From the outside, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Sun Tavern was just another cozy, character-filled, traditional English pub. Well it is, albeit with a twist.
The handsome 1850s corner house on Bethnal Green Road has been converted into an all-day craft beer and cocktail-infused drinking den. Focusing on over 40 brands of Irish spirits —whiskey and poitín — the team at Sun Tavern have managed to maintain a selection of part old-pub, part new trendy-bar, and they’ve got the weapons to execute this flawlessly.
For starters, they’re brilliant on every level: the staff are genuinely friendly and passionate; the drinks are good fun, with a short but sweet selection of 19th & early 20th century inspired mixed drinks, booze from local London breweries and a lengthy (and proud) whiskey and poitín list; and the cozy space retains the charm and curiosity of its former lives. Winning.
The real seal-dealer here though is their passion. They’re overtly honoured to host such an array of Irish whiskey and poitín (pronounced poe-cheen), partly because the spirits have a rebellious history: both whiskey and poitín got heavily taxed in 1661 to fuel British military ventures, triggering the closure of many distilleries and lots of bootlegging. Poitín makers literally took to the hills and continued production, legally or otherwise.
Finally legalized in 1997, this brutal upbringing and cheeky sidestepping of the courts saw poitín taken to the shelves as a higher quality beverage. Irish whiskey had its fair share of trouble as well, competing with Scottish whisky (hence the addition of the ‘e’).
It’s evident that the team at Sun Tavern are dedicated to stocking the very best of this eclectic category of spirits. Moreover, they know the bargaining chip for convincing people to try something from this adroit menu is to know your stuff — and they do.
For instance, the cocktails are notably another standout at the Sun Tavern (we’ve yet to find a flaw). The bartenders fix single serve punches, tankard cocktails like “Rose-Hipster” and mixed drinks like “Red Lombriz”. And yes, the ingredients list might require a bartender’s dictionary on-hand, but (excuse the echo here) the guys here are so darn smart and receptive, they’ll tell you an instant whether the “Mother Bucker” is one for your palate, or if the “Dam Buster” is more suited.
The Sun Tavern have also got their snack game on pretty strong. Open for breakfast each morning with coffee to-go and fresh pastries, the limited menu runs throughout the day with homemade pork pies, scotch eggs and deluxe grilled sandwiches, charcuterie, cheese and the like. Oh and did we mention their wicked playlists with old Stones, Zeppelin and Beatles records on rotation?
We hope our enthusiasm hasn’t been hyper-inflated, but we’re massive fans of Sun Tavern, because there’s something that’s unshakably great about what’s on offer here.
The Sun Tavern, 441 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 0AN