This is a review of the VENUE that is known as the Eel Pie Club in Twickenham
Date of visit- 16th September 2009
Band seen- Leafhound
Admission cost- £10
Number in (Wednesday evening) around 70
Rather like Tropic At Ruislip is a name conjured up with licence, then the Eel Pie Club really is much the same. Locally on the Thames is Eel Pie Island and on there, in the 60's, was a famous club called (you know where this is going!), The Eel Pie Club. The venue it was in has long since burnt down and this music club merely lends itself to the old clubs' name, there being a 30 year gap between the closing of the club on the island and this one opening.
I was sent this quote by the promoters of the (new) venue:-
The Eel Pie Club preserves the heritage of the music that was played on Eel Pie Island. In fact, The Club designed, sponsored and erected a heritage board and bronze plaque on Twickenham Riverside last April, paying tribute to the music and musicians who played at The Island. Many people who played and visited Eel Pie Island come to the Club.
Tropic At Ruislip just artistically alters the name of a famous book of course, Tropic Of Ruislip by Leslie Thomas.
The Eel Pie Club is the name for Wednesday music nights in, or rather above, The Cabbage Patch pub. The pub is situated in London Road, Twickenham, where the nearest landmark is Twickenham Station (leave station cross the road and head left) which is about 400 yards away.
The pub itself is Tudor, or more likely Mock Tudor, and it sits somewhat incongruously near modern shops and offices. It is the proud owner of the smallest pub car park in the world, having just two spaces, but I managed to park free and easily (albeit on yellow lines) in the road up the side of it. My visit was in the evening, I can imagine parking would be difficult during the working day when the yellow lines I was on are "active".
The pub itself is fabulous, having several bars and levels and a great paved and partially covered garden. Real ales were plentiful when I was there, but be warned whilst not extortionate it was not cheap! It is also very large, with seats aplenty. Food was on offer but I did not partake.
There seemed to be no mention of live music anywhere in the bars and I had to ask if I was in the correct place. I was assured I was and was directed to a door tucked away in the corner of one of the bars - with no signs on it to indicate where it lead to. I thought this very odd until I went through it, where it all became obvious as the venue has its own street entrance to the left of the pub, although, again, it is not blindingly obvious even from the street.
The "Eel Pie Club" is held in a large, air conditioned, room above the bar. To access it one first has to club about 20 very steep stairs. Disabled access is therefore a complete no no!! The stairs come out into the room about midway along the bar area.
The room is really quite odd. From the back there is an area where you will find sofas and a large screen TV. Forward of this the bar juts out in the the room from the right leaving a gap along it between the bar and the tables along the left of the room of around six or seven feet, crowded when only a few people are stood there. This area also has the in/out door in it just to add to the crowded feeling. The bar ends after around 20' and the room then opens out where you are then confronted with the stage.....well not really. You see in the back left hand corner is a large lowered area which I assume was constructed as a dance area away from the bar when the place was built, and I guess still used as such, as the venue becomes a "nightclub" on most other days in the week. Anyway, for now it is a stage and of course being so much lower than the floor is no good. So on it a temporary stage is erected, and as this is not high enough a second temporary stage is placed on top of the first. This has the effect of bringing this area more or less level with the main floor. With the stage only being level with the floor and with the layout of the room as it is I can imagine if it gets busy seeing the band could be difficult. You view stood up to a wall about three feet high topped with a brass rail, over what can then best be described as a "moat", to the stage.
(FOOTNOTE - there is a new stage, so the arrangement above is now out of date!)
Beyond this area there were, at the far end beyond the stage, toilets (OK) and adjacent to the end of the bar a coat check which was not manned when I was there, so I just put my coat in there myself.
To the right is a recess which I would guess is more seating in a large alcove, but this was being used as a dressing room by the band with curtains as "doors".
I got the impression that there were a number of regulars in there and that a lot of people knew each other, which made for a friendly relaxed atmosphere, and my only "criticism" of the customers would be that when you were walking to and from the front/back (which you had to do to go in/out of the venue or from say the back to the loos at the front), everyone rather stood their ground and refused to budge. I put it down to being deep in conversation.....The audience was an "older" set, most around 40-(a young) 60.
My over-riding memory of the venue however, will be the horrendous sound quality from the PA. Now this could have been the PA on the night, and other nights it might be different, but on this occasion it was horrible. The drums were un-amplified and every thing else was about as loud as it could go. The bass on two occasions fed back with the hum of a jet engine and the band had to stop and start the number again when it ceased. There was a token gesture of a light show, with some coloured lights within which, on one number toward the end, the one in the very corner flashed.
If you drink real ale there is none served at the upstairs bar, so you have to go down to the main bar, beware of intransient people and steep stairs, and if you want a smoke then the same path needs to be trod. There is a small (seated) smoking area at the front of the pub and a larger one in the garden behind it, meaning smokers are well catered for and kept dry if it rains. Real ale drinkers who smoke have the advantage over everyone else of being able to also have a workout on the stairs every 30 minutes or so.
So, to recap, a room over a great pub which would be fine if you only have to get up the stairs once and are over 6'6" tall so as to see the band, but otherwise, while the quality of the acts that seem to play there is very good, the venue is only average, and I suspect works better as a nightclub.
Review by Philip -