Beer and Loathing

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B@1, Spitalfields

I didn’t choose to go here, okay. It’s Beer and Loathing not stupid cocktails and loathing. Although there was a lot of loathing. Cocktails and Contempt is a bit catchier though. Maybe one day that can be some fruity spin off.

B@1 is this dickhead chain of bars that caters for suits and people who live in South West London (don’t get me started) who like to drink over priced vodka mixers. There’s one in all the obvious places suits and SW LDNers hang out; Balham, Clapham, Monument, Soho and Covent Garden to name but a few. They also have one in Spitalfields and one in ‘Shoreditch’ which is less actually in Shoreditch and more in Spitalfields north. As in, if you threw a rock hard enough you’d hit a bank.

Anybody who knows the area will know that there is a weird pedestrian phenomenon whereby if you are on the Brick Lane side of Commercial Road the demographics of the people you pass will be 70% Hipster Kid, 20% Banker and 10% Confused Tourist whilst on the Spitalfields side the ratio is reversed (minus the confused tourists who stay in the minority). A similar thing happens with the invisible boundary mid way along Brick Lane where, as you move north, suddenly you stop seeing wizened old muslim dudes who had previously been outnumbering kids with haircuts 5 to one.

Less about the movement of people and more about how shit this cocktail bar was. It’s a cramped little affair where the bar itself ran basically the whole length of the one room that made up B@1, Shoreditch. The lighting was down really low, which usually I would be the first to commend but for some reason here it just made it look like there were semen stains on everything that they didn’t want you to see or something equally disagreeable. The music was up mentally loud considering there was absolutely no room in which anybody could even start to consider dancing. Jamming out in this miserable miasma of brightly coloured drinks and gamete covered furnishings (probably) were a particularly unpleasant band of desk owning key-hunts. As two friends and I approached the bar we had to nudge past a couple of rugger buggers giving the bar maids a hard time for their cocktails not being made in twelve seconds flat, lots of unnecessary swearing and rudeness. My heart went out to the poor overworked bar maids. I wouldn’t stand that sort of abuse for a minute let alone shift upon shift. Which I imagine they do. Money makes people into impatient wankers, nothing like the amicable polite car thieves you and I surround ourselves with.

My heart didn’t go out to them for that long though. They ID’d all of us. Just because we were about 10 years younger and £20,000 poorer than everyone else in there. I don’t usually mind though, getting ID’d is usually a laugh when they see your age then apologise and witticisms are exchanged and everyone has a laugh. But it was too loud for witticisms here and the bar maid’s sense of humour had been worn down by years of poorly crafted chat up lines from balding cricket fans. Plus they seemed to be of the opinion that my ID was fake. It got passed from the woman serving us to another and then we had to wait for ten minutes until the manager managed to get hold of it. Then they all had one more good look at it. Then I had it given back to me without apology and we were told we’d be served in a minute.  What the fuck, man.

This fiasco got me in a bit of a tizz. I kicked off saying we should leave and how on earth did they think they could get away with being so rude just because we were young and boo hoo etc etc. I was told to shut up and wait for my cocktail because it would be delicious and calm me down. This was a long wait though, A – it was impossible to have a conversation with anybody because The Kaiser Cheifs were playing so loudly my ears were bleeding; and B – cocktails take the best part of 3 months to make. Fuck working in a cocktail bar. Neggy customers, pain in the arse drinks to make and still probably only paid the same as normal minimum wage bar grunts.

When they did finally arrive, I shut up and had a pretty good time. Not because of any external factor other than the cocktail though, it was called an Irish Disco Biscuit and was blended ice cream, baileys, Oreos and crème de menthe. It was the gayest thing ever. Unfortunately my companions for the evening started winding each other up and a sneaky sip out of somebody else’s cocktail turned into a line drawn on the other’s face with a biro and quickly snowballed until we had a smashed glass on the floor and had an entire bar looking at us.

We ran away. Enjoy your broken glass, dickheads.

Hipst-o-Meter 1/10

As we were running away I saw a new era on some man/boy’s head. Might have been a banker who got changed after work to look cool down the cocktail bar (did anybody else used to do that after school so they didn’t have to wear uniform into town afterwards?). But as we were basically in Shoreditch we will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was some awful dubstep fan instead.

Location 8/10

If you were on your way out for an evening of drunken debauchery in one of Shoreditch/Hoxton’s fine drunken debauchery establishments, but unfortunately felt too hungover to get properly on it this would be the perfect stop to fill your body with alcohol whilst tricking your brain into thinking you were drinking the most delicious tropical bastard this side of The Bahamas. It is right on the path you’d take if you were to walk from Liverpool Street station to Brick Lane. There’s lots to do nearby and more importantly it’s easy to escape from.

Price 5/10

Most of the reason that we came here was that it was happy hour and that meant two cocktails were £7.50. I thought this was very reasonable considering the amount of time and effort that goes into making each cocktail and how eye wateringly delicious they are. However, the rest of the time they are £7.50 a pop and that basically writes the likes of us off from going in here for more than one unless we want to lose our homes.

Atmosphere 1/10

You know that knob giving the bar tenders grief I mentioned at the begining? Yeah, well he ended up being such an arsehole that my friend demanded he pay for her drinks. To which he responded “yeah fine I don’t fucking care” and had it put on his tab. That is the quality of person you are rubbing shoulders with here. The only people who are allowed to be that drunk and nonchalant about spending money on a Tuesday night are students when their loan comes in. Basically, don’t go here. Well not unless you want to have your taste buds given the equivalent of a blow job for £7.50.

The Red Lion & Pineapple, Acton

You may have heard me complain in previous reviews that if you give your pub a funny name you have to make sure your pub is sick enough to warrant it. This is an example of a pub with a silly name where the silly name was probably the most exciting part of the whole experience.

The Red Lion and Pineapple is a Wetherspoons between Acton and Ealing that basically fulfills all the stereotypes one comes to expect from a ‘spoons in a part of London this far away from actual London. I don’t hide the fact that I am very South East London biased and think that West is some weird dystopia inhabited by dragons and goblins. Thus I don’t know anything about a place this far away. As such you won’t get me bitching about the locals or debunking any clichés about the area. But as far as fairly middle class far-away-enough-from-London-for-you-to-see-a-tree suburban pubs go, this ticks all the boxes.

Is there a TV screen showing the Chelsea-Napoli game? Yes. Is there a crowd of men sitting beneath it on chairs they have pulled away from tables so that you can’t sit anywhere in the pub? Yes. Is there a ‘dining area’ that has been filled with pissed up office workers celebrating Karen’s 50th? Yes. It’s got everything you need. It’s like Disneyland for people who love Carling.

I had come in with a few friends that I hadn’t seen in ages to celebrate the fact that I could now indeed see them and also their recent movement from homelessness to living by Ealing Common tube station. One of our number was also in the pub to watch the aforementioned Chelsea game. Now, due to years of being forced to play it in the rain when I just wanted to be indoors playing Final Fantasy 7, I have developed a healthy loathing for football in all its guises. But when faced with somebody who is truly moved by the plight of their chosen football team, it does make me jealous. Much like I am jealous of a religious person who has so much faith in their chosen belief that they are truly at peace with the world. Unfortunately, I could never share either the football fanatic’s mirth nor the religious person’s peace because when it boils down to it, both are very silly. I just can’t fight off the cynical niggle that letting what a random bunch of well paid dudes (that I have decided to follow for no real reason) do on a football pitch affect my mood is a bit ridiculous. This game was a laugh though. The crowds enthusiasm and joy was infectious. Apparently Chelsea won because they made more goals. And this was good.

Other highlights included this Lion awkwardly wearing a t-shirt.

The obligatory ‘this is why this Wetherspoon’s is here, and why it is called what it is called and here is a history of the immediate area’ plaque, which I was obviously desperate to read to find out why the pub was called the Lion and fucking Pineapple, was placed in the little sub-room between the door from the pub to the toilet and the door from the toilet to the pub. Do you know what room I mean? I bet it has a name. I imagine its purpose is to provide a space for the smell of shit to dissipate so that it doesn’t escape into the pub. Anyway, the plaque was in here and it is the most awkward place to have it. These rooms are always so small that it’s hard to pass someone at the best of times, and coming across somebody static in a room that is traditionally only passed through quickly seems to bring out the same reaction in every (drunk Chelsea supporting) man that discovered me reading in there. It was a mix of shock, confusion and anger. In that order.

Suggestion of the week – don’t hang around in those little halfway-to-toilet rooms unless you want to get beaten up and smell of poo.

Hipst-o-meter – 0/10

Say ‘Fjallraven kanken’ to the people in here and their response will be ‘bless you’.

Location – 3/10

No prior knowledge about the area, but when we were getting cash out there was a letter addressed ‘to whoever finds this’ that told us we were wonderful human beings and that the author was in love with us and that we were courageous, good and one of a kind. We put it back in the envelope as it clearly wasn’t for us. Nice to know wonderful courageous people are getting cash out round here though.

Price – 9/10

‘spoons prices. Far enough away from LDN that a beer and a burger is £5.10.

Atmosphere 7/10

Bar staff were friendly, people weren’t as racist and scary as in many of the J. D. Wetherspoon’s I have frequented in the past and the general buzz was good considering it was a Wednesday night. It only loses points because I felt intimidated a couple of times. But on both those occasions the blame could be chalked up as mine, we have already discussed the social faux pas of hanging around in the loo limbo room. Don’t do it.

Do you have any god awful pubs in mind for Jack to go to at some point in the future? If you do please harass him on twitter @beerandloathinz

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