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The Narrow Boat (Bar)

Picture of The Narrow Boat in Angel & Islington, London

119 St. Peters Street, Angel & Islington, London, N1 8PZ
Cuisine: Pub
Tel: 0207 288 0572 | Email to The Narrow Boat | Transport: Angel | Write review

The Narrow Boat Review

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Best for: pre-loading drinks ahead of a night out in Shoreditch or Angel.

Great: by-the-glass wine selection; and late afternoon alfresco sun terrace, if it’s quiet.

A hushed back street lurking between Angel tube station and the satellites of Hoxton, where the eerily still, dark waters of the Regent Canal reflect the death of the day’s sunlight before the gloaming sets in; the kind of place kitten-murderers and Sainsbury’s shopping cart vandals dream of.

A secluded north London spot like this - adjacent to a bridge, next to a canal, bathing in early evening sun - can also provide a lovely location for a nice subdued pub where you and your bestie mate can have a few quiet drinks, grab a quiet bite to eat, and possibly partake in some quiet chatter, feline-homicide or trolley-drowning, depending on your mood.

Ahhhh, to escape the humdrum of the hoi polloi, to squirrel away in that elusive hidden gem pub; a powerful, robust and spicy Alta Vista Malbec wine in hand, and little else to tax your work-weary mind; just the pleasant serve-and-volley of interesting gossip to keep you and your companion peacefully occupied.

Unless, of course, Mylo’s “Motherf*ckers Gonna Drop The Pressure” is pounding out, beat after disco beat, just above your head, a clarion call from your youth of 2004. Suddenly your idyll has gone from ahhhh to oonst-oonst and your subdued chitchat has become a shouting match.

That’ll learn you to visit a ‘quiet’ pub on a Saturday night.

Think of narrow boats and you’ll probably picture a tranquil scene of Norfolk Broad lethargy, filled with light summer breezes, the smell of cut grass, and the sound of cricket bat willow against leather-covered balls. You probably wont conjure up an image of raucous rock-and-house party music and beautiful young flesh, primped and groomed to the teeth.

This quiet back street canal-side pub is now a holding area for Saturday night rompers and revellers pre-loading on inexpensive booze before they hit the London club scene in Angel or Shoreditch over yonder water.

I, myself, shall therefore return to this back street canal-side pub on a quieter night so that I may enjoy the calming view from the alfresco balcony terrace of twinkling stars reflecting in the water, with my crisp, dry, reasonably priced house white - Le Sanglier de la Montagne - before returning inside to match its apple, floral notes to my starter: a seafood sharing platter.

It is a sharing platter, so even though I am greedy, I wont be eating it alone, having brought along the aforementioned bestie mate for that aforementioned quiet chat. The evening’s quiet agenda will include house prices, immersive theatre, and shady sexual liaisons, which will all seem light in matter when comparable to the heavily battered (yet ultimately satisfying, as long as you’re not hungover) prawns, calamari, fish cakes and scampi.

The Narrow Boat’s modern twee interior is possibly lost on the pumped-up youngsters by the bar. They’ll leave before they even notice the pub’s obvious British theme.

Us beardy, jumper-wearing, here-for-the-whole-evening codgers at the far end of the pub will note the simplicity of the matching British menu - on which the crab linguine is the most exotic option - as well as the floral bunting, the ramshackle furniture, and the overbearing sense of tarnished wood throughout. Table, chair, wall, floor, or ceiling; it’s all wooden and distressed, as though we’re communally pre-loading for a night of clubbing in Granddad's allotment shed.

This obsession with wood (or hatred of bone china) is made evident by the food delivery format, with both my huge 21-day rib eye steak and my chocolate brownie dessert arriving in this manner.

The former, a busy rush hour of a meal, with egg, plump mushrooms, salad and thick cut potato almost obscuring the stupefyingly filling steak.

The latter, as good quality as chocolate sponge can be, from a wholly uninspiring dessert menu (the ice cream spoon utensil proving to be the ultimate tease; too wide to reach the bottom of the glass).

Although our Saturday night was lively, as it should be (in hindsight), this back street canal-side pub is best suited to quieter afternoon catch ups on the alfresco terrace, with a glass or two of vino. Let the kittens and shopping trolleys run free!
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