ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

10 years of 24 hour drinking

So, it's the tenth anniversary of the changes to British licensing laws that saw '24 hour drinking' - as it was promoted at the time - introduced.

It was remarkable in that it was one of the few pieces of legislation from a Labour government with which I've completely agreed, and a rare moment of genuine liberalisation from that most authoritarian of parties.

It's also remarkable just how little it changed things. It wasn't the life-changing progressive development we thought and hoped it might be, was it?

The way we were

Thing is, there were already places you could go to get a late drink in the early Noughties, of course, and indeed the 90s, when I regularly indulged in such proclivities in some of South London's seediest nightspots.

(Specifically: the Old Fountain/Tooting Gin Palace - long since demolished, the Grove Tavern - now a mini supermarket, Jack Beards - now a well-regarded Antic gastroish pub, and of course the legendary Horse and Groom - also now in Antic's hands having been completely gutted and rebuilt twice over so not a trace of it's dank and dingy former glories remain.)

Thing is, they were usually noisy, they were usually crowded, they often charged admission, and the drinks were fucking rubbish. (Even if the music was occasionally good.)

Just like swearing, it's big and clever
So the reality was that most places only extended their opening times to midnight or 1 AM, often only at weekends, and we just had a bit more choice of where to go. In essence it meant that you could get a decent beer after 11 instead of just Guinness or Kronenbourg.

Of course, they fucked everything up a couple of years later with the smoking ban. After 11 PM in a pub was just about the only time I wanted to smoke, so if their intention was to make me smoke less, they damn well succeeded, but it was an iron handed punch in the scrotum that cancelled out any previous  good.

Sitting in a comfy leather armchair with a late-night pint of cider and an Armagnac, puffing contentedly on a large briar pipe. That's happiness right there.

These days I'm rarely found out drinking after 11 PM anyway, so it's largely academic. Yet, if the smoking ban were to be reversed, I'd make sure I got right out there, firing up a bowl of Bob's Chocolate Flake.

So, yeah, it was basically like a kindly grandparent that got you that scalextric you want for your birthday, but then died before you could thank them, and every time you tried to play scalextric it made you feel sad, so you didn't bother anymore.

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