And the wait is over – as the rather imposing corner pile finally flings open its doors. And doesn’t it look dramatic against a grey sky?
The 1870 watering hole, overlooking bucolic Wanstead Flats, has, you may recall, a spacious garden and capacious interior, all lovingly restored by Remarkable Pubs, a reliable company who are at the helm of about 15 pubs across the capital.
Some examples? Noted boozers such as the cosy Shakespeare up in Stoke Newington, Reliance down in Shoreditch and Inn on the Park on the tip of Victoria Park.
Post-refurb you can expect something of a tropical vibe in the outdoor areas, with more than a palm or two, along with painted booths, heaters and chessboard tiles on the tables.
Meanwhile, inside is all perfect parquet flooring, blood-red walls and dark wood panelling, with the stained glass and exterior right back to the heights of its Victorian grandeur.
We have to admit, after our visit yesterday, we think the revamped pub is extremely impressive; and we’re sure the hundreds of eager locals checking it out will agree. It was chocka.
The food menu channels classic gastropub vibes. We chose a few small plates to share: smoked mackerel with potato salad, butternut squash and quinoa, a pickled beetroot, walnut and goat’s cheese salad, and decent warm chorizo and kale frittata. Mains – as we spied on other tables – were the expected big hearty roasts.
As you must by now have heard, a railway track with miniature train has been installed for punters to board and take a tour of the extensive grounds. It wasn’t running yesterday – “suspended due to derailment”, it said on a chalk board – but we’re sure it’ll be back working soon.
In short? This feels like a genuine east London destination pub – and, of course, a fine companion to the epicurean delights of nearby Winchelsea Road.
Holly Tree, 141 Dames Road E7, open daily, follow @thehollytree_e7. Main image: Stephen Emms