The Drapers Arms
44 Barnsbury Street, Islington, N1 1ER
WLC Rank : 72
Glass from : £ 5.50 (175 ml)
BEST FORHandsome edifice
Carefully collected, kindly priced wines
The chocolate & stout fudge cake
Marathon man, Nick Gibson revived one of Islington’s most respected boozers while having the foresight to begin purchasing wines en-primeur.
Financier turned landlord, Nick Gibson lifted Islington’s handsome of frontage, Drapers Arms out of receivership almost a decade ago with Ben Maschler, the son of restaurant critic doyenne, Fay Maschler.
Adhering to the motto, “always raucous, always fun”, The Drapers Arms fast accumulated fame under Gibson’s tenure for his “Drink the List” showcases, “where we opened every bottle on the list in our upstairs dining room and let everyone help themselves.” However, as the list grew in stature, “with irreplaceable bottles too numerous,” such events could prove ruinous. “Although, now in our 10th birthday year, we will be doing some version of it, perhaps with my favourite wines from the decade,” says Gibson.
Gibson’s stable list shows curiosity, from although he says his only vinous expertise is, “in my considerable age and life-long enthusiasm for drinking wine with the help of our excellent suppliers – especially Greg Sherwood MW at Handford Wines.” In fact, regular guests have learnt to look out for a weekly mixed case to take-away, mentioned at the front of the wine list, “again from Handford” and adhering to a theme such as “terroir
To drink in, “fair, cash mark-ups” on carefully kept bottles such as rested Gravonia Rioja Blanco Crianza, Francois Cotat Sancerre, Château Poujeaux Moulis and Ornellaia, as well as two-decade-old Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Bernadine (Chapoutier) are informed by the pricing at furtive Soho staple, Andrew Edmunds, “which I aspire to one day being able to match.”
Rather than matching wines such as Watervale Riesling, Clos Clare, with dishes, such as starter of lamb heart with beef dripping pancake, pickled red cabbage, yoghurt and Sriracha, main of cod with spiced potatoes, spinach and curry butter, and black forest gâteau to culminate, Gibson prefers to allocate relevant wines to specific people. “I have matched Domain Trevallon, Leoville Poyferré, and a bottle from my secret stash of Mark Haisma to particular guests, resulting in fabulous evenings and treasured memories.” One wonders who would be accorded the canned wine spritzer which is also on the stock-list…
When not in his clearly beloved pub, Gibson enjoys eating and drinking in the park “with rough and ready food and exceptional wines that are probably too ‘good’ for the setting and probably not ‘ready’ – but I think drinking treats should be a frequent event and not saved for special occasions.” He has also developed what he deems “a concerning marathon habit”, coming 66th (of 8,500 participants!) in the 2018 Marathon du Médoc “with just three hours of sleep and a cracking hangover.”
By Douglas Blyde.