The Harp

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Good Life at The Harp, London, UK.

Looking for a great bar in Covent Garden, London? Somewhere close to Charing Cross Station and Trafalgar Square maybe? Then come and try the Harp – a fantastic pub in Chandos Place.

The pub’s emphasis is firmly on real ale, real cider and real conversation, with 8 hand pumps on our bar serving a great selection of beers from our favourite breweries. It’s a place to meet friends and make friends.

Try the buzzing downstairs bar with its collection of old victorian portraits and beautiful coloured glass frontage. Or seek out the calmer upstairs room with its comfortable chairs – a place to relax and enjoy a more intimate atmosphere.

London’s Calling

As you may recall, there was some chance I might go to London for a celebration of the life and legacy of legendary barman Harry Craddock.

With the help of many friends, especially including Trevor Easter, H. Joseph Ehrman, Brian MacGregor, Steven Liles, Jared Brown, Anistatia Miller, Pernod Ricard, and the San Francisco chapter of the United States Bartender’s Guild, I will be able to attend that function.

I promise to represent our community with as much style, grace, and honor as possible.

I will also take as many notes as I can muster and lots of pictures.

Thanks again to all of you, it is truly humbling to find so many good people wishing you well and supporting your dreams.

21 Fizz Salute

It must be happy hour, I’m alone behind the bar and a long order comes in.

“21 Gin Fizz Tropicals for the Lounge?”

“Everyone in that group wants the same cocktail?”

The server assures me this is the case.

“Well, that will be a while, Egg White drinks and all. I can only make 4 at a time.”

I set about making them…

“What the!?”

Someone seems to have swapped out my measuring jiggers for others I don’t recognize.

Ack! I fumble around, trying to make sense out of the equipment.

Suddenly, for some reason, I’m also having a hard time remembering the recipe… Is it apricot liqeuer? How much Gin?

I awake with a start and quickly run through the Gin Fizz Tropical in my head, 2oz Plymouth Gin, 1oz Lime, 1/2 oz Orgeat, 1/2 oz Pineapple Gum, 1/2 oz Egg White. Dry shake, shake with ice. Soda.

Whew.

Brunch Hell

Somehow I am working as a line cook during brunch at the Slanted Door.

The printer start chattering away and foot upon foot of tickets starts rolling in: large parties of people, huge numbers of entrees, items that are unfamiliar.

I ask my coworkers about the bizarre items on the tickets and they don’t really know.

Erik Adkins appears from somewhere and tells me, don’t pay any attention to the food, you just have to pick out the drinks.

I try to sort through the feet of orders, looking for drinks, but still, the items are unfamiliar.

“Where’s the Whey for this drink?” I ask, “I can’t find it in the reach in.”

He says, “Who ordered that drink? It’s been 86′d.”

Funny. It has been over 15 years since I worked as a brunch line cook, yet it is still the touchstone for my unconscious mind to express fear and anxiety.

Scarred.

Entertainment!

One of the first comments I got regarding my playlist post was the following from SFPaul.

I’m always surprised when it appears that music falls low on the priority list for a restaurant. Don’t they understand the roll of music is to the human experience and how it has accompanied us for thousands and thousands of years.
To have it be an afterthought tells me a lot about the management and how little they care about the dining experience as a whole.

As far as I can tell, the combination of music and intoxicating substances goes back as far as both have existed in human history. However, since many animals have been known to consume spontaneously fermented or naturally intoxicating substances, maybe longer. Who knows what those drunk Cedar Waxwings in the berry tree are saying to each other?

Music in bars would have first started, I presume, as spontaneous communal entertainment and drinking games.

Soon after, someone who was better at performing or singing than average probably received a drink, (or chicken,) for their stellar efforts and realized there were some goods or services which could be received for their efforts.

A couple centuries pass and soon the technology for performing songs without actual human musicians becomes possible. First clockwork bands and player pianos, then audio recording and playback. The iconic Jukebox of the 1950s diner and eventually the iPod.

Restaurants are trickier. I really am not sure when music started to become as ubiquitous as it currently is, as background music for dining. I tend to think, rather recently.

All the same, here we are, and restaurants, along with bars, are very nearly required, unless they are very, very fancy, to have some sort of background music for dining.

The Playlist Dilemma

Lately, I have almost become more obsessed with creating the ultimate playlist for our restaurant, than I have with cocktail recipes.

Some points:

  1. Almost all restaurants (and bars) have some sort of background music.
  2. The music has two audiences, primarily those who dine in the restaurant, but also those who work in the restaurant.

To the first point, the selection of music is important for the mood and feel of the restaurant. The management typically makes the call on what sort of music they want to hear in their restaurant.

A lot of restaurants these days are choosing to leave this choice to services like Muzak or Pandora.

As a music nerd, I prefer, and hope, that someone in the restaurant has enough vested interest that they have gone to the trouble to choose the music. One of my pet peeves is when you hear an awesome song in a restaurant, ask a server what it is, and they say, “I dunno, it’s the Morrisey Pandora Station.”

Or even worse, when you hear an awful song you never wanted to hear again in your life, and they say, “Eh, it’s the Flock of Seagulls Pandora Station, sorry about that.”

The question is, “How do you please the management, the staff, and the customers?”