Review : The Shakespeare – more than just pub food

sh1There was a time when the Shakespeare pub on Goswell Road close to the Barbican YMCA was anathema to many Barbican and Golden Lane residents with an ultra noisy clientele – sometimes seemingly under age – indifferent pub food and a bit of a run down decor.  The Firkin Group moved in to try and improve it without much success, but for the past couple of years now it has been given a new lease of life since its take-over by the Anglo-Italian Toma family, who have an impressive history in the hospitality, catering and food supply business, and who have presided over quite a transformation.  Obviously there are some who will have resented the passing of the olderstyle British boozer, but now there is little reason for Barbican and Golden Lane residents to shun it either as their friendly ‘local’ – given the disappearance of some other pubs in the area – or as a venue for an evening meal out.

On entering the Shakespeare of an evening one is now more likely to find a good mix of professional people enjoying an evening out, either just there for a drink or two, or to have an evening meal with rather more than the old standard pub grub.  There is a largely Italian element to the food, and the staff are principally Italian too which occasionally, so some reviews suggest, makes for communication difficulties, although that is not something we experienced on a recent visit.  On occasion there is live music as well and there is definitely a lively atmosphere.


The Shakespeare’s dining area

The Shakespeare’s dining area

But this section of Barbican Life is largely focused on restaurant food and service and here the Shakespeare nowadays provides a daily freshly prepared selection of pasta dishes and risottos marked up on a chalk board, a huge range of massive pizzas and some staples like salads, fish and chips, hamburgers, rib-eye steak, bangers and mash – and a great antipasto misto starter.  Grilled ciabatta sandwiches are also available at lunch times.

If steak is your thing the rib-eye can be cooked by the chef, or can be provided raw for cooking at the table on a hot granite slab thus ensuring it is done exactly how you like it.

For the area food is far from expensive.  The rib-eye steak for example which could cost you around £30 at a number of other establishments in the area comes in at £15.95 and is by far the most expensive item on the menu.  The huge 12 inch + pizzas which would probably be plenty enough for two are between £7-10 depending on the toppings, the pasta specials are in the £7-10 range too, burgers £6.95-£8.50, fish and chips and bangers and mash come in at £8.95 etc.  The meat comes direct from a specific supplier in Smithfield Market – 28-day hung from Mathers Farm in Inverurie in Scotland.  In other words quality food at decent prices without the pretensions of being a gastropub, but as noted above a cut above normal pub food.

The Shakespeare also serves a choice of Sunday roasts in addition to its normal menu which makes it a very convenient place to pop into for a Sunday lunch..

There is a good selection of beers and wines – the latter being mostly Italian.  The pub is run by Canterbury University graduate Oscar Toma and on the night we visited his co-directors (and parents) John and Delyse Toma were also present (they spend their lives between Italy and England, spending about six months of the year in each).  They have decorated the walls of the pub with Shakespeare-related memorabilia and paintings.  A good unpretentious place to go for an evening out , but given that it can be quite busy it is worth booking a table if you wish to eat there.  The Shakespeare is at 2 Goswell Road (for non-local visitors it is close to Barbican underground station) – call 020 7253 6116 for a table reservation.  It is open 7 days with the kitchen open from noon until 3 pm and then from 6 pm until