385 Holloway Road, Islington, London
I came across the Big Red many moons ago, while I was still a student. It was first known to me as the bar underneath the London Met Student Accommodation. I used to meet friends there for burgers and afternoon pints after class but a few years later, this pub became one of my regular hangouts.
Located in Holloway Road near the HM Prison, some may think that this pub looks like a strip club from the outside, however, this is not the case. The Big Red is one of the better known rock bars in North London, with a vast amount of loyal barflies and bikers. I am always overwhelmed with how dark the bar is on the inside. Even though there are massive windows at the front, the blacked out walls and candlelight make the bar feel like it is always the evening – even if it’s 2pm.
The bar staff, although friendly, seem a bit miserable but who could blame them? I’d be depressed if I had to work with an all-female-staff all night. I suppose this is a feature that makes the bar different. Another unique quality of this bar is their jukebox, playing music from Iron Maiden, Metallica and Guns n’ Roses to name a few. Not the best jukebox around but still great to see one. You also often have DJ nights and rock bands playing which will either have you dancing on their leather booths or dismissively playing some pool.
The whole bar is decorated with American-style posters, pictures of half naked ladies and pinball machines. At the centre, you will find the bar counter with 4 different access points, all of which are hard to penetrate on any weekend evening. I head to the back as it tends to be quieter and get myself a cider. I never remember the price of the drinks, I just know that I give a £5 and I get some change back – works for me! Beside your typical variety of ciders, beers and spirits, the Big Red have a big list of shots; from ‘Redheaded Slut’ to ‘Blow Job’. They all sound like they’re named by an ageing pervert. I no doubt think that some men would get their cheap thrills when asking the bartenders for a shot to be met with an even icier glare than before. But other than this, the usual bog-standard beers are on display with a few well-known beers like Budweiser and Blue Moon.
It is easy to lose track of time seeing as it’s always evening inside, and on this occasion I find myself getting drunk too quickly. I grab the menu and fall into a drunk food heaven. An American-style menu full of Brisket Burgers, jumbo hot dogs and mac and cheese balls stares back at me. All the best kinds of foods to soak up a stomach full of alcohol – cider, whiskey and some tequilas who gatecrashed the party. With too much to choose from I finally settle on the mac and cheese balls. They are sensational. I do wonder though how they manage to get this soggy pasta dish into a breadcrumb scrotum… hmm.
Another feature and iconic part of this bar that you just can’t miss are the eternally blocked female toilets. As the night continues they just keep getting worse and worse, until you are squatting over an overflowing toilet. By far, the most memorable time I’ve had was using the male toilets due to a major blockage in the ladies one. As I look inside the toilet bowl I am met by a pint glass with a massive dump inside. It begs to ask, did someone shit into the pint glass or was it a well aimed shit?
The Big Red is more than just a pub for many people. For some it’s an extension to their living room, for others a place to regularly come see live music and live acts. Whether its scantily clad ladies, fire breathing or local bands, there’s always something exciting to make you glad you’ve made the journey.