Shekha and Jack head to Truman Brewery’s first tap house in the city, The Newman Arms, a triumphant resurgence of one of Britain’s most iconic brewers…
History buffs will love this resurgence of an East End brewing giant’s first city Tap Room in a pub equally steeped in antiquity
Fans of the former Newman Arms glad to see it back in this new guise
Literature and film enthusiasts wanting to pay homage to the writers whos inspiration (and drinking habits!) were nourished here over the years
Residents, who should prepare to have a new local!
Pie, bagel and sausage roll connoisseurs
In a Word
‘A London lifeline’
The name Truman’s Brewery is synonymous with London culture. From its founding in 1660s, it grew to be a bastion of British quality and taste around the beer-drinking world, famed for its domination of the porter market. But there was a time when it was thought that this major player was gone for good, after a series of buyouts led to its closure in 1989.
It wasn’t until 2010, when Truman managing director, James Morgan, revived the name that, for the first time in 21 years, Truman’s beer was available to Londoners again. These days, Truman’s has evolved into a leading independent cask brewer, based in Hackney, and has now opened its first Tap House in the city.
The brewery has taken over The Newman Arms, a Fitzrovia favourite, once popular with literary luminaries Dylan Thomas and George Orwell (the latter having used it as the model for the Proles pub in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Keep the Aspidistra Flying) and famed for having some of the best pies in London.
The Newman Arms is nestled in the heart of Fitzrovia, an area which has enjoyed a recent renaissance over the past couple of years, arguably catalysed by the nearby Fitzroy Place and Bedford Avenue developments which have injected luxury flats, restaurants and retail there.
The small village-like shops add to the residential feel of the neighbourhood which, albeit still teems with workers and tourists on a Wednesday night.
This is perhaps why The Newman Arms feels so much like a local – warm and familiar but with a definite view to the future. Not only does it offer 12 keg and four cask lines from Truman’s beer range, alongside rotating guest beers and cocktails, but it is also one of the first pubs in London to install a fully functioning ‘crowler machine’, which fills 910ml cans with any draft beer on site for customers to take away.
Its traditional interior is rife with vintage paraphernalia and reclaimed wooden furniture. The ground floor bar is intimate, with space for only a few stools. But the upstairs seats 24 covers and a basement expansion allows punters to relax into snugs – a 12-seater, affectionately nicknamed ‘Prole’s Parlour’ and ‘The Orwell’, which fits six – all available for private hire.
The Truman’s cask selection includes Runner – Best Bitter, Swift – Golden Ale, Zephyr Pacific Pale and Lazarus Very Pale Ale. In keg RAW Lager, Roller IPA, Truman’s Pale Ale and Bow Bells Citrus Pale Ale are available.
We start with pints of Zephyr Pacific, perfect for the balmy summer night, but definitely see ourselves coming back for one of Truman’s tasting evenings. We are also told that there will be beer training at the pub, which will act as its West London Flagship.
As The Newman Arms focus is heavily on British, the wine selection also reflects this, while spirits for cocktails are selected from independent London distillers. I try a cognac martini, infused with chamomile which is jovially bouncing with strawberries, mint and peach – fruity and refreshing.
Our food starts to arrive, a selection of sausage rolls to kick things off is delightful. The buttery, flaky crust of a cider and pork sausage roll yields to reveal a meaty filling with a lingering sweetness from apple and herbs. It is rich and feels sinful but delicious nonetheless, while the Indian inspired roll thrums with gentle spices. The vegetarian one surprises me; something which is not Quorn lays hidden within the folds of pastry and pulses with savoury flavour, reminiscent of sage and onion stuffing. Spinach adds a wholesome, verdant note which cuts through the rich meatiness of its predecessors.
A nod to its East London associations, Trumans have also added bagels to the pub’s food offering. Open-topped sesame bagels, lathered with cream cheese and festooned with ribbons of delicate dill-flecked smoked salmon come glistening with capers. The bread is chewy and light, very satisfying, a perfect foil to the classic topping.
Salt beef on multi-seed comes next, a towering hulk of a thing, packed with meat which requires careful manoeuvring. The beef is incredible; it falls apart with pillowy softness, lightened by a vinegary wholegrain mustard which pops and crackles, bite after bite.
We take a brief pause before tackling the pies. Paying tribute to The Newman’s former and longest-serving publican Tracey Bird and her reputation for home-made pies, the brewery’s pie menu has been painstakingly developed.
The Steak and Truman’s Ale pie uses Runner Best Bitter. Containing five different malts to provide a complex sweetness, the ale provides a hearty complement to the meat, giving a meal which is warm and comforting.
The pie comes in a dish with a puff top, rather than a shortcrust casing. The filling is robust but tempered with small bits of carrot, a nice touch, while solid mashed potato accompanies. Vegetables are a touch over-boiled and I would like to see a gravy with a complexity to match the filling, but all in all, this is a good plate of food.
It is clear much love has gone into the restoration of The Newman Arms and in a city where there are more and more pub closures every year, it is heartening that this is a story of renewed beginnings for both Truman’s and the pub itself. Both are steeped in history and it is imperative that London takes advantage of its rich heritage without letting these valuable institutions slip through the cracks or fall at the mercy of corporate insensitivity. With a simple formula, done well, we are sure The Newman Arms has a long future ahead of it yet and look forward to seeing what other ventures the brewery will foray into next.
The Newman Arms
3 Rathbone St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1NG