Shacklewell Arms / Dalston, London


The Shacklewell Arms is a dive bar. Or at least the closest to one you'll find in London, despite it lacking the booze prices you'd want.

This gaff has the core of an old boozer and the wooden-beamed essence of a working man's club, but with the light dimmer cranked down low and the red fairy lights turned up. The decor and furniture has that delightful air of dilapidation, you can perch on a stool at the bar or slouch into a table in the corner, that you feel the place has no intent on changing any time soon. They even have a token screen high up on the wall showing sports. The only thing it is missing is the disgruntled old regular sipping on a Fosters top.

It also has a venue in the back which has retained the inspired amateur murals from its former Caribbean beach-themed life (the mural of the dude grinding on the girl above the bar is particularly frightening), a place we've had the pleasure of late night slow motion dancing to dub reggae in. It is quite the place for boozes.

With the added incentive of hearing the burgers weren't that bad either, and having perused the radical Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle inspired menu online, we were well up for checking them out and pounding some Lagunitas.

It looked like we'd made it too late to try the Turtles menu, replaced as it was by the Beavis and Butthead-inspirited logo of Shack Kitchen. They are properly down with the 90s references here. The menu was very simple - the beef burger came only with bun, mustard and ketchup, but there was the ability to add the furnishings of your choice. We naturally opted for cheese and pickles. 

The bun from Spence Bakery was rather decent, a spongy inside was encased by a glossy brioche finish with a touch of crusty bap. A nice break from the sweet brioche norm. It hosted a well crusted patty and was joined by a not wholly melted lump of partially translucent, mucky cheddar looking not unlike the inside of a big candle after a couple of hours.  

Inside the patty was pink, loosely ground and moist and may have been quite tasty. But the crusted outer layer had been lavished upon with so much oregano it left an overriding burning sensation on the tongue, with an unpleasantness akin to rubbing your nipples with TCP after running a marathon.

The ketchup spread on the bottom bun was sweet with a good hit of sharpness which was boosted by the chunky slices of pickle nestled under the cheese. But none of it really mattered due to the unpalatable herbal turbulence that inhabited every bite. Not fun. 

The pickle popcorn sounded like a novel take on fried pickles, and the flavour concept worked in the same way. But the ratio of batter to pickle was way too high and had the greasy tang of oil that had not been changed in a good while, compromising any subtlety of flavour that may have been in the cola batter. Again, lacking in fun.

Lesson: Places that are great boozy hovels may not have the best food options. 

  • Rob

Comment