20th June 2021

#Food & Drink #Youngs

Greatest bar moments

20th June 2021

Editor, journalist and broadcaster, Lisa Markwell shares her thoughts on the things we’ve missed the most as we begin the countdown to being back at the bar,


Some of my greatest moments have happened standing at a bar (and once falling straight back from a bar like a felled tree… but perhaps let’s not go there today).

At an after-party years ago I was solo and feeling rather fragile after a recent surgery – the bloke who came to chat to me and compare injury notes while trying to catch the barman’s eye was Daniel Craig, arm in a sling thanks to a Bond stunt gone wrong. Now that’s a great bar moment.

As an ocean-going food obsessive, I adore taking my seat in a restaurant and having a menu placed in front of me, but that usually requires something of a process. Deciding where to do, booking the table, arranging the to-ing and fro-ing… even if where I’m going is a no-reservations joint. But it usually isn’t, because I can’t stand that level of jeopardy when hungry.

But spontaneity is what pubs are all about. That benign jostle at the bar, the tantalising decision of what to order and that delicious moment when liquid touches lips. In my time I’ve progressed from Southern Comfort and lemonade to a Nikka from the Barrel via the crapshoot of a “large glass of house white” and generic G’n’T. And while I love that tongue-prickling sensation from a bag of Scampi Fries, pub food that arrives just when you need it most, to balance the booze and extend the occasion, is now a joy. Oh for a Scotch egg’s crisp carapace and well-seasoned meaty interior. In fact, Young’s has a hefty hand in that pleasure – I’ve been lucky enough to judge the company’s annual Scotch Egg Challenge more than once; the pride top chefs take in trying to create the ultimate pub snack is palpable.

I’ve missed pubs enormously over the last year – more than I ever imagined. I have made friends with some London landlords which transcend a quick wave across the bar and mouthing “the usual?” – they’ve been agony uncles, conspirators, collaborators and mischief makers.

And, whisper it, I’ve even wandered around Mayfair peering through pub windows (towards the end of lockdown I saw a fabled pub fella testing the Guinness pumps and was tempted to batter down the door).

When the great final unlocking really does happen, you can keep your white napery and ‘no tables available with 2.5 hours’. As Joni Mitchell famously sang, “If you want me I’ll be at the bar”.


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