Malcolm’s New Year was in the bar of The Bald Faced Stag in East Finchley.
Credit where it’s due
For years Malcolm avoided this joint: it was a seedy, down-at-heel, dying Victorian ex-gin palace. Not quite terminal nicotine-stained spit-and-sawdust; but the property men must have been measuring it up for “redevelopment” into bijou apartments.
Then it fell into the hands of a decent, striving, progressive and small (but expanding) PubCo, the Realpubs Group. What emerged at the other end was a nice admixture of a gastro-pub and a useful watering hole.
So Malcolm was on the Nethergate Augustinian, a premium 4.5% bitter from Clare, Suffolk (the title and the deceptive date on the pump-clip are nods to the Priory of the Austin Friars just down the A1092 road). At their best, East Anglian beers are as good as things get, which is why Adnams Broadside and Greene King Abbot feature regularly in Malcolm’s diet for a liquid lunch. These strong ales (though not as strong as the Abbot Reserve of Advent-tide) have the “sweeter” taste the southerner seems to prefer — geographically and tastefully equidistant between “tart” Yorkshire and luscious Belgium.
Anyway, it’s the flavour that Malcolm grew up with, and it goes with the country.
Loud, but venerable
Being New Year’s, there had to be a deafening disco. After about 10 p.m. the playlist subtly changed. On came the R&B stuff. Even things that Malcolm could recognise as music.
Just when he was about to despair what sounded rather like the Spencer Davis Group was on offer. It wasn’t, but it was a touching tribute to one of the greats:
Soon after, unadulterated, the Stones rolled:
And — hey! — the locals get a look in:
For the record, on the way to the venue the 234 bus swept the Lady in his Life and Malcolm past the Clissold Arms, of iconic fame and now also greatly revived and improved. Not all of the UK pub scene is a disaster.
All of those tracks are 40 or 45 years old — far more elderly than the average “young professional” shaking their booties to them.
Will they still be around to re-appear for New Year’s in mid-century? Malcolm will not be there to confirm — so would some youthful kind soul in due course take note and report back “on the other side”?