Opening night at the Well & Bucket, Shoreditch
It feels like it’s my birthday. Two big bottles of 8 Wired lands on the table in front of me, and they were just two in a long row of Delicious Brews in what can only be described as a decadent dive into a well-stocked drinking menu. But it’s not my birthday. It’s the opening night of Well & Bucket on Bethnal Green Road.
Someone’s spent a lot of money on this place. The bar is clad in shiny copper and the outdoor smoking area feels more like a posh yacht than a dodgy backyard in Bethnal Green Road. The walls are covered in professionally distressed tile work and there are massive black and white pictures of people with skulls in their faces. There’s a strong Dead Victorians vibe in here, and it’s all pulled off pretty successfully. Well & Bucket scores high on the swankyness scale, higher than most places in this part of town. The menu helps to affirm the sheer amount of swank on offer. On the food page they offer oysters and sliders. As an avid devourer of marine molluscs I instantly approved of the oyster bit. Sliders on the other hand I’ve always had an issue with. If you don’t know what a slider is just imagine real food, only smaller, usually in a bun, and without the power to ever be a real meal. On the opening night the sliders were being paraded around by staff members. They often had to be chased down for a chance to grab a sample before it all got savaged by the guests. I saw a sausage sail by and from where I was standing it looked pretty tasty. I managed to steal a burger of a passing plate and I have to admit it was as good as a tiny burger can get.
Then onto the drinks. The important part. They’ve got both cask and keg beers on offer, as well as a bunch of fancy spirits. I didn’t really check out the extent of their liquor offerings because the moment I saw their bottle menu I knew I had arrived at a place I would be happy. Just scanning through it quickly I see Mikkeller, I see Kernel, I see Nøgne Ø. It’s ordering time. This is where I introduce Jay The Manager. Jay Smith used to manage Exmouth Arms and he’s the reason the beer list in this place is so exquisite. He sets me up with a Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, nice but not as spectacular as last time I had it. It was the last of the barrel so maybe it wasn’t as fresh as it could be. It was the only beer from tap I had all evening. From then on out it was bottle all the way.
Jay The Manager points to a part of the menu that says ‘Bombers’, where they keep the big bottles meant for sharing. He says we should have a Rogue Double Dead Guy. I just grin and nod like I’ve just had a lobotomy. This American strong ale was big, bold and beautiful. It had a lot of depth from the well-groomed malts and a toastiness that I would want to tuck me in at night. Next up was the two bottles of 8 Wired – one bottle of Tall Poppy India red ale and one bottle of Saison Sauvin. The red ale was actually very reminiscent of the Double Dead Guy and the saison was tart with an evocative musty smell, like a mouthful of old cabin. They were both amazing and the sheer amount of delicious ness was beginning to get to my head. Then it was time to tone it down a bit with a Mikkeller Burger & Bun lager, a perfectly smooth and hoppy refreshment. This being a weekday I was starting to feel like I should start looking for my jacket, but before I did I ordered a Schneider Aventinus, mainly because Andy Smith at Partizan had been raving about it. It wasn’t the best idea in the world. I could see the allure of it, but I was too far down drunken street and too filled up with delirium from all the other robust brews I’d consumed that it was wasted on me.
While stumbling around trying to find the toilet I found another bar, a bunker tucked away under the stairs, full of cocktail hungry punters. Looking around at people that had turned up for the opening night I realised that almost no one was drinking the delicious beer. All around me people were either carrying around glasses filled with fluorescent liquids and ice cubes or big bland pints of lager. If I squinted I could be tricked into thinking I was in a scene from TOWIE. It suddenly felt like the West End had arrived in the East End. I’m fearful the beer list in this place might be completely wasted on the people that will frequent it. Maybe it won’t. Maybe I was just drunk and shouldn’t base the whole judgement just on the opening night. After all, the people invited to these things are often overly trendy PR people and horrible bloggers like myself. Well & Bucket is a wonderful addition to Shoreditch, and if you like oysters and beer you should get your mouth down there to make Jay The Manager’s all hard work on that beer list worth his while. It’ll be worth yours as well.