Sunday, 10 July 2016

BRAPA - Berkshire Part VI (but mainly Hampshire!)

I arrived into Blackwater on Saturday morning just before 11am, where I saw two desperadoes (rough old men, not tequila beers) sitting impatiently in the sun outside the Mr Bumble.  By 11:10am, it still wasn't open so I asked one of the desps (who'd somehow managed to break into the beer garden) when it was opening?  Mrs Bumble overheard me, said they were "busy" and not opening til 12.  What the dickens was going on?

The lights are on, and 'busy' people are at home.
I wasn't hanging around so took a taxi to my furthest away pub instead (bus links are virtually non existent in these parts).  Taxi driver Ralph Hussain was a great chap, I know a fellow Minster Man when I meet one and soon we chatting about all the York bars he used to work in - Plonkers, Lowther, Kennedy's, Bobo Lobo, Vudu Lounge (I tried to be kind and said I had a nice Oakham Citra in Kennedy's (once!))  

966.  Tally Ho, Eversley

Buoyed by my great chat with Ralph, I was in happy sociable mood as I entered the Tally Ho, where two brunette barmaids were working hard despite the zero customers.  The big criticism was immediately apparent, about 90% of the spacious pub had tables bedecked with knives and forks and even as the only customer, it was hard to find a 'pubby' seat!  Still, somewhere remote with no bus links I guess has to play the foodie card.  However, the pub was a positive experience mainly for my chat with the barmaid, and that is the good thing about being first customer of the day.  BRAPA seemed to strike a chord.  The main three things I took away from our chat are as follows.  The pub has been in the family for generations and she was employed to work here by her grandad without even realising it.  The pub is quiet now but it's heaving in summer (at which point, I gently reminded her it was 9th July!)  And the pub in Yateley is good and she is friends with Sophie who runs it, but my suggestion of going in and saying "hi Sophie!" might freak her out.  More on that later.  My pint was top quality (Flack's Double Drop) and the pub looked to have an amazing garden but I couldn't open the french window cos I'm rubbish!  It put me in mind of the Bunk at Curridge, but with a more positive overall outcome.  A good start.

The bar at the Tally Ho
I left the pub and I immediately found myself crossing the county boundary into Hampshire.  20 minutes later, I was at my next pub, making Eversley perhaps unique in the Good Beer Guide for having pubs listed in two different counties.  

Arriving at pub two.
967.  Golden Pot, Eversley

How does the old folk-punk song go?  "You're pretty on the outside, but inside you're an ugly trog" or something like that, well that came to mind for this pub with it's "chocolate box, picture postcard, ivy clad, hanging basket" exterior (sounds like the kind of nonsense the GBG would write).  Inside, a dull stripped back interior geared up for dining, with that horrible 'bookcase wallpaper' and a few miserable looking staff, one of whom served me an overly warm pint of Dorset Jurassic that she didn't even try to top up properly.  I returned to the outside (it was a muggy day) where a friendly young couple were force feeding a small Twild some chewable pub fayre.  To break my despondance, a young smiling barman appeared, simply to put thumbs up at me Fonzarelli style, and disappear again.  Maybe he'd sensed my earlier dissatisfaction or he'd had a call from the Tally Ho about a harsh pub visitor in the local area!   I went back inside and noticed I had an interesting 50/50 choice to make, lemongrass or sweet mandarin and grapefruit?  But I'm talking about the hand soaps of course, and that really sums it up. 

Chilling with my Jurassic at the Golden Pot.
A good half an hour's trek and I was in Yateley, wending my way gradually back towards Blackwater, for pub number three of the day.....

968.  Dog & Partridge, Yateley

As I took the obligatory pub photo, I could hear the sound of a group heartily laughing from within.  "Ahhh, this is more like it" I thought, "pub customers!"  And on the face of it, easily the most pubby pub so far although when I say that, the kind of pub which has not allowed any heterosexual male to have any input into pub design for the last 500 years.  Weird gold tinsel hung from a door frame, cushions wedged under my bum stopped me getting properly sat down, and a plastic parrot presided over the pub from behind the bar.  It was all very 1980's feel, and I thought Agadoo or Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (Timmy Mallet version) were about to start playing.  Live music by a man called "David Julian" was pending, maybe he covers such songs.  The locals were laughing like drains though, and that is what you want to hear in a pub even more.  But the burning question of course, 'was I going to be served by Sophie?'  Well I suspect it was her, a studious looking girl with a no nonsense, hardened edge and an arm tattoo which am sure freaked her parents out when she got it midway through her GCSE exams (perhaps).  She warned me off a gimmicky Caledonian ale named after the pub, in favour of a Wadworth Horizon.  She even has two sugars in her tea like me, I don't know anyone who does that!  To complete the pub 1980's theme, two men came in and asked 'Sophie' about the range of lagers.  She answered them in the most dismissive way possible whilst still being polite, but they seemed outraged there was no Peroni on draught.  They took their shitty lagers to a little common/village green across from the pub and sulked.  It was that kind of pub.

The lager duo debate the lack of Peroni on the village green

A microcosm of the pub decor in the Dog & Partridge.
The bus stop was opposite the pub, but it was 26 minutes late so I bonded with two 'oldsters' (the woman reminding me of Catherine Tates Nan character but with better language).  Whilst discussing pub strategy (I love getting people into BRAPA) she 'out of blue' became the SIXTH stranger this year to ask why I haven't yet been to Henley-on-Thames.  What is it with that place?  Am I missing something?  Does the pub have a special BRAPA mural or something?  

Back in Blackwater, well blow me down, the pub is actually open!!  Fanfare time(!)

Mr Bumble (taken pre-opening time)
969.  Mr Bumble, Blackwater

So was it worth the wait?  Well, it was a very different pub from the previous three, perhaps too far the other way.  Pubby yes, but perhaps a little bit tired and worn  if I was being harsh.  Think of a cross between Bracknell's Cannie Man and Wokingham's Crispin.  Two young men in caps drinking lager (does anyone drink ale in this part of the world?) were at the bar chuckling on their phones at something they called a "herbiquious border".  Did they mean a herbaceous border?  They repeated 'herbiquious' about 10 more times, even quizzing a local chav girl about it (she wore the same red leather "Thriller" jacket as me so I liked her style).  The staff had been friendly, just on the right side of quirky, and a 16 year old barmaid appeared and started pouring herself as many different combinations of shandy as she could, explaining to a man (her Dad?) that it was some kind of quality control taste testing exercise?  I think bitter and lime with a hint of cherryade won, but I might be making that last bit up.  She looked a bit pie-eyed by the end, as I ran for the train.

Mr Bumble from the inside
The Simey BRAPA Everitt of two months ago would probably have jumped off the train at Sandhurst, to complete the pub there.  Am sure I had time, but after recent bad experiences making train connections, I took the cautious approach all the way back to Paddington via Reading (though I fell asleep on both legs of the journey).  

This next pub, I'd been recommended a few times and it was very close to Paddington station.....

View from an upstairs window.
970.  Victoria, Paddington, London

Wow, sometimes a pub is such a hive of activity that it's hard to keep track of what is going on, not good when you fancy yourself as a pub blogger extraordinaire!  A bit like Waterloo's Kings Arms last month, this was a small but heaving old fashioned pub, this even more deliciously ornate, but with a very cosmopolitan crowd of mainly European tourists.  It must be Heritage or Grade 2 listed, and I would love to be first customer in here early one morning.  As I breathed in and was (eventually) served by one of the 4 men squashed into the tiny bar (superb Crate Rye beer), it was evident seating was at a premium.  I perched at the bar, next to two girls who first I thought were Spanish (cos they were eating olives) near a local man who looked like Jesus in a tracksuit just along from them.   One barman was responsible for attaching two menus with a paper clip, another girl sat in a cupboard under the stairs folding knives and forks into napkins (sorry, serviettes!) Who was most bored? Probably him as she had the additional task of reassuring folk that the toilets were down a miniature staircase underground.  The girls went outside to smoke, leaving their bags and olives unattended for ages.  I was dying for an olive, and kept slyly moving my hand closer to the bowl but Jesus H. Christ kept staring at me in a judgemental way.  When the girls returned, Jesus told them they shouldn't leave bags and food unattended in a British pub, "things can get stolen" and he motioned his head towards the olives and then me.  Bastard Jesus!  I reassured the blonde one I was honest, but was I?  Anyway, she had more important things on her mind as a barman was asking where she was going to watch the Euro final (hence they must be French or Portuguese).  Then, the barman who'd served me (he'd seemed a bit fragile at the time) asked the manager for a private word (not possible in this pub) and ended up saying "I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE, MY SHIFT IS OVER!" and stormed out.  Very soap opera.  Manager told the blonde one it was because of her!  Was this all a joke or serious?  Thank goodness Boak & Bailey had just tweeted me to ask me to explore the hidden upstairs rooms (very ornate and lovely, with a man feeding his Twild, but I was more pleased to get out of the bar, it was all getting too much!)  Phew, crazy pub.

Approaching the pub

Brilliant pint.  Love Rye beers.

I want an olive, but I must resist temptation, and Jesus sees all.

Judgey Jesus and the French girls, before I moved to the other side of the bar.
Well, that was a classic pub experience and summed up the day, it was the people who made it, not necessarily the pubs themselves.  

Back at Kings Cross, I still had time to nip into one of my pubs of the year, the Scottish Stores where it was reassuringly quiet so I could sit in MY seat (nice to have a seat when you go somewhere once a month for one hour maximum!)  We must though mention the ridiculously heavy Budvar glass I was served in, I could barely lift the thing, even the handle was heavier the a half glass on it's own, and why was I being served real ale in a Budvar glass?  No wonder all the Euro kids were nodding at me in a "he knows his beer" kinda way!  The pub did tell me I should buy a second pint and distribute the weight evenly which I admit was a good comeback.

And then it was back to York, and play the usual little game of "avoid the north eastern racegoer pissed up scum being anti-social in York station on Saturday night".  Hurrah, I won! 



  1. No comments yet ! What do people want ?

    It's the people who make the pubs, whether Judgey Jesus or rebellious tattooed Sophie, not the minor variations in beer styles that are much less noticeable than variations in cellarmanship.

    You won't believe this, but I used to wear one of those jackets in 1985 when Maria McKee popularised it for punkabilly geeks for 10 minutes.

    1. Martin, I have a personal policy of not replying until the next day to allow myself time to digest the content. You will however be baffled to know that I haven't the faintest idea who Maria McKee is.

      The desperado was right to break into the beer garden. It is a public house, they should at the very least be open when they say they are going to be.

      I know there are huge differences and it isn't nearly as good, but there are elements of your Tally Ho report that remind me of the Green Owl. Two friendly sisters working keenly in the pub, keeping it family run. Beer garden. Relatively rural. Beer garden. Does either brunette sister qualify for any end of season award?

      I understand Agadoo (wasn't the band actually Black Lace) are unavailable to perform at the Dog and Partridge as the singer is in prison for benefit fraud. Although the singer changed at some point I believe so they could get the original one back. Clearly getting David Julian to cover is far simpler.

      A bus running 26 minutes late when they run every 15 minutes is a perfect demonstration as to why I dislike buses immensely. There is no trust there.

      Whilst eating olives is more of a Portuguese pasttime than French, I think the potential victims of a heinous olive theft look more French, and I'm sure olives are readily available to French southerners, who I suppose are practically Algerian. Commiserations or congratulations to them in either case, I have thus far not collided with the result.

      We're going down you know.

    2. The old bloke from Hull I met (well, eavesdropped on) in Belper was adamant they were staying up, but he was going on a about a £bn takeover. Is that you, or North Ferriby ?

    3. There have been takeover rumours but I suspect now that the team have been promoted the Egyptian arseholes will see the pound notes (yet again I failed to get one in Scotland on Saturday) and stay on.

      I have calculated the probability of us staying up to be 0.000000000000000000000000001%. The big fat head will cling on to his job by doing marginally less badly in the League Cup than was feared possible.

    4. Well, our kids beat Ferriby 2-0 but our first team could only draw 0-0 at Grimsby so that leads me to one of two conclusions 1. Grimsby are 2 goals better than Ferriby OR 2. Our kids are better than our first teamers and Steve Bruce doesn't know what he is doing.

      I hate to sound like Tom but we are going down you know.

      Tom, impressed with your Black Lace knowledge, Martin, love that middle paragraph of your first comment.

      Tom, you have got me thinking which real pubs are most like the Green Owl. It's tricky. There'd be a bit of Sair at Linthwaite, a bit of Rat & Ratchet, a bit of Bradford's Fighting Cock and Jacobs. Tricky though.

    5. The second half, when more juniors appeared, was the best of the game for City in Cleethorpes, although that is typical of the big fat head away from home. I see Jarrod Bowen scored the winner at Field Mill last night. I have 3-1 on 20th place. The bookies refused a bet on us finishing with less than 11 points. We're going down you know.

      I have a policy of reading the Yorkshire Post in between watching people from the library balcony most evenings. I pick up crap bits of knowledge like that doing this.

      Virtually all good pubs will have something in common with the Green Owl. Some will have more than others. If you ever find a spitting image please let me know immediately so I can go straight there and marry Emily.

    6. Whilst not the pub itself, may I add the lane down to the Hayburn Wyke Hotel, where the motorised road traffic can't get down. Although it is probably a little steeper than that to the Green Owl, I could imagine Hercules struggling there.