Whatever your views on the different political parties, it’s difficult to argue in favour of local party offices. In the best case scenario, they’re grey, crumbling buildings populated by a mix of the elderly and people in their early twenties who look, speak, and smell like someone at least twenty years older.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In the case of this Lambeth Conservative club, for instance, they had the much better idea of turning the building into a pub instead. Now, while the building is still a little on the crumbly side, it’s far from grey and dull. A portrait of the queen may look down on you as you walk inside and rosettes may decorate the walls, but once inside properly you’ll be met with a well-stocked bar, the sounds of happy locals drinking and chatting, and a warm welcome.
A young girl and her dad have teamed up to take on the Star Wars themed pinball machine next to the bar. There’s a dog sitting up on a chair with its owners as if it’s taking part in the same conversation. The bar staff are painting the date for the next “improv jam” on a chalk board by the door. Everything here seems a little bit weird, but in a very nice way.
The Social is part of the Antic Group, tying it to local London brewery Volden. The downside of this is that the real ale selection is, on a weeknight at least, limited. The upside is that a pint of Volden Ale will only set you back £3.30, a price I’d all but lost hope of ever seeing again within the M25. They also have a couple of Brixton Brewery craft beers on draft and a decent selection of cans.
The events schedule is bursting, with the aforementioned improv nights, pub quizzes, DJ sessions, and the occasional stand up comedy act gracing the stage where men with impressively large whiskers would once have argued the virtues of the Corn Laws. But even when there’s nothing planned for the evening, there always seems to be a bustling crowd of people just catching up over a pint after a long day at work – in the outdoor seating area at the front when the weather’s good, inside if not.
Perhaps it’s because I’m used to the cold, clinical nature of central London pubs, but the one thing I find especially charming about the Social is that it really is social. Every time I visit the bar staff stop me for a chat, or someone on the next table over sees me writing and wants to know what’s up. Perhaps this is normal for pubs outside big cities, but for somewhere in Zone 2 of London it’s like striking gold.
The Effra Social is a lovely place to go for a few pints to wind down after a long day. The beer selection isn’t as extensive as I’d like, but it makes up for with a cheap, reliable session ale and a big heart. Perhaps the UK would be a nicer place to live if we had fewer political party offices and more pubs.