Being an Englishman away from home has its disadvantages: Ersatz dens filled with diminutive, beer-stained New Yorkers in Manchester United shirts are no replacement for the real McCoy. I grab two motherland chums, click my ruby slippers three times, and venture across the hinterland in search of the holy trinity of British pubs.
To experience the quintessence of indigestible English home brew, try MANCHESTER PUB (920 Second Avenue, 935-8901). After ordering an oak-hued ESB, then Double Diamond Bitter (both $5.50 a pint), it is with rheumy vision that I take in the decor of my new paramour: Dog-eared Carlsberg bunting maintains the illusion of a green and pleasant land, and a pristine cricket bat complements the ambitious selection of spirits and draft ales. Even a Liverpool football shirt from bygone days adorns the ceiling. My Anglophilic reverie is soon broken by Alanis Morissette’s seizure of the stereo (to the delight of a cackling coven of lasses out on the tiles) and a Michigan-brewed Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout ($5.50), with a consistency of gravy. So after a couple more pints that hit the mark, we pass on the possibility of fish-and-chips and depart with a valediction from Michael, the Gaelic wit behind the bar. “You’re well behaved. You have my permission to come back.”
Dutch courage aside, the exodus several hundred miles north to bonny Scotland is weathered well. We need little time to rest our legs before sampling the sumptuous selections of scotch at ST. ANDREWS PUB (120 West 44th Street, 840-8413). Although prices are steep ($8.50 per two ounces), patrons from Connecticut to Craigellachie testify to the quality of poisons on offer. Urged on by a vagrant Celt, we sample a beechy Tobermory Isle of Mull and a Macallan single malt ($4.75 per one ounce of each) half our age. The catalyzing effect of a splash of water in the drink pacifies our angry throats. Finishing up with a briny Bowmore Dusk from the expansive menu (over 100 whiskeys and counting), I muscle past middle-aged connoisseurs and hug a wall decked out like a Highland golf club toward the exit. A kilted barman attempting to lift his charges—another trio of floored satisfied customers—does not impede my progress.
Our last stop is MOLLY’S PUB AND SHEBEEN (287 Third Avenue, 889-3361). New York is not without choice when picking a perch on which to sample a satisfyingly shamrock-topped Guinness outside Dublin, but few are surrounded by sawdust-coated floorboards and an invitingly coked-up hearth like Molly’s. I order high-content potato vodkas ($5.50) all round and a couple of unadventurous gin-and-tonics ($5.50), failing to cross a pitch-black cellar filled with authentic accents without stumbling over a clapping banshee (more soft rock pollutes the airwaves). Here one can order a selection of Irish foods, whether it be shepherd’s pie or corn beef and cabbage ($14.95 each). My colleagues opt for Woodpecker cider ($5) as I slip into a tone-deaf rendition of “Cockles and Mussels,” oscillate like a reed in the breeze, my beating soul now residing at the bottom of a glass, and proudly declare my favourite proverb as we leave: Home, it seems, is where the heart is.