I’ve had more than a few pints in caves. In Nottingham there is a pub (one of three in the city which claim to be the oldest, all of which are probably talking bollocks) called Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem which is built back into the caves underneath the castle. It’s a decent boozer and the caves lend it certain unique qualities some are endearing such as the feeling you’re in somewhere that’s truly old where Robin Hood maybe took refuge once (he didn’t because he’s either made up or from Sheffield). Other traits are more persistently irritating such as the frequent discovery that the crumbly sandstone ceiling has made a little contribution to your beer or the fact that it is a bit claustrophobic and utterly devoid of natural light. It is these more annoying things which bring me to the unfortunately named ‘Sun’ in Bethnal Green.
Once upon a time this pub was one of those quintessential ‘so bad it’s good’ pubs with stain friendly crap carpet, fruit machine and disgruntled locals. For a long while it was a makeshift billboard as it languished unloved and closed. Good news for local drinkers is that it has been reopened and given an extensive facelift to drag it into the correct century.
It isn’t clear to me where the inspiration for the décor came from and it rests somewhere between prohibition speakeasy and carpenters workshop. Slightly less than comfortable seats (and not many of them) are attendant at big rustic tables with knee cap fracturing potential lurking underneath. Lighting is minimal yet stylish with painfully Shoreditch suitable fixtures around the walls but without enough wattage to ever really penetrate the self-imposed gloom; stepping inside means losing all sense of time.
The pub also suffers a rather unfortunate layout. It’s long and thin which is a poor shape for anything a man would want to be proud of. After acquiring a drink you can choose to sit quite near the oft opening door onto the main road or proceed further into the depths where you half expect to find Gollum fiddling with his ring. To finally make sense of my opening paragraph it is much like a cave.
However it is not all doom and gloom. The illustrious offerings of food and drink, which are surely the cornerstone of any good pub, heave The Sun back into the ranks of somewhere worth going. A chalkboard festooned with beers both local and far flung sits happily alongside extensive whiskey options and cocktail making potential. The food menu is ambitious but well priced even if it’s dripping in Shoreditch cliché.
Whilst Bethnal Green isn’t short of pubs The Sun seems like a very welcome addition and adds a dash of trendy to the traditional boozers around the area if you ignore these two other facts. The mirror in the gents isn’t there but has been hilariously substituted with graffiti saying ‘You Look Fine’ which might be funny if I wasn’t certain the proprietors did it on purpose. There were also whale noises being played as I had a wee for a reason I have neither the time, energy nor inclination to speculate upon. Go for a pint in the permagloom but leave before you start to get annoyed which I failed miserably to do. As usual.