I don’t like pubs that show sport. I go to a pub to relax and drink with friends, and a jumbo-sized screen nagging away in my eye line does nothing to help these fundamentals. Factor in the typical drabness (money’s gone on a Sky package and projector), noise that drowns out chat, and a testosterone-y atmosphere that makes us non-fans feel utterly peripheral, and you’ve got the pub ingredients to have me out the door before I finish my first glass.
Which is fine, the experience they’re touting isn’t meant for me, but are all pubs and bars that show sport the same?
You see, I would quite like to watch some of this year’s Euro 2012 football tournament or London’s summer Olympics in a pub. International tournaments are fun; fun to get all wrapped up in for a fortnight; even more fun to watch in big groups with wine in hand. I think lots of women who aren’t regular sports-followers feel the same, so where should we go watch the games this summer?
I put the question to my office at Hostelbookers and the recommendations came in thick and fast. Gals (and football-indifferent fellas), this is your new summer drinking bible…
Bar Kick, Old Street
Bar Kick turns your idea of what a sports bar is like on its head. A sister to Exmouth Market’s smart Café Kick, inside it’s all flags and Formica tables, cured meat platters and foosball battles. Come the Olympics, this place should emanate good vibes like a solar panel converting sunshine.
The Lion, Stoke Newington
Fairy lights, cocktails, quiz nights, live music, foosball, pool and a beer garden; you couldn’t accuse The Lion pub in north London of being a one-trick, er, lion. Watch Euro matches or the Games on the big screen while tucking in to dinner from one of Church Street’s fine takeaway establishments (they don’t mind you bringing it in).
The Crabtree, Hammersmith
Ooh, get a load of that sparkling Thames! This riverside pub’s beer garden simply heaves with people when the sun pops his head out. Food-wise, it’s gastro fine dining and BBQs in summer, and there’s a lovely long wine list chalked up over the bar. You wouldn’t just want to go here to just watch the game; you’d go to make it your new favourite local.
Corbet Place, Brick Lane
Part of a complex of trendy bars and restaurants at Brick Lane’s Old Truman Brewery, Corbet Place lets you watch big-match footie away from yer typical lad territory. Inside there are exposed brick walls and antler-adorned chandeliers, but it’s the courtyard bar that calls for sunny pints at half-time.
The Water Poet, Liverpool Street
Three bars across seven rooms?! A beer garden, highly-praised roasts and family-friendly vibes help the Water Poet balance local boozer sensibilities with its mega-pub space. The size actually enhances the atmosphere, making big match days an event unto themselves.
The Faltering Fullback, Finsbury Park
Tucked away in Finsbury Park, the ivy-covered Faltering Fullback offers big-screen games in ornate bar rooms and Secret Garden-style chilling on its first floor terrace. This wraparound maze of alcove seating makes sure you stay for sun-worshipping after the game.
Bar Italia, Soho
Are you Italian? OK, great, you’ll fit right in. Are you not Italian? Hmm, you’re still allowed in, but do behave yourself. Like a little slice of Rome transplanted to Soho, Bar Italia serves the best coffee in London and has a perch-up bar with chilled beer bottles behind the counter. It gets loud and passionate during screened footie, but never laddishly lairy. Perfect.
Isabel Clift is a London-based travel writer. She edits the blog at HostelBookers.com, who specialise in budget travel advice, hostels and cheap hotels in London.