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Monday, 30 August 2010

The Top Ten of Summer 2010

I don’t tend to like doing lists, the style here is more freeform and impressionistic, as followers may have gathered. As Dostoevsky said, when asked about his work, “My job is not to reason and compare, but to create”.
But something in the air this time of year makes me want to look back. A wistful time is late summer. Things done; things not done. You think of pubs, too…
And in the very process of turning those thoughts over, hey presto, they suddenly form a list. So its an organic process after all, he convinced himself…
This list of ten from summer 2010 comprises some new bars that have made a good impression, some drinking establishments that really come into their own in the long days and nights of summer and others that continue to pursue excellence.
As they say, in no particular order, here are the ten *

(1) The Drake, 1 Lynedoch Street, Glasgow G3 6EF - An optimistic new beginning for a location that has failed many times. Quirky design- including Easter Island heads on the toilet doors - that is fresh and yet still has that established, clubby feel. Beer garden is hewn out of the tiny area between the building and the back lane; the epitome of a suntrap.

(2) Souter Johnnie’s Inn, 47 Main Street, Kirkoswald, Ayrshire - Inn, coffee house, ice-cream emporium, topped with master-crafted thatched roofs. Despite the scale, this place is the village’s own, a meeting place for good drink and food . Grab a seat or a barrel at the back by the fireplace and the full-length Rabbie, and listen to the night. Even dedicated urbanites will stay well beyond their planned departure time.

(3) The Gun, 27 Coldharbour, Docklands, London E14 9ES -A revelation in a quiet end of Docklands. Two outdoor seating areas giving unparalleled views over the Thames oxbow and the Dome. Barbeques, weddings and all-day birthday parties all catered for in style. Interior as pristine as the antique firearms hung above the bar.

(4) The Quarter Gill, 232 Dumbarton Road, Partick, Glasgow G11 - Now party-central Partick. Old and young come together to sing and listen to karaoke or just drink. A cultural counterpoint to The Liosmore that has come back stronger after its re-brand. Even sitting outside in the sun no longer looks incongruous.

(5) The Bailie, 2-4 St. Stephen Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH3 5AL - An outstanding introduction to the village-within-a-city that is Stockbridge. A darkened interior of black walls and red ceiling is welcoming rather than seedy and the island bar brings punters together. The best improvised smoking area of any basement bar hosts the overspills of gatherings from weddings to wakes. This place even smells as a good pub should.

(6) Waverley Tea Room, 18 Moss Side Road, Shawlands, Glasgow G41 3TN - Adjoined to nightclub Tusk, the awkward narrow interior of the Waverley has been offset with the now excellent two level outside seating area complete with ‘covered’ conservatory. Just a pity it overlooks nothing more than a sleepy side street. The best pre-club buzz in the southside.

*(7) The Inn at Kippen & The Cross Keys, Kippen, Stirlingshire FK8 - Two for one here because they sit virtually back-to-back and offer the ying and yang of countryside hospitality. The Cross Keys is an old, coaching inn (1703) with small rooms, thick stone walls and a humble entrance; The Kippen Inn is rural chic with abundant space and soft furnishings. The beer gardens are contrasting too, both excellent.

(8) French House, 49 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 5BG - The Resistance, Francis Bacon and Mark Steel in a pork-pie hat come together to create a Soho focal point. With the sash-windows open and the half-pints flowing (no vulgar large measures here) the world and the French House mingle. Don’t know if the legendary, late dandy Sebastian Horsley drank here, but I hope so.

(9) The Thistle Inn, 74 Main Street, Baillieston, Glasgow G69 5SL - A great place to start a pub crawl through Baillieston and beyond. Interior has a touch of the mock-Tudor about it but don’t let that put you off, that or the reputed ghost. Beer garden is spacious and well parasoled. Eavesdrop for colourful stories from the night before, complete with the marks to prove them.

(10) Jinglin’ Geordie, 22 Fleshmarket Close, Old Town, Edinburgh EH1 - A place of rest half-way up the steep Fleshmarket Close. Still overshadowed by The Halfway House – even though it sits above and to the south of its neighbour – Jinglin’ does have the advantage of a designated outdoor area; shabby and amongst the ancient back area of medieval Edinburgh but that is the charm. A more edgy clientele than the Halfway, which can lead to some fun.

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