Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Worst Pub In London

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The Crown and Two Chairmen used to be a nice, unpretentious place. It had a big function room upstairs with a big screen where we've watched a few games before in a cracking knowledgeable atmosphere.

We were a little suprised when we arrived there on Tuesday at 2pm to find that it had become a sort of Gastropub but the function room and screen remained (abeit decorated in some post-modern way) and despite my misgivings we stayed for an afternoon and evening of football goodness. What a mistake...

Things started to go wrong when we noticed some signs saying that the upstairs bar would be closed between 5pm and 6pm "To prepare for the England game". Fair enough we thought but we didn't want to lose our prime viewing seats (we were the only ones there at that time) so we had a quick word with the barman and he said we could leave some of our posessions up there to indicate those seats were taken.

The Gremany(sic) match finished with the Ecuadorians "failing to turn up" as we put it, so we left our jackets and went downstairs to get some food until we were allowed back up again.

"Can we order some food?" we aksed - a reasonable enough question for this type of pub but the barman replied that the chef wasn't there and he wasn't sure what time he was in (even though food was available supposedly "all day"). Eventually we managed to get at 5.30pm ETA for the errant chef so we ordered some crisps and settled down to selecting fantasy England elevens.

5.30pm arrives so when get a round in I ask if the chef is here, "I'll find out" replies the ever helpful barman. He doesn't, he just serves some more customers. Meanwhile Dann checks upstairs to make sure our belongings are ok. They'd been moved into a neat little pile on a small chair - so much for saving our seats. The joyous time of 6pm arrives and with our numbers bolstered by some work colleagues of mine we head upstairs. The barman comes in to the upsatirs bar and shouts "I need you all downstairs until 7pm please". Uuurgh, am getting more and more irritated by this especially as the "setting up" seemed to amount to putting ashtrays on tables and a few ominous looking "Reserved" signs on some of the better seats.

At least when we returned downstairs we could finally order some food, the chef must work short hours because five minutes after I had managed to order my friends were told that the kitchen was closed. Dann is told by the barman that the bar manager is coming to talk to him about "the tables situation". Dann has a little conversation with her and is handed two green tickets, these guarantee us entry to the upstairs football bar. I point out to Dann that there are six of us and he manages to get a few more of this sought-after commodity.

The food eventually arrived and was ok but we had to wolf it down as we'd realised the green ticket didn't actually guarantee that much and a much better idea was to queue up on the stairs. Shortly before 7pm we see the VIPs being shepherded into the reserved seats and when the doors finally opened we managed to mostly get the seats we want.

What a crowd though, most of them didn't seem to know anything about football or England's standing in the group or the other World Cup games. The tossers in the VIP seats didn't seem to be even watching the game. In some ways they were like the Japanese crowd, I think they just wanted some event to go to and shout a bit and then go home afterwards.

So my advice is never go to the Crown and Two Chairmen on Dean St. for football, unless of course you like being fobbed off and told conflicting things about the viewing arrangements all day.

The match itself was the usual England fare, blood and bluster, an unfortunate injury to 25% of our strikeforce and the usual England fade-away in the second half.

On Sunday I'm going to a proper pub to watch the game, not somewhere in the centre where all the pubs seem to be "on the take", somewhere with proper football fans, somewhere where it means something to people. I'm disappointed that on all our travels the worst crowd and most unhelpful barstaff have been at the English venue, everywhere else we've received mostly accurate information and made to feel really welcome and that our custom means something.

To end on a positive note I give you this picture of the big man from yesterday's Guardian, enjoy:

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No such problems with preparing rooms chez moi. Delicious food supplied on the dot of 7pm, and plenty of front row seats going spare. Just those annoying Bud guys to get in the way.

It was some of that rather desperate defending that bothered me most. Along with the fact that we now have a grand total of zero fit strikers - the Roonster is never going to be fit, not with a face like that, I've already expressed my opinions on Mr Tall, and Theo well he's just far too young for me.

I'm thinking there might be a small football gathering here on Sunday - you coming?!
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