It seemed appropriate to return to writing with a piece about the refurbed (although that’s an understatement) Fitzroy Tavern and my continuing love/hate relationship with Sam Smiths. Huge swathes of the pub writing on FT is about Sam Smiths back to, at least, sixteen years ago (Was our Pete the first pub blogger? Yes, yes he was) and six of our twenty five Pubs of the 00s were Sam Smith’s houses, but I’ve not set foot in one of their establishments for a couple of years and not been a regular visitor for much longer. This is partly having more money to spend on beer, partly the increase in excellent places to drink excellent beer in central London but mainly a disdain for Sam Smith’s actions as a company (and Humphrey Smith in particular), whether it was closing a pub on New Year’s Eve because the landlord was selling full pints, kicking people out of a Soho pub for kissing or just replacing the wheat beer glasses so they are pint to brim. And that’s before we get to the farcical situation in Tadcaster where the brewery objected to replacing a bridge (which they’ve just backed down from).
I’d heard that the Fitzroy had reopened after a year and then Eve’s blog post about Sam Smith’s popped up in my twitter feed (thanks Boak & Bailey!). So when we were deciding which pub to go to for our regular Friday evening drinks I suggested we met there.
We went to Mother Kelly’s in Bethnal Green for the first time last night (it’s only been open a couple of weeks) and it’s LOVELY! Twenty-odd taps of well-kept keg (including seven last night from De Molen), six fridges of well selected bottles and red, white and fizzy wine on tap too!
The space (why yes, it *is* in a railway arch) is bright and airy, the tables well spread out (I suspect this may change as it becomes more popular, there’s certainly room for more) and on a spring evening it feels just right.
Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, it’s FTABCANYPC time!
This year for our 14th crawl we will be having a little saunter around Islington.
Every year, on the 29th (except when it wasn’t) we go an a merry trail around a list of pubs, many of which may be closed, to appreciate the architecture, and, you know, maybe drink. This year’s route takes us from one end of Penton Street to the other, but via a somewhat circuitous route (not as bad as when first planned when we were going to go via The North Pole!)
The route is as follows:
3pm: The Lexington
4pm: Shakespeare’s Head
5pm: Earl Of Essex
5.45pm: Wenlock & Essex
6.30: Camden Head
7:30: Steam Passage
8:30 Craft N1
Although, as always, this is a rough timetable and route as It Is Written that at least one pub on the planned route shall be closed (hopefully we’ll do better than last year when I think we ended up losing three of the original pubs…). If you’re following me or pete on twitter I’m sure we’ll keep up a running commentary of where we are if we go off-piste.
The other week when we were planning I got a bit bored so you can now see the glory of all 13 previous crawls in one handy google map. I think there may be a couple of inaccuracies, as several of these were based on planned routes, not actual (for some reason there’s not a lot of Reporting Back compared to planning, even in the Imperial Phase of ilx) particularly the Marylebone (2008) and City (2010) ones where I’m pretty sure I’ve got a couple wrong. I think it’s kind of more interesting where we *haven’t* been, although Fitzrovia and Soho were covered extensively by Trig Brother (and were our usual early 00s haunts).
To say at the start, I did eventually enjoy my Saturday afternoon at London’s Brewing and I have definitely been to events more badly organised (Glastonbury 2007 springs immediately to mind), but to my mind some of the criticism has been a bit rabid, I’m not sure what place Trading Standards have in this discussion? I’m not sure why people were expecting to be able to swan up to the bar at a sold out event, and one that they’ve probably only paid £4 to get into (£15 ticket minus 3 pints at £3.80-£4.00) at that.
All that said, the first two hours were a shambles, here’s why:
One of the pubs unfortunately missed from our ‘tween christmas and new year pub crawl, for to because it was shut, partly due I suspect to lack of passing trade over the festive period, but also to finish off their very nice renovation work, The Old Fountain, tucked away between Silicon Roundabout and Moorfields Eye Hospital, could secretly be one of the best pubs in London. OK, so it’s been in the Good Beer Guide for five years, but I think it’s massively come on even in the last 18 months. East London CAMRA have been praising it for a while, but it barely gets a mention in Hip Guides To London’s Great Pubs.
The beer is, of course, excellent, with usually 6-8 taps on, but they seem to really push the boat out in getting the specials from Darkstar, Brodies, Ascot and others, although occasionally this can lead to hop bomb overload, there’s usually a decent mix. The bar food is also pretty special, the salt beef sandwich (and I realise this may be regarded as heresy) is as good if not better than the Royal Oak’s, and certainly the equal of the erstwhile Wenlock buttie. They do pulled pork buns too, and a couple of other things, but i’ve never managed to order anything that wasn’t the salt beef…
Oh, and did i mention they usually have around FOURTEEN different kernel bottles in the fridge? it’s the biggest range I can think of that doesn’t involve visiting a railway arch…
You can see what they’ve got on the bar at @OldFountainAles
Presenting the year 1989 as seen from the eyes of the storm. Remember where we started? And how she changed my life and how she made it end. Some velvet morning when we’re straight? So who were the gifted ones? The sensual stars of our wildest dreams?»
There was a slight problem with last week’s show, but it will hopefully turn up at some point. In the meantime, here is this weeks Freaky Trigger and The Lollards Of Pop which for once is serious about the serious and silly about the silly. Pete Baran is joined by Anna Fielding, Katie Grocott and Hazel Robinson to talk about the youth of today, yesteryear and show the presenter to be far too old with his pop culture references. Music from Bjork, Musical Youth, Chase & Status and Debbie Gibson. Of course.
So the point is I can’t really objectively review a performance by a company who I’ve seen nearly twenty times when, in a way, they’re almost all a continuation of the same performance, it’s just sometimes they’re all sat down talking quietly and sometimes they’re all running about and shouting. I was talking to Tim Etchells, their director/writer/dramaturg/top lad afterwards and he said it’s like a very slow soap opera, and he’s right, the relationships between the performers evolve like those in a soap. It was fascinating watching Jerry being in charge and pushing the newbies about when it doesn’t seem so long since he was the debutante being abused. But still, Richard is the first to break from the initial structure, Cathy and Claire hold everything together and Terri is the chaos provider in the slightly shorter skirt, “what if heroin wasn’t addictive?”
Random start point, random guests, random topics. This weeks Lollards is all LOL no LARD, with Kat Stevens, Alix Campbell and Magnus Anderson being herded into opinions about topics they no nothing of by the medium of a fortune telling device and a pound should electronic roulette wheel. So expect discussions of Milford Haven, the Timeline of Glaciation, some future missile and that even at Disneyland Paris there still sin’t nothing wrong with a little bump and grind.
Music comes from unmarked CD’s we found at home somewhere.
This week we talk of art (visual) with Tim, Kat and Rob, including Tony Hart, GCSE coursework, Candice Breitz and Pop about Art. Featuring music from Art Brut, Solange Knowles, Marilyn Manson and Sportique!
Here’s the Tony Hart clip we mention, it’s about three minutes in: