Thursday, 24 June 2010

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

By Leah Harper

“It’s weird that they’re showing the Algeria v. USA game in London when England are playing,” points out my plus one on our way to watch the match at The Langley.

“Hmm, that is weird,” I agree, knowing that this will probably be as far as my knowledge of football would stretch for the afternoon.

Turns out, we’re right. England flags, balloons, bunting, you name it; all adorning the spiralling staircase down to this hidden basement-bar in Covent Garden. They’re most definitely showing the England v. Slovenia game. I sense my plus one is secretly pleased, whilst my enjoyment of this World Cup malarkey still rests undoubtedly upon the quality of the food platters.

We’re ushered past the main room, where the low ceilings and brick walls that are designed to imitate underground New York are now crammed full of pint-wielding football fanatics, already chanting their patriotic hearts out. To my relief, we’re seated in the wonderfully air-conditioned and slightly less rowdy Geneva Bar and Restaurant, which seems to have been privately hired by small groups and kind employers. It’s a ‘members only’ atmosphere that’s undeniably different to that of a conventional pub screening, and the disco ball is a slight giveaway that this is not the Geneva Bar’s usual function. That said, the sofa-style seating and table-candles certainly don’t appear to dull the enthusiasm of the (mostly male) crowd, and the suit-wearing patrons are anything but lacking in passion.

As England score and I ponder why Coca-Cola always tastes so much better when it’s from those little glass bottles – no draught here – the platters arrive. And they don’t disappoint: between the kitchen’s Mediterranean and Rustic selections there’s everything from mini Cumberland sausages to stuffed vine leaves, as well as a tasty range of dips. Each offers an assortment of delicious and practical finger-foods, which is, so I’m told, very important for such events, when one can’t risk taking their eyes off the screen.

Maybe the full-time score swayed it a little, but by the time the final whistle blew, The Langley had certainly proved itself a commendable host for the World Cup screenings. My doubts about the suitability of the dark downstairs bunker-style decor had diminished in light of the friendly service and delicious nibbles, amenities which the majority of those that had been watching stuck around to enjoy after the match had finished. The effort that had been put in to accommodating the event didn’t go unnoticed and I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon watching the game...albeit one that I hadn’t expected to see.

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