Thursday, 4 April 2013

Let’s go to the Exmouth Arms

Exmouth Market. I haven’t been to this part of London for years. I used to drive this way on my Kawasaki 550 back in the mid 1980s, briefly opening up the throttle on the stretch past Sadler’s Wells (my idea of hell: the ballet), dreaming of the weekend when I could hit the A10 and see how fast I could go. And I don’t think I ever went to the Exmouth Arms. I probably noticed it as you cannot but help note the green tiling that clambers up its jutting, pugnacious jaw of a street corner like ceramic ivy. Courage it used to sell, in some distant past, announces the branding; Courage, whose Directors I remember drinking in my third year and being told it was ‘fruity’ (incidentally I think Charlie Wells are doing a good job with it at the moment); Courage whose Best Bitter used to give me indigestion; Courage, of which a bottle of a vintage Russian Imperial Stout I once won in a CAMRA Somerset raffle in the late 1990s and then gave away (my love of dark beers is comparatively recent). And now, it’s not Courage the Arms sells but beer from a hipster’s choice of spindly, rickets-like selection of taps including Schlenkerla, Arbor, Camden, Stone etc alongside a quarter of cask beers. And about me the world of this fabulous pub spins. Big windows open onto the street, passing figures roving home from work, while three folk conjoin and stretch their time on a table in what seems to be a work meeting (Adults drinking cola? In a pub?); elsewhere a group of blokes hog their space at the bar, laughter erupting, sudden irregular bursts of gunfire in a city under siege, tales told, jokes spared; the sound of country and western incongruous in the background, my wife left me for a John Deere or some such fantasy of a mind designed like a gated community. Bare board rather than bare arms, bare bricks, open spaced, flush and spaced with the quality and quantity of the beer on sale, the Exmouth reminds and rejoins me with the joy of discovery, that there are still pubs in London to which I will come and go time after time again. 

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