Posts from 11th March 2001

11
Mar 01

Morning after the pub before

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Morning after the pub before discussion turns to the Virgin Ambient Series. I am shocked to discover that I own 9 of these albums, mostly as they used to turn up in clearance sales for three quid each. What were Virgin thinking?

Just to get you in the mood for Daft Punk fever…

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Just to get you in the mood for Daft Punk fever…: here are the sites of two more rule-shattering French artists.

Greetings From Pub Paradise…

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Greetings From Pub Paradise…aka Edinburgh. Actually this is a misnomer. It is paradise in one way only, i.e. it offers a sneak preview of the (hopeful) future of London drinking in that the boozers stay open late. This, as everyone knows, alters drinking habits in a number of key ways, the main one being that it is possible to eat properly before going to the pub and still get drunk. So on my first night in Edinburgh I hit the pubs at 10, and suffered bizarre timelag which led to me almost dozing off with still a good hour to go before closing.

In other aspects Edinburgh is not a pubgoer’s dream. There is a snotty charm to London pubs which once you are used to it means drinking in any other city seems a poor alternative. Also – I am freewheeling off into theoretical areas here – a lot of good city pubs are good because they have managed to create a ‘local’ ambience in the middle of a town – genuine ‘locals’ elsewhere often suffer by comparison because they feel a lot slower-moving.

(One exception to this being “the Rat”, a pub somewhere in Surrey which is unsignposted and requires a very dodgy drive down a track by the edge of the duckpond. It is unsurprisingly often empty, but once you’re in it you feel a kind of insiderish glow for having tracked it down, a similar effect to the Mitre which Tim H. once took me to. “The Rat” goes one better than the Mitre, though, by dint of not actually being called The Rat. Its real name is something totally different but it is always referred to by its rodent name, presumably to confuse foolish tourists. Anyway.)

The problem in Edinburgh, pubwise, is that it’s big enough to have a lot of pubs but not quite big enough to escape being a student town, which means that sometime in the mid-90s all the pubs got themed-up. Or nearly all. The two that stand out as examples of pubcraft, at opposite ends of the scale, are:

The Frankenstein, or “the world-famous Frankenstein”, as it bills itself. It also claims to have been “est.1818”, a claim which is not so much literary reference as bare-faced lie. It’s a theme pub in quite a grand old church, which means a bar in the round and lots of booths. The booths are really quite private and good but the Frankenstein concept is pushed down your throat a bit too much – our visit coincided with a Hen Night, for which all Frankentheme stops had been pulled out. Our passable pub lunch was interrupted by an earsplitting boom which turned out to be the start of a Frankenstein animatronic show (not visible from the booth, but very audible). I cannot be alone in thinking that cross-breeding a pub with Thorpe Park’s “Phantom Phantasia” ride is a poor idea.

The Earl Of Marchmont is a small formica-tabled drinker a little bit out of Edinburgh’s centre, and very pleasant it is too. Reasonably priced beers, a decent range of lagers, clean toilets, no decoration to speak of and a sequential jukebox with handwritten cards. The jukebox refused twice to play “Seven Days” by Craig David, probably a blessing. Clientele were students but not annoying ones, since the Earl lacks the obvious MORE! FUN! NOW! appeal of the themers. We got a seat at 8 on a Saturday night, left, had a pizza, came back at half eleven and got the same seats. Ah, civilisation.

A final note: in the Frankenstein we were given table service. Table service in pubs is a bad thing: it is a dangerous levelling force which ignores the hard-won bar skills of the experienced drinker, but worse than this it points to the American model of full table service and tips expected for each round. Resist! Resist!