Sunday, 13 June 2010

Argentina V Nigeria: The Ultimate World Cup Pub (bar & restaurant) Crawl

By Laura Collins

“Come on; start as you mean to go on Laura.”

The quote echoed round my head as I prepared to watch my first match of the World Cup. I had already been berated for missing two matches and not being up to date with the current scores. I didn’t have any excuses for my slap dash approach so far, apart from the fact that I am a self confessed football phobe. My friends are eager to change this so they have taken it upon themselves to mentor me throughout the World Cup.

Saturday 12 June, 3pm, Argentina v Nigeria. My first match venue was Meza on Soho’s Wardour Street, somewhere I certainly wasn’t expecting to find myself. I half anticipated being in a grubby, backstreet boozer, feasting on a beer battered sausage with the gap-toothed, half-cut locals. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised with the location of choice. My friends were easing me in slowly. The game wasn’t so slow though – there was a goal for Argentina within the first five minutes. I had only just removed my coat (despite the overpowering air conditioning) and already I was expected to concentrate.

As far as match venues go, Meza is not what I had in mind. The low lighting and smart interior offered a sophisticated setting to enjoy the football. The 61 inch screen in the bar area was great but seemingly out of place. Also, there was not a soul inside, apart from the numerous, silent staff members that rattled around. Not the sort of reception you expect during a World Cup game.

Meza was by no means an unattractive place to be though. It has a large, stylish restaurant and a smaller, more intimate bar area, both offering different menus. The restaurant food consists of tempting, larger meals, whereas the bar menu has a range of tapas, sandwiches and platters.

While the matches are on, Meza offers the World Cup menu but the limited choice is disappointing and meets up to stereotypical football venue expectations. I could choose from a hamburger and a half pint of lager for £10 or 12 spicy chicken wings with two bottles of lager for £12.50. Sadly, neither of these meals appealed in the slightest and I don’t drink beer. There was no vegetarian option either and I couldn’t help but feel the prices were a little hefty.

As well as a World Cup menu, Meza has exclusive private areas for hire while the games are on. Each area has a 61 inch plasma screen and a team of waiters standing by to take orders. If the selected areas don’t offer enough space, guests can even hire out the whole restaurant.

While Meza is a classy establishment offering a range of delectable dishes, drinks and, of course, the large screens, an atmospheric sports bar it certainly isn’t. It is a far cry from the venues I would normally expect to find myself during a football match so I fear I had a somewhat easy and less authentic introduction to the World Cup. I’m not moaning though. For a cocktail lover like me, Meza was a suitable place for my new hobby. If I spend the next month watching games in Meza, I won’t be too disappointed – no shouting, no swearing and no beer dripping from the ceiling. I’m not sure my bank manager would be so supportive but as my friends stated, I’ve got to start as I mean to go on...haven’t I?!

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