Feb 2 16

The Swimmer at the Grafton Arms, Eburne Road, Holloway, N7

Jack Cutforth

Visited: Monday 18 January by JC


Come on guys, pick a name for your pub. Are you The Grafton Arms or The Swimmer? You can’t be both. I feel like a bell end telling people I’m going to The Swimmer at The Grafton Arms.

But what’s the pub like? Well, it’s a good pub to visit in winter. Small, old fashioned and cosy. It was an oasis of warmth on what was a freezing Monday night in January, and some of that warmth comes from an actual fire which is always a nice touch.

It’s an attractive pub to look at inside and out, and there’s entertainment in the form of board games, Sky Sports, a free(!) jukebox, and watching the stressed out chef in the open plan kitchen.

The open plan kitchen is a nice touch (and probably a necessity in such a small building) but it does have its risks, especially when something gets burnt and the entire pub fills with smoke, as happened on our last visit. The staff seemed fairly relaxed about the rapid spread of smoke: either it happens all the time, or they were trying to act cool so as not to start a panic, like the musicians on the Titanic. But after the third or fourth person collapsed in a coughing heap on the floor one patron decided, fairly in Boozehound’s opinion, that it was time to crack the door open. We’re exaggerating slightly, but there was a lot of coughing. We were allowed to have the door open briefly before the staff shut us in again. The cosy warmth atmosphere is one of their USPs so maybe they were more worried about losing that than about our lungs.

The smoke debacle didn’t fill us with confidence about the food, but the menu looks good, and fairly priced, and we have heard good things, so we wouldn’t let it put us off in future. Still, we stuck to what we know best: the beers. There’s a great selection of ales and a couple of nice looking Czech lagers to choose from. We went for a Frontier and a Paulaner which were reasonably priced.

This is a great destination for a winter pint, though the atmosphere is somewhat lacking. It might be the cosiness, or it might have been the smoke inhalation, but it did feel like everyone in there was on powerful sedatives. Which made Boozehound feel like he was missing out. There’s a free jukebox which is almost unheard of, but don’t expect people to jump up and start singing along when you put on The Boys are Back in Town. It’s not that kind of a pub.

Beer: 4
Value: 3
Service: 3
Atmosphere: 3

Do they do food? Yes, the menu looks nice but the chef looks stressed.
Are they in the 21st Century? Contactless and no minimum spend.
Are there dogs? Would definitely be dog friendly.
I’m hungover, do they do a Bloody Mary? Yes.
I want to smoke: Small but heated covered seated area out front. Get there early in the Summer.
Any televisions? Yes, and Sky Sports.