As a country gal at heart, I love nothing more than a good, proper British pub, but it's hard not to become... accustomed to a certain gastro lifestyle after living in London for so long. Good job that there's pubs like the Spread Eagle just off Camden High Street, which meets in the middle between relaxed hangout and refined gastropub to offer something right up my alley. And with the summer sun shining too, there was no better time to take advantage of their alfresco seating.
The Spread Eagle has all the stylings of a gastropub, featuring a handsome dining room that fuses the character of a traditional pub with more modern aesthetics, making it feel relaxed and welcoming while still maintaining that refined edge. The cosy seating by the bar is perfect for leisurely drinkers and there's a few tables hidden away where dates and private conversations can steal a bit of privacy.
The place is at heart a chilled out venue, though, with neon signs calling drinkers 'gorgeous' and quirky antique clocks reassuring you that it's a place to have fun. A larger dining area is lit by floor-to-ceiling windows that peek outside to their rows of alfresco seating, where my friend and I eventually found ourselves.
Fun, relaxed while keeping up to a London standard - basically everything you want from a gastropub.
Food & drink
Having settled into some cosy seating, it was time to see what the kitchen held in store for us. The food menu was a collection of gastropub favourites and, with so many tasty options catching my eye, the choice was a very difficult one indeed. The heatwave was in full force by now and the hot evening made the chilled butternut squash soup (£6.50) sound heavenly, but we also couldn't resist the intriguing-sounding crab doughnuts or the arancini (both £3.50)
The soup was the perfect summer starter, both sweet and thick with crunchy croutons resting on the surface to give it a contrasting texture, and I scraped the bowl clean. The crab doughnuts managed to create the ideal balance between mouthfuls of sweet crab meat and fluffy savoury doughnut, making them delightful little bundles of flavour on the plate. The arancini portion comes in a pair, with one filled with succulent chorizo and the other oozing with stringy mozzarella, which meant there was no fighting between my vegetarian friend and I over who got what delicious mouthful. Alongside that we had a bowl of salt & pepper squid (£6) - lightly battered without a hint of grease, the touch of spice was great, but the dish really came into its own with the help of a generous squeeze of lemon and a gentle dip of the garlic aioli.
While the pub classics of fish & chips, fancy bangers & mash, and steak, all looked appealing, it was really the burgers that rumbled our bellies in anticipation. While my friend opted for the Veggie burger (£13), which was a spicy bean patty, I chose the soft shell crab burger (£13.75) topped with British harissa-rose petal mayo. Seeing them served to other tables, the light crab seemed like a much more sensible option in the heatwave than one of the hearty beef burgers (though I've got my eye on it any other time). The golden batter on my burger was light and crisp instead of stodgy, and the crab was fresh enough that I was briefly transported away from North London and into a sunny seaside town. Meanwhile, my friend really enjoyed her veggie burger, and there was just the right amount of spice to really get the flavours going. The burgers arrive with chips as a side, but I upgraded mine to proper home-made sweet potato fries for £1.50 and the sweetness of the fries complimented the crab's perfectly - a match made in heaven that I never knew I needed! To wash down our food we shared a bottle (or two) of Whispering Angel Rosé (£29.75).
Instead of a traditional dessert, we took full advantage of the summer sun and enjoyed a cocktail each while sat outside: myself the Espresso Martini (£7.50) - the one true after-meal digestif - and my pal the Old Fashioned (£8). The martini was sweet and smooth, and the Old Fashioned didn't let my friend down either. Sun, cocktails and hanging out with your friends: is there a better way to end a great meal?
If anything sums up our time at the Spread Eagle Camden, it's that my friend and I stayed until final orders. With such a relaxed and friendly atmosphere it’s easy to lose track of time at this great Camden pub, and with delicious food and drinks on our side, why not let the night pass us by?