Mother Kelly’s, Bethnal Green, E2

A difficult one, this. A bit like supporting Man United against some other team you really dislike. I’d like it to be good, yet so much work has gone in to make it anathema to decent taste that I’m finding it heavy going. And that’s with a particularly strong beer list at my disposal standing firmly in the pros column.

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The fact is, it’s extraordinarily difficult, nigh on impossible, to feel comfortable here. Whether that’s the bright orange trestle table that’s reflecting sunlight right into my tired, puffy eyes, the stark white corrugated metal that lines the inside of the arches or the deadening ache of the cool that exudes from the thronging masses of new Eastenders that people it, I’m not entirely sure. But it’s hard to escape the sensation you’re drinking in a holding pen of refugees from the real world unable to leave for fear of missing something life-affirmingly hip. An uncomfortable one at that. It’s almost like a battery farm of self-regarding cool that is so far up its own rectum, it’s pressing its own prostate gland in the pursuit of further pleasure.

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This is a genuine shame; as mentioned, the selection is relatively impressive, though nothing really stands up and makes you take notice. Which is ironic given how hard this place is trying to make itself the centre of attention. You get the feeling it would be considerably more comfortable itself if it were a brewery – it looks like the inside of so many these days – or, failing that, a bottle shop with a huge amount of stock.

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And in a way, it is the latter. Only some genius thought it would be a tremendous idea to  number the keg taps and set out a vast array of clipboard menus detailing the (ever-changing) drinks of the day. Never mind the scant regard for the several rainforests needing felling to maintain the levels of paper needed for this venture, it makes everything much more difficult. For the customer, who needs to sift through a long list of small-typefaced tasting notes to arrive at a choice, and for the bar staff, who not only need to feign interest in more types of beer than they’re familiar with, but also need to be able to count to more than 10, which seems way beyond the current crop’s ken (editor’s note: this was written in 2016. Current staff may be able to add up).

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No, it seems as if all has been arranged to make what should be a pleasurable experience as difficult as can be. With the owners’ bank balances the only genuine considerations. A difficult one, this.

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