How would you like it if I told you about an unpretentious bar in central London housed in charming Georgian stone lodge, where you can walk in at 10pm on a Friday and get a seat, choose from over 150 reasonably priced cask and bottled ales, have a conversation and be heard, and not have to put up with the smell of vomit?
Well, since nobody actually reads this blog I won’t feel guilty about disclosing the existence of Euston Tap, which I discovered on Friday night and to which I intend to return. I’m disappointed to learn it’s a new place, because that means word will probably spread. It seems like it has been there forever and people have forgotten about it, such is its tired charm. I suppose it’s quite a feat to open an establishment that immediately looks like it needs refurbishing, but it’s undeniably better than opening an establishment that looks obviously new.
It describes itself as a “Craft Beer House”, which I suppose it is. It’s in the little stone West Lodge that marks the entrance to Euston station on Euston Road. Until now, rail travellers have had to put up with the Doric Arch, a station pub up the filthy end of the precinct, or their own hip flask, if they’ve come prepared. That’s not such a bad thing. Bernhard Roetzel makes an excellent case for the hip flask as a travel accessory: “Many a boring ride on the train home to the suburbs is made a little more bearable by a sip of whisky from a flask, and the stupid chatter of fellow passengers can be ignored more easily if your gums are moistened with a little cognac. Also in emergency situations, in which the supply lines have been interrupted, it can be very comforting to know you have a quarter-liter of your favourite alcoholic beverage in your pocket. Anyone who has ever been stuck in winter at a train station because the Trans-Europe-Express has got stuck in snow can easily imagine that a full flask can be an extremely sensible accessory.” Of course he was writing before various i-prefixed gadgets were invented, which arguably perform the same sort of function – but they can’t get you drunk.
The one thing a hip-flask can’t provide, though, is accommodation. You wouldn’t have thought the lodge building could either, it’s so small. If you’ve ever walked past you may have thought it served no function at all, or was perhaps one of those grand old public toilets of yesteryear. But it’s actually surprisingly accommodating. Downstairs, the space is almost completely filled with the bar itself and fridges of bottled beers. Upstairs, stools, and vinyl banquettes imitating Chesterfield sofas, provide ideal accommodation for guests looking for a comfy place to get drunk rather than a gimmicky place that in two weeks time will be sooo two weeks ago. It’s a mixed crowd of, I presume, rail travellers, UCL students and local soaks. There are no hipsters here (they would never condescend to come as far west as NW1), no Sloanes risking the sticky table tops, no music, no football being broadcast. One old drunk is negotiating the world’s tightest spiral staircase on his quest to find the loo. (He looks like Shaun Micallef in one of my all time favourite sketches). A cheerful bunch of students makes merry in the corner by drawing penises on their mate’s face. He’s passed out clutching his pint. But it’s all good fun, and judging by the varied states of inebriation of the clientele I’m guessing the proprietors adopt a rather cavalier attitude to the responsible service of alcohol. I’ve been looking for a worthy replacement for places like the CTA Bar in Sydney ever since I moved to the UK and I might just have found one. It could fast become a favourite watering hole of mine, if only I could face beer.
But since I don’t like beer the place is, unfortunately, wasted on me. So Joe and I ordered gin and tonics (gins and tonic?) The bartender poured two shots of Gordon’s into highballs, but I had to intervene before he topped them up with slimline tonic. Crisis averted, so I thought, until the bartender said that was the only type they had! No regular tonic! Joe decided to take the bullet nevertheless, but they “don’t have ice”! Or lemon! I changed my order to a scotch and soda expecting, you know, ordinary blended Scotch whisky. Nothing special. Instead, a crime at the other extreme, they made it with 10 year old Laphroaig! I’m flattered by the gesture, but really, single malts do not belong in mixed drinks. What next, Lafite and coke? Buck’s fizz made with vintage Pol? How are they heating the place? With a bonfire of Stradivariuses?
So the place is very much for the beer lover. But wow, what a treat if you do like beer. I’m considering weaning myself onto the stuff so that I have a reason to go back. If only they served a bit of appropriate food it would be heaven for the weary rail traveller seeking a bit of nourishment. I could easily see myself take in a few oysters and a glass of porter, or perhaps a slice of raised pork pie and a fine perry, while waiting for the snow to be cleared off the tracks. I might even grow a beard and take up cryptic crosswords. Then I’d really fit in.