This cosy pub opposite Smithfield Market offers a wide selection of craft beer and meat – a winning combination.
The Old Red Cow can be found at the Barbican end of Long Lane, one of a select few establishments looking out onto Smithfield meat market. Forced to share its ground floor space with a quaintly Victorian passageway, the venue has worked wonders within its limited confines, with large front windows lighting up a handful of wooden tables and stools, as well as an impressive main bar showcasing a wealth of bottled beers. Upstairs, an equally intimate dining room holds enough booths and sofas for a sizeable after work crowd, with room to spare for an auxiliary bar. Decoration is sparse but convivial, with gleaming beer pumps, bottles and specials blackboards leaving no doubt as to the proprietor’s tipple of choice.
Patrons of The Old Red Cow range from office workers in nearby Farringdon and Barbican to market-goers and meat-lovers from all over town. The bar’s unrivalled selection of beers and ales is a major selling point, and understandably leads to a pleasingly raucous atmosphere by closing time. Cosy and unpretentious, The Old Red Cow is an ideal place to relax after work or on a weekend – if they can fit you in.
Simple, hearty fare is the order of the day, with starters (£5-£7) such as toad in the hole and onion soup giving way to generous helpings of pork belly, rib-eye steak and game pie (the latter sporting a “p” symbol on its pastry topping), for around £13-£15. Adventurous carnivores can ring ahead and plan an “off-piste” menu of suckling pig or a selection of roasts, and traditional Sunday dinners (£14.50) are available to all as well. Vegetarians may feel slightly out of place, but are at least acknowledged with a daily selection of specials.
The Old Red Cow’s predilection for meat is matched only by its thirst for craft beer, and the pub has amassed a heroic selection of distinctive ales and lagers from all over the world (prices range from £3.50-£7). Reading the lengthy, eloquent menu is a joy in itself, and even complete novices are bound to find something they like thanks to the knowledgeable staff. Expect the likes of Sambrooks, Thornbridge and The Kernel to be supported by beers from lesser known brewers such as Arbor Ales, Dancing Duck and Tiny Rebel. The wine list (£4-£6 a glass, £18-30 a bottle) is equally varied, making the venue one of the best in London for unashamed revelry.
The Last Word
Small but perfectly formed, The Old Red Cow has struck on a failsafe mix of home comforts and fine food and drink.