Pumpkin Publog

31
Jan 02

More pubs than you think

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More pubs than you think I was amazed to discover the number of pubs in my local area that I didn’t even know existed, let alone have visited. A sign on the pub wall last night listed all the pubs in the vicinity which were affiliated to the local “pubwatch” scheme – and I hadn’t heard of most of them. The Three Compasses? The Famous Pig & Whistle? The Wishing Well? Obviously more strenuous efforts are needed to be find out whether these places are any good.

30
Jan 02

A Sacred Cow:

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A Sacred Cow: In my view, The Flask in Highgate is a rather overrated experience. Yet you will see it referred to in most pub guides as some sort of North London haven, well worth chugging up the hill from Archway tube to visit. It’s not a bad pub (and there are plenty of those in Highgate) but its elevation to premier status leaves me bemused.

Whenever I’ve visited The Flask, I’ve found it too full of locals and tourists for me to have a relaxing drink. As it is the last pub en route to Hampstead Heath, it often seems excessively busy at the weekends, so getting to the bar is difficult and bagging a seat is nigh on impossible.

But still it receives plaudits from all sides. To wit, here are just a few things said about The Flask in various guides:

They said:
Every inch a village pub, it oozes character.
P Pubs says:
Pokey, with horse brasses and caricatures.

They said:
A perfect summer pub!
P Pubs says:
Tiresome and crowded on sunny days.

They said (in French):
Pour les nostalgiques de la grande histoire r’volutionnaire, Karl Marx aimait y venir boire quelques Pintes.
P Pubs says:
Marx was patently too drunk to walk down the hill to The Archway Tavern.

Admittedly, The Flask is probably the best pub in the area. The beers are fine and clientele tolerable. But I do wonder how many pubgoers, making a special trip on the basis of a glowing review, are disappointed once they get there. I hope this redresses the balance a little.

The problem with the unknown

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The problem with the unknown is very much its unknowableness. Which is a pity because if there was one thing that hit me as I walked through the doors of the Marylebone Tup was its sameyness. It was a pub trying to be an All Bar One, it was a pub which was embaressed of its pub trappings. It was – frankly – not very nice.

It was pretty packed when I turned up with a mainly casual crowd and we had snared a large table which was a good thing. The first thing I was told though by Cabbage was that the bitter was awful. Now I had not been planning to have a pint of Pedigree, but frankly his report did not surprise me. As I waited a very long time for my pint of Kronenbourg I was able to note that the Tup had all seven flavours of Bacardi Breezer – surely a particularly bad sign (I have never seen this in any other pub). A boisterous office party were drowning out what there was of the music and whilst the company was good the stripped pine and bright red walls felt oppressive.

Football came on, and was turned up much louder than the music had been. It all became a bit shouty. I switched to the Eminem’s but one came back with tequilla in it. Bar staff looked good, were generally bemused and pints were costing ‘2.60. To be in an area with plenty of nice pubs suggested that this had tried to distance itself from that and dumb down. Oddly the pub got pretty full for the football, all media workers getting out at half past eight braying. The standard of punter coversation is summed up by the fact that they were pretty much still on the Harry Potter vs Lord Of The Rings topic.

The only good point about the pub I felt, the only character it had, was in its pub dog. Or in this case a pub wolf, more than large enough for me to ride as a steed. But none of this was good enough to dispell the general feeling that yet again I had stumbled into a poorly thought out attempt at a boozer. If you asked me again to sup at the Tup – I’d rather not.

29
Jan 02

The lure of the unknown

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The lure of the unknown. Tonight I am drinking in a pub I have never drunk in before – The Marylebone Tup. It was suggested by someone I don’t know very well who possibly won’t even be there, and has been much discussed without being visited over on I Love Everything. The discussion has ranged from whether this pub is any good or not based on the odd proviso that no-one in the discussion has ever been there. The Fancy-a-pint review is non-comittal – which as you know round here is not necessarily a bad thing. But it ought to be a good crowd of people drinking, people I haven’t seen for a while and this is what ambience is after all.

If you want to join us, we’ll be the gang of Interweb Mentalists there from 6:30. One of our numbers will be drinking Budweiser – for his sins. I will report back though, going to unknown pubs is a lovely thing to do, and anyway there are plenty of other nice pubs in the area to attack if this Tup turns out to be a nightmare.

28
Jan 02

THINGS THAT ARE IMPOSSIBLE (But Pubs Expect Us To Do) : 3

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THINGS THAT ARE IMPOSSIBLE (But Pubs Expect Us To Do) : 3

Drink our last pint faster than any other pint we have drunk. If you watch the drinking habits of anyone you will notice that the first pint of the night goes down considerably quicker than any other. Indeed if you were that way inclined you could quite easily draw a graph of pints consumed on the x axis and time taken on the y axis. You will undoubtedly get a firm progression leading up to the quite unavoidable fact that in a perfect world the final pint of the night will take well over half an hour to drink, possibly closer to forty five minutes. Yet we get twenty, and twenty with significant hassle as well in certain central London joints.

25
Jan 02

More musing on the Wetherspoon’s experience.

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More musing on the Wetherspoon’s experience. My misfortune dumped me in the Metropolitan Bar at Baker Street last night and there was little I could do about it. is a flagship Wetherspoon’s with award winning toilets, and aircraft hanger ambience. One thing that struck me about the joint is its attempted marriage of tradition and modernism. From the sleek metal bar to the frighteningly mirrored (and constantly manned) toilets it appeared that anything which needed high maintenence was designed with a modernist touch. Compare this to the grotty blue carpet, the general decor and the tables and chairs which aimed at tradition – though missed by a country mile. Its this grab bag attitude which I think is the cause of their downfall. By trying to be all things to all people they end up just not pleasing any audience.

We had another no smoking section run in at the end of the night – and it struck me that such rullings just leave the staff in an uneviable position of trying to enforce the impossible. Not only that but the horrific uniforms they had to wear were those of a bank teller.

However the very worst aspect of the pub was yet again the toilets. I believe these toilets have won awards for cleanliness and ambience, which surprises me. Not cleanliness – since they are constantly manned. But considering this is a very touristy pub, surely it is given completely the wrong idea of multicultural Britain where the only black face working in the pub lurks in Gents, doing a Sammy Davis Jnr soft shoe shuffle while you have a piss and then operates the tap and squirts soap into your hands. Sure he is touting for tips, and doing well out of it, but it just felt mortified every time he pulled off another paper towel for me to dry my hands with and said “here you go sir”. I do not have a knighthood, and if I did I would leave it at the door of the pub too.

24
Jan 02

Just thought

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Just thought I’d point out that All Bar One is neither a pub nor a bar. According to its owners, it is a restaurant. Six Continents, which used to be Bass Taverns, has two main areas of operation: Pubs and Bars, and Restaurants. The outlets in its Pubs area include O’Neills, Goose, Ember Inns, It’s A Scream and Hollywood Bowl. All Bar One, however, is lumped in with Browns, Innkeepers Lodge, Toby Carvery and Harvester – which is totally appropriate, if you think about it.

All Bar One is pressing its restaurant status by introducing table service. FACT: table service has no place in a pub. Ergo, All Bar Ones are not pubs and should nevermore be mentioned on this publog.

Tray etiquette

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Tray etiquette: As a response to “Things which are impossible (but pubs expect us to do) 2”.We were in the Spreadeagle last Friday, myself and a good selection of publoggers. My round came rather late in the evening (I believe I may have top and tailed it – in as much as I got a small early round and the last round of the night had hit me). We were lucky enough to have a smallish table which were extremely crammed around as the rest of the pub was pretty solid with the usual Friday cram. The bar being approximately twenty yards away I considered the multi-trip option with two drinks per trip – no-one ever comes to help. And then I noticed the trays. Sitting in the corner of the bar thoroughly unloved. So I asked for one.

Now my multi-braided Aussie barmaid looked a bit confused. I vaguely got the feel questioning my manhood. Could I not carry six drinks through the crowd, pissed as I already was. She didn’t even know where you look. In the end she followed my point to the round plastic discs and voila, I had a tray. I also got more looks as I attempted the assault course walk back. A tray makes manoeuvring a lot harder than the two drink option. But worse was to come. On achieving the table with minimal spillage I had to contend with massive shifts in distribution of weight as people took their drinks (causing slightly more spillage). I returned to the bar with the tray and its small puddle of beer in it wondering whether it had been worth it. I’m not sure.

23
Jan 02

When is All Bar One not a pub?

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When is All Bar One not a pub? There seems to be a quiet acceptance from some of the punters round here that All Bar One is in some ways a pub. Whereas I will happily set it outside the realm of being a pub by its own very attemps not to be a pub. There are pubs of course which have the word “bar” in their name, but if ABO wants to be a bar then I say let them have it. There appears to be a tacit suggestion in Tom’s post below that a shit bar could de facto be designated as a pub – thus lifting bars higher than pubs on some sort if arbitary pecking order. I disagree.

I must admit, his description of the Brickworks isn’t much more alluring. Budweiser on draft!!!! Stop this madness now.Pubs aren’t about winning modesty, they are about boozing.

When Is A Pub Not A Pub?

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When Is A Pub Not A Pub? When it’s a bar. And vice versa. Blurring the lines betwixt the two is a dangerous game and generally ends in tears. All Bar One for instance tries very hard to be a bar and hence ends up a shit pub. Most ghastly East London bars try to recreate the homely armchair ambience of a Home Counties boozer and wind up insufferable. Imagine my surprise, then, that one of my currently favoured pubs in Oxford is walking this tightrope of disaster with some aplomb.

The Brickworks is a pub, alright. But it’s a close thing – even a removal of a definite article could tip the balance – it would be called Brickworks, which is a short step to being a bar, called Brick. Shudder. But no, its The Brickworks, thank goodness. The pub sign plays similar games with pub convention – it’s a section of painted-on wall with the pub name in mock-graffiti. But it has a pub sign, and is therefore a pub. I dwell on these external signifiers cos they mirror what you get inside – a clean, stripped-wood look but a cosy atmosphere, achieved by The Brickworks being the approximate size of a small bus. You have Hoegaarden and Budweiser on draft and a small but nice-looking selection of Belgian bottled beers, and you have newspapers (tabs and broadsheets), and an entertainments room downstairs. It could almost be a bar – almost – but it has a winning modesty about it that keeps it in the land of pub.

Of course, The Brickworks can’t hold a candle to a good London drinker, and it couldn’t win out against good Oxford boozers either, except that those are sadly rarities (all the semi-decent pubs in Oxford are marred by a single tiresome flaw – the draftiness of the Angel And Greyhound, the trashiness of The Crown, the nutter magnetry of The Star). So for now The Brickworks is an effective change of pace. Cheers!