Three Cranes is one of a trio of historic London pubs recently re-opened by industry figureheads Henry Harris – former chef patron of popular French bistro Racine – and James McCulloch, founder of Harcourt Inns. Located practically next door to Mansion House station, Three Cranes is a cosy Georgian townhouse-turned-gastropub whose menus focus on grilled dishes and Bordeaux wines inspired by its provenance. The pub takes its name from the three timber cranes on nearby Vintry Wharf, where Bordeaux’s wine casks were first brought into London – and the extensive drinks menu also champions grower champagne, ale, craft beer and cocktails.
Once you emerge through crowds of drinkers on the cobbled streets of Garlick Hill and into the equally clandestine pub, you’re instantly taken in by the Three Cranes’ charm and intimacy. The townhouse structure creates cosy, narrow spaces (what an estate agent may dub ‘bijou’) split across three-floors including a private dining room and two top-floor apartments. Former Museum of Everything curator Liana Braune has overseen the interior scheme, which pays a very Instagrammable homage to Victorian boozers. Think dark oak panelling, plush leather seating and the kind of Farrow & Ball navy hues and parquet flooring combo you’ve always wanted to recreate in your own living room.
There’s plenty to salivate over in Harris’s short but sweet menu. Its concise nature is a subtle nod to the petite kitchens of French neighbourhood bistros, but mainly it’s due to the physical constraints of the pub’s small kitchen set-up. A ‘grill room’ has existed on the premises since 1911, so grilled meats and fish form the heart of the four-by-four menu. Key dishes showcase Harris’s trademark British-French style, and include retro favourites such as prawn cocktail and duck confit alongside daily changing cuts of steak (dry aged for up to 35 days), lamb chops and grilled fish all served with flavour-packed butters. When Brummell visits we order Harris’s signature steak tartare followed – believe it or not – by a 10oz ribeye steak topped with oozing bonemarrow butter. Our pescatarian companion is well catered for with an escarole and mimolette salad to start (tangy and generous in size) followed by a beautifully cooked tuna loin served on a rich caponata with olive and oregano butter. Skinny, salty frites are scoffed with wild abandon, dunked in a trio of delicious dips, while desserts are mercifully light. The standout being a featherweight yet flavoursome apple sorbet paired with a fiery shot of calvados.
Meal for two including starters, mains, desserts, a bottle of wine (and port), from £130
Three Cranes has existed in some form or other since the time of Pepys (who apparently wrote about it in his diary) and in its latest form, successfully gives the impression that it’s been around for decades. Already a popular after-work haunt, it’s the kind of place that’s sure to satisfy the diner who likes their wine French and their steak followed by steak.
Three Cranes, 28 Garlick Hill, London EC4V 2BA; threecranescity.co.uk