The Oakdale Arms in Seven Sisters, North London, is the sister pub of the famous Pembury Tavern, but it’s a completely different creature.
The Good Beer Guide has a code it uses to describe pubs like this: they call it a ‘community pub’. In other words, people who actually live near the pub go there. That sometimes translates into a slightly unwelcoming atmosphere, but not here.
For one thing, the locals are very friendly – more of that on Friday when we get to the Session. Secondly, the locals aren’t the only clientele. They rub shoulders with a mix of CAMRA types sniffing their pints and taking notes, and the odd posh person from one of the huge Victorian houses in Finsbury Park’s middle class ghetto. Finally, the bar staff are so friendly. Before taking my order, the bar manager paused to ask: “How are you, mate?” That was nice.
Unlike the Pembury, the Oakdale is cosy, shady and full of moth-eaten carpet, velvet and wood. It’s a real boozer. But, to give it a 21st century edge, there’s a fully stocked mp3 jukebox and a projector filling one wall with Nintendo Wii games. This is an interesting touch – lots of people play computer games these days, not just kids, and it kind of added to the atmosphere. The photo above is of one of the bar staffing having a go on Guitar Hero. He dropped his little plastic guitar like a shot when someone came to the bar, though.
The beer was in perfect condition. There were six Milton’s and two guests, plus a lot of interesting bottles. Of particular note, Great Oakley Gobble, a pale, hoppy beer which reminded Boak of ‘gripe water’. After a quick text to Any Questions Answered, we narrowed the similarity down to a powerful fennel flavour.
Unfortunately, the pub was very quiet. It’s in the middle of nowhere, frankly, so it’s not surprising. But it really is worth a trip if you want to support this kind of enterprise.