Archive for July, 2012

July 18, 2012

Q&A: Marky Market

This week we speak to Marky Market – a link between Londoners and the twilight world of the meat and fish markets.



My name’s Mark and I started markymarket a couple of years ago. Basically, people get hold of me by hotmail, phone, text or twitter. They tell me what they’d like from Smithfield and Billingsgate and I’ll get up at 2am to get it for them; I don’t hold any stock, I buy to order. I just get the freshest meat, fish and shellfish I can find, then deliver it to you around town using my trolley, chiller boxes and the tube. I’m your man at the market.

First pub experience…

First time I went into a pub was when I started college in Liverpool, I was maybe 16. I didn’t have a clue about what I should drink or any sort of pub etiquette, so when the barman asked me what I wanted, I panicked and asked for “the usual”. My first pub experience lasted precisely thirty seconds.

Best pub find if the last year…

The Euston Tap stands out because of the variety of proper beer and the enthusiasm of the staff. Markymarket deliveries take me all over town though, so I’m always discovering new places.

Sounds to be heard as you work…
The terrible MOR 1960s music from the radio that is always on in the Blue Posts.

Tell us about your office…
My Soho office is the Blue Posts on Berwick Street, at the end of the market. It’s where I gravitate towards after I’ve done my deliveries and has become my office because it’s a great old boozer that makes the minimum of concessions to the 21st century. Bill, the landlord, won’t even do food, just maybe a grudging pack of pork scratchings. The Adnams is good though, and it’s pretty central too, so any markymarket customers who need to meet me to collect their orders can get there easily.

Pub heaven…
Proper beer, from a pump. I’m not particularly fussed about any particular one, but I do like Bass, and Adnams, and Ubu, and, IPA, and Doombar, and Pride, and Speckled Hen… I also like a pub where I can get a seat, barstaff that remember me and they don’t mind my trolley shoved in the corner.

Pub hell…
Barstaff who think beer is just fizzy draught lager.
Favourite local…
The Hemingford Arms on Hemingford Road in Islington. It’s run by Una, the best landlady you will ever find. I don’t want to analyse why it’s the best pub in the world, it just is. Once you go there, you’ll realise that it’s very difficult to leave without promising yourself that you’ll be back.

Favourite non local…

Probably the Blue Posts, but the Cross Keys on Endell St in Covent Garden is good. Then there’s the Globe on Bow St or the Kings Head on Upper St; it’s difficult to choose one.

What’s on the horizon…
I want to carry on with the balance of customers that I have, so I can still get all this fantastic food for individuals and a few independent restaurateurs. Hopefully markymarket will become increasingly successful. I’ll still go to the markets to choose and buy the things that customers order, but I’ll have a few minions to take care of some of the deliveries. Which will give me more time to enjoy a beer.
July 16, 2012

St. John Bar and Restaurant, 26 St. John Street, EC1M 4AY

It probably wouldn’t occur to you that popping into your local Michelin starred restaurant for a pint and a bite to eat is both possible and affordable; but at St John – the home of nose to tail eating – it is. Everything about St John appeals to my tastes from the whitewashed simplicity of the bar and dining room, the stripped down unpretentious service to the menu on the plate and behind the bar.


Take a seat in the restaurant for a 3 course meal with wine and yes you’ll pay the prices that you’d expect for such a feed – and not begrudge a penny – but sit in the bar with a pint of Redemption, Black Sheep or Meantime and you can enjoy a starter or two that makes for the most glorious bar menu you’d ever find. For between £7 and £10 you find yourself with an ever changing choice which may include rarebit, octopus, lamb tongue, brawn, sweetbreads – as I said this is nose to tail. A favourite never failing to satisfy is roast bone marrow – the hot bones served with a parsley salad and toast – you scoop the marrow and spread across the toast. I’m taken back to early drinking memories with my Dad when the landlady would bring out plates of bread and dripping. Yes, this is somewhat more refined but plays to that same appetite for more than just fine cuts. The plate then as now would be eagerly cleared.

As Sunday afternoon stops go they don’t get much better; unless of course they’re finished off with a freshly baked bag of Madeleine and a wander through the streets of Clerkenwell.

St. John Bar and Restaurant, 26 St. John Street, EC1M 4AY

July 12, 2012

Welcome to Sheffield

My reaction to Sheffield. Who Knew? Well quite a few people it seems but it’s taken me a while to cotton on. Having family in Leeds it has always been a place I passed through – a marker on the M1 that said almost home. Somewhere people told me to visit but until now I’d ignored. With Lou attending the annual Doc Fest it seemed like a good opportunity to finally visit and added to which, the thought that she may get to the Sheffield Tap before me was truly horrifying (er, i meant the thought of a weekend without her truly horrified me… Did i get away with that?).

As my coach pulled into Chesterfield, a couple of miles down the road, I have flashbacks of Friday nights in a Northern town. It’s just after 10pm and post football jubilance is overspilling into the streets. Quite literally, as a swaying punter urinates against a phonebox. I get a text to say that Lou will be at an industry thing (read party) and that I should make my way to the hotel. As I head out of the bus station it’s unclear what the quickest way is and I go with my gut feeling, which within minutes sees me facing the Sheffield Tap – fancy that!

This is a pub I’ve coveted for some years. It may sound sad to covet a pub but I’ve heard people talk of it with a glint in the eye which was more than a half cut glaze. It must be credited with introducing countless travellers (it being in Sheffield train station) to great beers beyond their normal experience.

As I sit at the bar it’s rich pickings for a seasoned people watcher. From the beer geeks drawn to the Pondhopper (Thornbridge / Odell co-brew) or the two brash mockney lads who saunter in fresh from the train. The brasher of the two tells his mate “goin for a slash geez, get me the strongest fing they got”. This raises a smile from those in the know. Looking down the bar the lad looks in need of help. Turning to me, devoid of any previous swagger, he asks whether they do Stella. I point him in the direction of the Bernard and he looks visibly relieved. As his friend returns he tastes, looks at the pump and delivers his verdict: “it ain’t Stella but it’ll do”. Smiles turn to slight shaking of heads and rolling eyes.

As I drink my way down the taps – chatting with the staff and observing the oohs, aahs and puzzled faces – I can see why this place has a special place in many people’s journeys and why for some this is the reason for the journey itself.

I head for the hotel before I’m in danger of the morning after regret of staying for another; wondering that if this is a welcome to Sheffield what else awaits.


July 1, 2012

Q&A: Ian Rankin

This weeks Q&A is a departure for Pub Diaries, as we hear from bestselling writer of the Rebus novels, Ian Rankin.


My name is Ian Rankin and I’m a novelist. My attitudes towards writing, beer and pubs are broadly the same: keep it simple, unfussy, entertaining.


On my 18th birthday, my dad took me to his local to have a drink with some of his pals – that was a rite of passage, right there.

Best recent beer find…

Cromarty Brewing Company – delicious ales!

Are drinking & writing a good mix…

I’ve tried writing after a few drinks – never turns out useable. But I do a lot of research in pubs – I find characters, anecdotes, stories there.

Favourite beer writing…

Not sure. But my favourite quote may come from Martin Amis: ‘Without women, life is a pub’. I’m not sure if he sees that as a good thing or not…

Advice to aspiring writers…

Read lots, write lots, accept the criticism/advice of those you respect, get lucky and then stay lucky.

Sounds while I write…

instrumental music almost always, playing softly in the background to block out the everyday world. Jazz, new age, bands like Mogwai and Errors and Boards of Canada.

Favourite pub writing…

Probably my own, if I’m honest. I use the Oxford Bar a lot, which is a real pub in Edinburgh. Fans come there from time to time.

If I wasn’t a writer I’d be…

An unsuccessful writer with a job as a journalist or teacher.

Pub heaven…

Good conversation, with few distractions.

Pub hell…

Loud ugly music; slot machines; TV blaring; people who are only there to get lashed up prior to or during a night out.

Favourite local…

The Oxford Bar, but Edinburgh has a fair number of traditional watering-holes, all of which I’ve visited from time to time. Honorary shout out to the likes of Bow Bar, Cafe Royal, Kay’s, Blue Blazer, Bennets, Golden Rule, Royal Oak, Abbotsford….

Favourite Non-Local

Chez Lucien in Ottawa; Crown in Belfast.

On the horizon…

New book out November, followed by UK, New Zealand and Australia tours.

Next week we are heading to the markets of London. Billingsgate and Smithfields that is, as we hear from Marky Market

July 1, 2012

Year of Manning Up: Changing Direction

This isn’t one of those “hey guys, how did you cope without me” posts that I see so often. I’d hope you had better things to do than wonder why I hadn’t posted in 3 weeks. It’s been a busy, even momentous, time and a little breather from blogging here was required. It’s not like I’ve had my feet up though with the submission of my first piece for a newspaper in Western Australia (on pubs and beer – hopefully out before long), publication of my first magazine piece in the UK (in the latest edition of New Empress about B Movies), another imminent, again in W.A. (on eating and drinking in Perth) and I’ve been writing a stack of reviews for View London again on pubs and restaurants. There’s more in the pipeline but I won’t jinx it by saying too much. Ok, i think that constitutes trumpet well and truly blown, let’s continue.

When I look back at that list I’ll admit that there’s a small amount of pride. At the beginning of the year I wrote about a Year of Manning Up, of getting out and about and being more involved offline as well as on. Here we are at the mid point of the year and I’m glad that I pushed myself, as the experience has been nothing but positive. Through the European Beer Bloggers Conference in Leeds, British Guild of Beer Writers, accepting invitations that I previously would have declined and just simply introducing myself, I’ve met people – beery and otherwise – that offer me inspiration and direction. Ok, this maybe sounds a little bit Oprah but it’s the truth. If you’re reading this and are maybe where I was 6 months ago, skirting the edges of the water, considering dipping your toe in, take my advice: dive in.

So Year of Manning Up, mission complete, right? Not quite.

Buoyed by all of the above it made the next step all the more sensible; to quit my job with an employer of over 10 years to spend a couple of years travelling in Asia and living in various parts of Australia. A plan that’s been a long time coming but didn’t seem quite real. Writing it down makes it more solid. So with the next part of the Year of Manning Up beginning lets see where it ends up. Any guesses?


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