Despite counting a cluster of North London’s leading drinking dens among its close neighbours, there’s something about The Old Queen’s Head that helps it differ from the rest. Offering a careful balance between familiar local, late-night dancing destination and karaoke merriment, it’s because of venues like this that Essex Road attracts such a vibrant crowd come the weekend. We dropped in on a Saturday night where a few quiet cocktails rapidly escalated into a hands-in-the-air, dancing-on-the-sofa type of knees-up.
First and foremost, The Old Queen’s Head is a friendly, familiar pub. The place fronts a handful of alfresco tables, where guests were chatting away and making light work of their first drink of the night upon our arrival. Once inside there’s a real homely feel to the place, the ground floor was already alive with a Saturday night crowd clinking glasses, catching up with old friends and gearing up for the raucous party that was to follow.
We strode through and found our way to the first floor, which is where the party really kicks into gear. Laying claim to a candlelit booth area on the fringes of the dance floor, the space was relatively serene at first before a steady trickle of guests marched up those stairs and on to the dance floor later in the evening.
As previously mentioned, the second floor is all about those karaoke antics, where up to 15 guests reel off the power ballads and make full use of the intimate, private feel.
From the attentive door-staff to the super-chatty supervisors inside, Queen’s made us feel right at home. There’s all sorts of characters to chat to here as well, and we met everyone from high-spirited hen parties to Stamford the Lion, Chelsea Football Club’s mascot who had been celebrating a goal with the team just a few hours earlier (he had the pics to prove it).
DJs play a smooth house playlist in the early stages, loud enough to get the toes tapping but not over-bearing to the point where it stifles conversation. That all changes at around 11pm, when a raucous party of all your favourite hip-hop, house and disco bangers kicks into gear. We were up on the stage and dancing on the sofas until well into the early hours.
The Food & Drink:
You just can’t keep Kevin Bacon out of the limelight right now. When he’s not fronting EE adverts he’s busy having burgers named after him, and the £8.50 Kevin Bacon offering here was a rewarding patty coated with cheese and Applewood smoked bacon. The Under Dog (£7) and a side of Hot Wings (£6.50) were also in our sights, each offering a hearty dose of American goodness.
The cocktail list – while far from exhaustive – is neatly made up of a hybrid of the classics and innovative mixes. Try the Raspberry Mule (£8) for an invigorating mesh of Russian Standard vodka, raspberries, lime and ginger beer, or seek out our highlight of the night; the Twinkle (£9) which is a zesty favourite topped with a dash of prosecco to add some sparkle.
It’s just impossible not to be charmed by this pillar of Islington socialising. The Old Queen's Head is a versatile venue with its fingers in many pies; boogie long into the night on the first floor, flex those vocal chords like the karaoke superstar you are and then return for a laid-back roast and a browse of the Sunday Supplements to kick that hangover into touch.