Dirty Dicks, a local London watering hole since the eighteenth century, is positioned in an excellent spot, conveniently located opposite Liverpool Street Station. Steeped in history, it was renamed after the notorious Richard Bentley during the nineteenth century.
In 1866 the by then celebrated warehouse and pub was described as a "barn without floorboards...with festoons of cobwebs dangling from the black rafters; a pewter, bar battered and dirty, floating with beer, numberless gas pipes tied anyhow along the struts and posts to conduct the spirits from the barrels to the taps...everything covered with virgin dust and cobwebs".
Luckily, the cobwebs, dead cats and generally dirty, atmosphere-enhancing objects have all now been removed. The venue looks smart and well done-up, but has kept its historic, olde-worlde charm. The eighteenth century building, juxtaposed with its loud red neon name sign, really stands out from the other Bishopsgate haunts along the street, and beckons thirsty travellers in from Liverpool Street Station just across the road.
The Food & Drink
To drink we began with their highly recommended Corte Della Calli Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore (£30/bottle). Their wine menu is well-balanced and their recommendations seem well chosen.
For starters I had the Sweet potato fritter, blue cheese, pea shoots, crumpet (£6) - the crumpet was possibly an unnecessary addition but the fritters themselves were paired well with the blue cheese. My friend had the Salted pork pie, gravy, pickle (£7), virtually a meal in itself but very good. Then for mains we went for the Chargrilled tuna steak, fish cake, cherry tomato, rocket, chilli jam (£13.50) and the 21 day aged sirloin steak, beef dripping chips, watercress (£20). The portions were generous and overall the food was what you would expect from a menu of hearty pub grub. We finished with the Chocolate tart, blood orange, white chocolate sauce, pistachios (£6) and the Strawberry and nectarine trifle, truffle honey, white chocolate (£6). On a Friday night I would say that the focus is really more on drinking than dining at Dirty Dicks, and so the pub dining does clash somewhat with the party bar feel downstairs.
Later, downstairs, we were able to sample the wide range of gins from Sipsmith and other distilleries available on their extensive drinks list. As a gin enthusiast this was an excellent opportunity to try some of the different tasting gins they had on offer. The Whitley Neill with hints of cocoa and orange, for example, was particularly good and had a unique, almost smoky flavour. The gin tastings and gin and tonic masterclasses also really appealed; something to look into for those keen on becoming true gin aficionados! They also had an excellent range of craft beers and IPAs.
Dirty Dicks is incredibly popular with the after-work city crowd, and on a Friday night the ground floor bar area was packed and buzzing. Upstairs in the restaurant is quite a different story and the vibe is well placed for casual pub-dining.
The circular balcony looking down through the ancient rafters to the bar below provides a good spying platform and allows some of the busy, upbeat vibe of the bar to flow over into the restaurant as well.
Later on, down in the bar, a cheesy playlist of mainly nineties and early noughties tracks played throughout the evening. They were certainly going for a lively party atmosphere as the night progressed, which worked well for the clientele looking for somewhere to let loose after a busy working week.
Dirty Dicks excels as a spot for after-work drinks and is perfect if you're looking for a lively city-pub vibe with plenty of character. A spacious venue spread over two floors, with a well-stocked bar, good ales and a pretty decent wine list, it makes an excellent stopping point whether you're popping in for a quick pint after work, or on your way to a night out in nearby Shoreditch or further afield.