Londonist Interviews...Greg Cristal, Pub Obsessive

By M@ Last edited 140 months ago
Londonist Interviews...Greg Cristal, Pub Obsessive

Greg Cristal is on a mission to visit every pub, bar and club in the UK.

Starting in Barnet. Barblog is where he posts his reviews of each establishment; these reviews are full of spelling mistakes so this man is the real deal. Given that London alone has over five thousand pubs, we asked Greg what the Hell he thinks he's doing:

Who are you, Greg Cristal, and what's Barblog all about?

I am a keen cider drinker (on tap, that is – bottles only as a last resort), and my friends and I have been convening in the same two pubs for a good three years. Barblog began one night in my local Wetherspoon's when my friends and I decided that it was incredibly sad to spend every night in the same place so I set myself the challenge simply as a driver to get myself out of the area and exploring the city through its drinking establishments.

You're about to notch up your 500th drinking den. When did it all start?

Strictly my Blog covers every drinking venue I have ever visited in the UK so I started in my late teens. Since starting my Blog it has become more serious since my mission to visit ever Bar Pub and club in the country will require me to visit something like 15 venues a week for the rest of my life to get it done.

Are you going to places randomly, or do you have a plan?

I have several locations round the country where I can stay the weekend and get a smackering of reviews done but my current focus is North London. If you were to plot the places I have been on a map you would find a trail leading right up to my front door. It is definitely going to get harder the more I cover but there is never a shortage in the city and I haven't even touched South London yet.

Why are there so many spelling mistakes in your reviews - is it because you're out of your mind when you write them?

I write my notes in the pub I am in at the time and spend the morning after trying to translate what I've written between the squinting and throbbing of a deserved hangover. Spelling goes out of the window- I hang my head in shame.

What do you think makes a great pub/bar?

Character is the key to a great pub. This means smiles all round (for barmen, customers and observers) and sheer friendliness which is always reflected in even the smallest cubby-hole of a London pub. These are the real gems and before I started this mission I didn't have a clue they even existed. Bars are different, they are trying to attract the trendy-cool party-going crowds and sometimes they can go overboard by bringing in rowdy crowds. A good bar should be good value for money and exciting. Themes are a great way to make a dull bar legendary. For instance Waxy O Conners in Soho is a complex labyrinth of rooms, galleys and bars which makes the evening a package of surprises. Chain-bars never seem to capture the imagination for me but they can surprise you. But I think in London a great bar is any bar you don't have to pay to get into!

Do you have a favourite pub?

Gah! This is the worst question ever. There are good ones in every area and the trick is knowing about them. I would say that the best in Barnet at the moment is 'After Office Hours' a live Jazz cocktail bar on the high street.

Wow, we asked the worst question ever! Do you visit these places yourself or with mates?

I very rarely go alone - maybe 3% of the pubs have been lone ventures. However my friends are begining to get a bit sick of always trying to cram in new places every weekend.

Have you ever been involved in a pub/bar brawl?

No way. I don't believe in violence and I don't hang around with people that do.

Ever been thrown out of a pub/bar?

No. I respect every pub I go into even if it is a dive and I expect if I ever did get thrown out of a place it would be for giving it a bad review.

CAMRA is currently raising awareness about the numbers of pubs (especially in London) that are being bought up by developers and turned into apartments - does this put a rocket up you in terms of having to review these places before they close down?

They say that a pub is opening and shutting down in London alone at the rate of 3 a day. It annoys me that pub heritage is being stamped on by the face of city development and I completely support CAMRA but I am not going to rush around to be at every pub for its closing day - my reviews would be useless to my site visitors if I did since I am doing this to give everyone a better idea of what is out there rather than what has disappeared.

I notice you work in Holborn. Do you get any sneaky lunchtime reviews done round them parts?

There is a wealth of pubs in Holborn, which is great because I think everyone gets sick of Sandwiches n salads. On occasion I'll go to a new one for lunch where I can but I don't drink anything alcoholic in the daytime.

If someone said they'd sponsor you to achieve your goal of reviewing all the pubs in the country, would you give up your job to do it?

No. I love my job. I am looking for sponsorship, but this is something I enjoy doing in my spare time and it is always important to separate work and play.

Is there a Guinness Book of Records section you could enter?

Yes there is! This year a new guy appeared - 48,000 pubs and bars in his lifetime in the UK, I guess this would be the section I am eyeing up.

Sponsor Greg! Or simply follow his mission.

Interview by Paul Ewen, author of London Pub Reviews (Shoes With Rockets)

Illustration by David Le Fleming

Last Updated 25 May 2007