I’m thinking back to when I first started living in London. Mum had moved to Chelsea after divorcing dad. She was just down the road and I was at boarding school in North London. I lived with her in the holidays and started to make friends in this town. I actually can’t remember how I met my Earl’s Court friend. At the time we were probably about 18. We were both trying to find a start, working as character models and so forth, making sense of the industry, occasionally booking an advert. I think we met through church. This was before I trained, when I still had an uncomplicated faith. She was a couple of years older than me and renting a room off Lottie, a lovely eccentric older lady living in the area. We became close, my Earls Court friend and I. I even briefly dated her best friend.
The upshot was that Earls Court started to be my London playzone. This was in the nineties. It was pretty fun and run down and cheap and lively. The Coleherne on Old Brompton Road was providing colour, but we were too straight. We preferred The Troubador. Good coffee in the daytime and good wine at night, with live music or comedy downstairs. They weren’t particularly fussy, so various friends of ours went through there with their bands. I remember a stand-up derailing his whole act in order to pile into a persistent drunk “performance artist” heckler. I remember lots of nights seeing lots of bands and drinking lots of wine and having lots of fun. I can’t remember going home. The front door is wood and carved with murals. The interior is haphazard. There’s a run down garden. It doesn’t feel curated. The waiting staff are a bit stoned. I used to love it.
Then later, after I trained, it was conveniently walkable from The Finborough Theatre, where lots of new actors take short jobs in the hope of being seen. It was still much the same as my teenage haunt. There was almost always something wrong with the pub below the Finborough back then, so The Troubador became the meeting place pre show for coffee and post show for wine. I’d be there with friends until it closed. I remember one time there was a frog in the show and it briefly escaped and climbed up a mirrored wall.
The Finborough hasn’t really been on my radar the last few years though, and my Earls Court friend moved out of that flat a long time ago, so I haven’t been to The Troubadour for ages. Then one day in lockdown I went for a walk through Brompton Cemetery, and noticed in passing that the builders were in and the front room was gutted. I was upset. I figured that was the end for The Troubador. Somebody was turning it into flats, I figured. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.
Not so! I went there tonight. I met a new friend. He had merlot and I had pinot noir and it was lovely. There were strangely dressed young people at the table next to us who were so unbelievably drunk that they almost fell over onto us multiple times when they tried to leave. One of them put her face right into my friends face and slurred out a simple Anglo Saxon insult. I remembered being those drunk kids, and was perfectly happy being the older version.
I left this evening still half sober. Unheard of. I suspect it’s the first time I’ve ever remembered my journey home.
I guess this is a pub recommendation. If you’re ever in the Earls Court area, head to Old Brompton Road and look for that carved wooden door. It’s got history. I’m glad it wasn’t turned into flats during lockdown. Coffee in the daytime. Good wine in the evening. Arty things, frequently, and a chance for you to cut your performative teeth. It’s a bit more neurotic than it used to be post covid, but the waiters are still probably stoned, the quality is still definitely good, and it doesn’t feel like it’s just another arm of a faceless chain.