101 Star Bars: Prince Arthur, London E8
Saturday 23 February 2008
For those of a certain literary vintage, the idea of a pub in London Fields will bring to mind hideous images of Keith Talent playing darts in the Black Cross, in Martin Amis's 1989 novel London Fields. The Black Cross would not make a round-up of fictional Star Bars – unless it was a highly specialised list of sticky-carpeted hell holes in which to plan your own murder – but fortunately in this case the truth is much nicer than fiction.
The Prince Arthur is the latest offering from a mini gastropub dynasty that has brought the best of country pub atmosphere to some previously unpromising areas of London. Places such as Docklands and the City, where glum suits used to drink foamy lagers in pub interiors shipped whole from factories in Slough, have been transformed. Now there is a little corner of London Fields, on the border of Dalston and Hackney, that could easily be mistaken for a country inn beside some small tarn in Ambleside - at least after a few pints of London Pride and a homemade pork pie with piccalilli. Time Out even calls it a "dream pub", which is praise indeed.
The Prince Arthur has kept many original features from the 19th-century public house, and augmented them with a few some weirdly congruous stuffed animal heads and several portraits of its namesake, the favourite son of Queen Victoria. The sprightly prince looks like he has wisely steered clear of the pub's infamous deep-fried jam sandwich, but you get the feeling he would have appreciated this inner-city country retreat.
95 Forest Road, London Fields, London (020 7249 9996)
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