Pub visits this week 5
Locations London, Sheffield
It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m getting off the train at St Pancras. In a couple of minutes’ time I’ll meet my friend Marianthi and we’ll decide what we’re doing for the next few hours, until we head down to Vauxhall for the gig we’re seeing tonight. We have this conversation every time I arrive in London, and it tends to follow a fairly consistent formula.
“So what do you want to do?” Marianthi will ask me.
I will look at Marianthi, incline my head and raise my eyebrows.
Marianthi will reply: “OK, which pub?”
This time, however, the formula varies. After the head-inclining and eyebrow-raising, Marianthi says: “OK, we’ll go to the Euston Tap.”
Prevented from visiting the Euston Tap last time I came to London by the unfortunate detail that it hadn’t actually opened up for the first time, I am not minded to resist today. The Tap, of course, is the latest venture from the people who brought you the Sheffield Tap – the most exciting new pub opening I can ever remember, and of course a huge success.
The Euston version has now been open for a month. It’s a tiny but fascinating pub, with a quality and range of beer that places it squarely on the cutting edge of, um, beer. It’s got a nice spiral staircase. I’m always a sucker for a spiral staircase. And it’ll be the next featured pub at Get to the pub.com so look out for that very soon. Well, we’ve got to do something to attract some more traffic.
In the early evening we whizz down to Cask. Pimlico isn’t an area I know, and Cask isn’t a pub I’ve been to until now. But it’s pulled a huge crowd of people to fill its huge single room, so it must be doing something right. Is it beer, or is it marketing? Well, there’s a great big Beer Menu with about a hundred pages of A4 bundled together, so they’re at least marketing the beer well.
Oooh, and they’ve got Thornstar on – the fruit of the recent collaboration between the Thornbridge and Dark Star breweries, which has had British beer fans drooling in anticipation. And it tastes… well, of nothing very much at all. It’s as cold and flat and lifeless as the surface of the moon. I’ve never tasted Thornstar before, so I can’t tell you whether it’s not much of a beer, or whether it’s just being particularly badly kept and served at Cask. But it’s worth bearing in mind that of all the Dark Star and Thornbridge beers I’ve tried before, none have been less than excellent.
And maybe my tastebuds have been spoilt rotten by an afternoon at the Euston Tap, but they’re not exactly overwhelmed by the other two pints I have a go on at Cask. So, disappointing, really. The Christmas tree is nice though.
Then it’s a short walk to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to see a gig by The Hidden Cameras, one of my favourite bands of the 2000s. The band play beautifully, radiantly, heart-liftingly. The venue is quite good too – and it’s not often you can say that about London venues, where the cloakrooms are always huge because they want the shirt off your back as well. Unusually, it’s a London venue where you could just about imagine going for a pint if there weren’t a band on. It combines the functions of pub and live music venue reasonably well, which hardly ever seems to happen anywhere that holds more than about 50 people.
Back in Sheffield on Friday, there’s a quick pint after work in the Lescar, then I enjoy the novelty of a journey into the city centre without 18 inches of snow underfoot, en route to the Rutland Arms. The Rutland is dark and twinkly in preparation for Christmas, but if you could read the collective thoughts of the drinkers in a pub, then this pub would be thinking no further ahead than this evening. Not for the first time, the Rutland proves the perfect place to pass that exhilarating hour or two between the end of a week’s work and the start of the weekend’s living.