Most English observers would agree that, on the whole, the continental European styled 'English Pub' is something to be avoided at all costs. However, an exception must be made for the excellent Florin & Firkin pub in Utrecht, Holland.
The Florin is one of two Firkin1 pubs in the Netherlands. Unusually for a Firkin establishment, the Florin is not allowed to brew its own beer on site, due to a town ordinance forbidding any brewing industry within the city limits. This task, however, is admirably performed by the Fiddler & Firkin up the road in The Hague2.
The pub is situated on Nobelstraat, only minutes from the centre of town, and is notable for its truly multinational drinking community formed largely from students and overseas contractors. It is furnished in the traditional Firkin style, with lots of artificially aged wood and fake signs and so on. But for once this seems to make the place somehow more genuine. In contrast with almost all Dutch bars, it's big, light and airy, with an unobtrusive jukebox that plays a good selection of music.
On some nights there is a small disco and on alternate Wednesdays there is an immensely popular English Pub Quiz. On Tuesdays students can eat for een tientje (ten guilders or around £3), and at regular intervals there are 'beach' evenings, with sand on the floor, an Hawaiian dress code, and a bucking surfboard machine. The yard, a long fluted glass that holds around three pints of ale and which must be drained in a single sup3, gets used much more than most yard glasses would in English pubs. And every Friday patrons are invited to 'jump the pump', a game that involves pulling as many pints as possible in one minute for a guilder, and then drinking them.
Various kinds of beer are on tap, including the traditional Firkin brews, the usual session ale, in this case christened Florin, and of course the ever-popular Dogbolter. There is an in-house nitrokeg Iets Speciale and also a white beer, Great White that successfully manages to cross the style of an English ale with a Dutch wheat beer.
The casual drinker is guaranteed a warm welcome at any time; and it is a rare night that a lone stranger does not get dragged into some conversation or other, and as often as not, becomes included in one of the perambulating bar crawls that are one of the features of Utrecht nightlife. This is particularly important because the Firkin keeps semi-English pub hours, closing relatively early at around half past midnight, when the whole population moves en masse to the more traditional Dutch bars that are just opening.