Saturday, 1 March 2014


When I was younger pubs were usually pretty busy, though very rarely so busy that you couldn't get in the door, or if you did, felt completely unable to force your way to the bar and were doomed to ignominious retreat. It happens in London a lot, not even on a Friday, but on a Wednesday (as I remarked here) and a Thursday, as happened no less than twice to me this week.

After awful beer in the Ten Bells in Spitalfields, we went to Liverpool St to find a cash machine and for whatever reason, I fancied a drop of Fullers,  Thinking they might have something interesting on, we tried to get into the Still and Star. Well I suppose it could have been done, but not with any degree of comfort and the thought of having to press our way through suits and suitesses just didn't appeal. Nor did standing with our drinks and being jostled seem like a plan either, so we beat a retreat.

Our next port of call on the way home, The Bell on Middlesex St, had a rather amusing A board* outside. What it didn't have and should have had, was a warning that the beer is totally flat.  In contrast to my earlier experience, this version of Harveys Sussex Bitter was a dead parrot.  It had shuffled off its mortal coil of life giving CO2 and had been vented to death.  It was flat as a pancake. No discernible CO2 at all, which was presumably, to quote Mr Python again, singing with the Choir Invisible. I left most of it while E chewed her way through a half of lager.

Back to Leman St and I thought we'd try the (newly reinstated in my circle of trust), Dispensary.  It was packed to bursting and we couldn't even see the bar.  Forget it, so it was gin and lager for us in the Oliver Conquest, which was pleasantly busy, but not packed like the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Mudgie is always saying that London is not like any other British city and he is right. Wealth abounds, but what makes people still go to pubs after work in such numbers? Two things. They have the money, but the second is public transport I'd guess. Almost everyone travels by it and that makes going for a drink after work and then staying on for a few, much more accessible.

It's my theory unless there are better ones?

I had Meantime Pilsner in the Oliver Conquest. Not the greatest beer in the world, but at least not flat and warm.

* I was wearing fingerless gloves, but then again, I have been for the last 30 years. 


Curmudgeon said...

Also blogged about more recently here - I'd forgotten about the previous one, tbh.

I would say the sheer size and density of the place and the level of public transport usage and provision feed off each other - you couldn't in isolation have one without the other.

The much higher proportion of middle-class residents in inner-urban areas is also a factor.

I do wonder, though, if you travel out into Barnet or Bromley, whether you begin to encounter the familiar pattern of pub decline that we see in most of the rest of the country. Sights like this (which is, despite the Surrey address, within the Greater London boundary) would suggest you do.

The signboard is a classic, btw - I've circulated that on Twatter ;-)

M.Lawrenson said...

Rammed pubs are not a strictly London phenomenon. I ended up in a couple in Manchester after the Velodrome Beer Fest last month. Not my idea of fun.

Even here in a Preston suburb, the Black Bull on Garstang Road was packed. I was supposed to be going there for someone's leaving do, but on seing the crowds (and the bouncer on the door) I turned around and went back home.

While I personally get no pleasure from being in a standing-room-only-pub, I do appreciate that these events do help keep the place going, so it's viable for them to open during quieter times where I can actually get to the bar and sit down after ordering.

Cooking Lager said...

Down with hipsters!

Dave said...

It's just the time of day. London's that big that you're not realistically going to trek all the way home after work for a bite to eat and a freshen up, then head back into town for a beer. So it's a jar or two directly after work. By way of a bonus, you dodge the rush hour tubes and trains that way.

By about 7:30 the central boozers are quieter and your locals are filling up a bit.