One quite privileged problem with places like Call Lane is that, by a certain time of the evening - or morning - each bar can begin to feel exactly like the last.
A night of hopping from venue to venue becomes a blur as each dark, neon-filled space loses its particular charm.
Although by now part of the furniture on the street after four years, Roland’s is perhaps still a bit of a departure this, and from what you expect along the drag more generally.
It’s spacious and is made up of nice, wooden features, with plenty of standing room in the bar area. I’ve found myself in there a number of times recently, enjoying the relaxed setting. On a recent visit, it was for post-work drinks with a colleague - an ideal spot if you’re lucky enough to work around the corner on The Calls (we’ve had to amble from across town, however).
My friend also suggested it’s a good place for a first date, and I can see why: stylish but not flashy, welcoming but not overbearing – because you’re looking to impress - great drinks.
But it’s a pint of beer to start. Roland’s deals in the pricer end of things, though to be fair much of what’s on offer is above the usual standard. We go for a Vedett (£6) and Beavertown’s Neck Oil Session IPA (£5.60).
These look almost indistinguishable, and taste similar, but the first is a Belgian beer and the second from a modern London brewery.
The latter usually comes in one of the Beavertown’s colourful, illustrated cans, but a chance to quaff as a pint is welcomed.
Both are crisp and easy-going but pack plenty of flavour.
We seize a spot outside, in the small seated shelter among the chatty exiled smokers on high stools, and it’s only natural our attention soon moves to the gin cocktails advertised on a chalk board nearby.
We whittle down our choices to a Roland’s Negroni (Star of Bombay Gin, Sipsmith Sloe, Campari, Martini Reserva Rubino, £8), and a Gin Daisy (Bombay Sapphire gin, lemon juice, pomegranate syrup, bitters and soda, £7.50).
Our intention was to share these and discuss, critic-style, but such was the difference in flavour that we had to come clean. I hated the Gin Daisy, he loved it. I loved the Negroni, he hated it.
Which makes sense, as the former is certainly for a sweet tooth and the latter is for someone with a palate preferring harsher tastes.
I found that it didn’t differ hugely to any Negroni I’ve been served in the past - strong, always identifiable - but it certainly tasted great.
A very respectable selection of whiskeys/whiskys, and world beers are also offered.
The unique selling point of Roland’s might be that in a time of themed pubs and novelty, it’s simply a classy bar.