We’d been in Nice a couple of days before we took the right combination of turns in the pleasingly confusing old town and stumbled across Au Fût et à Mesure.
Discreet as it is, we noticed it because it wasn’t a bistro a cafe or a Bar Tabac, being less formal than the first, boozier than the second and smarter than the last. Then we noticed the beer list on display outside:
Lots of places in Nice call themselves ‘Cave à Bières’ because they have Guinness and Kronenbourg, but this looked like a really decent range, and competitively priced at that (€3.90 for 250ml — cheaper than basic lager in many places we’d found ourselves). But we scratched our heads over ‘Nos bieres pression en self’ — was it a clever way of referring to bottles, or did they genuinely have all of these on tap? There was, of course, only one way to find out.
Its authors, Meg Aubrey, Paul Chatterton and Robert Hollands, categorised the seven types of drinking establishment in the UK c.2001 as follows:
Style Bar: One off, individual, décor obviously highly designed and stylised. By nature fairly new. Could be part of a large company which owns many pubs but a style bar would not be branded.
Café Bar: High levels of design, serves food & coffee, lots of seats/tables, range of clientele/atmospheres throughout day. Can be independent or part of a national operator.
Traditional Pub: Characterised wood tables, patterned carpets etc Can be either corporate or owner-run so includes branded traditional pubs.
Ale House: Very Traditional, scarcely changed, original features & loyal, regular clientele. Can be either brewery owned or independent. Often in need of redecoration. Often situated in run down areas.
Theme Pub/Bar: Main feature is that it follows an obvious style throughout, often with memorabilia, chalk boards, bar dress etc. Themed outlets include (1) multi-sited, national High Street Brands such as Sport, Nationalities (Australian, New Zealand, Irish) or student theme pubs or (2) single site concept bars.
Disco Bar: Vertical drinking, loud music, few seats, very busy Fri/Sat. Often closed during day and do not open till evening.
Alternative Pub: Defined by décor, but often due to music policy, clientele, attitude.
That chimes with our memories of our early twenties when we spent a lot of time in one particular ‘alternative pub’, drawn by the music and atmosphere rather than the beer.
There is a real Milos crowd like there is a real North Bar crowd. They are quite similar to the North Bar people in fact some of them used to be North Bar people and then they grown out and they moved to Milos because there is like DJ sort of funk. And friends of the DJ will come and it is the bar people are all friends with each other and it is a big scene.
By way of context, the authors say: ‘One of the distinctive elements of Leeds’ nightlife is that many of the bars have loyal followings, often based upon musical and style policy.’
Perhaps these days, ‘craft beer’ is part of ‘style policy’. Or is it a ‘theme’?
Last week, we interviewed the founders and owners of North Bar in Leeds, arguably the first ‘craft beer bar’ in the UK, and, in the course of our conversation, asked: ‘So, what makes this a bar rather than a pub?’ After much head-scratching, they had to admit defeat: they didn’t know. ‘But we know a bar when we see one.’
Here’s a quiz, then: are the following bars, or pubs, or something else?
A pub has to sell beer, but then so do most bars. A bar is more likely to sell cocktails, but some don’t, and some pubs do. Pubs are more likely to be brown, while bars will have white/cream/grey walls, but white-painted pubs and brown bars do exist… no, this isn’t getting us anywhere.
In the introduction to her 2002 book Bar and Club Design, Bethan Ryder defines bars as follows:
They are modern, spectacular forums, underpinned by the ideas of display and performance, rather than utilitarian, more casual places in which people meet, drink and gossip — such as the pub…
We’re not sure that works — North felt pretty casual, for example, but is definitely a bar. She also, however, says this in attempting to define the nightclub: ‘…to a certain extent they have always been whatever a… pub is not.’ Now that, vague as it is, might work as a definition of a bar.
As, perhaps, might this: a pub should always feel as if it is in the British Isles; whereas a bar should feel as if it is in Manhattan, Stockholm, Moscow or Paris.
If you think you’ve got it cracked, let us know in the comments below.
Our answers would be 1) bar; 2) pub; 3) bar; 4) something else; and 5) chain pub with pretensions.
We’d walked past the Ship Inn tons of times. We’d even photographed it and put the pictures here. From the outside, it looked like a pretty rough old dive, partly because of the gang of people smoking outside the long tunnel you have to walk down to get in.
Then we read somewhere that, far from being rough, it’s actually the poshest boozer in Hackney, so we got over our nerves and went in for a nosy round.
It’s actually a boutique hotel, and a nice looking one at that. The bar makes more sense when you think of it as a service for guests rather than a pub for locals. It’s done up, as the phrase goes, like a tart’s boudoir. A good half of it is laid up for dinner with table cloths, big wine goblets and silverware. The barmen/waiters are smartly dressed with continental aprons. One of them looks like Tobey Maguire.
Standing by the door, we had one of those moments: it’s too posh! They’ll expect us to eat even though we’re not hungry!
But they didn’t. And they were very nice. The beer was nothing special (several so-called world lagers, Tim Taylor Landlord and the now ubiquitous Sharp’s Doom Bar) but well enough kept. We enjoyed our pint and felt, on the whole, that this would be a good place to go on a date or to bring people from work who don’t like ‘old man’s pubs’.
More to the point, though, it’s across the road from the usual venue for the Pig’s Ear Beer Festival (scheduled this year for 2-6 December). Any out of towners struggling to convince other halves to join them at a beer festival could find a couple of nights in this place will clinch the deal, and it’s pretty convenient to stagger home to as well…
The Ship is owned by Urban Inns, who also own the Coach and Horses in Isleworth.
The Rake near Borough Market was so busy last time we went on a Friday that it took almost 10 minutes to get a drink and we had to drink it crushed into a corner by a stack of handbags.
We happened to be in the area last night and thought it was worth a look, as we were craving something strong and weird. We weren’t hopeful of being able to get through the door, but didn’t have any trouble at all. It was still doing good business, but not crammed.
The afterglow of that Time Out review has evidently passed and the fickle drinkers of London have moved on, it seems, perhaps influenced by various people on the internet describing it as expensive, crowded and grumpy.
We’ve never found it grumpy. It is still expensive, though — especially anything Belgian, German or American. But British cask ales (Harviestoun Behind Bars, for example, which Ally didn’t like, but we thought was OK) are only about £2.70 a pint, so not that bad. They usually have some strange foreign brews on tap that you’re unlikely to see anywhere else in the UK — Boak had some 8.5% Oesterstout from the Scheldebrouwerij in the Netherlands, which sorted the strong and weird craving quite neatly.
The crew of the Great British Beer Festival international beer bar turned up near the end and had a very cheerful, animated conversation with the barman. You’d have thought they might be taking it easy before the big match, really…