Saturday, 19 June 2010

England V Algeria: The Ultimate World Cup Pub (bar & restaurant) Crawl

By Christian Rose-Day

Bloody typical, isn’t it? England are playing in the World Cup and I decide to get on the wrong bleeding tube train: the Charing Cross branch of the Northern Line. No bother. I’ll just change at Leicester Square onto the Piccadilly and zoom up to King’s Cross that way.

Error! Some old bloke has decided to throw himself in front of the wrong tube train, my wrong tube train. Minutes before an England game! Maybe his intuition about the upcoming England performance is profoundly acute. In hindsight, he may have done the right thing (don’t worry, he was OK. I caught a glimpse of him being pulled out from beneath the train, all smiles as I walked up through the tunnel).

So, it’s raining, I’m late, and I’m on foot towards Big Chill House in King’s Cross. AND it’s my girlfriend’s birthday (an honour she shares with Fabio Capello. A telling sign, perhaps?). There’s a queue outside Big Chill House and they’re operating a strict one in, one out policy. Once inside The Squeeze is not as uncomfortable as it would appear from outside. I’ve certainly been in worse.

There aren’t many England shirts on show - although there are plenty of supporters - but then I doubt Big Chill House is that kind of place. It’s a bit trendier than that, and I notice that there’s a healthy male-to-female ratio too. Something you don’t normally see at a football gathering. The table on the front row seems to be reserved exclusively for pretty girls. Nice formation Big Chill House.

Beers are going 4 for £10. I opt for Budweiser, the good kind. There’s no draught on tap during England games, to save time at the bar. Wise.

25 minutes gone and this is not a World Cup winning performance by England . “Frickin’ useless! Even Australia could do better than this!” comes the cry from my girlfriend, an Australian.

The live band, Heritage Horns, are certainly doing a good job of keeping the mood buoyant with stirring renditions of We Will Rock You, The Great Escape and Dam Busters, plus a host of other footie classics. When the horns aren’t blowing, the drummer’s repetitive beats pair magically with the ITV commentator on TV. It’s almost like some sort of freeform football rap. Eat your heart out, John Barnes.

33 minutes - Lampard’s weak shot is saved. Fabio is not a happy chappy. Calls for “Let’s go fucking mental, let’s go fucking mental!” start ringing out through Big Chill House. I think everyone is starting to get distracted. Obviously the camera crew covering the game in South Africa are. They’ve focused on a pigeon that has taken up residence on top of the Algerian net. Yep, England’s display is that dull. Big Chill House gladly isn’t. A quick glance outside and I notice the queue has finally disappeared. They’ve managed to squash everyone in before the half way mark. Nice work by the Big Chill House crew.

Half time - boooooooooooooo! It’s all that England deserve. Time for a quick look round. There’s 5 big screens (one of which is outside on the terrace) and the upstairs mezzanine is well worth booking for those who are planning to get a group of around 15 together, especially during the England games because it’s free! Madness! Back to the game.

50 minutes - BORED NOW! So we order a mixed platter. We’re given a funky flashing buzzer to alert us when it’s ready. We watch it more eagerly than the game.

60 minutes - Buzzer goes off. We collect platter. It’s surprisingly diverse and of a high standard considering the rush. The spicy meatballs with aoli dip is my personal fave.

70 minutes - Some bloke has bought an entire box of Amstel and is attempting to carry it through the crowd above his head. He’s going to have an interesting final 10 minutes.

72 minutes - Crouchy is on. We should’ve thrown him on 25 minutes ago.

90 minutes - England 0, Algeria 0. Whatever happened to ‘England Expects’? Shockingly pedestrian.

As we leave, a different live band begins to play. It looks like everyone is staying on to party even though there’s not much to celebrate. Well played Big Chill House.

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