Today’s blog is a tale of the unexpected. It involves a cinema on a traffic island in an unprepossessing part of north-west London, a Tom Cruise blockbuster and a novelty pub. And a great evening out. Read on if you dare…

If you know Swiss Cottage and the Finchley Road, you’ll know it’s not the most beautiful part of town. It’s long been a mystery to me just how the Odeon – seemingly stuck in the middle of nowhere – survived. Or why anyone would choose to drink in the next door Ye Olde Swiss Cottage pub, aka ‘Ye Olde Piss Pottage’ according to Face Book’s location service. We’ll come back to that, but I can give you the answer about the Odeon straight off. It’s survived, because it’s great. Friendly staff greet you and help you find the best seats in the house. You can choose from a full range of traditional cinema snacks, or go upstairs to the wonderfully refurbished Art Deco Ambar for cocktails, hot food and the latest Wimbledon results. Then you settle in to comfy seats in the large IMAX theatre or one of the smaller 2D screening rooms. We chose Edge of Tomorrow and the IMAX. Not quite as immersive as the larger BFI screen experience, and seats could have done with being a bit steeper to avoid ‘back of head screen creep’, but still a thoroughly good time was had by all. Even the 80s/Tron-style Odeon intro raised a smile and made a nice change from the normal chain adverts.

Talking of things from the 80s that make me smile, the idea of seeing a Tom Cruise action flick doesn’t normally top my film going lists. But, having read quite a few good reviews, and loving Emily Blunt, in we went. The film provided the next surprise of the day, being actually really good. Decent acting from all concerned, an implausible sci-fi story plausibly handled and great action. It also raised a patriotic cheer – at long last, aliens have invaded and destroyed most of Europe rather than the States, and London not Washington is mission control. A dubious honour I grant you, but a fun novelty none the less. Heathrow as battle training ground also rang more than one bell for someone who regularly faces airport security. The film did suffer from some poor expository scenes, and the ending felt like a tiny cop out, but overall didn’t detract from £14.95 (+glasses) well spent. If you live nearby, or even within easy transport reach, head to Odeon Swiss Cottage for a good night out with touches out of the ordinary or the expected.

And Ye Olde Piss Pottage? Well, anyone with a sense of humour will appreciate a visit. It’s a Sam Smith’s pub, so it won’t break the bank, but don’t expect too much atmosphere. The area is named after a nineteenth century pub, but the current chalet style building only dates from 1960s. On the night we visited, it was randomly filled with tourists including a young American boy wearing a Tommy Cooper Fez. A comedy end to a fun night out.

For some more old and new photos, look here:

Combined scores:

How comfy were the seats? 7.5/10

How good were the (cinema!) snacks? 8/10

How nice were the staff? 8/10

How sticky were the floors? 7/10

How great was the ambience? 7/10

Average: 7.5/10

How much did we like the film? 8/10