Let’s be frank; some pubs are dangerous. Not dangerous in the same ways that jumping into a bear enclosure at the zoo or eating bacon that’s nine days after its expiration date are dangerous; but perilous none the less.
The origin of this danger is in the ability some pubs have of robbing us of all sense of time, dampening feelings of responsibility and convincing us that nothing but the next round really matters. Of course the booze has a little bit to do with this but not every establishment has this siren like ability to cause you to say things like ‘Yeah go on; I’m sure a sixth won’t hurt’, ‘The kids will probably feed themselves’ or ‘Let’s finish these and do a few shots’. These stealers of afternoons are few and far between; but I’m pretty sure I’ve found one.
The Morgan Arms is a modest looking pub on the corner of one of East London’s many paradoxical streets where million pound three storey townhouses gaze across at brutalist concrete stab palaces. A few benches grace one side where the pavement is wide enough; a perfect perch on an unseasonably sunny spring afternoon. A few hanging baskets swing between the vast windows; just enough pollen on offer to attract a few bees to piss people off later in summer.
Although it’s possibly not ever present the most instantly greeting aspect of the Morgan is the hum and bubble of voices; I imagine it’s the unusual horseshoe shape of the bar which contributes healthily to this. Even when sharing a table with strangers (often a must with the eclectic seating options) this background murmur reassures you that it’s fine to carry on talking bollocks with your chums for as long as you like, everyone’s doing it, it’s fine, let’s get another round….
Rounds themselves cost about what you’d expect in these parts where gentrification is pervasive; glance around the bar and behold a range of pretty affluent types with designer dogs and babies so chic they make Kate Moss look like a hobo. You’ll see change for a tenner on two pints but admittedly not a lot of it. On the other hand it’s not extortionate to eat here and the food is veering into the realms of restaurant standard. It’s even cooked by people who wear those funny white clothes rather than being aggressively warmed up in a microwave by someone who resents you.
Even the bogs seem crafted to make this a nice place to be. There’s posh soap, enough room in the stalls to wipe your arse without doing some yoga and even mood lighting. Whist I lament the closure of The Griffin and it’s death trap piss ice rink I must applaud a pub which has facilities I’d stand and have my pint in (please be assured I’m not going to do this).
You’ll go to The Morgan Arms one day and the following morning awake with a mouth like the inside of a shoe and eyes that feel like dried walnuts. You’ll stagger to the bathroom wondering why there’s a road sign in the hallway. After quenching your thirst you’ll log into your bank to discover nothing good. Halfway through a breakfast of paracetamol and regret you’ll gaze at your phone and the fingers of temptation will start to tickle at the edges of thoughts. It’s Sunday after all, I can’t face cooking, I bet they do a good roast. The sirens are singing; heed their call.