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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Old Mary's, Bayswater


'Have you heard of a Bayswater bar called "Old Marys?"' asks a colleague. I have not. The name conjures up a last chance saloon for prune-skinned Paddington bears. That's not ' bear' as in MIchael Bond's creation, rather the grizzly clientele of The Old Quebec. Popular with gay bears, I visit from time to time for no other reason than its ossified punters make me look like Justin Bieber's younger bro' by comparison. (Such morale boosters are important now that I have reached an age where policeman do indeed 'look like children,' as my father long ago predicted they one day would.) 'Old Mary's'  (singular), as it happens, is a new space in a handsome old Young’s house, The Mitre Tavern. Its website reckons it's 'a speakeasy.' I disagree. But these days, isn't that the boast of just about any bar that offers any drink more complicated  than whisky and Coke? When I drop by on a Saturday evening, the place technically qualifies as a speak easy: I don't need to shout to make myself heard - another constant irritation once one's age exceeds their chest measurement - above its handful of (seemingly straight) customers. Whatever ambience there is in this semi-deserted flagstone floored cellar feels more Charles I than Chicago 1931. Apt, given the pile's spooky back story. Said to haunt the Mitre, the eponymous Mary was a Jacobean scullery maid who embarked on an upstairs-downstairs fling that ended in a bloodbath. When M'Lady discovered M'Lord Craven giving the Maidenhead - as the custom was known in Mary's native Berkshire - she plunged a knife into the hired help's hussy heart. Cue Bloody Mary on a list of drinks that also has mai tai, espresso martini and Aperol spritz (£8.25), draught ale from Meantime and Camden, and a selection of bottled craft beers. Franks and chilli dogs are also available: easy for any passing gummy old Marys to masticate, I imagine.  
 24 Craven Terrace W2 3QH 7262 5240 www.mitrelancastergate.com/ 

adapted from a review for www.squaremeal.co.uk