Great atmosphere, attentive service and a fabulous beer menu, just a shame that the food didn’t match up.
At the end of last year, the team behind The Duke of Wellington in Dalston opened Mason & Taylor, a new bar in Shoreditch serving craft beers, real ale and British food.
I recently visited Mason & Taylor after work with a friend and was impressed with its makeover from grungy Mexican restaurant into a brighter and cleaner cut bar. It is not designed in uniform Shoreditch style of cut cement and prison lights but instead has quite a grown-up vibe, which was also reflected in the customers, who had gathered around small tables and were exchanging conversation in muted tones. There were many couples and groups of ladies, which was quite interesting, considering they specialize in beer.
The extensive beer menu was split up into a small section of draught beers and a much larger bottled beer section, which was further sub-categorized into groups such as pales, ambers, blacks and fruits. The list of forty bottled beers were seasonal and changed every 2 months. All their beers hailed from small independent breweries, with a good number originating from Britain. They also stocked beers from London based microbreweries such as the Camden Town Brewery and the Kernel Brewery. To start, I tried the Otley O-Garden, which is a micro-brewed version of Hoegaarden produced in Pontypridd. It was quite a delicate beer with flowery and citrus tones and it made an uplifting aperitif.
The food menu consisted of a selection of taster size small plates and after consulting the waiter we decided to order three per person. There was no starter or main course section as such and the food arrived as it was made. We didn’t have to wait long before the first two dishes arrived.
The English ‘rabbit’ with gherkin was an English take on Welsh rarebit, where the bread was meant to be soaked in red wine before being covered with melted cheese. I liked the idea of this boozy twist on its Welsh cousin but upon tasting, there was no hint of red wine, so it was not particularly memorable. The york ham with poached duck egg and parsley sauce was tasty, and the combination of the tender ham with the creamy duck egg was good. Next up was the caramelized pear, walnut and Cromwell Bishop salad, and although it sounded appetizing on paper, the delivery was not as compelling. The pear was too tough and sweet, almost as if it had been sweetened in addition to being caramelized. The rest of the salad’s components were up to scratch but the monotone olive oil dressing let it down: it needed something more robust to hold it together. The next dish under scrutiny was the wild boar and apple sausages, and while the sausages were cooked well, we were less keen on the bed of beetroot mash, which tasted too earthy and soft. A tangy and crunchy red slaw salad would have been more up my alley. Our last savoury plate was the salted ox tongue with blackberries, hazelnuts and rosemary oil. The rich ox tongue worked well together with the acidity of the blackberries and the sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts, but the thin slices of ox tongue were not particularly flavoursome.
To finish, we shared a chocolate pudding and the waiter suggested that we drink a dark beer called Rochefort IO to go with it. The pudding had a deliciously gooey centre and the beer recommendation turned out to be excellent. The Rochefort IO had undertones of molasses and figs which complemented the chocolate dessert wonderfully. It was quite sweet and intense so I don’t think I could have drunk more than one of these in a row, but it did go down well with the chocolate.
The bill for dinner and beer came to a reasonable £20 each including beers and tips. The Mason & Taylor bar is great for beer connoisseurs or those interested in learning more about craft beers as they have a phenomenal beer list and the friendly waiters really know their stuff. However, I was disappointed with the level of food because I had gone with the primary intention of eating dinner. Nevertheless, I can imagine returning to Mason & Taylor to meet friends and try out new and unusual beers, but the food would be a secondary reason for visiting.
Mason & Taylor, 51-55 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA. Tel: 0207 749 9670