Archive for the ‘Public Houses’ Tag
Four o’clock and I had to pick up Jackie at work a few blocks away at 5. What to do…what to do?
Gadzooks! A bar! Who’d a thought of that? I entered the dark confines of the Fountain and Ink to find a very modern house with a very good collection of booze (all the light was ambient and filtered through a wall of bottles).
The skull spake thusly: “go on, Señor, have a tequila. Chinga me, have two…they’re small!” Never one to argue with the dead, I went for a couple of delightful golden agaves from the shelf two above the skull in the photo, below, just to be experimental. They were both a bit harsh but worthy of a try. If you find yourself in there, try the one on the same shelf but 2nd from the right (the tequila Espolòn I got on my last — probably ever — trip to the US).
The Rose & Crown was abandoned when I arrived save for two guys and a girl who work there and who, as I pushed the door open, sprang up from a table at the rear and headed to the bar (she to tend and they to lean). There is a demolition site butt-up against the beer garden and some other construction going on but the road is passable and foot- and motor-traffic passing so I don’t know why the charming old boozer with the fantastic neo-psychedelic background music was empty late on a Thursday afternoon.
And, the beer was good and reasonably priced for central London. Very strange. Perhaps it is just the bad JuJu I came cloaked in as I headed to my ill-fated taping of Have I Got News For You. [Which, BTW, we watched some of last night and the editing is magical…I think they could take 3 hours of one of our office meetings and put together an entertaining 30 minute comedy/panel show.]
Find the bar here, if it is still in business.
I had Dexy’s Midnight Runners tunes stuck in my head so the collection of blues on the tannoy in the Old Red Lion was a soothing distraction. The Old in the Old Red Lion does not refer to the staff or clientele, though, and I doubt anyone besides me in there Thursday afternoon was even born before any of this music was recorded.
That said, the bar is sublime (and, again, some of these guys were probably conceived to Sublime) with a line of interesting ales on the pumps to choose from and at a lower price than most hipster joints (which I don’t think this one qualifies as — it’s just a good local that happens to be populated by children). In fact, the prices here seem better than in most bars in London save for Wetherspoons houses.
The bar to the left, as you enter from the street, is a bit quieter and seems geared toward food what with the dining sort of tables and the kitchen right there and all.
It was Quiz Night albeit hours away. They also have a Rockabilly DJ night and Folk Sessions on the calendar. It’s an easy find, too, just across from Kennington Station a couple of stops down the Northern Line from Westminster.
A little tourism followed (and, for that matter, preceded) the stop at the Canterbury Arms and I was duly impressed with the architecture of the Oval and its surroundings. I was a little surprised the nearest pub on the far side (for my approach) was the Beehive but was happy to find it an old, Tudor building. Or, rather, Tudor façade building as inside it could not have been more modern…almost like an airport lounge.
In keeping with the theme, I joined a fellow watching an Indian Premier League match in which the eventual victors Kolkata Knight Riders were still bowling against Kings XI Punjab. T20 is a grand sport and I hope County Cricket will incorporate it more regularly into its repertoire since I can’t really commit to 1-day matches (self-serving, I know).
The Murphy’s Stout was a bit cold but otherwise flawless and refreshing. Find the pub here.
Mid-afternoon on the Brandon Estate, Lambeth: there are surreptitious meetings in the squares, teenagers riding around on those annoying little bicycles, and everywhere there are nods and greetings as if they all know me. Indeed, I feel like I know everyone here, but this is hardly the reception Londoners are known for when crossing paths with strangers. I probably look like someone they know or, at least, like I belong on the Estate.
In the Canterbury, it is much the same. The bartender is a lovely lass with a voice that you would mistake for Kathy Burke if you closed your eyes (well, I find it melodic and I hope this doesn’t cause offense since the divine Ms. Burke hails from across the river). Friendly nods — not so friendly as outside, but better than most bars — come from ’round the lounge. My beer now poured, the fellow on the corner raps the top of the bar twice in rapid succession with the handle of his cane then swirls it in the air over his and his partner’s nearly empty lagers (she’s out front for a fag at the time).
If you look at the upper right corner of the photo, there is a cable junction hanging from the ceiling next to a lighting fixture (just out of shot) that suffered a catastrophic blowout perhaps ten years ago. I’d guess the house is from the late 60’s or early 70’s and shows a bit of wear from maybe the turn of the century but it suits the place. I probably wouldn’t have mentioned any of this, though, but that there was one of those real estate shows on the telly in the background with a couple seeking a detached house and a view of the sea on the paltry budget of £550, 000 or, in terms of the day, about 44,000 rounds for the house.
Do go to this one…here’s a map.
The third “J” bar of the day, the Job Centre, was also the third [nearly] identical hipster bar in a row (following on from John the Unicorn and Jam Circus). This was easily the best of the lot, though, and I’ll let those earlier write-ups stand in for what was wrong with this place.
I sat with my beer near the kitchen’s open window so I could watch the cooks work, an old habit that serves no purpose anymore than to entertain but in the dark recesses of the past — the Olden Times — it would have either been for recruitment of staff (raiding) or to find out if this looked like a decent place to work. I still miss kitchen work because, when you are good at it, you tend to get the approval of your boss, colleagues, and even customers; no such luck in the Sciences.
Near the stairs, I spotted a wonderful machine from my even deeper past. I was a projectionist for about 6 months at a — let’s call it a cinema — money laundering operation for a low level Viet Namese crime family in the South Dekalb section of Atlanta. I was a convenient character for them to have as I was a military veteran, a white guy with a basically clean Police sheet, a holder of a Union Card that allowed me to do this sort of work, and I was beholden to them for a sum of cash due to a — let’s call it a — misunderstanding. That was my entrance into the glamourous world of pornography.
The projectors I used at the Sunshine Cinema (the side of the twin-plex that hadn’t suffered an unexplained fire) were a pair of Simplex projectors that operated via arc lighting, burning welding rods at atmospheric pressure and about 30-40 amps current. I was constantly at the machinists’ shop having parts made to keep these 60 year olds (then; ‘twould be 90+, now) running. Eventually, we could do no more with them. Our replacement wasn’t an EX-4100, like this one, but it was an Eiki (Elf-Lite is another label for the same company), with a much brighter lamp and no need for a vent to carry soot away. The projection booth, which doubled as a bed sit for me, was much quieter and cleaner from then on (and the bong could be vented in the old snoots).
Eventually, my debts were paid off and I moved on to some bar work where there was a different class of pervert and where the constant threat of violence was so much more muted. You can fit a lot of work memories into the duration of a pint down at the Job Centre.
Here’s the map.
Out of breath at the top of the Nunhead Cemetery rise, I let gravity do the work down to Brockley Road and noted the well-kept gardens and litter-free streets. I got the feeling that this neighbourhood was financially better off than the last one and had probably suffered radical gentrification more than a decade ago. The one ray-of-light-and-hope was a gaggle of disheveled ‘street drinkers’ down a side street, but my target — Jam Circus — snuffed out my single candle against the cursed darkness, smothered no less than any of the six (possibly more) babies nursing at various tables around the venue. More like “Mum Circus,” it appears.
Yet, there was a decent bar with a good selection of beverages. Unfortunately, I opted for a Lilley’s Rhubarb cider which was cloyingly sweet (and, not at all a surprise, there).
A lot of effort seems to have gone into imprinting an adolescent personality on this place. There must be a catalogue for hipster bars and cafés since they all tend toward the same things. “I’d like the number 37 package but can I substitute the framed 1926 literary & lifestyle magazines for some Krazy Golf hole markers? Great, we open in 2 days, so rush that right over, please.”
Here’s a map.