The first clue you get that this pub can’t really be bothered is by noting that it doesn’t even open till four. I discovered this after calling to book a table at its supposedly popular pub quiz (more on that later,)I sought out the number from the website but alas I also found out that their phone has been cut off; cue more alarm bells ringing about the effort being put in here.
Situated on Bethnal Green Road ‘The Old George’ is just that, old. When I first ventured down to London and resided in this area I recall this pub as first being one of those places which has gone far beyond gritty local blokes bar and is idling its way to being a haven for tramps and blokes who might as well live in Ladbrokes. Not long after this it appeared to be boarded up; no great loss as I was never going to go in. Now it’s open again; a glorious phoenix from the ashes or an unwelcome return from the grave? (If you haven’t sensed where this is going already and can’t be bothered reading any more then I’ll give you a clue….it’s not a glorious phoenix)
Given that the word ‘hipster’ has entered the national vernacular I’m going to assume you know what it means. This is the archetypal hipster pub and I strongly suspect that the new proprietor classes themselves proudly as one of these oft bearded converse sporting soap dodgers. The bar staff too were drawn from among their bedraggled ranks and though the faux 50’s ‘I Love Lucy’ look works on the lasses the bloke who served me appeared to be wearing sodding pyjamas.
I’m assuming that the decor is also linked to this half arsed cultural phenomenon as the only explanation for a lot of the crap strewn around the pub is that they ran out of money and had to buy all the furniture and ornamentation from a jumble sale on a budget of about £20. Broken telephones and some dusty books adorn a decrepit set of shelves whilst a sinister doll of the late Queen Mother looms over the bar in a glass case like a weird religious icon. In the back is a sofa so dilapidated and dirty it looks like it’d only be safe to sit on if wearing a hazmat suit. If you can I’d sit outside in the concrete yard (an East London beer garden) as you’re less likely to catch a disease or become confused at how anyone could have thought this interior looked good and/or finished.
My trip here was fuelled by a desire to try out their much vaunted quiz. Sadly on this occasion it was attended by a mere two teams who were subjected to rounds including ‘Song Lines From Gay Anthems’, ‘Wimbledon’ and ‘Build a Tower From Staws’. An upbeat and endearingly enthusiastic quiz mistress assured the meagre crowd that it’s usually heaving for her brilliant trivia fest but I’m not convinced and am unlikely to return for it.
It wasn’t all bad though. The staff were for the most part very warm and accommodating. The menu (though including one dish which constituted ‘leaves’ and ‘crumbs’ and another which appeared to just be mince on bread) is extremely well priced and very good quality nosh.
If they finish decorating, clean and make it feel less like the set of Steptoe and Son I might just go and give it another chance. For now though I’ll be sticking to places where I don’t look so out of place because I’m not one MacBook theft away from being a homeless person.