FROM WEST BERKSHIRE TO LA SCALA

 

Cask rules

Another London Sunday night gig, another attempt to find nice things to say about N1.

Having just completed the capital’s Beer Guide quota for 2017 (not all in one night), and with no obvious pre-emptives, I had a rare evening not dictated by The Book.  So I rambled aimlessly for an hour or two round Barnsbury and Holloway, making sure I stayed well clear of Wengerville.

The first thing to say is that the developments behind King’s Cross (i.e. Google +) are starting to look as impressive as the station itself.  This was a no-go area 20 years ago, meaning a lot of pre-train pints in the unspeakable Duke of York, but now you can feel safe to negotiate the streets from York Way and onto Caledonia Road.  No GBG pubs round here, but the Thornhill looked inviting, particularly with its promise of a single real ale.

Thornhill Arms, Caledonian Road

Caledonian Road is no Kingsland Road (there’s no board games café yet), but there’s plenty of African food and decent street art, as well as five a side pitches and a prison.  All you need to make a decent village if you ask me.

Project One Zero

And a really great open space up at Caledonian Park, with its iconic clock tower, against which nine year olds were booting footballs in the early evening sunshine,

Caledonian Park Clock Tower

But no GBG pubs, apart from the looming presence of the Cornonet, a “robust” Spoons with too many Gooners lamenting the lack of Arsenal players in the England v Lithuania kickabout.

The Lamb Tavern looked fantastic, but without help from a Simon or Duncan I lacked the confidence to break in and pour myself a pint of Courage Best that might have reached peak condition by now.

The Lamb

Then I noticed the Depot down an alley near the Pleasance Theatre. WhatPub told me, unbelievably, that this was a West Berkshire acquisition, 6o miles and several decades from its Newbury heartlands.

Good Old Boy, The Depot

You’ll see below it wasn’t heaving at 6pm on Sunday, but that’s just after the Sunday lunch brigade in N1 have made their sole visit to a pub for the week.

You’ll also see above the extent of the craft ambitions, and if I tell you that the other cask (Watneys) was apparently “Coming Soon” you might wonder where this pub was aimed, with just the single West Berks beer on show.

A soundtrack of James Brown competed with that England match on silent, which meant the staff suddenly went “ooh” for no apparent reason when Lithuania won a corner.

The Depot

I was equally bemused when my own local brewery (Milton) opened up in Haringey, but at least that was a showcase for their beers while it lasted.

The Old Boy was decent enough (NBSS 2.5),and the staff were cheerful and friendly.  I don’t mind these giant barns with trestle tables, but the beer wouldn’t drag me back (yet).

Street art, Caledonian Park

On to Scala for the final night of Fortuna Pop at the majestic Scala.

wp-image-1612200864jpg.jpg

The music, four slice of power pop topped off by Martha, of whom I have spoken before, and who never let me down. Blokes even older than me in Hawaiian shirts and Husker Du jackets mixed with young folk who drank cans of Carling, Red Stripe and Strongbow from the bar as if BrewDog hadn’t saved beer a decade ago. 

But, to be honest, the night was made by the DJ who wrought magic from the Scala sound system on a track I haven’t played at that volume for 35 years. Bless you, mate, for playing the 7″ version.

 

And bye, bye Fortuna Pop.

 

17 thoughts on “FROM WEST BERKSHIRE TO LA SCALA

  1. That’s a singularly unhelpful beer board, with no information on style, brewery or price. And I assume “Larger” is a spelling howler and not a deliberately ironic beer name.

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    1. Good point. I can only read it now I can study the photo. Think about the customer faced with a semi circular bar, a back bar, and a beer board with lots of stuff not on, asked to make a snap decision.

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  2. I was at the Fortuna Pop show too – a great night out with The Spook School and Martha really standing out for me. The DJ was Paul Richards and I agree he was very good – I found myself putting some Teenage Fanclub on as soon as I got home!
    I visited the Depot back in December and thought it was a pretty good venue but a baffling choice of location – even visiting straight after a game at the Emirates, the place was very quiet. (http://www.pubsgalore.co.uk/pubs/80680/)

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    1. Your review is spot on, though cask range has seemingly reduced since opening.

      Spook School were fantastic, the drummer’s Springsteen quip was perfect. Have seen Martha a few times now, great songs.

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  3. Wandered into there a couple of years ago when it was Shillibeer, wasn’t exactly impressed; gave the impression of being far more food orientated than anything else. Location is not what I would call prime either.

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  4. “The Good Old Boy was decent enough NBSS 25” That beer must have been off the scale in how nice it was with most of your ratings being 3.0 up to 4.5.

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  5. I like drinking in London a lot and i find the cheap areas to drink,February was Holloway mostly proper pubs that were dumps and probably never been visited by a Camra member in years,March was Beckenham on a shorter crawl due to me not feeling that well.

    Did you do any more pubs in edgy Carlton or go the the safety of the city centre to do a few pubs,i am always interested when you drink locally to where i live Martin!

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    1. I haven’t missed those write-ups, have I Alan ?

      Only did the one pub in Carlton and only shopping in Nottm, but a stop in Newark to write about. Saving myself for a proper Nottm trip in June.

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  6. We really like Newark and have been there loads of times,
    I went there three times last year to pick up some new pubs i had not been in and took the wife there do some of the pubs i really liked and do some we have done before,now done every pub in the town.

    My guess at the pub you went in there would be either The Vaults a fairly new opening and nice inside with good beer,or The Prince Rupert,my wife really liked this pub,but there is a story to it,the pub was originally called The Woolpack when we first went in it and looked like a typical town pub,i have photos of the pub in both guises on Pubs Galore.
    My other pub i think you may have done is the Castle Barge,my wife loved it here,i presume you have already done Newarks micro pub,i did’nt take the wife there as she hates micro pubs.

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