Another new one at the Southern end of the Northern Quarter, The Pen And Pencil opened just before Christmas 2015 to rope in some of the festive party crowd.

On our first visit we were a little overwhelmed with how LOUD it was in P&P (and no, we’re not THAT old. Well, not all of us), but we did become accustomed to the cheesy 80s and 90s tunes which were a good bit of fun. In fact, the bar seemed lively throughout the festive run-up so it was worth seeing how it fared during so-called Dry January.

The bar itself doesn’t deviate hugely from the usual NQ formula and neither does the food, with either brunch (steak and eggs, hash, American fry up etc) or supper (steak, mac & cheese, sliders) on offer. The venue does now also offer an all-inclusive brunch for £30 where you can throw as much as you want into your face all washed down with a few mimosas. Sounds like kill or cure to us.

The whole ‘Mad Men’ stylistic fanfare with which P&P opened seems limited to a few film pin-ups and some admittedly inventive cocktails, but rather than evoking the swinging 60s, the disinterested bar staff lack enthusiasm, matching the average tap selection where Moretti and Sagres prevail at £4.50-£5 a pop. The rest of the booze selection is your standard mix of bottle beer (Brooklyn, obviously, plus Flying Dog, Beavertown et al), wines and some decent spirits (anywhere that has Portobello Road as their standard gin offering is fine by me).

We were quite excited about P&P offering a real alternative for that “one last snifter before the train” situation, but instead we’re left thinking it’s a sum of parts all done better elsewhere. It’s not quite as buzzy as some of its near neighbours on Tariff Street, nor fully established enough to be a true destination pub, whilst the balance isn’t quite there yet for it to be ‘comfortably busy’ on the big weekend nights (despite its ample size). At the moment, it’s sadly yet another NQ bar that struggles to make you feel welcome, but hopefully more personality will follow.

The Pen And Pencil

Classification: Bar

Food: American

Drinks: Cocktails, lager, wine & spirits

Price: ££

Related City Centre establishments: None

Bongo rating: 5/10