Great pub toilets of Britain: The Museum Tavern

Monday 9 January 2006

As its name suggests, it is close to the British Museum: right opposite the entrance gates, in fact. This is a strange corner of town where mass tourism meets high culture, where hotdog stands and souvenir shitshacks rub shoulders with antiquarian booksellers (and the London Review of Books bookshop, monthly mecca for sesquipedalian swingers). Surprisingly for its location, the Museum Tavern has not been turned into a horrid family-friendly tourist trap, and remains a pleasantly shabby and subdued pub that serves a nice pint of Young’s Bitter.
As you might expect, this is one of those parts of London where most people you see are foreigners – mostly, the place seems to be a refuge for unnervingly quiet and knowledgeable Americans (no, not Canadians!) that you knew must have existed somewhere but could never seem to find abroad.
This is the place where Karl Marx would frequently spell himself between sessions across the street at the Museum’s reading room researching his Grundrisse, but you won’t find any memorabilia lining the walls, nor any slot machines, t-shirts or mugs for sale. More of that sort of thing can be found at a smaller pub further down the block that foists draught pints of XXXX on hapless newcomers.
Typically, the toilets have been dug into the basement. The condom machine has been vandalised in a strangely religious fervour (visiting catholics from across the channel, or do those quiet Americans have a dark side?) Best of all is the strategically-placed sign for slightly confused men weaving their way out of the gents, “Why not impress her with a…. BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE.” A canny example of consumer capitalism at work.