I never got around to eating at Green and Reds before it unexpectedly closed down. Its empty premises at the Shoreditch end of Bethnal Green Road opposite the top of Brick Lane has now been filled by an interesting new place which I visited today called Mason and Taylor. It's apparently run by the people behind The Duke of Wellington which is a nice pub off Balls Pond Road.
Mason and Taylor is a craft beer bar which serves british food. The bar is in part of the same new build urban regeneration block as the Rich Mix cinema which of could seemed a bit Pizza Express but they've done well to give it a industrial brewery chic look by using a lot of concrete and a few old school chairs.
I've got to say the beer menu is the best I've seen in this country. Unlike other places which stock a vareity of dishwater flavoured stale ales or are obsessed with Belgium clones Mason and Taylor have a menu of different styles and flavours of beer on draft and in bottles from the UK, Europe and the US. They also stock well sourced ciders, sprits etc etc. I went for a pint of Camden brewery porter (they had two porters on tap!) and Mathilde went for a Brooklyn lager which was also draught and I would go as far as saying it's arguably the best pint of lager you can get in London at the moment. American lager actually tastes of something and in Brooklyn Lager you can taste the fragrant hops and the caramel of the malt.
As they serve so many different beers if you do want to try a load without getting wasted Mason and Taylor serve 1/3 pint glasses in nifty little wooden triangles.
The food in Mason and Taylor is British dishes which are in fashion now but they serve them in a meze or dimsum way. All the meals on the menu are small little plates which your suggested to order three or four of to get a proper meal. The dishes are £3 if from the starter/side bit or around £6 if from the mains bit which is actually not too bad compared to multiple small dish chains like Ping Pong and Wahacca. I went for the woodpigeon breast and some new potatoes. Mathilde went for the oysters and the smoked salmon on toast. We were only having small meals as I had a pond pudding slowly steaming at home.
My pigeon dish did look funnily like some kind of miniaturized meal with a tiny but perfectly cooked breast and two tablespoons of mash, one celeriac and one mustard. It was very good, surprisingly so for the price. Mathilde's oysters and salmon also looked pretty good although I didn't taste any. My new potatoes oddly enough weren't a miniature portion like the rest of the dishes but I'm not going to complain about getting too much food.
One thing about the place which did bug me is that it doesn't feel as if it's found it's identity. The service was great and you get proper table service however a lot of customers were just going to the bar and ordering like a normal pub. While we were eating a large group of men came in and stood by the bar and because of it's proximity were also drifting around the diners while chatting. It seems some customers think the place is a pub and some think it's a restaurant. It may be able to be both but Mason and Taylor need to sort out their table arrangement or something as it a bit confusing. I will however say the music played over the system was actually quite good, non offensive but still interesting. So many placed in Shoreditch completely get this aspect wrong.
UPDATE MAY 2011:
I've been back to Mason and Taylor and it's got worse. The quality of the food has fallen. The small plates on the menu don't really complement each other so it's very difficult to have a decent meal. I was given a measly, tiny and quite poor tasting toad in the hole with a giant bowl of jerusalem artichokes. Jerusalem artichokes should never be served in this quantity as they are now doing somersaults in my guts.
The service system has now gone completely mental. No one in the place knows if they are having table service or if they should go to the bar. Most customers after waiting for any kind of acknowledgement from the staff end up going up to the bar to order drinks. The people that do want food as no staff approach and ask just grab a menu from the side themselves and then are surprised when a waiter appears within 5 minutes asking for an order.
Mason and Taylor here's some advice: You need to clarify what you are. If you are going to have table service you must table serve everyone. As soon as anyone comes into the premises all it takes is a member of staff to ask if they are eating or only want drinks. They then seat them appropriately, give them the relevant menus and go back to take the order etc, etc. It's the initial greeting and seating on the customers entry which is important. this is where you set the parameters for the customer to exist in while they are in your premises. At the moment it's a chaotic free for all. Please if you change this let me know I'll return. I want to like your bar so please sort it out?