Tag Archives: london

The Rosslyn Arms pub, Hampstead

Rosslyn ArmsThis pub is just down the hill from Hampstead Tube. Or just up the hill from Belsize Park tube. Take your pick. I think it is slightly nearer Hampstead though and you can walk down the hill rather than up. Which is a plus. Hampstead is always nice too and you might see a celeb.

This is a nice enough pub and one of the few places I regularly visit in Hampstead. The others are the Hollybush (which I will review one day) and the Flask. If it’s a nice day, which is rare is this soggy country, there are a couple of pleasant tables out front for superb people watching. There’s also a smallish beer garden out back which tends to be full of smokers. The main room is slightly odd in that it is split into two areas. The bar faces the window in a D shape. Behind the D is a seating area. Both areas have a slightly different feel to them but both are pleasant.

The main draw for me are the friendly staff and the food. Plus there’s a bus from in front of my house that stops in front of the pub 5 minutes later, but that might not be the case with everyone.

We normally go there on a Monday or Tuesday. For pizza. The pub has decided to not bother with a lot of different gastropub foodstuffs. They do primarily wraps and awesome pizzas. The wraps may be awesome too but I’ve never had one. On a Monday and Tuesday they do a two for one pizza deal, so you can get one of these bad boys for £5. Which is a bargain. The £20 I always subsequently spend on beer balances things out I guess.

Even without the pizzas, if you are in the neighbourhood, it’s a nice stop off. They have great music (Hendrix, Zeppelin), good beers (try the Sagres lager), friendly staff, and a unique chandelier made out of kitchenware. Enjoy.

(There’s also a Giraffe restaurant next door that does half price cocktails from 5-7pm Sunday to Thursday as well, if you want to start early. Just FYI.)

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Shunt at London Bridge.

Last night I went to a bar/club/theatre/art/performance/thing called Shunt with my wife and some creative friends. It’s a very difficult place to categorize except to say that it’s fucking brilliant. Shunt are a ‘performance collective’ which sounds a bit arty or indeed wanky but it is truly a superb idea and I’m mildly annoyed that no-one has told me about this place before.

Beyond this innocent door lies untold wonders. Plus beer.

Beyond this innocent door lies untold wonders. Plus beer.

I have walked past the entrance a thousand times and never knew what it was. This website now gets over 100 people a day looking at it and I’m not even that sure I want to let you all know where it is but as you can look it up yourself, I suppose I might as well. At least then you can buy me a beer if I’m there. When you come out of London Bridge tube and start walking toward the escalators that lead up to the overland trains, you will see this door. Plus a small queue. There are no signs.

You WILL be asked for ID, which was actually pretty cool as that hasn’t happened to me since I was 17. It costs £10. Once you walk through the unassuming entrance you suddenly find yourself in a colossal underground vault. It is huge and sphincter-tighteningly impressive. From this point, a lot of it is hard to review because here lies the genius of Shunt. Every night different stuff happens in various rooms. First let me describe the space a bit. On entering, you will be faced with a long vaulting corridor with huge, high-ceilinged rooms branching off at either side. Sometimes it looks like this:

photo001

Sometimes like this:

1_400x300Last night it was dark and lit entirely by candles.

In the rooms there can be anything. Bars selling beers and other bars selling cocktails are dotted around, as are cosy corners with small tables or couches or recliner chairs or anything. There is artwork in odd places and random performances from actors or artists or musicians or people who are a bit mental. When we entered we came across a room where a creative looking lady was doing a book/poetry reading to creative looking people. In another room there were comfy chairs and a cinema screen playing old black and white sci fi movies. And they weren’t all Metropolis.

One room held a theatre and there were loads of others with shows going on and interactive arty things.

A bar in one of many cavernous rooms.

A bar in one of many cavernous rooms.

Every night something different and interesting and random happens here. If you just want to have a quiet drink and soak up the huge cavernous atmosphere there’s plenty of hidey-holes for that too. At one point a guy appeared near us and started performing brilliant songs under a spotlight on his keyboard. He appeared like magic.

This guy appeared from nowhere. Sorry about the quality but my phone doesn't have a flash.

This guy appeared from nowhere. Sorry about the quality but my phone doesn't have a flash.

Here are some random pictures ruthlessly stolen from the internet of things that have gone on here in the past:

No idea what's happening but you can see the size and atmosphere

No idea what's happening but you can see the size and atmosphere

Another bar but with ladies dancing. Marvellous!

Another bar but with ladies dancing. Marvellous!

A band. Obviously.

A band. Obviously.

Another random section of the HUGE Shunt bar/club/thing

Another random section of the HUGE Shunt bar/club/thing

Ok that’s enough. You get the idea. Shunt is a truly unique experience. A good and exciting one. It’s one of those places I always envisioned myself in. On drugs. With Jagger and Bowie.

It got shut down in November so that it could be turned into a load of shops. I hope the tedious peon that came up with that idea died in an hilarious accident worthy of a Darwin Award. Thankfully, it has now opened again but no one seems to know how long for. Hopefully at least another year. So check it out.

Here is a video that shows yet more stuff that has happened in the past. Some of it looks a bit mental but remember you only have to get as involved as you want to. There is a lot of room.

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The Garden Gate Pub – South End Green

garden gate exterior

The marvellous Garden Gate

If you sat down and totalled the amount of hours I have spent in this pub, then you have way too much time on your hands. In my defense, I used to live quite near. See the picture above? On the left hand side of the photo , just past where the tree is providing shade on the footpath, you can see the beginnings of a road that goes behind the pub. I used to live down there with two friends who liked a drink. So it wasn’t really my fault.

Anyway, the pub. It is situated in South End Green, which is an area down the hill past the Royal Free Hospital. The pub itself is really near the overland train stop for Hampstead Heath. Which means I have to walk past it every time I go to work, which can be pretty painful!

In the summer, it has one of the nicest beer gardens in London. In the winter it can be really warm and cosy with candles and couches and games and hot wine and so on.

The clientele is pretty mixed but tends towards well to do 20 – 30 somethings. But not always. Very nice atmosphere generally.

The food isn’t specular, no matter how many succulent sounding adjectives they chuck in the menu descriptions but the beer and wine come in wide varieties and are cheap. So who cares about the food. The staff are very friendly and efficient but if you get a sudden influx of people a queue for a drink can form alarmingly quickly. I have frequently switched from Guinness to lager purely because I’ve gotten bored waiting and can get a lager a minute or two quicker.

I once stood at the bar next to Simon Pegg in this pub and later had a piss at the urinal next to Chris Martin from Coldplay. So it’s clearly an exciting venue.

I would highly recommend this place. It’s a friendly local with a lot going for it. If you’re lucky you will meet the three legged dog that makes an appearance at the end of an evening too. I assume it’s with a human but never really noticed.

UPDATE: I went here last night and have to say that the food has massively improved. The burger I ate was top notch! My wife’s pork belly was pretty damn good too.

interior garden gate

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The Flask Hampstead

The Flask. Doesn't it look nice?

The Flask. Doesn’t it look nice?

Address: Flask Walk, Hampstead
Directions: Come out of Hampstead tube and turn left down the hill. Flask walk is a pedestrian road on your left between a bakery and a North African restaurant. You should also pop into the 2nd hand bookshop on this ‘walk’ as it is really cool. (Narrow passages, piles of old books, eccentric but helpful owner, loads of great stuff.)

I decided to write this one first as I happen to be sitting in it right now. So it’s obviously pretty good.

The Flask is a pretty decent pub and probably my main drinking spot if I happen to be on Hampstead high street. It is divided into two sections in an old school kind of way. As you face it, there is a public bar on the left and a saloon bar on the right. The public bar is where the locals hang out and there is a flat-screen tv playing sport or news or something. But silently, which is a bonus. The saloon bar is where you would take a lady-friend and is bigger with lots of seats.

It is a Youngs pub and slightly pricey but you’re in Hampstead for christ’s sake. Everything is more expensive.

The Flask is an old pub and therefore has character and everything. It has a lot of old pictures of Hampstead and Victorian drawings and that old style of opaque glass. It even has a fireplace. As atmospheres go, it is usually quite quiet and feels a teeny bit artificially old – like an O’Neil’s feels artificially Irish. That said, it is actually pretty old, 200 years in fact, but it has obviously been refurbished a bit. Maybe I’m being a bit unfair as it is nice, steeped in history, and nicely done out. Especially if you are near the front.

I’d recommend coming here if you happen to be out in Hampstead and the other half is shopping and you feel like a quiet pint. It is pricey but nice. Cosy-ish but a bit sterile. If you want an older more intimate atmosphere, I’d thoroughly recommend the Hollybush up the steep road opposite the tube.

The Flask is a decent place. I’m drinking there right now. Nothing more needs to be said.

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The Notting Hill Carnival

Well, I went to the Notting Hill carnival. I last went about 8 years ago with my ex-girlfriend and a couple of her friends. None of my mates wanted to go. I drank a gallon of Red-Stripe, lamented the state of the toilets, saw about three floats, hated most of the music, loved all the food, and then when persuaded to go home at about six demanded a trip to the pub.

This time it was exactly the same, except I’m married.

I don’t know why I don’t really like the Notting Hill carnival. It’s probably that it just seem a lot of grief – crowds, shuffling slowly through dancing people, piles of rubbish and a massive walk to the tube. All for very little reward. If I want to see a load of drunk people I’ll go to Soho or a park. If I want to eat West Indian food, I’ll go to a restaurant. If I want big crowds, music, expensive beer, and an extended journey home where I have to walk extra miles for transport – I’ll go to a gig at Wembley. You rarely see that many of the floats and when you do, you get bored after 4 or 5 of them. Plus there are now so many police you get paranoid that something must be about to kick off at any moment.

My wife got her master’s degree (one of them) in Louisiana and she insists I will love the New Orleans Mardi more. It has the drink and food and music but you get the added bonus of women flashing their breasts. Introduce that to the carnival and I’ll change my mind.

I think I’d just be happier eating jerk chicken in a strip club. But then I could have told you that before I went.

Prostitutes and Burlesque Dancers vs the Evil Council

I wish there was a film with that title. Anyway, I digress.

I am now back to normal after my extended period of night-time toil. Apart from the swine flu and more stories about expense fraud, I didn’t feel like I had missed much. Sure there’s lots going on – terrorism, war, famine, general planet-wide misery and so on, but there’s nothing that would have affected me if I had had the day off.

Except I missed two marches in London I would like to have seen. Normally marches are full of concerned people complaining about injustice, or anarchists up for a bit of pointless violence and MacDonalds bashing, or even poor bastrards just trying to get home and being bullied by identity-less police. These were different.

Prostiutes march through Soho to give thanksThe first was a march by prostitutes through the streets of Soho to give thanks to the local residents’ support. Apparently the government (boo! hiss!) were trying to close down a lot of the rooms that the girls use in Soho to have sex in. The ones up some stairs that advertise models. Apparently.

The evil government were against this and would seem to prefer that the girls left the safety of these protected and safer environments and walked the streets instead, to be attacked and controlled by pimps as they are elsewhere. Or maybe they genuinely thought that if they closed these places down then prostitution would end. Whatever they thought they are idiots. Anyway, the residents of Soho formed a coalition with the ‘working ladies’ and claimed this was part of Soho’s charm and these girls have been doing this since Soho began and they are an integral part of the area. The fact that they can also get laid in their lunchbreak is a bonus that was curiously omitted. Good on everyone involved because they won the case and the goverment backed down. So the ladies dressed up in all sorts of exciting outfits and marched through Soho just to say thanks to all who supported them. These girls are now safer, and the residents of Soho are happier. Hooray for justice!

burlesque dancers march on town hallNow Soho is a good 15-20 minutes from my flat, so I can forgive myself for not being there. Plus, if I found myself in Soho on a Sunday morning I would probably not even be in a state to stand or see. The other march I missed though was in my own borough of Camden. Or ‘Scamden’ as the Oscar Wildean local wags refer to it. In this case it was a protest march as the council (more boos and hisses) were trying to get the burlesque troupes to pay the same amounts as strippers when it came to licences. Or taxes. Or something. Not quite sure as I was staring at the pretty pictures too much. Anyway, the ladies said it is different from stripping in that – and this seems pretty crucial – they don’t strip off. Sure they writhe sexily around in lingerie but it is more arty. It can also be quite fun and ok to take the wife to.

I hope they win! I pay a bucketload of council tax and really think that councils should be spending more time on things like crime and violence and getting sodding tourists in Camden to walk faster, than all this. They are essentially trying to close or tax things that people who live there actually like rather than sort out stuff they don’t.

Maybe I should start a march. A march for people who think burlesque dancers shouldn’t be targeted and prostitutes should be safer and legal. Those who think a bit of seediness and/or sauciness adds to the character of an area. I suspect however, that myself and others concerned with these issues wouldn’t be quite so aesthetically pleasing. So I won’t.

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