80 Columbia Road,
(020) 7739 0250
The ViewLondon Review
This place has a bit of a reputation for karaoke-led hipster hell-raising, and it’s a deserved one. That can certainly make for a fun (and very late) night out, but all the partying has taken its toll on the old pub’s bones.
The exterior, wrapped round a corner, is earthily handsome with its glossy brown and deep emerald green tiles. In fact, it rivals neighbour The Royal Oak in the good looks stakes. But step inside and it's clear that the pub's status as a hub of hardcore hipster revelry has taken its toll. The floor is partly wooden boards, but there’s also a section of non-stick black material, suggesting that there have been just one too many spillages. The walls, meanwhile, are doleful off-white and entirely devoid of ornamentation. The bar itself is a handsome beast: it’s a light wood affair at the centre of the space, with lots of little windows through which to order, above which glasses sit in easy reach of the bar staff. Those little windows suggest a slower, more contemplative sort of pub – The Birdcage is anything but. One flank is dominated by a pool table, often with folk playing boisterous games. In another corner sits the stage, scene of the notorious Saturday karaoke sessions. Look up to the ceiling – high and handsome – and you’ll see cheap-looking chandeliers within birdcages. This is the pub’s only concession to interior design.
There is an edge here. It could simply be that many people come as part of a big night out, so there’s a lot of pent-up energy just straining to get out. But it could also be down to the fact that, even after years as a hipster favourite, the crowd is still mixed between them and the East End locals from the surrounding neighbourhood. There's a feeling from both crowds, to judge by their dress, that The Birdcage is regarded as a bit of a night out, or at least good for a loosener before moving on to somewhere a little more glamorous. Still, that edge is there – it feels like it’s about to kick off, either in a good or a bad way (the latter is not unheard of). At quiet times, the pub’s faded interior is plain for all to see – if you’re after a quiet afternoon drink, it’s probably better to head for The Royal Oak across the road.
Quiz nights are held mid-week. Other than the karaoke sessions, there are also occasional DJ-led nights.
There’s nothing on a regular basis, but The Birdcage does special events for significant dates such as Burns Night.
Deuchars IPA and Whitbread Best Bitter are all the ale drinkers are going to find of interest. There are countless dull lagers, though Sagres livens things up a bit.
The Last Word
If you have the energy and the appetite for some tongue-in-cheek boisterousness, then the Saturday karaoke sessions will tickle you pink. Otherwise The Birdcage may see you looking for an escape route.
The Birdcage has been reviewed by 6 users