Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fancy a pint at the pub?

Last night I went to a yoga-class at a pub. A few weeks ago, I went to see Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West. At a pub. And sometimes you’ll find me quizzing away and trying to get more points by googling things on my iPhone – at a pub. Oh, and when the weather gets to be even more lovely than it is right now, you will definitely see me with a glass of white wine in the lovely back yard – of a pub. A pub that incidentally once played host to an interview with the magnificent Miss Anne Hathaway. But that’s a different story.
If you leave this cute little island on which I currently reside, and go to just about any other country in Europe, you’ll find the concept of The Irish Pub. It is quite often located in a building with atrocious stained glass windows and matching lamps. On tap at the bar, you’ll most definitely find either Kilkenny or Guinness, along with a couple of other none too exciting beers and maybe the odd cider – not the fun ones either. The kitchen will be able to whip up some fish & chips, maybe a pie and most definitely the old favorite from the homeland – nachos with cheese and guacamole! And I’m not saying that this isn’t a perfectly nice place to watch a soccer game and drink a beer, if you’re in to that sort of thing. It’s just not a place I would choose to hang out voluntarily.
Now, I am very well aware that the above portrayal is of the nondescript Irish pub – and I live in England. However, for some reason all the pubs that I’ve encountered outside of the United Kingdom are Irish, so for me – and many others, I’m sure – that’s what comes to mind when the word pub is uttered. At least it used to be. From the first few lines of this blog post, you’ve probably already gathered that this has changed quite a bit over the past 7 months. In fact, I think that one of the man’s favorite things about living in London is that I’ll actually go to the pub with him. Voluntarily. And I’ll enjoy myself while I’m there. So let me tell you a bit more about the pubs in my neck of the woods…
Right across the street from our flat you’ll find a theatre pub. A wonderful pub, that basically has a theatre in the back room. This particular theatre pub specializes in opera, and it just so happens to have won an Olivier Award for Best New Opera last year. As mentioned above, I saw a Puccini opera there a few weeks ago and it was a superb and highly professional production. And even though few things make me happier than the golden pillars and red velvet seats of places like the Royal Opera House, there is something magically special about being in an intimate venue where you are close enough to see the sweat on the actors’ faces.  
Just down the road is another brilliant pub – recently renovated, serving only organic and seasonal food, filled with comfy chairs and couches and offering weekly yoga classes in the upstairs function room. And why wouldn’t they? It’s not like somebody is going to book it for a party on a Tuesday night. And while they may not be the traditional choice, fairy lights work wonderfully for achieving that calm and serene yoga atmosphere.
Walking through the little park next to our flat, you’ll reach yet another dazzling destination – always brimming with people on Quiz Night, as George may very well be the best Quiz Master in town. Oh, and drinks like A Chockwork Orange are perfect for celebrating a team win – or for making the defeat a bit easier to bear.
Also across the street, a few houses down from the theatre pub, is a joyful and quirky place that will serve your strawberry beer with a side of Star Wars, projected on to a big white wall above the bar. And every couple of weeks, they transform the entire pub into a treasure trove of an arts & crafts and vintage market where you can find true gems for just a few quid.
And then of course there’s Miss Hathaway’s favorite pub… Okay, I don’t know if it’s actually her favorite pub, but it’s not like she’s going to read this. What I do know is that she was interviewed there for Marie Claire magazine, just around the time I moved to Angel. And I totally understand her choice – it is a simple and beautiful pub with an amazing back yard, perfect for a bottle of white wine and a warm summer night. Did I mention that the food is amazing? 
Every country has something that makes it special. For England, one of those things would definitely have to be the pub culture – which isn’t much of a surprise really. To me, the surprise has been to see that it truly is a culture. It is being cared for and nurtured every day, it is a precious part of daily life and, perhaps most importantly, it is in a constant state of development. Because truly, there isn’t much that a pub can’t do.  

(If you happen to stop by Angel, here is a list of links to the places I have mentioned:

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