Day 5 cntd (17th Jan 2009)
Be@One (Clapham Common) 1 x Tom Collins, 1 x Caiprinha, 1 x Bellini £19.50
As we arrived at Clapham Common station, travel-weary and wind-blasted but unbowed, we were presented with another decision to be made. Within very close proximity to the tube, there is an O’Neill’s chain pub (surprisingly, I don’t think we’d done one of those yet), The Alexandra (good pub), and a small style/DJ bar called Be@One. Fortunately we came out of the Southside entrance which immediately ruled out the O’Neill’s, and after much deliberation, we decided it was Be@One that was getting lucky tonight – it is ever so slightly closer and would therefore be on the receiving end of our money, our sparkling personalities and our critical eyes.
It’s a tiny, thin cocktail bar with a lively but intimate atmosphere (there isn’t really any choice other than intimate). There is a DJ booth at one end of the bar, but we were forced to wonder whether a human DJ could actually fit behind there with his records as well. The room was otherwise filled with what a market research survey would probably describe as “young opinion formers with high disposable income”. Which means sort of trendy, to you and me.
There was a lovely young lady called Kiara behind the bar, who served us whilst just about managing to suppress her laughter about the fact that we were in there at all. You could almost see the “At this hour….at your age!” in her eyes. Still, once we got chatting, she realised that a) looks can be deceiving, and b) what vibrant young things we obviously were. It is a cocktail bar, so we of course indulged, and Kiara served us with practised ease. £19.50 does seem pretty horrendous when compared with most of our rounds on this tour (Hotel Bars notwithstanding), but actually for cocktails in a London bar, that’s pretty good value. Right then, time to go and find some proper beer again.
Clapham North (Clapham North) 2 x ½ Guinness, ½ Strongbow £5.10
On to Clapham North, and the weather was still bitter, but thankfully the pub named after the Station is right opposite the entrance, just a short stumble over the road. I seem to remember this being a slightly unsavoury place called The Bedford Arms in previous years with a strange blue paint job and a fairly shabby all round ambience.
Not so nowadays, as it has had a makeover (albeit at least a couple of years back) that borders on the clinical. Somebody has taken a “modern pub” template and applied it ruthlessly to the building – lots of earthy colours and comfortable looking sofas along with bright chrome across the bar, screens for any major sporting events plus a bit of room for the DJs that fill the place up on Friday and Saturday nights. Believe me though, despite the ever so slightly “identikit” appearance of the place, it’s definitely a huge improvement on what it was. Oh, god yes.
The North (as the locals may or may not call it) also had a fairly tasty looking food menu – a combination of traditional pub grub and a bit of that exotic stuff that you get “abroad”. A reasonable wine and cocktail list completed the modern pub picture. It’s not a bad place overall, and is housed in a fairly imposing building, but I still had the nagging feeling that everything it was trying to do as a pub (modern, quirky, quality booze and food) was being done just a little bit better in The Falcon just a short walk up Bedford Road. Go to Clapham, try them both and you’ll see what I mean. Maybe we should do a tour of the second and third closest pubs to every station. That wouldn’t take long.
The Hanover Arms (Oval) 2 x ½ Youngs Bitter, ½ Adnams Bitter £4.50
And so to Oval Station, and the Hanover Arms. Back to a proper boozer and no mistake.
It should be pointed out that at this time we had stunned the world, and ourselves, with the incredible efficiency we had shown in charging through this section of the marathon. We had completed all the pubs we had researched for today’s jaunt and it was only just 10 O’clock. Very impressive and dedicated work gents. The obvious move was to steam ahead and knock off a couple more pubs whilst we still had time and our wits about us. With impeccable logic we decided that Stockwell was also on the Victoria line and so could be picked up at a later date when we sauntered down the light blue. Therefore it made perfect sense to bowl up (sorry) to Oval Station and hope that there was a very obvious pub nearby.
Lady luck was clearly smiling down on us, since the Hanover was virtually outside the station, resting in the shadow of the grand cricket ground that the station shares its name with. It was that close, you almost expected to see smashed windows where someone has really got hold of a loose delivery and knocked it out of the ground.
So what of the pub itself? Well, it has proper beer, which let’s face it had been a rarity today, and our relief at discovering this helped us overlook the slightly basic nature of the pub in general. Three big screens around the bar were all showing football highlights, and clientele were mostly concentrating either on this, or just on the serious business of getting quietly smashed on a Saturday night. We met the landlord (sorry we couldn’t remember your name!), who told us he was teetotal. “Happiness is my drug” he said. It’s a fair point, but I think we all agreed we preferred beer. Mainly because it makes us happy.
Our increasingly erratic end-of-evening notes had the last word on the population of the pub. “Dog behind the bar called Wolf. Beautiful animal. Also, a lady in very bad Ugg boots.”