Victoria fails

The Willow Walk, Victoria

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Why have Londoners so often razed celebrated parts of their city? Over the ages, they’ve covered up the River Fleet, demolished the Euston Arch, and the only memory of The Willow Walk, a grand tree lined avenue that once ran near Parliament, is the Wetherspoons that bears its name.

Today there is not a tree to be seen, just concrete. We find The Willow Walk in the middle of a building site, behind a cordon. Just trying to cross the road to the pub and navigating its scaffolding is like being in a real life game of Frogger.

The exterior of The Willow Walk Wetherspoons pub, Victoria

Finally making it through the doors, we are excited to discover the Burns’ Week menu still applies. We grab a high table near the bar, and quickly order some Haggis, Neeps n’ Tatties and a Highland Burger, as memorably sampled in Cheshunt a year ago.

While we wait for our food we survey the scene. The Willow Walk is a nondescript ‘Spoons. Long and dark, it is as featureless as Victoria itself. It has nothing that marks it as unique – apart from the clientele, that is.

As well as the usual scattering of old men drinking on their own, the pub seems to attract a gay and countercultural crowd. A quick google confirms that The Willow Walk serves as a waiting room for the Pride nightclub. Albeit a subdued one.

Interior of The Willow Walk Wetherspoons, Victoria

Our food arrives, but where are the six onion rings complementing the Highland Burger? “We are a no-fry Wetherspoons,” explains the manager robotically, as if that adequately explains it. “It’s in the small print.”

She grabs a menu and scans the small print, breaking into a sweat as she realising that it isn’t. We suggest it’s a little bit naughty to advertise that your burger will be accompanied by six onion rings when they know it isn’t.

the bar at The Willow Walk, Victoria

“You should have been told when you ordered. Did he tell you?” and she points a thumb over her shoulder to the barman and wanders off to throttle him. We assume that’s the last we’ll see of her. We finish our non-fried chips, trying to pretend they are onion rings.

But bless. 10 minutes later she reappears brandishing a complimentary bottle of J20 and pint of ale. We leave her pub more inebriated than we had intended, and with better memories than we had expected.

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