By Andrew Ross
The Drum and Monkey is essentially a classic English-style pub. Dark walls, TVs in the corners, lots of wood, and plenty of footy paraphernalia. There’s beer on tap including the venerable Boddingtons, English food of the stock that’s bred generations of Anglo Saxons (soup, burgers, and shepherd’s pie), and music that doesn’t draw attention to itself. Lord knows you wouldn’t want to take away from television coverage of sporting events.
Perhaps like England itself, it’s nothing to write home about, but above average.
The Bamboo Tiki Lounge–the Drum and Monkey’s conjoined twin–is what really stands out from the crowd. Where Golden Tee and Big Buck Hunter might stand in your average Canadian pub, you’ll find Galaga and an in-table version of Donkey Kong. They’re pure, unadulterated retro goodness for those who are willing to cough up a dollar a play for games which should, by all rights, play for a quarter. But I digress.
The decor lives up to the name: a tiki bar complete with bamboo, surfboards and faux fire tiki torches. It’s retro kitsch alright, but there’s nothing wrong with that. And if it’s tunes you crave, the lounge has live music on Thursdays, and DJs on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
While the selection of on-tap beer was more than adequate, providing one of the few places you’re likely to find an uncarbonated English pint, the food was decidedly, well… English. Our waitress highly recommended the soup, boasting its reputation as the best in Calgary. The goods? Bland at best, albeit filled with chunks of potato capable of use as a soccer ball. Loyal to tradition perhaps, but there’s are more than a few reasons the sun now sets on the British Isles.
In its defense, conversation flowed at the Drum and Monkey, with the music toned down for spirited debate. The soup figured prominently therein.
The kitsch definitively stomps the English pub squarely into the ground, sending shockwaves of irony through soccer hooligans the world over. Drab English decor can’t compete with tiki torches and retro gaming. Tropical kitsch and English mediocrity combined, the Drum and Monkey is as contradictory a bar as you’re likely to find in downtown Calgary.
But, a dollar for Galaga? Seriously now!