Archive for August, 1995

The party that never ended – 28 August 1995

August 28th, 1995 No comments

I had occasion to visit Zurich this week. What a wonderful collection of pubs and restaurants. There is a street which leads from the Bahnhof diagonally up the hill from LimmatQuai. It starts out as the red light area and progressively becomes more of a student type area. I can’t name the pubs in the street as they are numerous, and I don’t actually remember any of their names! There is a table that stretches for about 1 km broken only where a street crosses the strip. All along the table people are sitting and enjoying the evening meal and a few beers.

Recommend Cafe Pacifico which is just off Limmatquai near a quaint square. Very trendy spot with beers selling for the same price as mineral water (about US$8). Good vibes, trendy people, great Tequila …

The Longest Night…

It all started with a quiet, late lunch in Maienfeld (in Switzerland). On the way back through Triesen an alert occupant of the vehicle noticed a sign “Wine Festival”. One thing lead to another … the wine was good. Two bottles later and the slightly tipsy carload wound up the road to Triesenberg.

Al Capone is located at the bottom of Triesenberg (first place on the left if you come up from Vaduz). It features a rather cheerless group of people and a pool table which has such a well worn felt that the old 15 bounce shot could become a reality. Had to head back down to the village (Vaduz) after a mediocre meal to indulge in some serious partying. Vanini’s was empty, as was the majority of the village. Always hard to tell where the seasoned party animals of Vaduz will end up.

Thus it was that we were forced to pay a visit to the Roxy (in Balzers) for some dancing before heading back up the hill to Malbun for a nightcap. The longest nightcap I’ve had for a while. Left the pub at around 8.00am to continue the party at home. Eventual time of passing out was around 16.00 (Sunday).

Aplogies for the lack of London news, but as you will gather I am still wafting around the cities of Europe. Thats all for now…

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Of goats and Men … 20 August 1995

August 20th, 1995 No comments

Firstly, thank you to Gabriel for handling the gruelling task of writing this column for the past three weeks. As you will have noticed, Gabriel is a talented writer who rose to this task with admirable liquidity.

Which brings me to the theme of this week’s column. What, you may ask, have goats to do with merriment and London. Well, the answer is lies in the former. Last week I was fortunate to be in Liechtenstein for their annual holiday (held appropriately on the birthday of the local prince), and am now able to report on some of the antics that occured.

Getting plastered appears to be the principal feature of the day (along with bands, a fair etc.), and yours truly rose to the occasion together with various friends who happened to be there. What started out as an innocent few pints rapidly degenerated into a rather decent party. It is on what happened under the cover of darkness, however, that your columnist must report.

There is this field. It has four goats. Not large ones, rather the cute brown type that one stops to pat on one’s morning run. In fact, one had stopped and patted said goats that very morning. Which lead to the statement sometime later that day … “Wonder what the goats will look like in London Mall T Shirts” (we had a few). Not thinking more about it the day drew to its predictable close and I retired to bed. A little later some of the younger members of the crew appeared at the house. “Got to come and see the goats!”.

You guessed it. Four cute brown goats dressed in T Shirts. This is where the fun started.

Sensing the farmer’s imminent disapproval wifey instructed said crew members to remove said T Shirts. An easy task, you would think, particularly for such experienced goat dressers as these. What they hadn’t counted on was the arrival of one very large non-cute billy goat who, leaping the electric fence with ease, took control of the paddock, T Shirts, crew members, goats and all. By taking control you can infer “asserted authority”. Within seconds the team were scrabbling down 30 foot drops where even goats are smart enough not to tread. Battered and bruised they repaired to the house, wondering whether the Billy could negotiate the complex Swiss locks on the front door.

On more local issues I went to the Anchor Bankside today for a pint and lunch. I have written about this pub before – singing its praises etc. I now have to rescind everything. There are lots of tables outside where you can sit and enjoy a great view of the Thames, obscured only by the back of a 4 foot banner proclaiming the pub’s presence to the river. Unfortunately the tables are dirty, and the area is not kept clean. Inside, the queue for lunch at 14.00 was long and very slow. After spending the obligatory 30 minutes waiting to be served by unenthusiastic bar staff the food is virging on the inedible.

Its a real shame that a pub with such heritage, clearly on the tourist maps, has become such a poor example of a British pub.

Speaking of pubs, on my pub-crawl towards home yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to stop in at Dogget’s Coat and Badge on the south side of the Thames just west of Blackfriar’s bridge. Not worthy of a visit, I shall grade it 1 in the Part 2 was published the following month

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Way up North – 13 August 1995

August 13th, 1995 No comments

By Gabriel Hopkins

My second trip away from London in as many weekends began in good fashion last Friday. Destined towards Newcastle, for a real escape from the big city, I had two priorities on setting off:

  • Sleeping through the journey (three and half hours on a fast train)
  • Not getting into trouble with the locals (a rough lot)

Solution to first problem, a few beers. Problem with solution: remaining sober enough to avoid aforementioned trouble once in the North. It transpired that reaching Newcastle, and waking up just in time to get off the train to avoid ending up in Edinburgh, which is not a wise idea late on a Friday night, I had rather overdone it.

The locals are nicknamed Geordies. They speak in an almost indecipherable accent, wear t-shirts on the coldest nights, and often have a fetish for fighting. So, head down and walking in as straight a line as possible I headed off to find a taxi. It is not unknown for taxi drivers to also hold a rather alarming level of hatred towards “Bloody Southerners”. All went well, however. Cab no. 48 was driven by a northern convert who had spent a couple years south of the Watford Gap, and he forgave me my heritage.

Once out of the city centre, the atmosphere became much more relaxed. Relaxed prices are equally notable. I thought the cabbie was joking when he charged me less than a fiver for what had been a reasonably extensive journey. Later, I learnt the error of my ways. A really decent pint measured in at a little over a pound – no wonder the city is famous for its alcoholism!

Most of the best pubs are run by Scottish and Newcastle Breweries who make McEwans’ beers, Newcastle Brown Ale, Theakstons and the strange tasting 80 shilling. Very few drink anything but Scottish and Newcastle Drinks. Understandably – all of them are good beers and seem to suit the climate – overcast and windy. My favourite of the S&N portfolio is McEwans Exhibition. The Best Scotch (half Ale, half Lager, no whisky) also ranks highly.

My first night was spent in The Lonsdale, a perfect local. Two bars divide the oldies – the flat cap brigade of twenty years ago and what in term time is a large student mass. The quiet room, which has no jukebox, a television, darts and a surprisingly noisy fruit machine was only too resistable. The other was very pleasant – Juke box, fewer hacking coughs, women (and even a few girls) and nicer seats. A lovely night out in the suburbs.

Saturday night proved to be time to hit the town, or ‘toon’ as they Northeners pronounce it. The tradition is that the boys and girls go shopping during the afternoon on a street called High Bridge for a new outfit, designer and expensive, every week. They then wear the outfit out that night, usually to a selection of pubs and clubs in the adjoining Bigg Market.

The Bigg Market was, several years ago, rated the most dangerous street in England. Not that there are any muggers or murderers, but more simply because if you haven’t got muscles like Sylvester Stallone, you risk getting involved in a fight. If you have got muscles like Stallone, you’ll definitely end up being challenged. Not a nice area and as soon as the sun started going down, I stayed well clear.

Not to far away from the Bigg Market, but far enough, is Newcastle’s quayside. We started off at the Offshore 44, which sits almost directly underneath the Tyne Bridge (pictured above). The Geordies would tell you that at £1.90 per pint this place was extortionate. After a while, I started agreeing with them, but I think that was just because they looked violent. A couple of pints of McEwans later on, I felt less intimidated and almost began to try a bit of Geordie vocabularly. All in all, the extortion was well worthwhile the opportunity to sit in a comfortable chair and look out at the beautifully lit river.

Soon we had moved to a cheaper place, the Bridge Hotel. From that point onwards things become a bit mingled in my memory. I remember that I worked out that it must be possible to obtain eight pints for a tenner and then tried to find out whether it was also possible to drink them. At some point later in the evening, I remember a night club with lots of very muscley young girls and even more muscley young boys holding very titghtly onto one or more of them. I was relieved the following morning to also note that I had incurred no bruising whatsoever!

“Arthur” is on holiday
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Way out West – 13 August 1995

August 13th, 1995 No comments

By Gabriel Hopkins

Very possibly the only good thing to come out of “European Union” is English Sunday Opening. Yesterday for the first time in over fifty years, it was possible to drink throughout the Sabbath. About time too.



A fortnight ago, heading back from a little holiday in Cornwall, a friend and I had reached Bristol and decided to go for a well-deserved drink. It was on of those balmy summer days which have made the traditional silly season very laid-back indeed. All we wanted that early afternoon was a refreshing pint, so we went to a pub I know well from previous trips to Bristol, the Albion. As I got the barman’s attention and started to request the urgently-required two pints, we were sourly disappointed to hear “Sorry lads, we’re closed.”

Yesterday, things were different – strolling into the same pub at 4 pm, drinks were in ready circulation and the four traditional hours of closing were finally vanquished.

Whether or not the change in the law is really a good thing in a wider sense is far more difficult to discern. Remembering that the old closing hours were the only reason many men returned home before darkness set in, there must be many wives and children (or even husbands and parents) of hardened boozers who would like to revoke the law already.

Personally, my only complaint is that the powers-that-be didn’t decide to change pub legislation a few weeks earlier, when a coke or an orange juice really didn’t hit the spot and we were ready to raid an insecure-looking off-license just to get hold of a couple cans of even the worst lager.

Bristol in the sun, a relatively unusual predicament, is certainly one of the best places in the country to enjoy a slow afternoon. This weekend, I had the pleasure of staying with my brother in an area of the city called “Clifton”, the Kensington of the West. The most notable features of the suburb are beautiful architecture and a relaxed atmosphere.

Saturday night started at “The Mall”, which is unsurprisingly on The Mall. Best features included a quiet jukebox and comfortable seats. Worst features were definitely the two thick bouncers who came on duty towards the end of our time there and promptly asked everyone I was with for proof of age, even though there were enough empties in front of us to prove that their colleagues hadn’t been quite as fussy.

Decided in “The Mall” that prolonged afternoon drinking most definitely demands lager rather than anything heavier. My brother resisted the advice and stubbornly kept to his Tetley’s which he regretted later on.

Dinner was accompanied with the National Lottery and my next recommendation, Carlsberg Ice. I didn’t like the look of this stuff, as it seemed to be a rip-off of Fosters Ice. The Carlsberg version is equally nice to the Fosters, maybe more so and another good afternoon beer.

The rest of the evening was passed at the Albion, which I mentioned before. A really nice pub, if not a bit young. We were lucky enough to see one of the funniest things in Bristol that night. On the next table, a group of about eight friends, every single one with buck teeth. Maybe they are in a club! Truly bizarre.

“Arthur” is on holiday
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Guest article – 6 August 1995

August 6th, 1995 No comments

By Gabriel Hopkins

Don’t worry, times aren’t getting tough. I say that in advance because this week I have been travelling far afield to North London, home of dodgy drunks, drugs and even more which doesn’t bear thinking about.

One thing to remember when you’re spending time in the deep North is dress down, so I scrapped the suit and put on some suitably worn atire for the journey (generally East to West) along Holloway Road, starting at an old favourite, the dubiously-entitled Fat Harry’s. Harry it appeared wasn’t around, but there were lots of men with their various terriers and pitbulls sitting around the bar and playing pool. Fat Harry’s is a friendly pub, and reasonably inexpensive too, I remember a hysterical New Year’s Eve there, but I shouldn’t digress.

Further up towards Finsbury Park, but generally heading west is the George Robey, one of these intensely cool places where the young bands play. Luckily, a reasonable escape can be found away from the sound of bawling guitars and funny-looking chaps playing synthesizers. There are two rooms. One with the loud music and late-drinking, the other a rather dark and dingy pub. Memorable was the de rigeur pint of Guinness and pack of cheesey crisps combination. Best not too stay in the Robey too long, as the locals often appear to be getting peaky.

Next, after a quick hike down Seven Sisters Road, where there seem to be enough Kebab and Fish and Chip shops to feed a developing nation, the Hog and Hound. The landlord of the Hog and Hound obviously believes that his pub is deeply cool, and the people who were posing there thought the same. How wrong they were. When you pay for your water and beer combination, you get the eery feeling that you’re subsidisng all those ‘period’ bits of nonsense nailed unselectively to the walls. During term time, this is the only student pub in the North end I know of. As Rick Mayall said, “Nobody likes students, not even students like students.”

Opposite is the Nag’s Head, which is worth a quick glimpse. Rather too legendary, the Nag’s Head is always full to the brim and so after a quick but good pint, it’s off to my favourite pub on Holloway Road, the Hercules.

Many people who I have taken to the Hercules have found the experience rather unsurprising. For a relaxed drink in an unrelaxed area, I find the Barras & Co. pub a great relief. You can always find a comfortable seat and although the view is less than scenic out the windows, inside the architecture and the surrounding are also pleasant. Nice beer too.

The Irish pubs along Holloway Road, that is to say the ones that appear to sell nothing but Guinness and Murphy’s are to be avoided, unless your family have been drinking there for sometime and you once lived in Ireland. The punters in these places and there are thousands, including the Mulberry and the Half Moon, have a peculiar addiction to all things connected to line dancing and other Irish Institutions.

After being so negative about Holloway and Archway’s less English drinking establishment’s it’s only fair to also recommend one of the Irish Pubs. I would like to be more exact, but by the point we got there, memory was not strictly on my side. I can tell you that it is adjacent to Archway tube, but there the recollection ends. For argument’s sake I shall refer to the mysterious pub as the Eire. A less than accurate concordance with drinking regulations is the first thing to strike you about the Eire as you enter at 12.30 and find it still full of young lads drinking and buying beer. The sheer illegality of the place is rather striking throughout one’s stay there. A pleasant pub, especially for Alcoholics.

“Arthur” is on holiday
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