The June sun is lowing in the sky and it seems the perfect evening to savour a pint of the good stuff in a beer garden. I seek out a ciderkick and suggest we meet at a nearby pub that I know it has a big, leafy beer garden and the clientele are an interesting crowd.
I set off to the White Hart , where a bouncer with a clicker thingy greets me at the door. This place has a mix of junkies and off-duty policemen, (I’m told), wich makes it all a bit gritty but safe. It also has jazz bands playing on Sundays and barbecues in the garden during summer. Tonight, the customers all seem to be forcing themselves against the bar in an attempt to escape the onslaught of the very, very loud DJ, like sewer rats escaping rising flood water. Reaching the bar, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that there ‘s a sign for Farmhouse Cider, (at £4.50 a pint). It’s a box of Cornish Orchards.
The evening is looking up. The staff seem a little overwhelmed by the rodent swarm, though and, after considerable time, and almost being short changed, I get served and head out to the beer garden. As I exit towards the sizeable garden in the warm evening, a bouncer ushers everyone back in. Beer garden closes at 9pm. Well, we wouldn’t want to annoy the residents with our drunken babble.
Inside, we find a seat as far from the speakers as possible and shout at each other. The music takes a detour through the 70s, as Isaac Hayes’ ‘Shaft’ slowly vibrates my pint of Cornish across the table, (that’s ‘Shaft’, as in the song, by the way). Usually quite a relaxed environment, tonight, the White Hart seems to be the place to be seen and definitely not heard. Unless you are the DJ. So, as Jacko kicks into ‘Don’t Stop til You Get Enough’, at 100 decibels, we shuffle out of the way of the young and fashionable to head to a more sociable environment.
The Londesborough is usually a good bet, set deep in the quiet residential backstreets of Stoke Newington. On this Saturday night, as we get closer, we hear the same Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, also blasting from this boozer. What’s going on? Generic Pub DJ Disco FM? I’ve lived through two 70s revivals already, but I didn’t count on having to don my flares tonight. We veer tightly north, and head towards the Prince.
We step through the door, into a more grown up, civilised venue and though there’s music playing, it’s not even as loud as the clamour of conversation. This hidden gem has increased in size since I was last here. The bar has been moved back – it did used to be a bit of a squeeze. There’s also what looks like a dining area at the back. Sheppys cider is on draught here, there’s even enough room to find a seat and take the weight of our bunions. I find myself asking the barman what the round black shapes hanging from the ceiling are. Apparently they’re speakers. They do look a little sinister, like the hovering, humming black thing with a truth serum needle, from Star Wars, but that’s the only nod to 70s in this bar. Unfortunately, the neighbour’s organic children need their sleep, otherwise they’ll be rather temperamental while breakfasting on babyccinos at the Blue Legume in the morning, so the pub closes at 11pm on a Saturday, and we’re out on the streets again.
It’s dark now, but we still have a bit of life in us and we head towards the busy Church Street. The Red Lion (or The Lion as it’s now simplified to), often has a cosy, sociable atmosphere. Tonight there are a couple of bouncers on the door, and more thumping music. It’s all just bang, bang, bang these days. Not like the 70s when they made proper music, with real words. It seems like tonight, Stoke Newington is becoming more like San Antonio, and before a bunch of sticky Scousers, high on cocktails and disco biscuits, come tumbling out of the Lion, flashing their tits, we hobble down to The Daniel Defoe, nearby.
I can guarantee The Defoe will be peaceful. The original plaster pub sign on the top of the building tells us it used to be called the Clarence Tavern, and apparently it used to be the Steptoe too, but it is now named after the 18th century writer, who lived on a site near the pub and had a civet farm in Newington Green. Apparently they used their musk for perfume. Having been re-decorated in 2011, The Daniel Defoe has one of those timeless traditional pub styles, which could easily be back in the 70s, with a carpeted room, dark wooden furniture, quiet music and fairly bright lights The cider is a very safe Magners draught. The kind of place your dad likes. That said, the staff are very polite, you can speak to friends without fear of developing nodules on your vocal cords, they do Sunday roasts and there’s a beer garden, which should be shut at this ungodly hour. They also seem to have a booze shrine, behind the bar.
All this excitement has proven too much for my drinking buddy and me and, barely finishing our pints, we button up our cardigans and head home. Saturday nights are for youngsters. It’s nice to get back to the peace and quiet of my bungalow, make a cup of Horlicks, fall asleep on the sofa watching TOTP 1977, dream that I’m Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever, and piss myself.