Down at the Pub, Day One

The Warwick Arms bar.

The Warwick Arms.

The pint of Guinness at The Warwick Arms in the Earl’s Court district of London cost £4.15 pounds, which figured out to $6.25 American.

Ouch.

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about London, it’s expensive to the point I don’t know how normal people can afford to live here. That said, I paid for and drank the pint anyway. Later I had another. The barmaid, a 20-something brunette, began to hate me during the first 10 seconds of the order exchange because she had to repeat everything she’d just said. I can’t believe I couldn’t understand her. All those years of watching “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” down the drain.

Then I fumbled with the British coinage, which to an American looks more like game board pieces than money. To her, I probably seemed like an idiot, which in proper British means “tourist.” Frowning, she took what I handed her and gave me the beer. I grabbed a menu and sat at Table 6.

The Warwick Arms was the first traditional public house (pub, for short) I’d visited in England. Sure, I’ve been to plenty of American pub knock offs to know they tried really hard to capture the atmosphere of a British pub, but will never be able to because it takes a building that’s been a pub three times longer than America has been a country to feel like the Warwick.

Red brick, the edges rounded with age, make up the walls, broken occasionally by windows with heavily painted wooden frames. Signs and memorabilia dotted these walls (screw you, Applebee’s and TGIFridays), and consisted of musical instruments, shovels, and soccer balls. I didn’t quite understand the shovels, but if a zombie attack happened right then, I knew we’d be adequately prepared.

A lesson I learned by doing is something Americans need to know when traveling to London. If you’re in a pub, order and pay at the bar, sit down, and someone will bring you your food. Don’t expect too much from them. If you need another drink, get off your lazy arse and get it yourself.

That’s a pub. There are restaurants with actual wait staff, but I might avoid those. Pubs are much too fun.

The menu, a random person I approached on the street assured me was authentic, largely featured Indian dishes, however it did boast a section entitled, “Best of British Cuisine.” Having asked a British friend living in America what traditional food I should have in London, it sounded like the link between “British” and “Cuisine” was tenuous at best. He suggested I eat Chinese.

The British selections on the menu included lamb chops, three-cheese ploughman’s lunch, fish and chips, this week’s handmade pie, and sausage and mash, with the footnote that, “All our meat and cheese in this section is supplied by farms in Somerset and North Devon.” Food from local farms. Good for them.

Bangers and Mash. Even better than it sounds.

Bangers and Mash. Even better than it sounds.

After ordering and paying for the sausage and mash at the bar and getting comfortable at Table 6, a worn smooth oak table with a brass number plate at the end, a barmaid (blonde this time, and not so angry with me) left a plate of malt vinegar packets and a small ceramic pitcher of water. The pitcher featured a classic Guinness advertisement (pronounced, advert-es-ment) of a smiling ostrich choking on a pint glass. I guess Guinness makes even dying delicious. I bet it does.

Eventually (pubs are iffy on customer service. Not that it matters) came the sausage and mash. Called “bangers” and mash because evidently British sausages make people fart, the dish was a heaping plate of mashed potatoes, covered in sausages and brown gravy. I got heart palpitations just looking at it, but it was delicious. The mild, tender bangers mixed well with the taste of the creamy potatoes and tangy gravy. I drizzled malt vinegar over some of my dish, which made it that much better. Unfortunately, this kind of food kills people from the inside, so I probably won’t have it again … tonight.

I went back the next day.

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About sjasonoffutt

Jason Offutt is a syndicated columnist, author, and college journalism instructor. His books are available at www.amazon.com. Jason is available for interviews, speaking engagements and beer festivals. E-mail all serious inquiries to: shadowpeoplebook@gmail.com.
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