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Not to be confused with either the nearby Wenlock Arms nor the Earl of Essex, the Wenlock and Essex is a big, brash party bar that also holds a cosy pub vibe. It all depends what time of day you visit.
Walk in through the revolving doors of the W&E and you're transported to some kind of wonderland. What did this place used to be? A circus, a theatre, an art deco cinema? None of the above, actually. It's all pastiche, as one glance at the anonymous brick office building above will attest. But it's splendidly done, giving the place a real sense of mischief and character.
The main area sprawls around the bar in a C shape. Tables are large, the place obviously catering for group bookings and busy weekend crowds. A smaller back room is held over for cabaret and other diversions. The showmanship continues downstairs with a cabinet of curiosities outside the toilets. Even the urinals will give you cause for pause.
The drink options are relatively limited in an area of town with almost infinite selection, but you'll always find at least a couple of novelty ales or lagers. Food-wise, the spread is varied with all the obvious trendy stuff, plus a few surprises. Sunday lunches are much coveted and reportedly well portioned. The place really comes alive of a weekend, with late opening and a party atmosphere. Possibly one to avoid if you're after a quiet drink without the necessity of bouncers, but pop in during a weekday and you can enjoy a pint in peculiar surroundings.