Oops we did it again

To be Bourdained: to be advised to go somewhere only to then discover it’s rubbish

Yup, that sexy chef had us another time. On this occasion, we were OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwondering through Kensington Market when we spotted Thirsty & Miserable, one of the locales mentioned en passant during The Layover. And so – purely in the interests of research, you understand – we popped in.

Imagine your sixth form common room painted red. Now add red plastic chairs and put the students to work graffitising the tables. That’s about it. Oh, and of course, where would any sixth form common room be without the black and white photos of old punk bands on the walls?

“But what about the beer?” I hear you ask. Aye, there was some of that, but none of the names on the menu (scribbled on what looked like the side of a cardboard box) were familiar and the bartender’s efforts to describe what was on offer extended as far as: “And there’s Silversmith Black Lager – that’s a dark lager”. (Ged ordered it. It was the lager equivalent of Israeli wine – instantly forgettable.)

So, we faced up to the fact that we’d been Bourdained. Again. You’d have thought after last time we’d have learnt better but that’s mindless optimism for you. The music was really good, though, but it seems the Chef and I have different ideas about what makes a good pub.

We drank up and moved on, wandering out of the Market and up to College St to the place that has become our local – the Cloak and Dagger.

While T&M is trying its hardest to be a dungy bar – and I love dungy bars, as anyone who visited Sapama and La Terraza in Madrid with us will realise – it’s still too cool for school. Or even the sixth form common room. It feels like one of those stylised anti-chic places which someone has thought a lot about.

The Cloak, however, has obviously evolved into dungyism. It is a dark, DARK room with the bar hidden away at the very end. When we first went in, there was just the bearded barman, who we now know is called Jay, a couple of locals and some pretty good music.

We sat at the bar while Jay talked us through the beers on offer, comparing them to what we may knowOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and offering samples. We settled on a Durham Hop Addict for Ged and Gananoque‘s Naughty Otter lager for me. They were both, Jay told us, Ontarian brews, local produce – but come on, the lager’s called Naughty Otter. Who cares where it’s from with a name like that?

And then we settled in for one of those afternoons that make a holiday. Jay is a natural bartender – a man who knows his stock and is interested in learning more. Joined by the locals, we shared tales of my nephew David’s bar, the Brandling Villa, and how he had gone to Estonia to buy hops, and then the conversation turned to music, food, life in Britain, the yacht club…

Yes, we even talked about a yacht club!

Three Naughty Otters later and we knew we’d found a home. Not only is the beer great, but the locals and barstaff have always made us feel welcome. There’s even a beer garden for when the weather is nice and the Otters are sent on their way in favour of Waupoos Cider.

I’m just not telling Mr Bourdain about it.

I’d love to hear your favourite watering holes – and beers!

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