Reclaim cool bars!

In Food & Drink, midlife on September 5, 2011 at 9:20 pm

Why should cool bars be the preserve of the young?

I’m the first to admit I don’t get out enough these days, but that doesn’t mean to say when I do go out I only want to go to child-friendly restaurants, book groups, or pub quiz nights. In fact only the last of those do I go to with any enthusiasm.

With a couple of family-free hours at the weekend I decided to take in a few of South London’s most fashionable new art bars. Not because I consider myself fashionable, obviously, but because I do like a) new places, b) good architecture and interiors, c) art, d) things that are within walking distance of my house, e) booze. And these places offer all of these.

First up: the New Gallery, London. An airy industrial space currently showing the work of a young artist who does interesting stuff with paint (as in peeling sheets of paint off the canvas, not just daubing it on). It’s me, the artist and two earnest, good looking young people to whom the artist is explaining his work. The cocktail list looks promising (£1 at happy hour!) but I feel too conspicuous and flee.

Next up, Frank’s Campari Bar (pictured), which a year or two ago the Observer was touting as the hippest venue in London. Which you’d think would mean it would now be full of middle class midlifers. It’s on top of Peckham’s multistorey car park, part of the annual Bold Tendencies sculpture exhibition, and gets snaps this year for being in a riot hot-spot (leading to the opportunity for patrons to demonstrate some post-riot love) and its pop-up-ness. It’s heaving, but I am the oldest person here by far.

I have to ask the bar man to explain some of the cocktails. He looks at me pityingly. I say that of course I know what a Bucks Fizz is; it’s the others I’d like a contents list for. I opt for a dark and dusky, or filthy dirty, or brown and murky, or something. Anyway, it involves rum and lime. It takes the edge off the OAP insecurities but makes the home-made bar stools even wobblier.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Rewind and contrast to May, when I actually went to a gig. A gig headlined by a local band, Fence Records’ King Creosote, who may or may not win the Mercury Prize this Tuesday. A gig that was so eclectic in its audience, it was the pinnacle of cool by being unashamedly uncool.

It was held in – and to save – Anstruther’s Hew Scott Hall and St Nicholas Tower, a valuable and attractive local venue, and a 500 year old landmark in a town that, despite what the Guardian Travel section says, doesn’t have an awful lot else going for it, other than one of the UK’s best fish and chip shops (I spent my teenage years in the neighbouring village – I got out as soon as I could). At the gig were some young arty looking types, yes, but also parents with kids (on a school night!); fifty-somethings sitting at tables with bottles of wine, wine glasses and their own corkscrew (there was no bar, refreshments were a carry out from the corner shop); bans from the local sixth form; and people (in bands) wearing Scottish Fisheries Museum sweatshirts. There was even, genuinely, someone with a zimmer frame. It was the ceilidh scene from Local Hero.

Later this week I plan to meet a friend at what, earlier this year, was being called London’s hippest pop-up burger bar, currently enjoying a summer streetfood residency at the Rye. The burgers are reputedly v good and the pub has been under new management and may serve a decent pint so I don’t see why I should miss out. Just doing my bit to reclaim hip haunts for midlifers and/or the terminally unhip and mumsy.

Help save Anstruther’s Hew Scott Hall by signing the petition

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