The Dolphin: East London’s Best-Loved Cattlemarket

For anyone that’s spent a portion of their life in East London, the Dolphin is an institution that at some point you’ve fallen through the door of.

Before you move to E2 or E8 it’s a hallowed sort-of-place, spoken about in surreptitious whispers with a reputation that goes well before it: “Open until 5,” says one. “Nah, 6,” another.  Some liar says they stay open until the last person stops leaves.

When you are live here you basically realise that on Friday and Saturday it’s open very late, is cheaper than a club, and that for the last however many years has been servicing the sexual needs of anyone that lives within a 5 mile radius of Broadway Market.

It’s clientele between those sacred weekend hours of 1-5 is broadly made up of three groups; pissed up semi-hipsters trying to get laid, most of them trying to snuffle gear without getting caught; coked up locals trying to get laid and sell more of their chemical wares to the semi-hipsters; and scarily sober Eastern European types, who hang about at the corner of the dancefloor, looking like they’d sell their mum for a go on the girl in the Boy London cap.    The split of this is roughly 70%/20%/10% and everyone gets on well most of the time, though tempers can fray in the preposterous queue for the one male cubicle.

They don’t muck about with the admissions policy, unless ‘cram the superfluous fuckwits in’ is a valid policy these days.  It gets very busy- the dancefloor is a throbbing clusterfuck of boobs and beards; I find the only way to dance in there is to bounce gently from foot to foot, hunching my shoulders and fists whilst pumping my forearms like the guy out of the 0891 50 50 50 adverts.  Fortunately this is how I dance most of the time, but for others it can be a bone of contention.

It gets very busy- the dancefloor is a throbbing clusterfuck of boobs and beards

The music changes from night to night, but is determinedly aimed at pleasing the masses.  Spend more than 2 hours in there and you are destined to hear at least one song by Fleetwood Mac and 3 by Rihanna.  Spend half a night in their without hearing something by the Barbadian Super Sexpot (trademark: Gordon Smart), and you can truly consider yourself the special child your mum would still say you were, assuming  she doesn’t see your behaviour in the establishment that is the basis of this article.  Things can sometimes descend into sleazy r n’b in which case, unless it’s one of R Kelly’s two really good songs, you’ll see your esteemed writer make his way to the terrace.

The terrace is where the Dolphin comes into its own.  It’s a bit more acceptable.  To be honest, inside can all be a bit much.  It’s so busy, everyone is relentlessly pissed; there’s Jagerbomb competitions, lunging competitions, and who’s-got-the-coolest-blog competitions going on all over the shop.  If you are going to take part in one of these contests, you might as well at least do so with a cigarette in your hand.

Promotional literature for the Dolphin surely doesn’t exist, but if it did it would probably say: “Owner Of The World’s Biggest Terrace.”  If they knew would they were doing they’d follow that up with “And The Easiest Place To Meet And Shag Drunk People From Roughly The Same Arts And Humanities-Educated Background.”

The terrace is huge.  Seats and tables bank round the sides, whilst in the middle are barrels and more tables.  Everyone squeezes up next to each other and bums lighters, fags and eye-lash flutters.  It can take half an hour to get from one side to the other, especially as everyone in their seems determined to talk to as many members of the opposite sex as possible.  The word cattlemarket was invented for The Dolphin; single friends despise it, crowing whenever anyone mentions going here.  I hated it when I had a missus; the closest I have ever got to an actual adult fight (pushing a bloke over a table) was when we there together and he wouldn’t stop trying his luck with her.

The Dolphin is for red-eyed hunting types who haven’t planned the whole of the night and who aren’t sure whether Dalston is really their bag.  It’s the place where the lonely, the horny and the high can come together and drink something strong before falling on each other’s genitals.  It should not be visited often.  3 times a year is more than enough because in the real actual sense it’s a bit of a shithole, but the East London nightscape would be a sadder place for its absence.

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