There’s a free barbecue every Sunday afternoon in summer; a somewhat scary dog lives on the roof, frightening the hell out of unsuspecting smokers; and an actual windmill stands in the adjacent park… The Windmill is certainly not your average music venue, but it’s been revelling in its rough-around-the-edges eccentricity for years, its unprepossessing exterior a cloak for its dedication to new leftfield music.
The programming is biased towards alt.country, alt.folk, alt.punk and alt.rock, but even if none of these is your alt.bag, it’s worth a visit just to pick up an ‘I Believe in Roof Dog’ T-shirt.
Here’s what happens when Dreambagsjaguarshoes grows up, packs its bags and moves to Dalston. The Victoria is now owned by the same people as the perennially cool and grungy Shoreditch hangout, and probably represents a mellowing out with age – it’s a pub, it’s more relaxed, it stages live music, and it’s on a backstreet off Dalston Lane instead of the illuminated strip down the road. As a pub, it’s decent – an artily thrown-together look, a few local beers (although not many), and a ‘residency’ from peripatetic grillers Psychic Burger. It’s a misleading name – I sat thinking about what I wanted to eat for half an hour before having to go up and order at the bar in the old-fashioned way. But as US diner food in plastic trays goes, it’s a fine example of its type. Through the back of the pub is the stage, where assorted bands assemble to perform. The Victoria has been a scuzzily democratic live music venue for decades, so it’s great that the new owners kept that going and didn’t turn the room into a dining room/yoga space/Tesco Metro.