The Finsbury (Manor House) 2 x ½ London Pride, ½ Kronenbourg 1664 £5.35
We found ourselves at The Finsbury next, yet another one of those large London pubs that has had a semi-successful makeover/modernization. It now has new looking wood flooring all over, lots of mood lighting and a very strange looking jukebox. There was also a pool table towards the back of the room, and lots of very nice smells emanating from the kitchen (the menu actually looked pretty good).
They had some ale on too (woohoo!), and it even tasted in decent condition. We grabbed our drinks and moved out to the front courtyard, which would have been a pretty cool place to be if it hadn’t been so close to the road – it was like being in the pit lane at a grand prix, only with infinitely less glamour, and infinitely slower cars. Brilliantly, although the courtyard was completely enclosed by railings and full of tables and chairs, someone still felt the need to keep the extremely helpful “No Parking!” sign on one wall. Well done chaps.
It’s certainly not a terrible place in all, but we decided we probably wouldn’t make it our regular haunt either. We didn’t linger at this point, since after ten minutes or so of choking on car fumes, we were starting to long for the fresh clean air of the tunnels in the Underground.
The Arsenal Tavern (Arsenal) ½ Stella, ½ Kronenbourg, ½ Strongbow £4.40
It’s fair to say that today had been a day containing intermittent sightings of that mysterious North London species known as “The Gooner”. Now, however, we were preparing to venture into their heartland – their feeding ground, if you will – at The Arsenal Tavern, which was actually a surprisingly long walk from the station. The surprises didn’t end there either. I think we were all expecting to see a big traditional boozer type pub, with every available surface painted red and white. What we got, however, was a corner pub that had every available surface painted black, with green and red stained glass windows and a nightclub attached next door (called the @ Club, as far as we could tell).
We could have predicted that there would be no real ale on of course, but the nice looking and very pleasant smelling Thai Menu was slightly unexpected. The biggest surprise of all though was the attitude of the Gooners themselves. Watching the televised match between Manchester United and Tottenham, they actually cheered when Spurs scored. They cheered a lot. What has the world come to? This is just not the natural order of things. Although, it does seem that hating United is becoming a national pastime.
Given that it was still a nice day, and that this whole football scenario was just so wrong, we went and finished up at the little smattering of tables and chairs that served as the beer garden/smoking area. Had it been open, of course, I think we all would have been up for throwing some shapes in the nightclub section. Next time @Club, next time.
Metro Bar (Holloway Road) 2 x ½ San Miguel, ½ Aspalls £5.10
Holloway Road is probably closer to the new Emirates Stadium than Arsenal Station itself, but there were no fans knocking around Metro, since it is an unashamed student bar, nestling right next to the station entrance, and directly opposite the absolutely stunning piece of architecture (a lie) that is the London Metropolitan University.
As befits a student bar, the interior probably cost about 30 quid in total, but it still managed to look ok. The usual suspects were on the bar and in the fridges and the menu looked fairly simple – even Keith (who as we know has the same attitude to food as the average supermodel) thought the pizzas looked pretty good.
The bar opens out to a back room, where there are some tatty low sofas and a couple of big screen TVs showing the football. There was also a DJ booth in the corner, and lest you forget that you were in a student bar, there was a giant Jagermeister flag on one wall to remind you that foolish and inadvisable shots are never too far away. No Jager-bombs for us though, as we were setting a cracking pace, and needed to press home our advantage.
Woodstore Grill (Caledonian Road) 2 x ½ Spitfire, 1 x bt Corona £7.60
And then we realised that we didn’t need to press anything home, because due to missing the four stations at the top of the Victoria Line (thanks to our usual expert research), we would actually run out of planned tube stops after Caledonian Road. It was still only mid-evening – in fact it was still light outside, so we clearly had something else to ponder over our next beer.
And that beer was to be drunk at The Woodstore Grill, a short walk into the wilderness north of Caledonian Road. Once upon a time this place used to be called Shillibeers, and quite frankly, it looks exactly the same. Although they do have a loyalty card scheme these days. It’s positioned in a little alley down the side of the Pleasance Theatre, so presumably there is plenty of melodrama to go round (and a plentiful supply of waiters). There is a nice courtyard outside, and lots and lots of room on the inside. A huge curved bar dominates the room; there’s an open plan kitchen area down one side, and a couple of different levels of seating for the customers to chow down on some serious burgers.
The most fun thing though, was one of the actor/waiters who was either a) Angry and extremely melodramatic, b) clumsy as hell, or c) Greek, because he kept going to the hatch at the kitchen and somehow smashing huge quantities of plates on the floor. Seriously, it must have happened three separate times, and we were only in there for twenty minutes. Having contemplated possible extensions on our journey as we enjoyed this show, we made the decision to head down to a few more stations in the West End. And so off we went with a spring in our step, humming Zorba the Greek as we left.