It’s been pointed out to me that the blog of late has become a little bit too Aussie and bit too focussed on the politics of beer. So in reply, a quick visit to the Pride of Spitalfields, which owes much of its charm to an East End which is fading fast. Whether it be the onward march of gentrification, the encroachment of the City or the ever changing cultural identity of the area pubs like the Pride are fewer and fewer in number. While the 10 Bells on Commercial Street is an uneasy mix of Hipsters, Slickers and the odd Ripper or Kray obsessive the Pride still has its fair share of local character.
There are few signs life as I round the corner from Brick Lane onto Heneage Street. There’s usually at least one lone smoker but today no one and from the street I can’t see through the windows. I’m fearing the Pride may have closed. As I shove the door open I’m hit by a rush of warm air from the open grate. My fears are quashed. Although I’ve been going to the Pride for years I’m still aware that I’m not a regular or a local. I’m spied suspiciously. Not by the landlady or the locals but by the pub cat. It sits in what I suspect is the sweet spot; close enough to the fire to be warmed while still able to evaluate the custom as they enter. Ok, I am perhaps guilty of anthropomorphising the cat but if Disney are looking for ideas they couldn’t go far wrong with this East End feline. I step around Jack the Cat McKitty (sorry, couldn’t resist) and prop my bag against the bar while I order my pint. Jack is up just long enough to rub against my bag before knocking it over with a swift knock of the head. He then returns to the sweet spot. We both know whose boss.
As I sit and wait for reinforcements I’m happy to sup my Brewers Gold at £2.80 a pint and just observe. Drinking alone isn’t something I particularly enjoy but the exception is a pub where overheard conversation is more interesting than the one you’ll be having when your mates arrive. From the table behind I get a dental commentary of an unnamed local who has a mouth like a blown out fuse box, silence follows and then ahhh right yeah ‘ez got a right rotten set of Hampstead’s… a loud raspy cackle follows. This draws no reaction from the the quiet punter at the end of the bar who sits nursing a pint hands poised as if with imaginary cigarette; perhaps borne out of years of sitting at the same stool fag in one hand and a beer close the other.
As the pub starts to fill with a mix of suits and skinny jeans Jack heads off to assess the crowd from a distance.
Pride of Spitalfields, 3 Heneage Street, E1 5LJ