Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
Nestled around the corner from Angel Station where North London ends and the City begins lies the newly opened Brewhouse and Kitchen the latest addition to a trio of bar restaurants owned by Simon Bunn and Kris Gumbrell. As the name suggests, Brewhouse features an in house brewery for creating its own exclusive range of cask ales, something Bunn and Grumbrell have had their hand in before when setting up The Lamb and The Botanist brewpubs in Chiswick and Kew respectively. The Brewhouse and Kitchen formula has already been tested with great success in Portsmouth and Dorchester so with little trepidation I headed down to Angel, Islington to see what they can bring to the areas already bustling beer scene.
Although the entrance to Brewhouse and Kitchen is on the secluded Torrens Street the bar is huge and the exterior spills onto City Road. The branding is clear and distinctive and the pub certainly manages to stand out on an already busy street. I'm used to new London beer bars being cramped, crowded spaces but Brewhouse is positively sprawling which will be welcome news to those who enjoy both sitting down and the comfort of their own personal space. From the main entrance the pub extends backwards some distance until you reach the brewery itself at the back of the building which is exposed for all to see. There are plenty of tables with more relaxed bar-like seating near the entrance and the brew kit with mainly restaurant style tables taking up the rest of the room.
It's clear from the moment you walk into the clean, modern and stylish interior that a serious amount of cash has been pumped into this place which is even more impressive when you consider its size and location. I wander up to the bar where there are about six hand pumps for the house beer and about twice as many keg taps pouring the likes of Camden Town and Weird Beard as well as some more established names such as Erdinger. There's a decent, if not incredibly adventurous bottle selection featuring the likes of Brewdog Punk IPA, Anchor Steam and those gimmicky yet popular Mongozo fruit beers which personally put my humours out of balance but many seem to enjoy. There is of course a great selection of wine and spirits too.
I decide it would be rude to drink anything but the house ale to start with an so order a Spandau B, which labels itself as a session IPA. Not expecting a great deal I lunge in for a large gulp but before I get to the glass I'm awash in a deep aroma of mango and grapefruit. The flavour is full and juicy with a really satisfying grassy bitterness and a moreishly dry finish. I take a second gulp and quickly follow it with a third, this is seriously good stuff for a brewery that's barely got off its feet. This is a major achievement for head brewer Pete Hughes who's also chairman of the London Amateur Brewers Society. It's plain to see he's got a bright future in brewing ahead of him and another taste of Spandau B reinforces my thought that Brewhouse and Kitchen are lucky to have him.
I didn't eat much while I was there, a few canapés were being handed around of which all were very tasty bar some overdone chicken wings that disintegrated in my hands when I tried to eat them. I'll return in the near future to give the kitchen aspect of the business a proper inspection. I try a half of Black Swan, another of the Brewhouse's own beers which is rich with flavours of liquorice and figs yet still very drinkable but its the session IPA that has me going back for more.
I think Brewhouse and Kitchen has a bright future ahead of it but I'm not sure hardcore beer slaves like myself are the target audience. Brewhouse manages to bridge the gap between craft beer and the restaurant going public in a similar fashion to the way Belgo did with Belgian beer when they opened in the mid-nineties. It's in a central location, easy to find and less than two minutes walk from an underground station. The vibe is busy, casual and inoffensive so it will be as popular with families as it is with suits and those lining their stomachs before the epic pub crawl that the surrounding area is able to offer. It will be interesting to see how Brewhouse and Kitchen fits into the makeup of the Islington craft beer scene especially when they open the planned second branch just up the road on Upper Street in a few months time. I think I like it though, and I'll be going back again to make sure I do.