Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Trollied Tuesday: London pubs

Last weekend my eye was a caught by a piece in the Times which purported to list the ten best pubs in London. I thought it rather an odd list, but I know these things are always designed to provoke disagreement and stimulate debate – oh and to plug things.

In this case compiler Peter Haydon was plugging his new book: London's Best Pubs. He describes it as "a celebration of the spirit of pubishness everywhere. It is also a statement of what we stand to lose if today’s neo-Puritans get their way", so I cannot but wish it well. (At this point, it's worth reminding regular readers of my praise for one his previous volumes: An Inebriated History of Britain).

Nevertheless, I must question the pubishness of some of the pubs he selected for his top ten. Apart from the choice of the Coach and Horses in Soho, which is fine if you are interested in watching drunks or are an exhibitionist drunk who believes that makes you interesting, the problems with the list are immediately apparent from the number one choice: the Sloaney Pony.

Yes, you will get a good pint there, as you will in most of the places in the top ten (some of them old favourites of mines). But the fact that the White Horse is full of braying nincompoops (it's in SW3, what you expect?) does somewhat disqualify it from the great pub status.

Drinking, you see, should be about more than just the raw material you are pouring down the throat. To transform it into a worthwhile experience you have to consider such matters as the conversation, the tone and the spirit of the event. And that's even when you're drinking alone.

If you drink in select company, you won't go too far wrong (a few tins of special offer lager on a park bench with the right people would be far more fun than a couple of bottles of Chateau Lafitte in the company of tossers). What a good pub does, though, is provide good booze, food if you're that way inclined, while facilitating good company, wit and high entertainment. There's no formula to it, more a sort of transmutation of the base metal of humanity into the gold of companionship.

Would you like examples of this? The easiest thing is to investigate for yourself. But if you are looking for guidance, allow me to offer a blatant plug here from some ne'er-do-well associates of mine: the new Fancy a Pint? In London. You can't go wrong really*, it's been written with the expert assistance of a panel of lushes, layabouts and larrikins, including myself.

* Bar the baffling ommission of Lucky Seven on Cricklewood Lane, obviously.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Sir Compton said...

Well, Nags Head earns its place. Sir Compton and Mr Finbarr are occasional habitues. Market Porter missing from the list - and what about a Trollied Tuesday outing to the Lord Clyde?

12:08 pm  
Blogger bill said...

I like your thinking, sir. The Clyde is a truly fine establishment: in an ideal world I should hold court there every Tuesday.

(That said, if you're talking about the next best pub in Borough I'd go for the Royal Oak. And then the Rake - less crowded - ahead of the Porter)

As is the Nag's Head. And who was it who first led Finbarr there? Exactly.

8:47 pm  
Blogger Sir Compton said...

why, tis yourself!

9:29 am  

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