Of course London has dive bars. Why wouldn’t it? You can’t be an ‘international city’ catering to the every whim of some 9 million inhabitants without providing such a necessity. For there are some times when only a dark, dank, sticky-floored venue with a range of 241 drinks deals will do. If those times strike you somewhere in Shoreditch (and statistically that seems likely), then it’s probably Monty’s that you’re looking for. Where else would you find a redheaded cowgirl reincarnation of Nancy from Oliver Twist sharing a San Miguel? In a denim corset and flower-studded petticoat? Where else would she be surrounded by young men with bum bags slung across their shoulders who flit around her, call her darling and continue starting the same drinking game long after any real interest has dwindled? Yes, it smells like a strange mix of diesel and kebabs, and later chips and cigarette smoke, thanks to the large windows open to the street, and yes, if you order two Mojitos there’s a 50:50 chance one won’t have any lime in it, and your Margarita seems to have been rimmed with icing sugar, but you’re getting two ‘cocktails’ for £15 or two beers for £7 and it’s open til 4am. There are stickers on every surface; all life is here. Artists and pissants; bankers and lawyers; white men with corn rows. If you’re lucky some khaki clad protesters will slouch in – placards still in hand – and slump on a low sofa beside you. Chances are that an ambulance will pass at some point and bathe everyone in a tense blue light, but Sam, on the door, knows your name and greets you like the old friend you are. The neon of Simmons across the street shines like a beacon to another option. But why would you choose the sanitised, styled aura of a faux dive when you could have the real thing? (149 Brick Lane, @montysbar). Read more Bar Tabs here.
26 September 2023 / Bar Reviews