The old pope has moved in with the new pope. I’m not sure they share a bathroom but I expect that Francis will need to escape for a pint from time to time. British catholics are hopeful of a UK visit. The last time a pope visited, somebody in the Foreign Office leaked a memo suggesting the pope bless a gay marriage, open an abortion ward and apologise for the Spanish Armada. To save the Foreign Office needless embarrassment I thought I’d suggest a place for him to have a drink and get down with the flock.
I presume the pope drinks, otherwise he couldn’t really do the whole “body of Christ” transubstantiation thing. Drinking is not just about the alcoholic experience though but is a means to achieving objectives, whether they are religious, business, social or sexual (drink is a well known substitute for foreplay). In the Pope’s case I needed to understand his objectives. According to The Onion the main objective of the Pope’s job is to keep Catholic people Catholic (i.e. maintain renewal rates) and convince others to become Catholic (i.e. new customer acquisition). I also read that the new Pope really cares about the poor (I guess the old one didn’t?). I had to find a cocktail bar that would meet the new pope’s objectives and interests.
Visiting my daughter Cost Centre #1 at university, I had to drive south of the river Thames to Lewisham. The directions were simple. I followed the signs to France, exiting when the surroundings started looking foreign. Every other store I passed seemed to sell halal meat, so the neighbourhood afforded plenty of conversion candidates for the crusading Pope. Passing a bus stand I noticed that everyone seemed to be checking their lottery tickets. The poor are frequently innumerate, so it was a good sign for the pope. I reckoned there were probably enough poor people in Lewisham to make the pope feel loved. Now I just needed to find a bar.
My daughter guided me to an unremarkable door to what was obviously some kind of warehouse. Inside we walked down a corridor, past a row of large garbage bins, blinking as our movement triggered a security light. Through the next door we entered a dark room. A black and white television set flickered, the words “nan’s bar” announcing that we had found our destination.
Little Nan’s Bar is a pop-up which will be around through the summer. There is tapestry on the ceiling, exposed brick walls (some hidden by curtaining) and needlepoint covered sofas. It’s purposely and ironically twee. Drinks are poured out of china tea pots into tea cups. Tristan Scutt who runs Little Nan’s also runs a burlesque club called the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell (No, I don’t where that is). The bar is hot with university age hipsters from the nearby Trinity College of Music as well as Goldsmiths’ College. Apparently true hipsters don’t go to Shoreditch anymore because it has been discovered by bankers and tattooed chaps from Essex who gift boob jobs to their girlfriends. The dress code at Little Nan’s is anything goes. The pope would probably fit in – what’s not to like about man skirts, gold ectoplasm and red Prada slippers?
The drinks at Little Nan’s are cheap by London standards – £4 (US$6) for most drinks. The drinks are names after royalty and politicians. Cost Centre #1 had The Lady Wicklow, Countess of York. Cranberry juice, lime wedges, soda and a cinnamon stick are mixed with a base of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum. Served in a Charles and Diana wedding mug the drink has a strong rum flavour on the nose and a slightly sweet aftertaste cut by the lime. I had The Queen Mum – gin, Campari and juiced lemon rind over ice. It tasted a bit like a negroni with a missing ingredient. We also tried a drink called the Paddy Ashdown – Jamieson’s Irish whisky, midori melon liqueur, lime juice and ginger beer. The drink is named after an alcoholic who was a minor politician. Like him the drink was not very distinctive, although you could get drunk on it….The bar had a wonderful aroma of hot spiced apple juice from a cauldron bubbling away in a corner. It is mixed with rum and served in a drink called Little Nan Loves You. It had a dark tea colour and was just the right thing for a chilly evening.
Little Nan’s will no doubt be joined by other pop-ups during the summer in the edgy but cool parts of London. Needing to escape back to civilisation I crossed the Thames and made by way to the Artesian Bar at the Langham Hotel (ranked the number one bar in the world according to Drinks International, a trade magazine). I was joined by the Armenian Hit Man. He’s given up bumping people off for the more socially acceptable but marginally less profitable business of collecting antique glassware. We ordered a couple of Rum Runners, named after smugglers of yore. It’s an old Tiki classic which later became the ultimate Disco cocktail, so we are dating ourselves here. The Rum Runner at the Artesian mixes rum, velvet falernam, tangerines and fresh lime. An aromatic cloud is wafted over the drink for just the right amount of kitch. I am perfectly happy to leave being edgy to young people who don’t know better. A well mixed drink. good old fashioned hospitality and a bit of luxury makes me happy.