Writing about a community pub like The Dove (24-28 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ) is almost as presumptuous as reviewing The Godfather II: almost everyone will agree that it’s brilliant, but they’ll grumble if you don’t mention their favourite bit.
This challenge is obvious from the moment you walk in. â€œWhat I love about this place,â€ I overheard one man say to his companion as I settled down with a half of Leffe, â€œis the feeling that you’re stepping into a different era. I love to sit here and pretend I’m part of Dickensian London.â€
So I tried pretending I was part of Dickensian London. It was easy. Even anachronisms like the framed film poster for En LÃ©gitime Defense (1958) didn’t ruin the illusion. But the feeling was more one of a 19th-century dining club, far removed from the vicious tap rooms of Oliver Twist in which people wrangled with â€œmight and mainâ€.
As my mind wandered, I realised that the dÃ©cor inspires all sorts of fantasies. I looked at some prints of sailing ships, and was transported to Captain Jack Aubrey’s cabin aboard HMS Sophie. I examined the charming wood panelling that lines the bottom room, and imagined it full of country folk back from a hard day’s hunting.
â€œThat wood panelling,â€ emailed the editor of E8 shortly afterwards, keen that one of his favourite bits wasn’t left out of the review, â€œcomes from a bank in the cityâ€. (â€œYou may,â€ he added, â€œor you may not ‘ it’s entirely up to you ‘ wish to mention that The Dove was also one of the first venues to have an anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic policy, and was the first place to have a non-smoking barâ€).
So what is The Dove’s true character? I was just beginning to come to my own conclusions when two friends arrived. â€œDo you remember the old staircase?â€ said one. â€œRemember to mention the toilets,â€ added the other. â€œDon’t forget that so-and-so wasâ€¦â€ began the first, launching into a very funny and slightly off-colour story.
With so many fond memories attached to it, I can only recommend you head to The Dove and start creating some of your own. And as the pub also has one of the widest selections of Belgian beers in the country, plenty of real ales, a good wine list, excellent food and friendly staff, you’ll find no hardship in the task.