An Australian stronghold by the Thames, this ever-expanding bar all but guarantees good company, cheap food and drink, and plenty of televised sport.
Located virtually on top of Temple tube station – near the Strand, and a short walk from the home territory of the Australian Embassy, no less - the newly-renovated Temple Walkabout is a mecca for televised sport. The cavernous and colourful 900-capacity main room is lined with half a dozen huge TVs, each showing separate sports channels, and a raised dais on the far wall can be converted into a mini-cinema screen for huge events. Exposed ducts make for rudimentary decoration, together with flags and the occasional bizarre flourish, such as the giant strobing space hopper which sits menacingly overhead. The main bar, stuffed to the rafters with spirits and backed by curved slats of wood resembling a cresting wave, is designed to cope with vast half-time influxes of customers, and a secondary bar is available on the raised dining area across the room. The latest addition to the venue is the open-air roof terrace above the main room, complete with a square bar and partial views of the river Thames, which makes for an ideal drinking spot in the summer months.
The atmosphere is boisterous to say the least, with a sport-mad hordes regularly supplementing the usual after-work crowd, and increasingly loud music from veteran DJs raising the nights proceedings to fever pitch. Showcase matches involving Australia are naturally very well-attended, and the bars already-extensive opening hours often stretch to early morning during tournaments taking place Down Under. The staff are efficient, cool under pressure and very friendly, and although the blaring confines of the main bar probably aren't everyone's cup of tea, they hold a certain charm no matter how rowdy the event.
Cheap and cheerful food is a hallmark of the Walkabout chain, and this branch is no different, with a raft of burgers, pies, BBQ skewers and steaks (including kangaroo!) available alongside more unexpected items like chicken parmigiano or the rustic “Aussie Ranch Salad”. Mains cost around £5-£7, while vast portions of sides and desserts are a veritable steal at £2-£3. Meanwhile the roof terrace has paninis and milkshakes (£3-£5) for those reluctant to venture downstairs. The fare is unsophisticated but filling, and you can't really ask for much more, given the hectic surroundings and low prices.
The bar is noticeably more expensive than the kitchen, with only John Smith costing less than £4 a pint out of the draught and bottled beers and ciders, including Carling, Strongbow and (of course) Fosters. The wine (£4-£5 a glass, £16-£19 a bottle) is Australian and best avoided in the main, while shots and mixers come in at around £3-£4 and cocktails, including the vodka and pineapple-infused Kangaloosion, cost £6 or £12 for a pitcher. Value for money it ain't, although there are regular drink deals throughout the week, including 50% off cocktails and £2.50 beers during the 5-7pm happy hour.
The Last Word
Brash, flash and a great deal of fun, Temple Walkabout has undergone a subtle yet invigorating transformation and remains a great central London sports bar, as long as you can put up with the hectic surroundings.