Dalston is well known for its quirky cafés, cool bars and vibrant nightlife scene, so when the uber-cool arts organisation the Jaguarshoes Collective got hold of The Victoria pub just off Dalston Lane, we knew the area would be treated to another awesome drinking spot. The pub is keeping its live music space which has been running since the 80s and the organisers have teamed up with Psychic Burger to provide for peckish punters. With much anticipation I went down to see if this new venue has what it takes to compete with the hipster watering holes of Hackney.
In keeping with the collective's other venues like the Hand of Glory, Old Shoreditch Station and Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes, the space is decorated in a minimalist way, allowing the original features of the old pub to shine. Paint splattered tables, a mish mash of miscellaneous seating and an old fashioned 50s U-bend bar island give the spot a bohemian vibe that works well with the red and black colour scheme. Outside there are a number of tables scattered about for catching those fleeting moments of sunshine, while the cosiest spot inside has to be sinking into the comfy Chesterfield sofas.
The Food & Drink
Being a free house, there are a great array of locally brewed beers on tap. You can sample the collective's MILK Lager (£4.50), get your lips around a Truman's Pale Ale (£4.60) or explore their bottled brews, which have a great selection from South West brewery By The Horns as well as Hackney brew masters Five Points. If you find yourself longing for a more decadent libation, the array of classic and speciality cocktails will see you right. My Old Shoreditch Station Espresso Martini (£8) featured a delightful hit of Four Roses Bourbon while the dangerously drinkable Greed (£8.40) wowed with its creamy blend of gin, Rhubarb Briottet, Manazna Verde, Apple & Rhubarb Juice, Lemon Juice, Vanilla Syrup and Egg White.
The perfectly crunchy Sweet Potato Fries with Cheese (£4) were easily some of the tastiest chips I've ever had the pleasure to wolf down. For main, get the Psychick 'n' Burger (£7.50); with its crisp lettuce, spring onions, soft brioche bun, fried chicken breast and secret sauce, it hits the sweet spot every time. While I didn't taste it myself, the Dessert Burger (£5.50) of beer-battered chocolate-covered caramel brownie chunks and vanilla ice cream served inside a brioche bun looked out of this world.
The Atmosphere & Clientele
Early evening on a Saturday the crowd was a mixed array of 20-something friends and families. There was a definite hipster vibe (we were in Dalston after all), yet the venue still felt accessible and open to everyone. The whole atmosphere of the pub is one of relaxed merrymaking, the sound of a cocktail shaker blending with the hum of conversation as the stereo blares in the background. However, the party really gets started when the sun sets on Friday and Saturday night and the bar transforms into a live music venue with around three bands, DJ sets or a lively gay night to enjoy. During the week the pub becomes a social drop in point with a community feel to it and unsigned bands performing ad hoc.
The Jaguarshoes Collective have breathed fresh life into this old venue, while managing to retain The Victoria's status as a live music hub. Swing by for great cocktails, stay for the great collaboration with Psychic Burger and dance until the wee hours to enjoy some of the best live music and club nights in Dalston.