Beer and Loathing
The London and Brighton, Peckham
I am all for avant garde changes to the traditional pub business model, if the industry is going to survive the successive duty hikes that the Tory government are currently strangling licensed venues with then we are going to need some fucking game changers. This, however, may be a case of a pub taking the term ‘auteur’ to a new, and commercially unviable, level.
The London and Brighton is by no means your average boozer, from the front it doesn’t even look open. Covered as it is with A1 posters for crap house nights, budget local theatre performances and reminders that the circus is, once again, in town. Not only this but there are some quite formidable metal shutters covering every window and door. Clearly this is a pub for either the very determined or those in the know. As somebody fitting snugly into the first of those groups I made it my mission one Tuesday evening (after a heavy day of drinking on the steps of a nearby Tesco Express) to get in, see what all the ruddy fuss was about and finally dispel rumours such as “it’s closed” and “no, you can’t get in there. It’s closed. It has been for years.”
Scrambling up the back wall and onto a low roof at the back of the premises I found what must be the entrance for that elusive group of people that no doubt pride themselves on being regulars here. A kicked-in hole in the roof through the slate tiling. Whilst obviously exclusivity is something to be sought after in an area of south east London where pop up art galleries and underground club nights are quickly ridiculed when they become too ‘mainstream’, I did think that this alternative entrance was a touch ridiculous. But what the fuck, eh? I’m sure everybody called Picasso a wanker when he started painting squares and junk. Gotta break some boundaries to rake in that dollar.
First impressions of the atmos were, unfortunately, not good. I am going to douse a portion of the blame upon my own head here because I did turn up at like 7pm and with these sort of doss-houses-cum-rave-dungeons shit certainly doesn’t pick up until the very wee hours. So expecting the party capital of SE15, I was not. However when I say it was dead, I mean grave dead. Embarassingly so.
I would describe the interior as ‘mildly fire damaged’. It was a vibe I was actually really into, haven’t seen that before anywhere and it’s bold design moves like this that earn you a rep. The flooring was a mix of broken glass, bits of wood, ripped up newspaper and unidentified burnt bits of what I can only refer to as ‘stuff’. Another clever decision, a nice modern urbane twist on the straw and saw dust floor coverings in the ale houses and taverns of yore.
On the pumps was a range of unidentified draught and cask. I have seen this done a couple of times now, not labelling what beer you have on. It’s clever in a way because it means you have to get chatting to the bar staff to find out what’s on the tap. It conjures up conversation about the beers and usually makes for a nice convival atmosphere. Well, it would have if I could have gotten some service. I shit thee not I waited forty five fucking minutes before giving up and resorting to minesweeping.
I know minesweeping isn’t cool and nobody should be advocating it because it is a first class ticket to being date raped. On top of that going round and drinking peoples unattended drinks can not only lead to you getting a smack to the mouth but also a cigarette butt in the mouth if you don’t look before you quaff. With this in mind I studied long and hard the liquid I decided to down. Certainly no fag butts but I couldn’t work out what type of beer it was. It was stored in a large white, paint bucket style vessel. It could well have been an old paint bucket. Another trendy wanker decision on the part of the owners, but to be honest, whilst I see the need for plastics in a pumping after hours club venue like this, I really do prefer clear plasticware. I settled on the assumption that the bucket contained some sort of wheat beer. Judging from the thick congealed head and citrus/ammonia aromas I was getting it was probably Belgian styled and fairly heavily alcoholic.
I polished it off and it was incredibly unpleasant. Note to self, there is a reason nobody minesweeps wheat beer. It tasted like a mixture between paint and stagnant rainwater. Grim.
I called it a day after starting to feel very queasy indeed and left the building rather disillusioned. As much as I commend the owners of the London and Brighton for taking the torch of non-conformity and running with it, I fear that they’ve run headlong into a canal full of shopping trolleys and staffordshire terriers.
Admittedly, I didn’t see any there but the place stunk of art school influence. And damp. So many aspects of the pub just screamed ‘I don’t want a thing to do with the fucking mainstream and neither do my mates.’ From the bare plaster board walls with holes randomly smashed in them to their alternative take on the traditional pub dog; pub rodents. Loads of them. Trust me, though, had I come later in the evening this place would have been hotching with Doc Marten sporting fine art students.
Didn’t get to actually buy a drink unfortunately and couldn’t find a price list anywhere. I found a box of till receipts that were partially decomposed and another full of lever arch folders but rummaging through these left me with no answers and a cut on my hand that still hasn’t shown signs of healing almost a week down the line.
Right next to Queens Road Station and only about a 5 minute walk from the last place to try this sort of squat meets club vibe, the Peckham Hotel. If there’s anywhere to attempt to make this work, it’s Peckham. I only give it a nine because there is nothing else in the area to really bounce to were you to not have an amazing time here (which I obviously didn’t) unless you strike it lucky and one of the occasional good nights is on in the Bussey. But with the rumoured re-opening of the Peckham Palais soon that could all change.
Harsh? But fair. Here is where the business plan/pub in general falls down. Demanding that your punters climb a fucking wall and shimmy along it until they can get onto a slanted slate rooftop is asking a great deal indeed. I understand it. Don’t get me wrong, I understand it. Keep out the ale fuelled old wankers by making entry a feat that only the young and agile can acheive. It’s an interesting idea. But unfortunately it’s just going to end up being another pain in the arse when you only want a quick pint in the early evening. Let alone when the place gets packed and it’s one in-one out. Fuck knows how they’ll manage that queue without people falling to their deaths. The outcome is basically that it is fucking dead, and with no well hyped nights on in the near future (or ever) I don’t know how they’re going to make any monies. Good luck, folks, but the bottom line is that your pub is pushing the boundaries of what a pub is so far that most passers by will probably just think that it is the empty shell of a building that is about to be demolished or turned into flats.
The Leinster Arms, Bayswater
Going to the pub on your own is highly underrated. You don’t have to reach a consensus on which one to go to; you don’t have to make stupid small talk about how you haven’t seen each other for ages; you don’t have to make apologies for drinking two pints for every one they drink (oh, I’m just really thirsty); and you can eat a full pub lunch and then have a packet of crisps for pudding. The only person to judge you will be the bar tender, and it is his job to not judge you. It is his job to ply you with alcohol and toad in the hole until you run out of money or are too drunk to legally serve.
I cycled to Hyde Park the other day with the intention of getting drunk in a pub in it. But there weren’t any. There was some wanky cafe that sold wine but I wasn’t down for that shit and it was table service and there were children there. Children. The living, moving, noisy reminder that being drunk in the middle of the day is an embarassing social disease rather than the awesome black hole of fun that sucks in spare time and money that you think is (but it is that too, obviously).
In response to the pub-less state of child-filled anarchy Hyde Park had been reduced to I vowed to cycle in a direction until I reached a pub that looked gnarly or until I got too hungry to go any further. This direction led me to Paddington Station. Paddington Station is infamous for not being a pub, it is a train station. This direction had failed me. So I went left, cycled past Winston Churchill’s house (see below) and eventually got to the Leinster Arms.
The Leinster Arms is an excellent example of a well preserved Victorian boozer facing an estate agents. What it may be missing in modern gambling paraphernalia it more than makes up for in its Swedish person to non-Swedish person ratio, which at the time of reveiwing stood at about 10 Swedes to every 2 non-Swedes. A ratio some parts of Sweden would be jealous of. The reason for this Stockholm Syndrome was quickly left unexplained by a heady mixture of nobody telling me and me not asking. Instead I perused The Leinster Arms’ unusually sausage and mash biased food menu and drank a pint of something called ‘Purple Haze’, which I assume was a light golden ale laced with THC.
The menu gave you an option of six types of sausage to combine with six different types of mash and in turn there were three different types of gravy to go with the porky mashy concotion. The combination I picked was chilli sausages, tomato and basil mash topped with onion gravy. One of literally 108 possibilities.
After this I celebrated my shrewd decisions up until that point in the day by drinking so much ganja beer that the temptation of walking across the road and finding out what house prices in Bayswater were like grew to be too much.
After a mental night in the Leinster Arms the movers and shakers of Bayswater’s thriving moving and shaking scene no doubt bowl over the road to buy Kettle Chips from ‘Low Costs Convenience Supermarket’ then send some money to Brazil via ‘Global Foreign Exchange.’ I haven’t seen them do it though. So saying I have, and claiming on top of that that they are all hipsters, would be an example of bad journalism. And when did I last provide you with an example of bad journalism? Never is when.
Where the fuck is Bayswater?
It’s not often that one gets to sit on a rickety chair facing a road that is almost dead quiet because roadworks have blocked one end. When an opportunity such as this does arise it would be wise to embrace it with both arms. Who cares how much it costs? I can see a digger. I don’t think you can truly quantify that. (Seven out of ten.)
‘Inexplicable amounts of Swedish people’ is the sort of sentence I usually reserve for trips to Sweden or Norway (they all look the same to me.) But the Leinster Arms has coaxed it out of me. This didn’t really detract or add to the atmosphere, it just meant that I had no idea what anybody was talking about and could thus drink in peace without having to listen to awkward shit about botched EDL demos and the Asda price promise that you are forced to overhear in most London pubs.
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