A former colleague and now legitimate business contact was in the office yesterday for a meeting and it seemed rude not to pop over the road afterwards to the Reliance, a longstanding favourite watering hole on Old Street. In an area overpopulated with übertrendy bars, a few "real pubs" have managed to hang on in there, albeit with a few nods to the local Hoxtonites: regular DJ slots in most, turf inside the Bricklayer's Arms during festival season, and so on. Most have maintained at least some of their essential pubiness, and The Reliance has been there throughout, a no-nonsense boozer selling decent real ale with just enough edginess and strong continental lager to suit everyone.
I don't know why I don't go there more often, really, because it's rarely failed to please. And it's maybe because I don't go there that often that I can't keep up with the menu. It wasn't so long ago there was a proper restaurant upstairs, complete with linen napkins and a relatively ambitious menu. More recently it's been standard pub fare chosen from a combination of nasty laminated table menus and a reassuring big blackboard. I get the impression there have been quite a few changes of personnel in the kitchen, but an important constant has been very good quality homemade burgers, so as "a couple of pints" lapsed inevitably into a couple more (and with the Tuedsay night quiz hoving dangerously into view) Martyn and I decided we should shore ourselves up with a couple of the latest incarnations.
Disappointing. The burgers came in what looked like squares of a large, flat focaccia, which was fine, but the over-dense, chewy, industrial tasting meat was a real let-down. The chips were no more than OK. A pity after the quality previously turned out here.
Never mind, a gourmet experience was never really the point of our catch-up yesterday. Mind you, neither was entering a pub quiz, and we managed to achieve that. A creditable performance, since you ask: second place in the quiz proper (I have to be back to redeem my £10 beer voucher within the next two weeks) and a £30 bonus for successfully negotiating a complicated series of jackpot questions at the end. Numberwang!
The Reliance, 336 Old Street, EC1V 9DR