Thursday, 24 June 2010
New Zealand V Paraguay: The Ultimate World Cup Pub (bar & restaurant) Crawl
By Christian Rose-Day
We’re 42 matches into the Fluid London Ultimate World Cup Pub Crawl and things are definitely starting to get tasty. In more ways than one.
Today, we’re cheering for the consummate underdogs, the Kiwis. Personally, I have family ties with New Zealand, so I have to support them. But on a purely footballing level, I have to take my imaginary hat off to these guys. Two draws already in the bag, both against teams ranked 4 million places above them, according to FIFA.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen in St Paul’s is nestled amongst the likes of Strada, Pizza Express, and Cafe Rouge and this particular branch of the GBK tree has been renamed as the Gordon Banks’ Kitchen for the duration of the World Cup.
The big windows in the large front area give a decent view of the side of St Paul’s. But it’s towards the rear where the magic happens. A decent sized (approx. 6ft) projector screen (with surround sound) hangs at the front of a small area where 30 can be seated.
I’ve been told that GBK are running a few World Cup competitions to win holidays in Cape Town and England 1966 (replica) Shirts. I’m keen to win, so I sign up to their Join The Gang mailing list on their website.
Now, I know the Kiwis didn’t exactly invent the burger, but the GBK chain has a strong connection with New Zealand (I believe it began life over there), and their burgers are meant to be legendary.
I’m here with a genuine Kiwi too, who’s bunked off work early to watch the game. Being a patriotic Englishman, I opt for the Kiwi burger - beetroot, egg, pineapple, cheese, salad, mayo & relish - for obvious reasons. My Kiwi pal, being equally patriotic, has gone for the England burger - aged cheese, salad, mayo & relish. Both cooked medium, both with chips, garlic mayo and blue cheese. Phew!
We each swill these down with a bottle of malty 4% Mac’s Gold beer (from New Zealand). My mate also proudly mentions that GBK has the ‘World Famous in New Zealand’ L&P soft drink. Authentic or what? New Zealand has to win now.
Paraguay are currently Group F leaders. One thing the Kiwis have over the South Americans, though, is physical presence. This could be a close one. With the Aussies going out of the competition last night, New Zealand will want to go one better. If Ryan Nelsen can show the kind of class he displyed against Italy, NZ should be fine. The Kiwis are playing in All Black. Unlike England, they actually play better in All White.
There isn’t much of an atmosphere at GBK but we’re told by the manager that yesterday’s England game was a riot.
Our burgers arrive a few minutes after kick off. My Kiwiburger is enormous! My Kiwi mate stands at about 6 foot 3inches. The Kiwiburger isn’t much shorter than him. I recommend cutlery for this one. By the time I finish in the 28th minute I’m covered in egg, mayo, meat juice, and contentment. Deliciously meaty, satisfyingly messy.
My mate, ever the Kiwi, polishes his English cheeseburger off before I’ve even made a dent in mine. He looks like he could go round again. “A good, honest, tasty cheeseburger,” he says, “I could go another beer.”
25th minute - Italy are losing to Slovakia 1-0 in the other group match. I love the World Cup. So many twists and turns.
33rd minute - Still not much happening in the game but Paraguay are slightly edging it in terms of possession. Both myself and my Kiwi mate are taking comfort from the long range shots the Paraguayans are attempting: WILD!
35th minute - A decent cross by NZ, but the goalie collects.
Half time - the Kiwis have managed to choke the Paraguayan’s flair for 45 minutes. We go for another couple of beers, this time opting for the other Kiwi on the menu: the slightly stronger, crisper, European-style Steinlager. I ask about desserts. It’s just Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and milkshakes. A small selection. A product of having such humongous burgers, no doubt. As the second half kicks off, we hear the low chiming of St Paul’s bells echoing off the high rise offices around us.
72nd minute - Italy are 2-0 down now. C’mon New Zealand. One goal and you’re through to the next round.
80th minute - Italy have got one back. Still not much to cheer about in this game, though.
86th minute - Woods just centimeters away from putting NZ into the 2nd round.
Full time - a grinding 0-0 draw. Final score in the other game: Slovakia 3 - Italy 2. We were watching the wrong game, it seems.
GBK, like the Kiwis: understated and meaty.