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london pubs

Special grade mediocre everyday

We’ve been struck down by nostalgia lately and find ourselves yearning for a particular experience of the pub.

Maybe it’s birthdays. Maybe it’s the emotional impact of the two weirdest years we’ve ever lived through.

Or perhaps it was just that excellent pint of Young’s Special at The Railway in Fishponds in Bristol.

Whatever the reason, here’s where we want to be: in a slightly crappy Young’s pub in central London c.2008, after work, with rain turning to sleet outside.

We used to end up somewhere like this quite often back then.

If the Tube was knackered, or the overground trains, or both, we’d hang about until after rush hour. That often meant finding a pub.

There was socialising, too – with colleagues or friends from university, before everyone got kids, mortgages and hair trigger hangovers.

You rarely ended up in really good pubs. They were too small, too busy or too end-of-the-line.

No, it was usually a Young’s pub with shiny tables and bad lighting. There were usually lots of suits, a few cabbies, and maybe someone selling plastic-wrapped roses.

Being interested in beer, we’d make the best of it, working our way through every cask ale on the bar – Ordinary, Special, maybe Winter Warmer.

Then we’d turn to the bottles. Ram and Spesh, Chocolate Stout, Special London – the original hazy IPA?

Once or twice, to our glee, we even found the Oatmeal Stout brewed for the US market, marked up in pints and ounces.

It doesn’t have to be Young’s. Fuller’s or Sam Smith’s would do.

But it does have to be a bit damp, a bit warm, a bit weary. Our friends need to be there. And we need to be in our twenties again.

Is that too much to ask?

4 replies on “Special grade mediocre everyday”

Ah yes … in heaven it’s permanently 4.15pm on a cold, wet late autumn day in a warm, comfortable, slightly worn at the edges not-too-busy pub, there’s racing or footy playing on the telly quietly in the background and being ignored, soft conversations are taking place, I’m about one and a half excellent pints of cask ale in, waiting for a friend to arrive, and with a newspaper to read …

Reminds me of working in Bloomsbury in the 90s – when the Lamb was too crowded you could always get a seat in the Calthorpe or the Three Cups (RIP). A couple of pints of WW then an Old Nick.

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