The upside of already being hungover before close of play last Saturday, of course, is that I woke up fresh as a daisy on Sunday, ready to go again. Well, I say fresh as a daisy, there was an uncomfortable period between 6am and 7am that took in the bright light of the bathroom and caused me to catch sight of myself in the mirror. Not pretty. Three or so hours convalescence, mind, and all of a sudden The Spurstowe Arms in London Fields had a target on it.
I hoofed it there, of course. Inexplicably, LamBert tends not to do public transport where a blister-bearing, hour-long yomp will cover it. CrowsFeet had bagged us a spot stage-left, and was already chugging on a Landlord. Not long back from a New Year spent in Sri Lanka, the old boy was revelling in the prospect of an old-fashioned afternoon ‘on it’. The tone of his pre-match text indicated as much, the gist of mine that he should refrain from remarking negatively about my new barnett. The wind was whipping round my ears like a son-of-a-bitch.
There were some good-looking, insanely well-dressed people there. And not just at our table. Perched all around the huge, square central bar that dominates the traditionally spare, high ceilinged room were boys that were prettier than girls and girls that were prettier still. With ribbons and stuff in their hair. The Tim Taylor was drinking as well as anything I’d had the day before, which in fairness ain’t saying much, but which, given 15 hours earlier I couldn’t have looked at another pint of real ale much less drink one, was more than good enough. Also £3.50 a pint , in the context of Saturday’s hiked-up pricing debacle, struck me as more than reasonable.
The beautifully written blackboard above us – it would have been a real shame to have to rub out anything they might run out of - yielded a generally appealing food menu which seemed to be being served all day. Hardly famished but acutely aware of a need to consume something ahead of what promised to be yet another boozy night in SW13 (the journey to which I could scarcely have made more convoluted by our choice of rendezvous point), I focused my gaze, with a degree of difficulty, on the main courses. The roasts looked decent and were proving popular around us although the prospect of one wasn’t doing it for me. Normally I’d question whether there was latitude amongst a half-dozen or so choices for both a Fish Pie AND a Fishcake option but, frankly, either would have curbed what I was craving by that point; a bit of robust gastronomic reassurance. At £10, the Fishcakes, which we both had, gave good value. Two of them came propped on a pile of steamed spinach and with a really nice tartare sauce that there could have been more of. At least, I ran out of it before I was half way through my second cake, but I was slathering it about. And the breadcrumbs were arguably a bit orange. Fucking tasty, though, and all either of us needed to see us on our respective way.
I think little is expected of service levels at places like this in similar locations. There’s often a self-consciousness to the way in which both clientele and staff carry themselves which precedes a polite but stubborn stand-off. I must say, though, that the vibe here was relaxed and even if the welcome wasn’t exactly warm – and if I had one fairly major criticism it’s that the pub itself really wasn’t – it was pleasant and efficient.
One word of warning. The toilets are accessible on two sides and although shielded by a wall from one access point, the fact that the door to the Gents stands open means that if you were to distractedly ’assume the position’ at one particular, erm, berth, you may just end up inadvertently flashing your junk at someone who, up to that point, had been enjoying a quiet lunch. Having narrowly avoided giving away my own secret I was conscientious enough to pull it ‘to’ behind me. There are others that might be less considerate. Or more ballsy. If you know what I mean.