London Social: The Shacklewell Arms and Sebright Arms

Geneva Jacuzzi at Shacklewell Arms

Geneva Jacuzzi at Shacklewell Arms - Credit: Archant

This week I’m putting two East End stalwarts of live music head-to-head. A ‘Battle of the Boozers’ if you will.

Shacklewell Arms

As a lover of live music, I had already been well versed on this Dalston institution and expectations were high. When I entered, the first thing to greet me was a peculiar smell: damp, stale ale and something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on. So far, so disappointing. But once I bought what turned out to be a pretty decent round, I took stock and the charm of Arms started to soak in. Its beer garden, decorated with colourful murals, fairy lights and the red chequered table cloths you only find in Italian pizzerias, was a personal favourite. Timing my outing with the calypso themed “Hipster’s Don’t Dance” night, where dancehall comes to Dalston, there was a mixed crowd all gyrating to tropically flavoured Caribbean rhythms. A tipsy, chatty, down-to-earth pub; The Shacklewell Arms definitely has its own unique alchemy. And I for one am under its spell.

Sebright Arms

As I made my way to the Sebright Arms I felt chipper. It’s a pub. It has live music. It’s Friday. Sold! But on arrival, a sea of after-work drinkers’n’diners took me by surprise. Initially geared up for a toe-tapping night out, I instead found myself forcing my way to the bar and shouting my order. Eventually, though, a DJ sprouted up in the corner, music lovers seeped in and the warm glow of the Sebright shone through. Navel-esq, wood panelled walls, decorated with a charming mixture of art and replica traffic lights, seemingly appeared from nowhere. Feeling elated, I tottled on downstairs to catch some live music. Dark, snug and with top notch acoustics, this was the venue’s beating heart. Perching myself on its raised platform (perfect for shorties) I began toe tapping, head nodding and having a good ol’ chortle.

The winner: It’s a tough one to call. Both have a lot in common but just enough to set them apart. Therefore, I’m taking the coward’s way out and call this one a draw.

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