At 6:35pm on Friday 30th April 1999, a sunny, summer's evening, three people were killed and over a hundred were injured when David Copeland, a short, paranoid, Fascist thug demonstrated his extreme homophobia by exploding a nailbomb in the Admiral Duncan pub, the latest in a series of bomb attacks undertaken by Copeland in which he had targeted the Black and Asian communities in Brixton and Brick Lane. Today, the Admiral Duncan has been rebuilt and continues to thrive as a stalwart of Soho pub life and central to the Old Compton Street scene.
Unmistakable by the flamboyant pink lettering on the façade and the terrace feel provided by the entire front of the pub opening up onto the street, the Admiral Duncan is always jam-packed, hardly surprising considering how busy and vibrant life is in Old Compton Street. The front of the pub doubles as an information point and distribution area for flyers, magazines and notices, and taking a few steps further into the pub will have you standing below a weird lighting contraption, which looks like a kilometre of brass tagliatelle, mixed with fairy-lights, dumped in a pile on the ceiling!
For such a small pub, the excess of fruit machines, quiz machines and jukeboxes is startling. One assumes the two jukeboxes share the same sound-system, and the music featured is what you expect from an establishment of this nature: Kylie, Robbie, Spice Girls, and a Studio 54 compilation! Playing the quiz machine reveals that there is an £800 jackpot on the South Park game, just for finding Mr Hanky, the Christmas Poo! Standing at the quiz machine, you're aware that there's a shrivelled gherkin in your peripheral view, although closer inspection reveals this to be a picture of a naked man hanging on the wall.
Entering the dark recess of the pub further, past the pink neon Admiral Duncan sign, the pub opens out into an wooden floored area that could double as a dance-floor if it wasn't too busy. Seats are lacking in the Admiral Duncan, due to its long, thin layout, although there is a bench at the very rear.
Between the two doors leading into the men's loos there is another rack of flyers, although these flyers are a lot more risqué and suggestive than those in the bar. The toilets themselves are immensely bright, with a massive skylight high in the roof. Switch on the taps and you'll assume there's a major mechanical movement above your head, as the water running through the pipes leads to noise of immense proportions. Unlike other pubs, condom machines are lacking in the gent's loos, which is surprising considering the excess of HIV leaflets at the front of the pub.
Admiral Adam Duncan's most famous action was defeating the Dutch fleet at Camperdown in 1797, and thus easing the threat of a Napoleonic invasion of Britain. This military triumph is often regarded as the most important naval action in British history. Like the Admiral Duncan pub's defiance in the face of adversity and violent attack, Scottish Admiral Duncan vowed to fight on until his flagship sank, which fortunately it didn't.
Obviously, don't try to drink here if you're in any way homophobic, but the Admiral Duncan has a friendly nature and is one of the best-known pubs in the area. Give it a try, as you would happily drink here, being non-the-wiser, if you didn't know this was a gay pub.
Review by mr_psm