Day 4 cntd (10th Jan 2009)
The Camden Eye (Camden Town) ½ Bombardier, ½ Theakstons, ½ 1664 £4.50
There are several licensed establishments within spitting distance of Camden Town station – The Worlds End over the road, The Mother Black Cap over the other road, the legendary Jazz Cafe and The Electric Ballroom just up the road or round the corner. None are quite as close as The Camden Eye, however, which is just a small stumble across Kentish Town Road from the station’s side entrance.
It’s certainly not a huge place, a wedge shaped pub with a wedge shaped room containing a bar no more than 10 feet across. What it lacks in size though, it more than makes up for in ambience – it has a very buzzy atmosphere, fun and friendly staff and a nice range of booze on offer. The place is run by a lady called Mads, who manages to be both super efficient and utterly charming. They sometimes have live music set up at the “point” end of the wedge, and I believe they are also in the process of sorting out the upstairs room as an extra lounge bar space, which will be most welcome when it’s done.
We felt like we were on a roll now, as again the real ale was in really good condition, the ambience was good, and I think we could have quite happily sat by the windows for hours knocking back beers and watching the comings and goings of the weird and wonderful at the station across the road. Considering some of the places we have been to on the tour so far, it is always a relief to find that the nearest pub to the station is also one of the best. Go there. Drink beer. Have fun.
The Crescent (Mornington Crescent) ½ 1664, ½ Amstel, ½ Pride, 1 packet of crisps £4.80
And so the hot streak came to an end as we found ourselves in the very-obviously-part-of-a-chain Crescent. It’s not a terrible place, but it’s by no means completely brilliant either. Neat, tidy and slightly soulless, but almost certainly packed on a Friday or Saturday night. In fact probably the main thing to recommend it is the fact that it is situated opposite Koko, which is just about the best Music Venue in London. Some people of a certain age will probably remember Koko when it was The Camden Palais, and some people even older and much sadder (like me) might remember when it was featured in its own TV show called The Paradise Club which also starred Dirty Den off of Eastenders. Nostalgia.
Parking the reminiscence for just a second, let’s get back to the matter at hand. The Crescent was offering a “January Sale” with lots of cheap food and beer (“probably all frozen food” said Liam, and I’m sure he was probably right). The menu was very much standard fare and pretty uninspiring, there was one big screen showing Sky Sports News, and for some reason there seemed to be an awful lot of cider on offer. On the plus side though, it was the first example we had seen on the tour of a member of staff wearing a cowboy hat – frankly we couldn’t believe it had taken us till day 4 to see this. Very fetching she looked too.
We took in the (lack of) ambience, drank our beers and shared our late lunch (Salt and Vinegar, I think). Time to move on, and indeed time to turn back North towards Kentish Town.
The Assembly House (Kentish Town) ½ 1664, 2 x bt Corona £8.10
A crushing disappointment, this one. The Assembly House is a fantastic building – all glorious Victorian Architecture with turrets outside, and ornate glass inside. There is a beautiful glass cupola in the ceiling of the back bar (which is apparently where the Billiard Room used to be), and wonderful, huge, elaborately styled mirrors all over the room.
Unfortunately the pub itself was in every way mediocre. Again, not absolutely terrible, but the building deserves so much more than the reality actually offers. It is named after the area where, many, many moons ago groups of merchants would all meet up before travelling North – seemingly in the hope that weight of numbers would deter any dastardly highwaymen on the route. Weight of numbers was certainly something that the modern day Assembly House was sorely lacking – there must have been only eight or nine people in the place – and given the fact that it is a bit of a barn, it a) made it quite a lonely place to be, and b) made even the quietest of conversations echo disturbingly around the cavernous interior.
Two huge bars across a large traditional London Pub, and they only had one real ale on, and the one that we saw served looked distinctly hazy – which led us to temporarily abandon our “drink English” pledge, and stick to bottled beer. They did have pork scratchings on offer though.
One nice touch – a sign by the bar declared “Don’t Play With us – Play With Each Other!” which could be construed as slightly odd, until we realised they were referring to the large selection of board games they had for customers. All well and good, of course, as long as you can actually find someone else in the pub to play with.
A wasted opportunity, we think. This pub should be great. Isn’t.