Seeing London Through It's Pubs
A Local Irish Lass Takes The Writer on an British Bar Crawl
PubClub's Bartender with Lorainne (left) in Waxy O'Connors, a favorite London pub.
I didn't take this as a negative, but immediately upon arriving in London for my first visit to the city, I was greeted by a bomb scare. I couldn't get past the security area and my friend who was there to meet me could not even get into the airport.
The thought of turning around and hopping the next jetliner back to the States never penetrated my mind, however. Instead, I felt strangely secure, knowing that the local authorities had our well-being in mind well enough to keep us out of harm's way, even if it turned out there was thankfully no harm headed our way.
The Queen did not come out to greet PubClub at Buckingham Palace.
Otherwise, London treated me like a VIP. The sun was out in mid-February and the temperature was rather pleasant for that time of year (upper 50s). My hostess was a lively girl of Irish descent named Lorraine who outpaced even me in the pint consumption department. Heaven help me if I ever go to Dublin with her.
My favorite stop in London turned out to be an Irish pub called Waxy O'Connor's. It's located down a tiny side street around the corner from Planet Hollywood. It's like a castle in there, but not dressed up like tacky theme bars in the States. Waxy's seemed authentic, and made me feel as if I was drinking blood with the Knights of the Roundtable instead of a pint with Lorraine. (Frankly, I much preferred the latter.)
It's packed most nights after about 8, and for good reason. It's also huge, about the size of a real castle.
Is this a true London pub? Hard for the Bar Blogger to say.
Oddly, I had trouble finding what I would describe as an authentic English pub during the trip. Lorraine sure took me to enough places trying to locate one, but none fit my idea of what an English pub should be like. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I could not define exactly what I envisioned an authentic English pub to be, but I was positive that once I found one, I sure would know it. Dark and smoky with dart boards and pictures of Shakespeare on the wall, I suppose.
About the pubs, I found it peculiar that although they close at 11 p.m., they will serve you a pint at precisely 10:59:59, then immediately demand you drink it and leave. Now why, I protested, were you so happy to serve me a beer one second and expel me the very next? So, at the pub in question, I managed to buy enough time to finish my pint by walking around the chairs being lifted onto the tables.
I didn't get a chance to visit any of the crazy London clubs, although Lorraine kept me out well past the pub hour at a few other places. One was a restaurant, an oddity of London life that allows some eating places to stay open late if they charge a few pounds for access after 11.
Lorraine lives in Battersea, across the Thames and away from the heart of tourist London. It's a very cool place with trendy bars and a lot of people dressed in black. Being from Los Angeles, it made me feel right at home.
Speaking of black, I loved the black cabs. They resemble the military staff cars of World War II, and every time we got in one I felt like General Eisenhower being taken to an important meeting with Churchill. The drivers proved to be a real trip. This wasn't a cab ride but a roller-coaster journey. Just when I started to get my bearings, the driver would suddenly swerve down a tiny side street sending me flailing against Lorraine in the back seat (hey, I'm not complaining, my you, just reporting).
Lorraine mumbled something about "the Knowledge," although it reminded me more of driving to the in-laws in the Southern U.S., where breaking the previous time record on a trip is a matter of family bragging rights among the men. I can imagine the cabbies gathering over coffee at the end of their shift saying something like: "I made it from Carting Lane to Howick Place in 14-and-a-half minutes!"
Besides the bizarre pub law, the only other fault I found with London is with the tea. That's because you can't get any freakin' iced tea in this place! Oh, you can get all the hot tea you want. But hey, I grew up in the Southern United States, where you become trained to love this cool beverage even if it's not a hot and humid summer day.
In fact, other than beer, getting a cold beverage of any kind is tricky in this town. Ask to have ice added to a soda (or to hot tea, as I attempted) and you get ice not scooped from a huge bin like at home but fished out of an ice bucket with a pair of tongs. The bartender will carefully place into the glass exactly two small cubes (which have a hole in the center like a tiny donut) which, of course, melt immediately upon contact with the beverage.
Well, if that's all the negatives this town can throw at me, then it's a pretty cool place for The Bartender to hang out. Cheerio!