Review #7 – The Bear, Camberwell

The Bear, SE5 (website, map, Twitter)

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(photo by EwanM)

Quiz starts 8:30 – sharp! £2 per person entry. Two round of twenty questions. First half general knowledge, second half ten questions of a given topic, ten songs to identify. First prize the entire pot (brownie points for this, The Bear!) second prize a bottle of wine, plus a round of drinks for best team name.

Result: Second place out of around 11 teams. A bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc was ours to take home!

First, I have to put this out there. The Bear is probably the most expensive pub in Camberwell. I believe for those in the know, it’s reasonably popular as an up-and-coming gastro-pub (and the menu looked quite nice), so that’s probably why. But just as a teaser, a sign advertising their Happy Hour had a large glass of wine at £4.75. In Happy Hour. Maybe I don’t drink wine that often, or maybe I’ve been confused by my recent trip up north, but if someone charged me that for a glass of wine I wouldn’t think that this price was specially come up with to make me happy.

Their quiz entry fee is also at the high end of the price spectrum at £2 per team member, BUT they absolutely get away with this because the entire pot goes to the winning team. That’s right: no cut, no “Play Your Cards Right” round, no round of drinks or bar credit, just lovely money. The money that the people you beat worked hard for. Feels good, doesn’t it?

The first 20 General Knowledge questions were fine – a nice mix of difficulty and a few current affairs questions thrown in. There were a few multi-parters – for example the quizmaster gave four large sporting events (e.g. World Cup 1990, 1980 Olympic Games) and we had to name the country they were held in.

The specialist round of ten questions in the second half were on the subject of spies and codes – fun and not too hard. On a previous visit the topic was European politics. Good subject choices as they were not as general as, say, films or history, but not so restrictive that a person without a specific sector of knowledge wouldn’t be able to have a go.

On to the music round. A friend who goes regularly had complained that the music round was very hard (clearly one of the teams agreed with him, giving #IMPOSSIBLEMUSICROUND as their team name) but while it was challenging, it was achievable. We got about 6/10 and the artists ranged from Gustav Holst and The Beach Boys to Arrested Development and LMFAO.

The USP of the quiz is that there is a leaderboard. Over a twelve week period, teams are awarded points for their place in the final scores with 12 for the winners and 10 for second place, 9 for 3rd etc. At the end, the team with the highest cumulative score wins a free meal in the pub. Not only is this a great way for the pub to encourage repeat visits and loyal punters, it fosters a healthy competitiveness and hopefully builds a community among the quizzers of Camberwell.

My main criticism of the quiz is one that could be pretty easily remedied – the quizmaster does not have a microphone. He does a good job of projecting but the pub has two rooms and if it is busy (which it was on this particular evening,) he has to go between both, repeating the questions and answers which slightly breaks up the flow.

However, the quizmaster is very helpful and friendly (he will give a clue for one question to each team over the evening), does a good job with the questions despite his lack of amplification. It’s a good solid quiz, and I’d give it 3.5 stars and my hearty recommendation.

Positives: Lovely pub, friendly staff, good level of difficulty, excellent prizes.

Negatives: Pricey, lack of PA, no picture round (I love picture rounds.)

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Review #1: The Phoenix, Denmark Hill

The Phoenix, Denmark Hill (website, map).

Quiz starts 7:45 for 8. £2 per person entry. Two rounds of twenty pot luck questions, interspersed with music questions. A picture sheet given out at half time and some second round questions refer to it. Bonus rounds for spot prize of free drinks. First prize was cash if team chose to gamble, second prize was a bottle of nice cider.

Result: 2nd place.

My haul: Bottle of Aspall’s “Curee Chevallier English Cyder.”

I thought I’d kick off with the quiz nearest to my flat, at The Phoenix, the pub in Denmark Hill rail station. It’s a nice place, especially considering what pubs in train stations are usually like. Ever been to The Mash Tun in Victoria? I’m shuddering just thinking about it. I’ve visited before a few times and enjoyed the the now-standard slightly fancy quasi-gastro-pub fare of risottos and smoked trout salads and steaks frites. They offer three courses for £13 or two for £10, which is pretty reasonable.

For the first time ever, I quizzed solo tonight. Because, as I have discovered, I am the sort of person who wants to spend a night out essentially doing an exam. Doing an exam and then going home and blogging about it.* There were only four teams, and I was proud to come second by only one point.

The quiz at the Phoenix is run by a man called Simon from Let’s Get Started (@LondonPubQuiz,) a company who appear to run quizzes at pubs all over London, and supply quizzes for charity and corporate events. I do tend to be a little suspicious of quizzes provided by a central company, having attended one in my home town where the quizmaster may as well have been a robot, rattling off fifty questions in a monotone. However, Simon was great. He was very friendly, introducing himself to me at the start, asking for my name (a nice touch) and checking in regularly to offer to repeat questions and offer encouragement. He had the vibe of a beloved English teacher, and really made a loser like me at a quiz on her own feel very welcome.

The quiz consisted of two halves of twenty questions each. Both halves were a good mix of general knowledge questions, ranging from the very easy (What shape is the President of the USA’s office? SPOILER ALERT – It’s oval) to the harder and more interesting (Which three elements make up the majority of the Earth’s mass? Oxygen, silicon and aluminum.)

Each half ended with a few music questions; the first round had three pop songs from consecutive decades with a point each for naming the band and the song, and the second had one song from a musical and one from an opera.

The second half featured more general knowledge interspersed with questions related to a picture handout, which included an anagram, a distorted picture of a celebrity, and a number puzzle.

At various points throughout the quiz, members from different teams were called up to do a head-to-head Play Your Cards Right round. Two players were given a card and had to guess higher or lower, with the player guessing correct answers for the longest winning a free drink. I won a free drink. It was great.

While I haven’t yet decided on a rating system, if I had one I’d give the Phoenix’s quiz a solid 3/5. The questions were not especially original or creative, though they had a good level of difficulty throughout, and there were a few “ooh, I didn’t know that” moments. The thing that really elevated the quiz above other fairly generic quizzes was the friendly and helpful quizmaster. Not only was he pleasant, he was efficient without rushing. The quiz was over by 10pm, even though he’d spent plenty of time with each team making sure everyone had heard every question. Go Simon!

Positives: Straighforward, great quizmaster, short and tight.

Negatives: Very convoluted-sounding gambling game for winning team to get prize money, sparse attendance (probably because it was Shrove Tuesday and everyone was at home cramming pancakes into their mouths).

*Well, I quizzed solo for the first half (and was coming second by one point) before I bumped into two friends who joined me for the second half, and helped a little bit with a picture and an opera question.