London’s Drury Lane is famous for its theatres of course. The Theatre Royal, The New London, all in their time have witnessed the great and good of thespianism grace their boards. Up at the top end, towards High Holborn, are the interesting sights though. Narrow buildings made from small blackened-buff handmade bricks, with that vertiginous sense of perspective as your eye tracks them upwards. Here, strangely enough, was the original Sainsbury’s store, and here too, inspired perhaps by the visual echoes of Amsterdam, is Lowlander.
It’s a favourite bar of mine. Inspired by a Brussels Grande Café, every attempt has been made to authentically reproduce and convey that feel. From the long bar with the wide aperture beer taps with glass washers below; to the enamel wall plaques advertising and celebrating some of the glotally tongue-twisting brands like Delirium Tremens, Echt Kriekenbier and Trippel Karmeliet; to the reverential alter of glassware behind the bar, celestially lit and tempting you to order one of the bottles to fill them: Westmalle, Trappiste Rochefort, Rodenbach Grande Cru. And the tables: I’m just a sucker for these long tables, forcing you to sit next to a stranger; inviting you – threatening you perhaps – to strike up a new dialogue or forcing a little smile as you observe groups play out the unspoken dance of rule-finding around who can invade personal space and to what level.
Perhaps Drury Lane is the right location: because ultimately it’s all a faҫade – authentically fake if you will. But as I refamiliarised myself with a smooth De Koninck last night, I was transported, albeit momentarily, to a real homeland of beer, and was all the happier for it.
© David Preston, Beer Tinted Spectacles, November 2012