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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Off Broadway, Hackney; Library, Islington

£5 for a Manhattan is a steal. But that’s what you’ll pay for a well-made cocktail from a concise selection at Off Broadway (pictured). An unpretentious Manhattan neighbourhood-style lounge, it’s ‘Off Broadway’ as in busy Hackney street market of that ilk; consequently, it’s rammed with Eastenders that are less Phil and Grant, more Phil and Kirstie, so middle class has this insufferably smug location location location become. There’s perfectly formed Vespers and Sours, accessible vino and tasty American beers including Genesee Cream Ale from upstate New York and four from California’s Flying Dog. What scran there is - cheeses and salamis mostly- is top notch, but this new narrow L-shaped venue is not for the claustrophobic: I get my homely antipodean neighbour’s entire CV, like it or not. ‘I used to be at Grazia’ she booms. Perhaps its editor grew weary of Oz’s answer to Ugly Betty’s foghorn monologue and an armpit that smells of neglect? What drowns out chat at new late night bar, The Library, is an XFM-ish soundtrack; fair enough, it is a music venue, its small stage apparently has hosted Bloc Party and the Fratellis as well as comedy turns, which is how detractors might dismiss the Glaswegian rockers. The main bar - a dreary bottle green painted space with potted palms, fake books by the metre and workaday furniture - is supposed to say ‘traditional gentlemen’s club’: Hmmm, the British Legion, Scunthorpe? Thankfully, the crowd is less mundane, as is food such as mutton stew, roast partridge and venison sausages and mash. Drinks, meanwhile, are affordable and include ‘artisan’ cocktails and slacker-friendly brews for Mr. Scruffs.

Off Broadway, Broadway Market E8 7923 9265
The Library, 235 Upper St, N1 7704 6977