As dusk fades to night, an impromptu drink leads us to Kilburn High Road’s newest pub, Ironworks.
This new pub is on the hallowed ground of Power’s Bar, formerly an age-old Irish haunt much-loved for its cosily decadent atmosphere.
Ironworks has kept the nostalgically familiar facade of the space, ornate window frames typical to pubs of a now near bygone era, but little else, the interior gutted and entirely redesigned to give the impression of a converted old industrial space.
Exposed iron girders crown the bar and frame the ceiling. A functioning Meantime micro-brewery beer distiller set up to one side. Metal plates frame the kitchen. Padded leather benches of varying height hug half the walls facing thick mock workbench wooden tables and chairs, uncomfortably small yet tall stools perch around high tables splayed out from the entrance.
We go in with weary eyes and open minds to inspect the change, the familiar sounds of this bustling neighbourhood shrouding the newly constructed front area, fenced in by a thick rough cut wooden frame with a simple bench running its length, too thin for the average guy to sit comfortably on. We enjoy our first brew out front anyway, a Meantime London Pale Ale served in glass goblets, sharing the space with a few groups of typical middle-class Londoners and enjoying the ever-amusing randominity of people-watching in this area of town.
Opposite Brondesbury overground station and next to the Brondes Age with a local barber shop wedged in between, the ever-present temptation of the kebab and chicken joints mark a contrast to the stream-lined gourmet menu on offer here. This was a post-dinner drink, but courgette fritters and an inexplicably simple selection besides just didn’t measure up all the same. Where were the sweet potato fries?
Well, as the friendly bar manager said, they’re aiming for a simple yet effective menu with more of a focus on the quality of the booze, prohibition era cocktails and a feel to boot. Their whiskey selection was impressive, and though we stuck to the ales the array of craft beer cocktails on offer is a surefire reason to return. As the evening rolled on we threw the dice on the Undercurrent oatmeal ale that turned out a treat, mild yet tasty with a good consistency, before moving on to Einstock Icelandic Pale Ale, refreshing and deceptively light.
It was relatively empty for a Thursday night, compared to their main competition, the Brondes Age and North London Tavern, which is possibly why the owners of Powers’ Bar sold up.. changing times. Nonetheless we amused ourselves conjuring impressions of the island-ed clientele inside over the course of the night – a single girl leaving in a rush without her sunglasses and the kindness and honesty of the waitress rushing out with them to find her; three dates, one clearly a very awkward tinder or the like, one an enthralled heart to heart and one to my two o’clock that proved an increasing distraction as the pair enthralled themselves in their mutually held lonely desperation, friskily; a large table of guys in for a round but vocal about the closed kitchen; and a number of other haphazard two guy catch ups.
Distractions aside our conversation flowed with the ale. Before we knew it, it was well gone midnight and though we had to dash for the last trains at Kilbrun tube, weekday openings until at least 1am are always a plus. However, the lack of music (live nights or otherwise) or other activities are a possible minus in my book, though admittedly the space is no longer appropriate for such, and keeping it quiet may well have been intention on their part. Even so, the atmosphere was strangely more stifling than Powers’ had been, despite a clear decluttering and more minimal approach. Perhaps it was the not-well-thought-through furniture design, but the relative lack of character led to a feeling of barrenness that couldn’t really be shaken, except of course by the palace of a bar.
Ghosts of countless Irish jigs may well be screaming silence from the walls, but alas it’s out with the old, in with the new. It’s clear that Kilburn Ironworks has some way to go to establish a regular crowd and activity base. Yet to find its feet and really define its character, which, on the surface, is simply a copied trendy theme from other parts of town at the moment, Kilburn Ironworks is not unique, but it is definitely on the zeitgeist pulse and will succeed if smoothly run, provided they distill their culinary offering and replace their spindle-like stools.
In all, worth a return visit…