Friday, 26 February 2010

The Nappy Hip - Holy Drinker, Clapham Junction

A sure way of raising a heckles of anyone who lives in South London is to mention the C word. That's right, Clapham. That stretch of land between the SW4 and SW11 postcodes that is maligned as it is admired by all and sundry. The reasons for this animosity depend on who you ask, but for some people they've never forgiven the place for becoming a South of the river version of Chelsea.
Within Clapham there are two clearly marked territories. The Clapham High Street and surrounds are home to the younger city / west end crowd, whilst the Junction is better known as Nappy Valley. Visit there in the daytime to understand why. Yet the Junction has changed over the last few years, and dear I say, some of its drinking haunts are approaching 'coolness'. Albeit begrudgingly. First among equals in the cool bar stakes is
The Holy Drinker on Northcote Road . A cafe style drinking den that becomes very pre-club as the evening goes on.
I recently visited there with my main critic-in-chief The Engineer, and was pleasantly surprised to find a place that in terms of music, people and vibe would not look out of place in Soho. And I mean that as a compliment.
As you would expected from a converted shop, the bar is longer then it is wide, and is split into three sections, most of which are tabled to allow the girls to rest their heel tortured legs.
Having said that come 10pm and pain seems to have disappeared, as the rear of the bar goes all mini-disco with the lasses doing the seductive dance thing, while rugger types ogle them over their lagers. The music is a mix of RnB and commerical dance, and the drinks on offer are your now standard mix of semi-exotic lagers, new world wines and classic cocktails with a 'twist' (i.e. a new name).
Re-reading my description and I feel I am probably underselling this place, as it is a very good bar. The staff are excellent and the vibe is fun without being remotely cheesy or 'pick-up'y.
I would generally not recommend a visit to the Nappy Valley for a night out, but if you are going to be down that way, do check out the Holy Drinker

Friday, 19 February 2010

Rugby Central - The Orange Tree in Richmond

Some bars and pubs, whether it be by accident or design, have a purpose. Champagne bars, ostensibly for romance seem to cater more for business deals and job offers. City cocktail bars are in reality pick-up joints. Antipodean and Irish theme bars are where badly dressed people go to get drunk.
Sitting amongst these bars are a genre of pub which as a consequence of location, a relatively high number of TVs, and of course, seriously posh pretensions, become rugby bars. The Orange Tree in Richmond is one such place which I visited recently with my drinking crew.
I first went here a few years back for a pre-Ascot tipple and found it charming and spacious with country pub style service. The sort of place that posh people love. Of my return visit the other week I am pleased to say that its a pub that continues to do what it says on the box. That is - serves a good range of beers, wines and grub in a comfortable almost homely environment. Except of course on rugby day when its rammed to the rafters. However this is not your footy crowd mosh-up as one might see during any World or European Cup tournament. People are polite and for the most part rather sober. Not surprising given the mostly male crowd of '40 something' city and legal types that seem to be the bar's core constituents.
But is it interesting? Well, if rugby isn't your thing then I'm not sure why you would stop by here, unless of course you were a local. You wouldn't call this a destination pub. It's not a place that you go to flirt, dance, or as we found on rugby day, get served your drinks quickly. Why they would only put three people behind the bar, when they were expecting and seemed to have around 400 punters is anyone's guess. But I guess this contributed to the relative sobriety of the place, which kept things very much under control. Some might say once the rugby was over it was boring. But that's a bit harsh. Despite what I've just said, I actually enjoyed the place and may head back there to watch some rugger again soon. Then again, maybe I'm getting more posh and restrained then I imagine. Let's just hope.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Talking about Revolution Bar - Leadenhall

It's amazing how quickly a month goes by. That's how long it's been since my last posting, which given the considerable time and effort I've put into London bars recently is a tad shameful. Something that the Engineer was only too quick to remind me on Saturday night. So getting back on track, I'll talk about my January visit to Revolution Bar in Leadenhall.
Remarkably I was there for 'work' as the wise heads that run this chain asked me of all people to review it. Appraise might be the better word. This was always a risky proposition for them as my previous experience of the chain had not been good (Clapham November 2008 - truly dreadful) and I had heard that the city venue attracted some dubious characters. And I don't mean New Zealanders.
Fortunately for the owners, and probably my bank balance, I am pleasantly surprised to report that it is a nice old bar. The venue itself, in what was once a Midland bank, is spacious and opulent in a tasteful rather then tacky way. The clientele are your normal city types out celebrating Friday night, interspersed with those poor souls (mostly women) that imagine they'll meet and win over a millionaire banker who will be thrilled by their lapdancer inspired gyrations. It is what is is.
I was there with a broker, who by chance is a millionaire and is single. Although given that neither of those selling points are obvious to anyone (unless you should enquire) we were left in peace. Much to his chagrin.
We tried the cocktails (vodka based of course) which were fair, if nothing special, and even went as far as a glass or two of champagne. All in the name of research of course.
The music was your expected mix of commercial RnB and pop (Girls Aloud seemed to be popular that night), and the crowd warmed up nicely turning the place into a little dancefest.
So the report back to Revolution was good, and my cheque - as promised - was in the post. It's not a bar I'd go to again by choice, but certainly not one I'd avoid. Quite a statement given some of the bars around here.