A stalwart of the gastropub revolution, The Peasant has been a purveyor of fine food and drink to the people of Clerkenwell for more than a decade, and is still as good as it has ever been, if not better.
Although today the concept of taking an old worn-out Victorian boozer and transforming it into a bright and chic eatery-cum-ale house seems ubiquitous in London, The Peasant can lay claim to being a true trailblazer of the genre. While the upstairs operates as a bona fide restaurant, downstairs is still an excellent place to enjoy a quiet beer, but can also provide some top quality fayre. A large wooden horseshoe-shaped bar sits at the middle of a spacious mosaic-floored room, with many of the attractive Victorian fixtures lovingly restored, while scattered around this area is the now de rigueur vintage sanded dark-wood furniture, topped off with a very inviting roaring open fire. Industrial lampshades, plenty of fresh flowers and Iggy Pop posters remind you that this is a cut above the old nicotine stained drinking den that it once was.
Downstairs at The Peasant has long been a favourite of the architect/design crowd that inhabit Clerkenwell, and has recently attracted some other celeb locals, form musicians to actors and playwrights. On weekdays it is very pleasant and it is easy to grab a table, or a stool at the bar. Towards the evening it gets pleasantly busy, but on weekends it can be almost intolerable unless you arrive seriously early and bag some seats, and then don’t move. The service here is impeccable. You are served quickly and politely by bar staff who know their way round the menu and drinks list very, very well.
Given that this is one of the capital’s original gastropubs, you might expect there to be something tasty on offer from the kitchen, and you’d be bang on. The seasonal menu generally offers something for everyone; some light bites, sharing platters, bigger plates, and delicious desserts. All are excellent and none will break the bank (mains £8-£15). A particular delicacy is their roast beef sandwich, which comes on ‘artisan’ bread’ stuffed with excellent homemade horseradish sauce and a side of potato salad. At £8.50, it’s fairly priced too. The wasabi peas and sausage rolls are also a great accompaniment to some of the very fine ales available.
Although there is a good and varied wine list (which the staff will be happy to guide you through), ale and beer is the order of the day here. An ever-changing cask ale selection keeps even the regulars on their toes with something new to try on almost every visit. Bass, Deuchars, London Pride and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord on tap give you a draught option from almost every corner of the country, while you can also sample offerings from the Camden Brewery and Battersea Brewery, for some local delights. There is also a fantastic choice of bottled beers including six from Belgium. While the selection is awe-inspiring, the prices aren’t cheap.
The Last Word
This London favourite is operating as well as it ever has. Polite service, excellent food and a fantastic global beer selection, all dished up in a convivial and visually interesting environment. It is no wonder that the model caught on, although few have been able to better this maverick.