Saturday, 22 March 2008

A visit from the Easter bloggy...

And here's a chance to catch up with some of my recent pub visits.

Al has already covered our last trip out to the wonderful Shunt. To mix my radio metaphors, like Radio 2, it really is different every time (ever played crazy golf in a bar? No? I did last Wednesday!) - but like all the good work I do for charidee, I don't like to talk about it. I worry that the commuting masses will find out about the secret door, and it'll turn into a Wetherspoons.

So here instead is an old favourite, the Princess Louise on High Holborn. This was already a great Victorian pub - so when it closed for refurbishment, I think everyone was a bit worried it'd be turned into a Wetherspoons (notice a theme emerging here?!). But the Sam Smiths people have done a good job. If anything, they've done too good a job - they've added back in the Victorian dividers, which means there are now several small rooms around the central island bar. If you enter the pub through the left had door, you walk into a corridor that isn't even obviously a pub! So it's really difficult to find your friends as you can't easily move between the rooms - and once you have done, there's only room for six of you (or as in our case, three of us and another very annoying group of four). But the bottom line is that they haven't screwed it up - the Gents toilets remain the finest in the land, the beer is usual Sam Smiths' dirt cheap, and therefore these are minor quibbles. If you have a tourist friend visiting London who wants to see where Sherlock Holmes tried to get Watson drunk, tell them it was here.

And here's a couple of new ones for you - first, The White Hart round the back of the Tate Modern, on Great Suffolk Street. This is a really cracking example of a neighbourhood boozer that's been tidied up just enough to make it decent for a mixed lunchtime crowd of suits and building site workers, but not enough to spoil it. So the beer is good, the sandwiches are doorstep and the ham egg and chips is mighty fine. And they've kept the original thirties features with some fine period doors and a lovely island bar. If you don't mind replacing a river view with a Sarf London railway bridge, this is a more authentic alternative to the Founders Arms.

Also good, in a bit more trendy sort of way is The Woolpack, round the back of London Bridge. This area is one of those new gentrified bits that you stumble across. You walk past some dodgy demolition sites/car parks, and suddenly come across a road full of boutiques and gastropubs. I really didn't think Bermondsey was like this! We visited The Woolpack for a leaving do (we seem to be having a lot of these at the moment...)



and it's now officially added to the "to do again" list, both for this pub and the one we didn't try immediately opposite (The Garrison). Here's some of the Woolpack, which don't include the surprisingly large and less surprisingly train-themed beer garden...





Meanwhile, in the Gents, this is who is staring at you while, ahem, you use the facilities...



And this is the door pattern. Cool or arty nonsense? (At least with Shunt Lounge you're certain of the answer!) In this case, you decide...

A post from Daily Mail island...

Regular readers (hello Will's Dad!) have been complaining about the lack of posts here recently. I've probably been spending too much time inside pubs (and crazy underground bars, see previous post) and not time enough writing about them. So a wintery four-day bank holiday is probably the time to catch up with some recent observations, both pub and non-pub related.

As visitors to my Facebook page will be aware, I recently attended this year's excellent Student Radio Conference. Here I am, hard at work exploring the future of radio with key stakeholders in the vital 15-24 demographic.



Sorry, I mean this one:



As ever, it was a fine occasion, but I only remark on it to show you this gem from my stay at the Travelodge Bath Central. Here's my lovely fluffy towels on the heated towel rail.



But what's this? It doesn't seem very hot? Oh THIS might be why...



Thank you Travelodge Corporation, for always putting my safety ahead of heated towels. Oh God, Littlejohn's right, we are going to hell in a handcart.

Meantime, as only radio newsreaders who listen to too many American airchecks say, we turn to The Birthplace of Radio (TM). Even though our football club is called Chelmsford City, we missed out on city status in 2000 to Brightonandhove - and Wolverhampton, for goodness sake. But on my trip to the newsagents this morning, I think I found the problem. We might well have a cathedral, but they're not going to make us a city until we learn to spell correctly...



And finally, for anyone who hasn't found it yet, and with an advisory warning of extremely strong language, I salute the blogging genius of the anonymous Man In The Morning, who in a few dozen posts has pretty much taken apart the radio industry. Whether you agree or not, if only everyone showed this much passion for our industry. Read it now (ideally from the first post upwards so you know who's who).