage, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.