The Three Crowns sits in an enviable location. Perched on the corner of Church Street and Stoke Newington High Street, it straddles two distinct segments in London, placing one foot in the bourgeois enclave of the former and dipping another in the murky waters of the latter. In theory, it should represent the best of pick’n’mix London, pulling in aspirational thirtysomethings and yummy mums from the west and the more artistic types associated with the decrepit east. In practise, it usually just attracts bell-ends. It certainly doesn’t perfect the cultural cocktail that, say, the Jolly Butchers is so good at. Similarly, living in the middle has left the place with a bit of an identity crisis. It wants to be all things to all people: a comfy watering hole with a clubby vibe, a place for friends to relax – with an edge. It doesn’t really work. And it meant we ate our substantially cash-draining roast in the dark.
I don’t know about you but I like to see what I’m eating. When I’m blindfolded by “atmospheric” light settings I get uneasy, especially when tackling something like half a roast chicken. I don’t want to relax too much into my mastication in case someone switches the lights on and I find out I’m gnawing gristle. Ahem. It’s why I don’t get people who make out on Dating In The Dark. Anyway, we were escorted by candlelight to a windy spot near the door where I could keep an eye on the 149 buzzing past and people lining up for KFC (that’s a place that could do with turning the bulbs down a notch). When I focussed on the inside of the pub, though, I felt like a Chilean miner.
To be fair, the meal was OK – the chicken dry but abundant, potatoes about 80 on the 0-100 Mum’s Cooking scale, apricot and thyme stuffing maybe too crunchy (was that a tooth or a nut?) but carrot and swede pureed to high heaven, gravy rationed but unctuous. My fiance, out there somewhere in the gloom, ordered slow-cooked lamb and I heard a voice complaining about it not being very slow-cooked. I asked if she was sure she was eating her plate and not someone else’s. ‘Who’s that?’ she said uneasily. I think she was getting freaked out by being alone in the dark, so we paid up and stumbled blinking into the street.
We won’t be back for a while. Like The Flask last month, the Three Crowns just used up their last token with us. The place is packed 24/7 so me making a stance is a bit like Lisa Simpson pledging not to buy Malibu Stacey dolls (help me out here, there must be a more highbrow reference than that), but whatevs. It needs to decide if its Stokey boozer or Dalston dive, or get better at combining the two. And if you’re going to charge £20 for a roast and a pint, at least put some locks on the fucking toilet doors.
Clientele: I think we’ve covered that
Price per head: £20
Soundtrack: Started well, if somewhat ironically (‘Blinded By The Light’) but went quickly downhill (The Coral’s first album)