Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
The Queen’s Jubilee: Banger Celebration!
This being Jubilee Week for the Brits, I just had to pop in to The Princess pub on India Street in Little Italy...
Yes, Carla – I swear, she loves everything British - had me watching the Thames River Pageant for Her Maj on BBC America. Four hours! Sooo English. Like that poor London Symphony choir belting out “Rule Britannia!” from the top of their barge while the rain pelted down on them… “Britannia rules the waves…” water sluicing off their hair... . So you had to love The Sun’s headlines yesterday mawnin’, “Drip Drip Hooray!” And “Long to Rain Over Us…” And “Brolly Good Show…”
Guess the million people who turned out figured if the queen could put up with them for sixty years, they could put up with her in the rain for six hours.
I was thinking about all this as I crossed Date last night, heading down India (and I always thought it was kind of a laugh that The Princess, an English pub, sits on India Street in Little Italy), when thar she blows! The Princess in all her splotched yellow glory, still open at ten, and with a sandwich board outside advertising a “Queen’s Jubilee Menu.”
It includes a Coronation Chicken for $12.95, Scotch eggs for $6.95, and Pimms Cup Royale, or Dubonnet and Gin for $6.50.
Before I know it, I’m sitting up to the bar, and Gar the barman is telling me yes, they do still serve food. But first, he wants to know about drinks.
’Course I should go for the Pimms Cup Royale, whatever that is. But actually, I feel like a beer after this Hard Day’s Night. Think of that song ’cause The Beatles are singing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
Place does actually feel really English. Brick walls, clocks showing San Diego and Greenwich Mean Time...
...Winston Churchill beaming out from his portrait between two English language students, Akane from Japan and Priscila from Spain...
...a fireplace where customers kinda cozy up, a big portrait of Princess Di, and Union Jack flags all over the place.
So I try to get in the spirit.
“What sweetish, malty English beers do you have?” I ask Gar.
“Newcastle Brown,” he says. “Or Boddington’s.”
He gives me samples. They’re nice, malty, six bucks each. But then I see him pouring something, like black, from a tap, for another customer. “Green Flash Double Stout Black Ale,” he says. “Seven dollars. But it’s 8.8 percent alcohol.”
Well, heck, we are celebrating Her Majesty…I get one. Take a slurp. Oh man. Chocolate, malt, a meal in itself. But still, I need something solid. Check the menu.
I almost go for the Scotch eggs, until I spot the “Banger on a Roll,” in the “Pub Lite Fayre” section. “English pork sausage on a French roll, with grilled onions and Coleman’s English mustard,” it says. Costs $5.95.
Deal. I settle back and wait. And guess what? Becca the barmaid brings it...
...and says yes, this really is an English sausage, and the little pot of mustard really is English mustard.
Meaning watch out. But I upend it over the sausage, with its grilled onions and tomato. Whoo-hoo. Some like it hot? I never thought the English could be so brutal…
Have to say, the “banger” is delicious, and big enough, and the mustard makes that stout necessary like a fire engine. (Seems English sausages are called “bangers” because during World War II, when they were made with water to fill them out, they could explode if you cooked them at too high a temperature.)
Actually, it’s a great li’l meal. I raise my glass, yell out. “Everybody! Stand and let’s salute Good Queen Bess! Even though her great great great granddaddy was George III…”
Actually I don’t. But I feel like it.
Instead, I sit back and listen to Eric Clapton singing Layla, and laugh out loud, thinking about those poor wet singers. It’s what you have to love about the English.
*BTW: If you're a little strapped, a good English custom lives on here: They always have pickled boiled eggs in a jar for $2. That plus a beer and you're outa here for $8.
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