UPDATE 2019: Earl Haig Hall has now closed. Antic sold it on, it is now boarded up and its future is under review. Latest plans are for the building to become a children’s nursery. I will keep this post here as a memory of what was a much-needed and loved community bar/restaurant and venue for music. It is much missed.
How timely for Crouch End is the reopening of the Earl Haig Hall, the former British Legion meeting place, now in new hands and revitalised as a social club. The north London area has been sorely in need of a fun, all-embracing community venue. A peek at the club’s message board points to a diverse range of activities already in situ: yoga sessions, parent and baby meets, art classes and ‘Stylus Stories’ nights, which offer an opportunity to bring along your much-treasured vinyl and share with everyone just what makes a particular song so special (more about them in Vinyl Memories Released).
Indeed, music is forming a major part of the Earl Haig’s raison d’être, from regular Thursday swing and jive evenings to Friday and Saturday nights which have a looser agenda, they may feature anything from bands to DJ nights to themed parties. Price will hardly be an issue – Earl Haig manager Adam intends to keep music evenings either free or with a nominal charge, maybe around the £5 mark. So far in four visits, I’ve seen two bands, several DJs and danced – badly – at a swing night.
The Earl Haig is a classic British Legion building which closed its doors around two years ago. It was spotted by pub developers Antic, who eventually reopened it towards the end of 2013, and in a stroke of genius, left the interior almost as it was, gently coaxing the space into something more workable instead of sledgehammering it into some hard-edged poseur palace.
Best described as sublimely retro, the spacious room is a pleasingly cohesive jumble from the 50s, 60s and 70s, with more than a touch of Dad’s Army – polished wood, Formica, saggy armchairs, Union Jack flags and sunburst clocks. Scruffy mismatched tables and chairs dot the room; the stage at the side looks dressed as the set for a 50s play, with its frilly standard lamp and old sofas.
Part of the club’s agenda is to offer good food. Plans are afoot to eventually move the dining side of things to an adjacent room, but for now meals are served in the main hall, which suited us just fine on the night we ate there, as it meant we could watch the band while we ate. We were there the week the kitchen opened and it seemed operations were running smoothly; the menu is fairly standard gastropub in style but with the added bonus of top quality ingredients, such as our Burgers with Fat Chips, juicy steak mince marinated in Redemption beer with freshly cooked chips, no stinting on quantity either. We ordered a bottle of Vina San Esteban Cabernet Sauvignon, £14.75. There are local beers on offer too, next time I’ll be sampling Beast of the Deep, 6.5%, purely on the basis of its appealing name. There are now Host Your Own Roast evenings too.
Last Friday night’s line-up was the Hallelujah Trails and One-Eyed Wayne, with Xfm’s cool looking Liam Young DJing. Local act Hallelujah Trails feature beautiful, plaintive harmonies and a honeyed country sound; their version of Jackson is a standout track. Bass player Spanner Robinson also sings with Hank Wangford, who makes regular appearances at the Half Moon in Putney.
The second band of the evening was One Eyed Wayne, a group of local Hornsey boys who enthusiastically delivered a fairly punky set with a touch of Pogues, Gypsy Kings and Gogol Bordello all in the mix too.
THE SMALL PRINT
WHO: Halleluhah Trails and One Eyed Wayne
WHEN: Feb 5, 2014
WHERE: Earl Haig Hall, London
TICKETS: Free entry