What bad craziness is this? A new bar named after Hunter Stockton Thompson? Is that advisable? And is it even possible to compose a balanced review of a bar named after the greatest journalist that ever lived, a man who said that objective writing is ‘a pompous contradiction in terms’?
The temptation then is to file copy at the last possible minute before deadline: bash out a dangerously biased account, then feverishly jam pages into the mojo wire and let those goddamn perverts in the Time Out office scratch together something semi-coherent from my notes… But journalists can’t work like Hunter any more.
The sign outside the bar has the motif of Thompson’s always-on Aviators, a pair of crossed pistols and a Steadman-esque bat (the same owners run the Hemingway near Victoria Park: they seem to have a thing for suicidal, alcoholic American writers). But once inside, the Hunter theme stops abruptly. Is this a bad thing? Is the nearby Daniel Defoe, for instance, stuffed with ‘Robinson Crusoe’ memorabilia? No, but to call a pub Hunter S is quite a statement.
This bar’s not a fiery tomb of magic, mystery, and myth, but a pleasant, comfortably furnished, dimly-lit neighbourhood drinking and dining spot in a restrained art deco style, its walls decorated with some enormous and feral bits of taxidermy. There is a bottle of Wild Turkey behind the bar, but it’s hidden behind a row of upmarket bourbons. The men’s toilet is stiff with framed pornographic prints of women: apart from that, everything else is rather civilised.
Food is the better gastropub sort and the menu is written with imagination – pork and beef kofta, for instance, or pigeon with cauliflower puree and almond oil – although there are pubbier options such as fish and chips or beef burger for traditionalists. The beer choice isn’t too bad – bottles include the Aussie Coopers, Brooklyn Lager and a few other Americans, although the three real ales (Doom Bar, Coaster and Pride) were all unavailable on my visit.
The man himself will not be spinning in his grave over all this, of course, as his cremated ashes were blown into a million pieces in a post-mortem firework display. I can’t help thinking though that he’d find this pub oppressively safe and would have to concoct his own strange and savage version with violent barmen, hallucinogen-spiked cocktails and dead-eyed waitresses. If you want to really pay tribute, eat a button of peyote, drink a bottle of whiskey, lock yourself in a hotel room for two days and shoot up the television set; if you want a nice meal with drinks in a delightful part of Islington, Hunter’s your man.