Tucked away in the heart of Leadenhall Market, Old Tom’s Bar is a tiny restaurant serving craft ales and speciality meats and cheeses. Named after a goose that escaped slaughter at the local market by amusing the tradespeople, Old Tom’s Bar is as quirky as its namesake and well worth a visit.
Old Tom’s Bar is found by descending the rickety stairs adjacent to that well-known neighbouring pub, The Lamb's Tavern. Old Tom's itself is an attractive little den, thanks in no small part to some impressive green and cream wall-tiles preserved from the nineteenth century. And with its flickering lighting and well-worn bar, you could be forgiven for thinking you had stepped back in time. The tables are dotted about with enough space to make any diner feel comfortable, with intimate nooks for chatting with friends and longer, wider berths to accommodate larger groups. Opt for the two-seater with opulent, mauve-coloured sofas to really feel regal.
The staff really ‘make’ Old Tom’s Bar. They're relaxed, informal, trendy and friendly, and they attract a similar sort of crowd too - even the suited bankers seem to have taken the night off. Everyone seems to want to have a good time and luxuriate in the comforting setting. It’s the perfect venue for a first date - unique enough to make a conversation point and relaxed enough for you to really get to know one another.
Old Tom’s Bar doesn’t serve anything but meat and cheese and thus doesn’t leave much room for discussion or choice when it comes to the menu. If you aren’t a fan of either this probably isn’t the place for you - nor is it if you're penny pinching. With each serving of meat or cheese ringing in at around five or six pounds - and a platter at just under fifteen - this isn't somewhere to go if you're looking for an inexpensive night out.
However, the quality of what's on offer is impressive. The Barbers 1833 Vintage Reserve cheddar is a particular treat, as is the Ogleshield, a West Country firm cheese. The real star, though, is the Colston Basset Shropshire Blue, which is rich, well-veined and delicious. All the cheeses are served with excellent seeded crackers, chutneys and pickles. The one slight glitch is found not in presentation (which is really beautiful considering the chef essentially has very little ingredients to play with) but the size of the crackers, which are decoratively broken into pieces too tiny to put your cheese on. Still, this bugbear aside, the cheeses on offer really are top notch.
The award-winning meats are also a treat – slow roast English ham melts in the mouth, and the sirloin of beef sings with garlic and rosemary. The boar salami has flavours of venison and port, and is greasy and unctuous. The best thing on offer however is the Norfolk-bred duck breast, which is served medium-rare and is fantastically gamey. The meat comes with home-baked bread but little else - some different styles of (and more of it) would definitely not go amiss.
There are a great many drinks to choose from and at reasonable prices, especially considering the quality. From craft beers, a good choice of wines, Meantime pale ale, Camden’s ‘hell lager’ and a special gin mix, all tastes are catered for. You can even ask your friendly waitress to recommend a craft ale to match your meal. If stuck and not at home with types of beers and larger, opt for the pale ale – it’s really refreshing, crisp and delicious.
The Last Word
A few tweaks could be made to the menu to hit perfection, but Old Tom’s Bar remains impressive. If you're a cheese and meat aficionado you certainly won’t be disappointed, but the sense of history, occasion and atmosphere alone make this place worth a visit.