Last week, after a meeting in Glasgow, I caught up with a friend for a drink in the Drum and Monkey. It’s a lovely place – central horseshoe bar, a range of great real ales, lovely wooden panelling, comfy seats, and unintrusive music. Exactly my kind of pub, and I was pleased to add it to my all-too short list of Glasgow pubs I like. Just a shame I was on soft drinks, as part of a pre-wedding attempt to get a little healthier.
Other favourites in Weegieland would include the Pot Still in the city centre and the Lismore on Dumbarton Road, both great places for both good beer and good whisky. They are precisely what a pub should be – lively enough to be worth visiting, quiet enough to have a conversation, with of course an impressive array of decent-quality drinks.
They are all examples of what I call “Edinburgh pubs in Glasgow” – down to earth places that are reminiscent of Auld Reekie and sadly a minority among Glasgow’s loud, pretentious and far-too-trendy bar scene. The big city at the east of the M8 does pubs, and does them very, very well; its rival to the west does bars. It’s not a moniker I use too loudly in Glasgow any more, mind you – while living in Weegieland I went into a pub with friends once and, impressed with the quiet atmosphere and enticing range of pumps, declared loudly, “this is great, this is like an Edinburgh pub!” Heads turned. I survived, but only just.
Such ponderings reminded me of a wee thought that emerged in my brain first nearly a year ago when having a pint in the excellent Douglas Arms in Lerwick: how does one know what pub to go to in a new place? If you live in one town and like a certain type of pub, how can you find a pub you know you’d like elsewhere?
What you need is a Universal Pub Converter. No, it doesn’t exist anywhere apart from in my head – and now on this blog – but bear with me.
If you’re in Inverness and a fan of, say, Blackfriars, you’d proably enjoy the lounge at the Douglas Arms. If your loyalities lie directly across Academy Street and you’re more of a Phoenix man, taking the other door and entering the Douglas Arms’ bar will be more your thing. With a Pub Converter, you’d find out instantly where you’d be most at home.
The Universal Pub Converter would also, for instance, tell an Invernessian who was a Market Bar person, seeking either spit and sawdust downstairs or live music and “personality” upstairs, that they’d love Lerwick’s Lounge, by the Mercat Cross in the heart of the old town.
If that same Invernessian headed closer to home, say Aberdeen, and was a Hootenanny’s man, Belmont Street’s Drummond’s would be the closest you could manage. If he was more of a Castle Tavern man, no problem – head to Blackfriar’s on Aberdeen’s Castlegate.
You get the picture, I hope.
The idea, then, of the Universal Pub Converter – be it a website, leaflet or even an iPhone app – would be to tell you the equivalent of a certain pub in a different town.
Of course, there’d be overlaps. A fan of the Lismore in Glasgow would be at home in many Edinburgh pubs, and a good handful in Inverness. The design would somehow have to be inclusive of this. Would it be a table? A spider diagram? Who knows, even a good old Venn diagram. Either way, by providing some sort of equivalence, it would do something I don’t think is done anywhere else. Sure, there are websites allowing pub reviews – but comparisons across Scottish towns? Not as far as I know.
Surely there’s a market for this. Any other suggestions of “if you like pub X in town A, you’d like pub Y in town B” are welcome. Who knows, the idea could even work with churches.
This could be the start of something big, people…