Review #8 The Grape and Grain, Crystal Palace

The Grape and Grain, SE19 (websitemapTwitter)

(photo by EwanM)

Quiz on Thursdays and starts at 20:00. £1 per person entry. Five rounds. First prize cash – a good chunk of the pot. A piece of pie for the team in last place.

The Grape and Grain is a BIG pub on the crossroads at the top of Anerley Hill. It is a steep hill. If you walk to the pub from Crystal Palace train station you might think you were in San Francisco.

The general vibe is of a friendly, busy local pub. Age skews toward slightly older and the after-work crowd, rather than the ubiquitous South London trendy parents. If you’re into that sort of thing they have an excellent ale selection and dogs are welcome. Anyway. To Quizness.

The quiz is run by the very skilled MC Paul Partridge. Paul manages to be biting, approachable and very efficient all at the same time. I think he is proud of his last name and thus uses the Black Beauty theme music prominently in the quiz.

The first round is twelve current affairs questions – basically, if you read the Metro every day, you’re fine. Round two is another twelve questions, this time general knowledge with some kind of link. The first week I went, the first letters of each answer spelled (in reverse order) the name of a famous person. The second week, each answer began with the last letter of the previous answer. This is a nice device, because the questions were of a reasonable difficulty but if you have a few right, the letters give you a bit of a push towards the others.

After these rounds, there’s a longish break, during which teams are invited to join a game called ‘Hoop the Hooch.’ A bottle of squash is placed on a table. Teams are called up, starting with the lowest scoring, and given three hoops each, which they may distribute among their members as they see fit (ie one person could throw all of them, or three could throw one each yadda yadda.) People must stand at a designated point back from the table and try to hoopla the squash. If they do, they get to exchange it for a bottle of wine. However, once anyone has done it, the game is over. Does that make sense?

I haven’t seen something like this before and thought it was really fun. It’s a good way to keep people entertaining during the ‘going to the bar/for a smoke’ break, and also, because it starts with the teams with the lowest scores means that teams who would never be in with a chance of winning the quiz still might get something to take home.

Next is a film round with a slightly different format. Paul reads out four clues to identify a film. If a team guesses the film correctly after hearing the first clue, they get ten points. If they get it on the second, seven. Five for the third clue and three for the last.  I’ve seen this before but with celebrities. However, Paul’s clues are a bit more guessable, as a few (at least 3) teams usually get it on the first clue.

After the film clues, there’s a table round handed out. I don’t know what to call these types of puzzles, so here’s a couple of examples.

Offer – T F T P O O

Nostalgia – T D M L

Dump – G T O H-H

The letters are the initial letters of a phrase that the first word means. That’s a horrible sentence right there but I can’t work out a better way to express it. Maybe the answers will help. 1. Two for the price of one. 2. Trip down memory land. 3. Give the old heave-ho. Now do you see? These questions really divided our team. As a cryptic crossworder and general fan of word puzzles, I loved them, but they were a real turn off for others. However,  I really think that table round like this are great in quizzes, because they allow a team to sit and talk through the puzzles. Also, if you don’t know the capital of Michigan, you don’t know it – these you can have a really good try at figuring out. It’s Lansing, by the way.

Round Four is a music round. The first time I went it was a mix of answering questions and guessing songs from their intros, and the second time it was intros only. It is not an easy round at all. The rest of the quiz is of a fair difficulty level, but for some reason Paul really steps it up on this one.

The final round is a Wipeout round. If any answer on the sheet is incorrect, the team scores zero for the entire round. This is horrible for a quizzer like me who refuses to hand in a sheet with blank spaces, preferring a wild guest at the very least. It’s also a fun way for lower scoring teams to enjoy gambling, and means there’s a good chance the team who have been winning all the way through may not take home the cash.

Positives – Excellent quizmaster, good timekeeping, puzzle rounds, lovely friendly pub.

Negatives – Struggling to think of them! Not a totally perfect quiz but a very good one! It’s gets a bit busy and short on chairs, and I get the impression the same few teams occupy the top places all the time.

Review #4 – Hoopers, East Dulwich

Hoopers, East Dulwich (website, map)


Photo by Ewan, check out his great album on photos of London pubs on Flickr

Quiz starts 8:45, £1.50 per person entry. Six rounds of around ten questions each including themed picture round given out at beginning. Prizes of £10, £10 and a bottle of wine and £30 and a bottle of champagne for third, second and first place teams respectively. Gag prizes for all other teams.

Result: 5th place, won a copy of a children’s book. (there were two of us, all the teams that beat us had at least four people and winning team had nine. Just saying.)

Since moving to this area about four months ago I had heard a lot of great stuff about Hoopers. Anyone I knew who lived within a couple of miles of the place had tipped me off to its excellent beer selection and general awesomeness, so when my friend Tom drove all the way from Chatham to come to a quiz with me on a Thursday night, I knew it was time to finally pay Hoopers a visit.

We got there far too early: 8 for a quiz that ostensibly started at 8:45 (they never do,) but it was a good way to see what the general atmosphere at the pub was like. When we arrived we had a chat with the Pete the barman, who it transpired was also the quizmaster. He did a great job of bigging up the quiz, but also told us that it was his last night working there.

The quiz consisted of six rounds of ten questions each (except for the music round which was only six songs.) The categories were current affairs, music, picture round, beer, connections (all the answers involved the names of US sports team, eg Which 1995 Michael Mann film featured both Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro? Heat.) Pete ended with a round that he called Examples. I’d come across the type of question before but never a whole round of them, and it worked really well. He would read a list of words or phrases which were all types or names of something and you had to name what they all were. Types of tea, varieties of butterfly and characters from the Tempest all featured.

Pete seemed fond of rounds featuring connections, as the picture round consisted of people whose birthday was the day of the quiz. It was one of the harder picture round I’ve come across, featuring famous faces from Levi Strauss to Jah Rule.

What I particularly liked about the quiz was the variety. There were some very hard questions and no super-easy What is the capital of France type questions. Most involved a bit of thought. It definitely seemed like a quiz that had been written either by the quizmaster or someone from the pub, rather than one just bought from the internet, and I always appreciate that kind of effort.

The main issue that occurred to me during the quiz was that it was very much a locals pub, and a locals quiz. By locals pub I certainly do not mean unfriendly, everyone there from the quizmaster downwards was  very friendly and I had a couple of really nice chats with people who introduced themselves to me during my cigarette breaks. However, everyone seemed to know each other and know the quizmaster, which was both a good thing and a less good one. The camaraderie didn’t quite hit cliqueyness, but was slightly off-putting to a newcomer. However, all the regulars seemed so nice, and I’m sure that if you went there even three or four times, you would become part of the quiz-gang, and that would turn a pretty fun quiz into a really great sociable evening out.

I get the impression that the team who won probably win every week, and when talking to a couple of them afterwards I found out that they always donate all their winnings to St Christopher’s, a hospice based in Penge, so long may they continue winning. They set a great example, as the second and third place teams also donated their prize money. I don’t know if they also donated the bottles of wine and champagne that they won to the terminally ill, but here’s hoping!

The prizes for every team also gave a nice touch to the end of the quiz. We won a copy of Diary of a Wimpy kid, but I also saw teams receiving a box of dog food, a bag of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, and a box of man-sized tissues.

Just a quick note on Hoopers itself – a really friendly old-fashioned backstreet local with an astonishingly good beer selection and the kind of ale card you’d expect to find in a much poncier pub. I really felt like I’d found a gem of a local and even if the quiz doesn’t continue with Pete’s departure, I look forward to going back multiple times just for the drinks and atmosphere.

I’d give the quiz a solid four out of five. Good, varied questions with some quite tricky ones, and fantastic level of enthusiasm from both quizmaster and quizzers.

Positives: Friendly crowd, great and varied questions, good level of difficulty, fun and friendly quizmaster.

Negatives: Felt a bit strange essentially being at the leaving party of someone I didn’t know, didn’t finish until 11:15.

Review #2 The Old Nun’s Head, Nunhead

The Old Nun’s Head, Nunhead (website, map)

Quiz starts 8:30, £2 per person entry. Two rounds of twenty questions divided into themed rounds. A round of five music questions in each half. A picture sheet given out at half time for ten points in the second half. First prize of £25 bar tab, entry fee also gets every player a raffle ticket to participate in ‘Play Your Cards Right’ at the end for a rolling jackpot.

Result: 4th place

I went to the quiz at the Old Nun’s Head with my lovely friends Kate and Mark who live close by. A while ago they’d been burned by a quiz they did in a pub in Haworth, which apparently featured questions like “What is the local dialing code for Haworth?” and “Which motorway links Haworth and Leeds?” so they were hoping for a better experience.  I’m assuming there was probably a round about the life of the man who runs the post office in Haworth. The Old Nun’s Head definitely did a bit better in that respect.

The quizmaster at the Old Nun’s Head was Luke, an actor (check out his showreel here! he’s been on Doctors!) Luke did a good job – his acting training clearly helped him speak loudly and clearly, despite a couple of microphone issues, and he was friendly (though not as friendly as Simon, who really set the bar.) I feel it would be remiss of me to not mention that he is also pretty good looking.

The quiz consisted of two halves of twenty questions, divided into rounds of five questions, except for the picture round which was ten. The rounds in the first half were: Brit Awards anagrams, History, Song Intros and Film Quotes. The second half had Kids’ TV, Music, and the picture round, which was Cartoon Characters.

The questions seemed to have a wildly fluctuating level of difficulty, with the easiest being “Which film featured the line ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’?.” Somewhere in the middle there were nice, slightly tough ones that were possible to get right with an educated guess (“Who was pictured on the first British stamp?” Queen Victoria, btw,) but the Children’s TV round had a couple of real stinkers. One involved knowing the names of individual Moomins. A bit much.

I think the rounds were a reasonable mix but was a bit annoyed that 15 of the 40 questions were about children’s tv/cartoons. Either would be fine but to have both rounds in one quiz was excessive. Also, they were the kind of questions that if I don’t know the answers, I’m annoyed if I’m not getting the points but other than that I don’t really care. If I scored badly in a round about Charles Dickens, or world capitals, it would probably make me think “ooh, that’s interesting, and something I should probably learn more about.” If I can’t answer a question about Worzel Gummidge, I definitely do not have the same reaction. I think a quiz should, to a certain extent, inspire you to learn more exciting things about the world. Worzel Gummidge and Moomins don’t really do that, for me at least.

I did enjoy the anagram round – a real gold star to the quiz compiler for putting it first and thus letting us having something to puzzle over for a while. They were also great puzzles because they weren’t just the names of bands of artists, they were all things Brits-related. For example, one was ‘BARRACK THE TOUGH.’* The great thing about anagram questions is you know you can get the answer if you just put in a bit of time looking at the letters again and again and working it out, and we were delighted to get all five of them eventually!

Going with the five-star rating system, I’d give the Old Nun’s Head a 3/5. I really enjoyed the mix of different types of question (standard, anagram, picture, music), and the quizmaster did a good consistent job.

Postives: Mix of types of questions, very lively, lots of music questions

Negatives: Needed a bit more crowd control as people talked over the questions and music, 15 points on children’s TV was too much, quizzes that advertise a large jackpot that can only be won by winning a long gambling game annoy me a bit.

*Breakthrough Act