First of all, any hostelry that sells Tayto Crisps has got a head start where Pub Raider is concerned. Yes, it’s true they’ve toned down that shiny oiled-up greasy suckyerdigits magical quality of yesteryear, but only Seabrooks in their heyday ever came close, and they’re just a pale shadow. Which just leaves Pringles, and come on, there’s got to be something fishy going on there. If they’re made of potato show me the spud that’s cylindrical and several thousand miles long? Anyway, so The Boot sells Tayto crisps, although strangely they’re all kept in a glass topped thing, lined up by taste in neat ranks, fully visible to the punters, in a piece of kit that has surely been reclaimed from a butcher’s shop.
Perhaps it’s all designed to distract you from the anaglypta papered ceiling painted in some hideous shade of red gloss paint, or the orange pillars, or the yellow coving, or the papier mache seagull (I think it’s a seagull) perched above the double front doors which open straight onto the street (next door a wonderful old style launderette, steamed up and spinning, full of ladies in buttoned up coats). Not that we need distracting. This is a wonderfully random, lived in sort of pub, only a few hundred yards from city wallahs munching tapas, but a million miles away in every other respect. You go to some places and know instantly that the apparently timeless accretions of ‘stuff’ were in fact dumped off in a job lot from a pub fitter who sells shit books by the yard and ‘antique’ mirrors which look someone’s wazzed sulphuric acid all around the edges to make up for the lack of authentic centuries.
Here everything’s shit, but it’s genuine shit. Crossed skis over the bar and a pair of pretty manky ski boots. A box of mothballs perched between countless little brass ‘things’. Framed football shirts driven by no apparent logic. One from Arsenal (makes sense, it’s London). One from Sunderland (makes no sense, it’s friggin miles away). Also lots of Irish tat. Guinness lampshades (are they melting, or was the beer really, really strong?). A dusty leprechaun (straight across from the mothballs, left at the ski boot, just down from the tribal African face mask). Cricket bats (one actually) and hurling sticks and a radio channel playing David Essex. The theme here is; there ain’t no theme. That’s if you don’t count an indefinably good feeling, a vast open space, with tealights on wooden tables, and a floor that looks like it could give you more crack than Jim McDonald. Right you are.
The beer’s nowt miraculous, but there’s a good Ruddles Best, John Smiths, Guinness (cold and bloody freezing). Two draught ciders. All the usual suspects. No nonsense like everything else, the food included, with its 8oz Bootburger, brisket cooked in vodka and martini, pickled eggs, doorstep thick gammon (2 eggs on top)….and, of course, Tayto crisps.
From this visit, it was tough to judge what the clientele might be like most nights. After work on this day, there was a mix of Oirish, Poles, a couple of arf-arfers roughing it on their way home, but a fair verdict could only be reached after a couple of weekend sessions. And Pub Raider has a strong hunch those could get lively. Maybe around Christmas might be the best time to gauge this place accurately; when the Christmas dex go up in full knowledge that, like everything else on the walls and shelves of this drinker’s cavern, they might never, ever come down again……