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.

Advertisements

Review #7 – The Bear, Camberwell

The Bear, SE5 (website, map, Twitter)

Image

(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.)

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