43 St John’s Hill, London SW11 1TT
London is a great place for pubs and rock venues, however, they all seem to be concentrated around North/Central London exclusively. South London, is mostly filled with traditional pubs, lounges, and a few ‘hipster’ and ‘alternative’ bars popping around the up and coming Clapham area. But there is one place, besides Half Moon, which tries to keep rock ‘n’ roll alive down south and that is Project Orange.
As I walk in, I realise I have been here before- ages ago after a Clutch gig on a dead Sunday. Today, is a Thursday and it is still relatively empty. The owner Mark explains that the pub gets busy at random and unexpected times. Let’s put a positive spin on this: no queues, plenty of seats to choose from and I can actually hear the conversations I am having.
The bar is very dark, lit with candles, fairy lights and decorated with graffiti on the walls. Dressed up mannequins are scattered around the pub. Why? Because, why not? By far the biggest attraction in the bar for me are the massive skulls filled with decadent liquids but I will tell you more about them later… Near the entrance there is a couch and a massive Lemmy painting on the wall, done voluntarily by one of the staff members in tribute to Lemmy. I have to say it is pretty impressive, so much I would like to commission one for my own room. The rest of the bar has wooden seats, chairs and a projector screen playing live footage of Skid Row. To one side of the bar there are some stairs taking you to the downstairs area. This was once used for live gigs, but is now a place to relax, play some pool or with the pinball machine, away from the upstairs noise.
After walking around I decide to kick off with some beers and I ask, Mark, what he suggests. He is a big advocate of supporting local and independent breweries and shows me a few of them. I am really impressed with his passion to offer something new and different. However, I am intrigued with the pale ale with a grenade logo on tap and I decided to go for a Fubar. I find this pale ale to be very refreshing and tasty but nothing out of the ordinary. I am looking for something different tonight so I focus on the Cave Creek Chili Beer I am tempted into trying. It tastes exactly how I imagined it would- a mild beer (like a Corona) with a chili kick which only hits after it goes down your throat – important to point out there is an actual chili inside. Needless to say I love it, I wouldn’t have said this 8 years ago but I have learned to love my spicy. I thought that was the last of the chili’s this evening, but I’m wrong- there is a lot of more chili going around here.
Remember the massive skulls I mentioned previously? It’s time to try some of those vodka based concoctions, some of which are named Satan’s Love Child, The Terminator and Blood Thirst. I am a bit worried about what I am am about to drink but I’m assured no one has ever died. First one up, Satan’s Love Child. With that name I expect more chilli and I’m right, a chilli and raspberry liquor combination. It’s surprisingly pleasant, the sweetness of the raspberry tones down the intensity and spice of chilli. Although not my favourite shot it beats the likes of old timer Jägermeister. One done, and so far so good but nothing could prepare me for the arrival of Blood Thirst. I almost struggle to explain this shot, its a combination of what looked like a Bloody Mary, random leftover spices you would find in someone’s kitchen and chilli. This is a bit of an explosion in my stomach. I feel the chilli travel all the way through my mouth, down my throat, into the opening of my stomach and then disperse into my body. Advice, don’t do this one on a full stomach… but perhaps not an on an empty stomach either. You’ve been warned.
While the booze goes down well, the music doesn’t at first. I feel I am being taken for a walk down memory lane against my will; Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Audioslave and some others that are better left in the past. But after an hour or so, either the booze is kicking in or am I hearing some Dead Kennedys, Kyuss and Black Sabbath in the mix? No, they are being played, and speaking to the owner he tells us it is really up to the bar staff to play what they want- anything rock is accepted. They take requests and I am shown to this long black strip on one of the walls across from the bar, with a chalkboard. People can write down what they want the bar to play as a sort of playlist.
After a few hours drinking and having a great time speaking with the lovely bar staff it is time to head back north. Living so far away from Clapham Junction, I quite honestly don’t see myself making the trek of a tube and a train just to come down here very often. Having said that, if I am ever nearby the area I will surely make a detour for a drink or 5 . It is a very unique and different bar so I would definitively recommend you check it out if you are in the area and try out some of the vodka skull shots.