For the humble northerner, a pub in the nation’s capital can be both a daunting and confusing experience, with the sheer range of differences sometimes sending some people into a catatonic state. In order to save as many as possible from such a fate, here are seven things you'll learn when you’re in a pub daahn saahf.
1. You'll need to order FAST
You know that feeling you get when you walk into a new sandwich shop and there’s a chalkboard filled with a thousand options? Cue unmitigated panic and the feeling that there will simply never be enough time to digest the options and decide on the perfect lunch. Overwhelmed with possibilities, you’ll be asked for your order before you've had a chance to decide and reflexively order the only thing you could remember from the list. Order fast or brace yourself for a life of truly horrible drinks or learn to love shit like marmalade stout (actually a thing).
2. There's more to the bar staff than meets the eye
Many bar staff in London moonlight as actors, writers or conceptual artists and loads just work for the shits and giggles. The upside of this is that they’re always happy to chat about basically anything. If you're not used to this, here's the best approach: order drink, exchange currency, take drink away, and minimise words used throughout the exchange.
3. You may not get a plate
So far you’ve ordered a pint and been invited to an opening of ‘Wagner's Ring Cycle in Mime’ so you reckon a bit of food might cheer you up. Where can you go wrong a nice plate of chips? Cast your eyes about you and it’ll be apparent that in some London pubs, plates are illegal. Don't be surprised if your chips are served in a miniature shopping trolley, a flat cap or a plant pot. Ordered bangers and mash? Big mistake. It might arrive jammed into an old fashioned dimple glass with a pair of chopsticks and a cocktail umbrella sticking out the top. Just stay cool.
4. ...and your palate may not be used to the bar snacks
It’s not as straight-forward as ‘nuts and crisps’. Expect a dazzling array of things in jars like some savoury sweetshop which occasionally cost more than you budgeted for.
5. 'Beer gardens' aren't always what you expect them to be
In London, the phrase ‘beer garden’ is used liberally and with a certain amount of artistic licence. In some neighbourhoods, expect it to be applied to pavements, concrete rectangles surrounded by walls on all sides and bits of a pub where the windows open. There are some real beer gardens with plants and things but they’ll be full. Avoid like the plague.
6. You can't pay with Scottish notes
You might get away with these in Manchester or Newcastle, maybe even in Nottingham. In those cities you could palm one off with little more than a raised eyebrow. But you’d have more success handing over a receipt with the word ‘REAL MUNEY’ scrawled across it in green crayon than you will paying with Scottish money.
7. Going on a bender will break your bank
Unless you own a small private island, going on a bender will cost you dearly. Try an eight-beer adventure or two in a month and you’ll soon be cobbling together meals from the remnants at the back of your food cupboard like you’re in some nightmarish version of 'Ready Steady Cook'. Corned beef risotto – mmmmmm.