Ever since landlords abandoned the old coat-of-arms/nobleman/signs-for-the-illiterate naming convention, pub titles have become more creative. And why not? They can’t all be called the Red Lion. And the ‘Dissenting Academy’ name isn’t a conceit – Newington Green has long attracted radicals, disestablishmentarians and contrarians, including the likes of Mary Wollstonecraft, Daniel Defoe, and Oliver Cromwell.
Nowadays the area’s quiet streets and pleasant independent bars and restaurants attract a much more placid sort. There’s not too much to suggest any serious sedition is being fomented within: it’s a cosy and attractive place, essentially a regular refurbed pub with a few bits of contemporary art hinting at mild rebellion (pictures of Bob Dylan and Bill Hicks). On our visit, only two of the seven real ale taps were flowing, although one, the usually superb Redemption Urban Dusk, was lifeless. Kegs came to the rescue, with Krusovice and the blonde Belgian abbey ale Affligem.
Kicking against the system must be hungry work, so food is provided – my pork and chorizo burger was decent, but I must take issue with the menu’s description of the ‘white artisan sesame roll’. The massively chunky chips, though, were deserving of the term ‘artisan’.
But perhaps these are just teething troubles – Dissenting Academy is a welcoming local, and its nod to the area’s history is honourable. It might not be the hotbed of anarchic nonconformity its name suggests, but who wants some bloke with a beard declaiming at you when you’re just trying to enjoy a pint?