Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mason & Taylor, 17th March

Mason & Taylor is a reasonably recent addition to the Redchurch Street area at the top of Brick Lane, which is becoming decidedly more upmarket lately and I’m a little confused as to what Mason & Taylor are trying to be. You enter upstairs into a bright room, which is mostly full with tables and chairs. Very little room for standing at the bar. One wall is pure glass. It feels like a trendy wine bar. Or a restaurant. Yet it isn’t either of these things. They do provide food (they are part of the small plates/tapas renaissance) and of course they also have wine. But the real raison d’etre of Mason & Taylor is craft beers, which is why my friend had chosen to go there to celebrate his birthday. Unfortunately I don’t drink beer at all, so I cannot comment personally on whether or not this is a decent place to go for craft beers. I would guess that it is, as this particular group of friends are all into their beer (even a couple of CAMRA members among them) and this was at least the third one of them to choose to come here for birthday celebrations. So they must be doing something right in this regard.

I can categorically state that it’s not so hot when it comes to wine. I hate to pay more than £5.00 for a normal sized glass of wine (175ml) which left me with two choices – one oaky (yuck) and one not (which also turned out to be not so great). And is it really that hard to make sure that the wine you serve is chilled instead of, at best, just below room temperature? It makes a big difference!

So yes, upstairs feels at odds with what Mason & Taylor is all about. It feels soulless. It’s like they’re trying to ‘posh up’ beer and I don’t hold with that at all.

However, there is a basement bar. And this is where we spent most of the evening. Being a basement, it’s dark and feels much more exciting and intimate. They have a DJ down there who was playing a pleasing mix of slightly retro music (Talking Heads, Hall & Oats, some 60s soul). And it’s large. This is the part of which you can hire out certain sections for things such as birthdays. There’s a lot of room for standing, or dancing, but also quite a few comfy seats for anyone who has reserved an area. This is where the party happens.

You can also order a selection of food for your guests if you so wish. This was good in the main, with a special thumbs up going to the mini toads in the holes they provided, and the sweet potato wedges. English rarebit was less successful – it had pickles, did that make it English? – definitely overcooked and dry as a bone as a result. Pate, potted crab, mackerel pate and quiche were all fairly good too. The basement bar stays open until 2 so you can easily while away the whole night in there. Or, if you’re silly like me, you can then easily head into Shoreditch, to Ye Olde Axe, for example, to continue your night.

In conclusion, I did not fall in love with Mason & Taylor. I suppose I’m not who they’re aiming for, though I’m a bit surprised that people who are seriously into their beers and ales are looking for a place with this sort of atmosphere. It feels more like a place for people who think it’s fashionable to be into their beers and ales (previously mentioned company excluded of course). I wouldn’t be surprised if I was back here before long though. It’s size is a real bonus which means it would make a great meeting place for a large group of you. And I’d like to come back to give the ‘proper’ food a try.

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