Given that this pub is something of an East London institution it felt worthy of me paying it a visit with an eye to a fresh review after its recent refurbishment. I’m all for pubs getting a sprucing up once in a while if it’s done properly and admittedly the Cat & Mutton was lumbered with a ghastly exposed kitchen sadly spoiling it’s nicer assets (see The Snooty Fox for similar crimes against aesthetics). A refurb here had the potential to lift this already good pub into the stratosphere of legend; has that potential been realised?
No it hasn’t; and here’s why.
In terms of layout there are major changes. Kitchen is now hidden, toilets moved to the cellar and bar brought forward. The results are mixed – you no longer feel like you’re amidst a constant stream of people heading to the loo or going to leave smelling of chip fat but there’s less space than there used to be and getting parked was an issue even for a measly two people quite late on a Sunday afternoon.
The decor too has altered massively. Previously there were huge wooden tables with benches throughout the ground floor bar; these are gone. What we have now is a bizarre collection of chairs picked up from a school bring and by sale which are arranged around an equally mad cap set of tables some of which are simply far too low. The less said about the weird Stringfellowsesque stools the better.
For me the new bar front too just doesn’t work. It’s been reclaimed from an old Church which itself is a nice idea but in this setting seems wrong; this is the centre of alternative hipster world and not an old blokes pub. The lighting is wrong for it, the rest of the decor doesn’t suit it and setting up a DJ deck adjacent to panelling more suited to Ave Maria than Avicii is frankly a bit odd. The end result reminds me far too much of those crap bars you get in motorway hotels.
Most of those issues I can make peace with. Decor is personal and it doesn’t detract from the fact that this is still an excellently placed pub with a steady stream of fodder for people watching.
However; there is one thing I am not prepared to overlook and that is pricing.
Now living in London I expect to pay over the odds to enjoy a decent pub. Four pounds for a pint, two quid for a scotch egg and maybe even three quid for a bowl of chips are all thing’s I’ve come to terms with. But The Cat and Mutton has crossed a line and here are the highlights…
‘Toasted Sourdough with Rosemary Butter’ (Bread and Butter) = £3
Any Roast = £16.5
‘Gravy by the Pot’ = £3.50
Need less to say the rest of the menu is ludicrously pretentious and equally overpriced. It also goes without saying that we got less than 50p change from a tenner for two pints.
I’m glad I dropped in to see the changes that have been made. But I’m equally glad that I sodded off to Pub on the Park for a roast and a pint which cost me almost a full fiver less than it would have done in The Cat and Mutton. Until extra gravy comes free as standard and roasts less than a train ticket to Basingstoke I’d give it a miss too.