Open midday—11pm Sun—Thu; midday—midnight Fri; 10am—midnight Sat
The Drapers Arms in Ealing opened just under two months ago on the site of O’Neill’s; a chain which has seemingly been subject to a mass closure order in west London. Walking into it you immediately realise what an improvement this change is, with an abundance of deep red leather, dark wood furniture and matching (but really mismatching) decor greeting you, like a well-heeled if slightly eccentric gentleman from a previous age. Which is fitting really, as this site was once a Victorian clothing factory.
The focus here is a well-trodden, but well-loved, path of everything seeming ‘traditional’ but in reality scrubbing up to be rather more fancy. A very good beer and craft ale selection is available along with an expansive wine list and artisan spirits options — they even brew some onsite. The food is described as ‘Great British Pub food’, which is partly true, with offerings including sausage and mash, fish and chips, burgers etc. However, as with most gastropubs, a lot of wordy descriptions litter the menu and more than a few other cuisines have crept in — for instance the calamari starter (£6), chorizo burger main (£11.50) and grilled mac & cheese side (£3).
After a pint of Brooklyn lager (a fairly hefty £5.05) we were placed in an American diner-style booth, shrouded in chandelier lighting. Our waitress, the very lovely Freddie, came over simply to introduce herself and check we were ok. Being men in a pub we plumped for meat: Southern fried chicken (£11) and rib-eye steak (£17.50). The chicken came in its own little wire basket with fries, apple slaw and pickle dip all on a wooden chopping board; a modern take on chicken in a basket basically (although why plates have gone out of fashion baffles me!). It looked good and smelt good, but the batter on the chicken was slightly too lemony and the third piece was a bit of a struggle, although still very tasty.
The steak arrived on a recently-back-in-fashion plate and looked like a proper British pub meal: fat chips, half a tomato and a mass of watercress. Sadly, however, it was swamped in garlic butter that really overpowered the flavour of the meat. That said, it was cooked exceptionally well, was tender and a good size. The night before I had dined at the recently launched steakhouse of a celebrity chef — who shall remain nameless — where I was served a measurably more expensive yet dry and overcooked bit of steak; Drapers 1, Nameless Celeb Chef 0.
Freddie intimated strongly that the brownie was the best thing on the dessert menu. And by intimated I mean she whispered it at both of us separately and quickly disappeared, like a John le Carré waitress. So we obviously had to get the brownie (£5.75) and a cheese board (£7). The brownie was really very good and came with a massive scoop of vanilla pod ice cream — it could easily have served two. The cheese board wasn’t exactly exotic in its offerings: cheddar, stilton and brie. However, all were British and portions were generous. Alongside some thin oatcakes and onion chutney it made for a much lighter end to the meal than my friend’s chocolate warfare.
When a pub like the Drapers Arms opens it immediately provides you with a solution to a problem you didn’t realise existed — a bit like an Ikea purchase. People were happy with O’Neill’s and its faux-Irish shtick, it did the job. But this comes along and suddenly you realise that a genuinely good gastropub was needed. The three foot tribal-patterned shoe horn you bought, however…
Well worth a visit.