Beer and Loathing: Pub Crawl in the City with your Dad and Little Brother Special
I don’t know where the exact point is when hanging out with your family becomes a treat and not a chore. It’s certainly somewhere between the point where the majority of them can/will drink with you and the point where you have lived away from them long enough to forget how annoying they are to live with and just miss all their good qualities. A bit like how a couple of years after leaving any school you look back on it thinking it was awesome (even though in all likelihood it sucked). I have apparently reached this point. Seeing family now always becomes a celebration of some kind, whether we are actually celebrating an occasion or whether we are just celebrating the fact we have managed to see one another.
This recent meet up’s vague reason for celebration was that I hadn’t seen my dad in a couple of months because he had been away and my 17 year old brother had just learned to walk again after drunkenly falling off a 40 foot climbing wall, managing to snap his thigh bone in half. Consequently having it replaced by a titanium rod and having to learn to walk from scratch/having to come to terms with the fact that he is now 1/20th cyborg.
Father Jack’s plan, as he was only in London for one evening before he had to head back to the stupid island he lives on, was to take us round all the pubs he used to drink at when he was my age and maybe tell us a bit about the history of the area if we could stay sober enough to pay attention. This area was the City of London. You see, back in the eighties, leaving a fairly good university with a fairly good degree was not the ticket to being an overqualified employee in a service industry job that it is today. It meant you got a ‘proper’ job. A job where you had to wear a tie. And they paid you enough money to buy as many ties as you needed and more. In exchange all you had to do was worship money as your new God, be miserable and vote for Thatcher occasionally.
As such we started in the Crosse Keys, a pub I have spoken about in detail already. This was because it’s near enough major landmarks for my stupid half robot baby brother to be able to find it with out falling off anything/getting lost. We each had a pint and I bored them about what I thought about the place. Actually, my dad didn’t have a pint, he had a glass of wine. Not sure what that was about. Moving on.
Revolution, America Square.
If you’re going on a pub crawl of any kind, you want to line your stomach, but especially if you’re going on a pub crawl with a teenager who has been freshly exposed to our fair nation’s clubbing scene, and especially one as alcopop-saturated as my home town’s. It basically means the only way they know how to drink is to see off their beverage the moment it hits their hand. Re-education takes years, we didn’t have time, our best defence against a horrifically drunk teenage construction of flesh and titanium was to fill it to the brim with food. Revolution was the establishment my father picked, he wasn’t aware it was a chain ( You’ll know it as ‘Vodka Rev’s’ if you go clubbing in Clapham/are the worst) he hand picked it because it used to be a bank and had some awesome original features.
These awesome original features included the huge 1920s safe downstairs for you to wander around as you saw fit. It was pretty sick, I’m not going to lie. The door was so thick that it was like a parody of a safe door. If I was going to draw a caricature of an oldy timey bank safe I would draw one with a door that ludicrously thick. It was made by Chubb and had one of those signs on it that said “By appointment to the Queen Elizabeth the Second” that means you know they’re fucking legit because the Queen uses them and she doesn’t fuck about.
The food was pretty awesome, I had a vodka pizza which on paper sounds foul but in practice was lovely because it didn’t taste like vodka. This is what I don’t get about vodka, right. It’s entire aim is to not taste like itself. A good vodka won’t taste like anything. 99% of the time vodka is used with a mixer to disguise how jank it tastes. If anybody says they “like vodka” they are either fucking lying or are a fucking idiot. Even vodka knows it isn’t nice.
The Counting House, Cornhill.
Next up, we were taken to a Fuller’s pub that was visually stunning. It was an assault on the eyes there was so much going on. A big oval baroque wooden bar ran through the centre and there were little half partitions everywhere to suggest that this had once been a pub with different sections for the lounge bar, public bar etc etc. Upon settling at a table with our halves of some random pale ale (Discovery, I think. Fullers are a boring brewery. Everything tastes the same. Fuck London Pride.) We discovered that it had in fact originally been a bank and had won many awards for thoughtful renovation once it was turned into this booze palace.
Nothing of particular note happened here. There was a print of a 1600s etching of London Bridge hanging next to our table and there was a brief discussion about how much it would have sucked having only one bridge across the Thames yet how much it would rule had London Bridge not fallen down (or so the nursery rhyme leads us to believe) and the original old school “look how many houses there are on me, how am I not falling down” bridge still spanned the river by the Shard, complete with traitor’s heads on pikes. The conclusion was that it would rule so, so hard.
My highlight of this pub would probably be the mega ornate metal bits on the edge of the stairs that, whilst I have seen them before, I have never given much thought to. What are they called? What do they do? Have Fullers had their own special one’s made? It says Fullers on it. Madness. I drunkenly took a photo. Here it is. Discuss these generation defining questions amongst yourselves.
Jamaica Wine House, Down some mental alleyway off Cornhill.
Just before entering, Father Jack drew our attention to the door step. This door step was a hefty bit of stone, approximately a wine bottle’s height and the front had been worn down so much by the passage of time that it was almost level with the pavement. This was a pub that had certainly seen it all. Although at the moment it was seeing city boys drinking wine and laughing about how many rugbies had been scored by the rugby teams at the rugby test play off matches over the weekend.
My brother went to sit in a corner as I was to pick his beverage and, anyway, we didn’t want him getting ID’d even if he did have his 18 year old mates one(who apparently looks exactly like him). This was perhaps a good move as I got ID’d immediately upon joining my dad at the bar. Could it have been because I was waving a shit digital camera about taking photos of things as if I had never been in a pub before? Was it because I look about 12 years old? We will never know. What I do know though is that the Polish woman behind the bar took severe fucking umbrance with my driving licence (Fucking Poles, eh? Coming over here, taking our jobs, doing them far better than any of our native work shy dole scum ever could). She picked out every minor detail on the licence, from why I was born in a stupid country to why I wasn’t currently standing outside the door of the address it said I lived at and all the “So you can drive, yes?” style pointless questions in between. The entire time my dad offered the same line all parents consistently repeat when their 18+ child gets ID’d in their presence “Of course he’s over 18! He’s my son!”
Upon finally managing to wrangle two pints of Oranjeboom out of the bar maid’s vice-like Polish death grip we returned to my little brother, who asked “So when are we going to this Jamaican place?”
“This is the Jamaican place, look at the door it says ‘Jamaica Wine House’”
“I don’t see any Jamaican men”
“No, it’s just called ‘Jamaica Wine House’ it’s not a Jamaican themed bar”
Apparently wracked with disappointment that our Dad had not decided to take us on a tour of his five favourite Yardie haunts the automaton downed his drink and looked surlishly out the window.
After a couple of stories about hilarious mid 80s Jamaica Wine House based drinking sessions with japanese clients that ended with soiled underpants, my dad and I saw off our drinks too and headed to the final pub on the tour.
The Cock and Woolpack, Finch Lane
By this point in the crawl we had all gotten to that level of drunk that you get to with family members where deep family shit gets discussed. “What are you doing with your life”, “What do you need to change about your personality”, “What percentage of your body is made of titanium” depth family shit. The less said about that the better.
This pub was a tiny wooden panelled affair which was pleasantly lit and spartanly furnished, but it seemed well legit. The decor wasn’t for the tourists, I think it had genuinely looked like this for decades. It was a Shepherd Neame pub so had all those patriotically named ales they churn out like “Spitfire”, “Britain’s Best” and “That War We Bloody Won”. The two Portuguese dudes behind the bar ID’d me again (cue obligatory “but he’s my son” from parent) but they did it really nicely, we even had some banter about how he got ID’d for a scratch card the other day and he’s 28. Rofl rofl lol lol. It did the trick though. I am still bitter about Polish lady but I see my experiences with Portuguese man through rose tinted spectacles where we all laughed through the experience and looked healthy and were somehow richer than when I got ID’d by the ice queen of the east.
If I’m being brutally honest with you I don’t remember a great deal else about this pub. I took some photos of random shit nailed to the walls on the way to the toilets so there’s that to look at.
As ever I am going to fuck with the scoring system because there’s 4 pubs and I seriously CBA to grade them all. My pub point system is flawed anyway. It’s going to get a serious overhaul at some point in the next financial year. This week though, we just decide who wins.
Hipst-O-Meter – Revolution
If only for the fact that one of the bar men looked a bit like he could be in a band and the girl who brought out our food had snakebites. Other than that the only people we saw were those poor men and women who slave day and, well, day to manage our otherwise out of control financial services industry and whose only thanks is a 6 figure annual income. Peace be upon them.
Location – The Jamaica Wine House
What it lost in not being a Rastafarian dive bar it more than made up for in “Wait a fucking second, am I David Copperfield or something?” Victorian immersion. It was tucked away down the tiniest cobbled alleyway surrounded by top heavy red brick buildings and lit only by gas lanterns (or old gas lanterns with modern light bulbs in). Considering all these pubs are within a stumble’s distance of one another in the most modern part of the most modern city in the UK it’s amazing that you could stand outside this pub and not know for sure whether you were in 1812 or not unless you checked the signal on your phone.
Price – The Crosse Keys
I know it wasn’t technically reviewed as it’s already been done before but it’s the only pub mentioned that is head and shoulders above the rest in value. Plus is this really an important section if you have decided to take a tour of the pubs in this part of London? You clearly already hate the contents of your wallet.
Atmosphere – The Cock and Woolpack
Maybe it was because there was a nice man there and maybe it was just because I was at my peak of inebriation here, but this was the cosiest. It was also coincidentally the smallest and had the lowest ceiling. The gigantic, high ceiling, ex-bank vibe is sick and all but I don’t think you can truely chill in it. Once the gawping at the splendiferousness on display is over you feel a bit exposed. I think to really settle you need a mildly cramped pub where you can find a nook and/or cranny to set up shop in. A little bit like a womb.
Have you been affected by any of the issues raised in this week’s article of “Beer and Loathing”? Do you have a cyborg for a sibling? Do you earn considerably less money than your parents did at your age? Do you get asked for ID every time you fucking sneeze? More importantly, 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