Pub histories don’t come much better than The Elephant and Castle’s. Back in the 18th century, the entire area was named after it. In 1991, DJ Matt Jam Lamont’s Sunday morning raves made it the birthplace of UK Garage. Then, last year, it lost its licence after a customer was stabbed in the eye with a pen. Subsequently Foxton’s tried to turn it into an estate agents and protesting squatters moved in and erected a sign that demanded, ‘Ridiculous moustaches and shit fashion sense out of working class areas’.
But after the council gave the pub protected status as an asset of community value it’s been reopened as a trendy joint with craft beer on tap. Fortunately, it’s been done with a wariness that suggests the owners (Antic, obviously) realise that going too hipster is unlikely to win them many friends in an area whose ‘redevelopment’ has seen complaints of borderline social cleansing. The draft beer selection treads the line between crowd-pleasing lagers (Amstel, Sabres, Heineken) and hip and hoppening local craft brews (Orbit Neu and Fourpure IPA).
The layout remains the same and the decor’s not been radically altered. The beer garden (disappointingly) appears to be fringed by the same reeds you’d find during this place’s previous incarnation as a bizarre hybrid of boozer and Argentinian grill. It’s teamed with paraphernalia that attempts to make the venue fit in with Metro Central Heights: the ‘60s building it sits underneath. Think chintzy table lamps, retro telephones bolted to the wall and red velour banquettes. (no longer under threat from fight-spilled chimichurri and eyeball juice.)
Overall, it’s a welcome update. It’s trendy without being too showy. It has a good booze selection without being too alienating. And, with the opening weeks seeing a largely non-hipsterish crew of locals drinking there, it looks like the community has happily embraced it.