“David, what’s a Desi Pub?” I suspect that if you have not visited one or not already bought a copy of this fascinating book, this is probably the first question on your mind. Actually, I had a slight advantage because beer writer Will Hawkes started to preview the book in his topical monthly e-newsletter, London Beer City. What I read was a real eye-opener and I hope, if you buy this book, your eyes will be opened too. I can think of no one better to explore the idea of a Desi pub than the author, David Jesudason. David is a British-Asian journalist; his father is of Indian origin, born in Singapore, his mother was born in Malaysia and David grew up in Dunstable. To take a short definition from David, Desi stands for “British-Asian cultural hybridity that has evolved into a modern-day celebration of multiculturalism”.
For keen pub goers, hopefully having a strong liking for food from Asia with a British twist, and of a type which you may never have come across in your local curry house, this book is an insight into what pubs to visit. Some 50 Desi pubs are reviewed, from all across the UK. One of the problems with pub guides is that purchasers often tend to quickly skim over the opening introductions and head straight to the pub listing to see if they can find their favourite or a pub to visit near where they live. Please do not do this!
You have to read the opening pages to fully understand where these pubs come from. It covers the difficult times that made them necessary for a minority group (dealing with prejudice, colour bars and segregation), the types of food that can be found and how the pubs have adapted to today’s circumstances, such as the opening of the Indian Brewery in Snow Hill, Birmingham. Your time getting to grips with the history behind Desi pubs will be well invested. If London is your home, you can then go ahead and read about the 16 London pubs listed, although you should be aware that most of these can be found in my patch: North London.
David considers that the first Desi pub dates back to 1962 in Leicester (the Durham Ox) and, in my opinion, long may they survive and prosper (thank you Mr Spock). I would encourage you to invest in a copy of this book and visit some of the pubs. Don’t however get hung up on the fact that, with some exceptions, they don’t have a range that would excite real ale or craft beer lovers. Too much news these days is doom and gloom, so let me finish with these words from David, “Desi pubs show what we can achieve when we take on prejudice and fuse the best of two cultures; in this case British & Indian. They also illustrate how we can then successfully, and with little conflict, navigate a post racism world.”
The book is published by CAMRA Books and copies can be bought on-line at https://shop1.camra.org.uk/ at £14.99 plus delivery (£12.99 for CAMRA Members).
To subscribe to London Beer City, contact Will at email@example.com.
Des de Moor, author of Cask, hosts autumn tastings
Des de Moor, award winning Deptford based beer writer and renowned tasting host, is out and about this autumn hosting tutored tastings, talks and signings to celebrate the publication of his ground breaking and comprehensive new book, Cask: The real story of Britain’s unique beer culture, which introduces the delights of cask beer to a new generation. Des will be at Moor Beer Vaults in Bermondsey on 5 October, hosting a tasting with owner Justin Hawke, followed by a relaxed Sunday afternoon tasting on 8 October at Morocco Bound, Bermondsey’s unique craft beer and bookshop. On 20 October he will be hosting a tasting at the renowned Holborn heritage pub and cask specialist, the Olde Mitre. On 8 November he is at the western end of the Elizabeth Line, at the Nags Head, Reading, co-hosting with Siren brewery. This is followed by another relaxed Sunday afternoon session on the Blackhorse Mile on 19 November at the Beerblefish taproom. Des will also be at the ever popular Pig’s Ear Beer and Cider Festival, organised by CAMRA’s East London & City branch, in Hackney. Signing times are yet to be confirmed.
Tickets are required for some of these events. You can find details at desdemoor.co.uk/cask or check with the venues. Copies of the book can also be ordered from the publishers, CAMRA Books, at https://shop1.camra.org.uk/.