|When first dates go wrong ..... "wing it" mate! (See pub 1230)|
Irlam seemed a lot further away than four days and a few hundred miles as me and the good ole' father strode alongside the leafy allotments of West Ealing in search of our first pub of the day.
Yes, the football season has returned and I'd made the bold decision to combine BRAPA with an away trip to see the Taaaargers at dQPR (Drama-Queens Park Rangers, the most sensitive emotional supporters in the football league, but a nice old stadium if you ignore Mr Sombrero).
I was feeling a bit dodgy, in need of 'hair of the dog', after one too many 6% ales on Friday night in the very good but suspiciously name changey beer outlet "Mr Foley-Okell-Baroque-Slightly-Change-Our-Name-Every-Year-Tap-Cask-Ale-House".
It had just gone 11am and our first pub of the day stood there looking nice and pretty. It was on a corner in the sun with hanging baskets and the promise of "heritage" awaiting us ......
1227. Forester, West Ealing
But what is heritage without humanity? Much like a pretty girl with no personality, a P.I.S.S. barmaid in pub form, you can spend two minutes admiring Edwardian mahogany, gabled porches, stained glass and bell pushes, but when the two barmaids scowl, shiver, and one pulls her hood up over her head and closes the door as she pours your non-descript Fullers summer guest ale and charges you £3.90, you're not going to "feel the love". True, there were other nice features in the other bar but this was a 'restaurant' area, but why would you go in there as a drinker? Ben (who came up with the winning title of this blog) and Tom were already perched on a posing table in the sun. The only customers were a mute man with a strangely shaped dog blocking the floor watching some foreign egg-chasing. Tom saved the situation by amusingly revealing the details of his 1p football bet - he stood to win £1,000,000 if he won, sadly Sheff Utd beat Barnsley before we even got to 3pm and the rest was history. I almost unwittingly had two 'Neighbours' fans joining us for a pint, but the details of how this occurred are too convoluted to repeat here.
|A weird shaped dog|
|Tom and Ben living the heritage dream|
|My view of the pub|
|Tom's bet. "Good luck!" it says.|
|A pint of West London|
After a decent stride out back into "Ealing Proper", pub two was looking particularly impressive across the road with a red lion on the roof and a lovely exterior. Once those horrid cars finally let us cross the road, a couple with a buggy and some horrific twilds were trying to get in before us.......
1228. Red Lion, Ealing
Luckily, Dad repeated a trick he I remember him learning in Whitechapel in Jan '16 and somehow elbowed and trod on enough posho and twild interlopers to get himself to the bar first. Our joy was short lived as the barmaid who put in a particularly below par performance topped up Ben's Castle Rock Pilsner with the ale I was having. He didn't tell her, and she looked totally unaware. Now, was it controversial to say I preferred this pub to the last one? Well no, in spite of the shaky start, it had a lovely old fashioned curved London pub feel, like the ones you find more central, nice Ealing studio photos up, and we all agreed. If hearing the boy twild was called Hugo, Dad then heard his younger sister was called Jocasta. Ugh, Twaddy was even worse with his voice that goes through you. Still, with one morose local and suicidal barmaid the only people in our side of the pub, we started to dominate and after Ben confused Tom by telling him "Brucie's dead!" (Tom quite reasonably thought he meant the Aston Villa manager), I added another layer by mentioning Fiona Bruce. This was so I could explain the premise of my SECOND favourite programme 'Fake or Fortune'. That lead to Tom's accidental quote of the day "Does Fiona Bruce ever fake anything?" Comedy gold, and any pub with people of warmth and humour (let's use Rose & Crown in Hoylandswaine as an example) would've been joining in. Not here. By the way, this pub is 50% proud of it's Red Lion heritage, and the other half wants to be a pizza place called Santa Maria.
|A Meyler-esque performance from our barmaid|
|This pub was almost very good, almost.|
A bit further into Ealing was our third pub of the day. On the face of it, it looked like it'd be worse than the last two with it's harsh and cynical terracey gastro feel but could it surprise us on the inside?
1229. Grove, Ealing
And as we walked in, came the overwhelming smell of mashed potato. So I had the Bodger and Badger theme in my head before I'd even chosen a beer, so I hope it was filmed at the Ealing Studios across the road because it deserved to be. It was after all, very much the Passport to Pimlico of kids TV when I was growing up. I then saw a BRAPA first, a 'jam jar' taster thing, for a beer that was not only "coming soon", but also had no pumpclip or label! What the rationale behind this was I've no idea. But the friendly kindness of the barmaid (especially after the last two pubs), plus by the far the best quality beer yet - went a long way to making up for the pub's various gastro shortcomings. The magic eye wallpaper, a sign in the toilets championing things like twilds and a "social media jukebox" (yes, I know), and even labelling the loos up with a simple "G" for "Gents" and L for "Ladies" was slightly jarring at my BRAPA spidey senses. Tom again saved the day with hilarious tales of being a "mystery shopper", but occasionally going in and telling the staff "today I'm not here in my mystery shopper capacity". And on Hull City games at the old Boothferry Park, "do you remember Helen Chamberlain banging that drum?" No wonder we stayed here for another, deciding to do the Wheatsheaf another day. I need Questors too due to it's silly opening hours.
|Coming soon taster|
|Upsetting sign apart from point number 2|
After the match, there weren't really any queues at Shepherd's Bush station because dQPR aren't really a proper football club (what? I'm not bitter!) so it was nice to get on the tube, even if we were joined by the kind of local toothbrush brandishing folk who hop on at Notting Hill to go drinking in E1.
After an interesting backstreet walk through the city from Bank to Tower Hill, and a bit of getting lost, I found the pub I'd decided we should do (I sometimes have to remember I'm in charge of BRAPA when Tom is around!) because it was my last one on the first page of Central London.
|"Fish and Chips" sign brings Tom into disrepute|
1230. Draft House Seething, Tower Hill
Of course, another bonus of coming here was that I could do an easy 'seething' about Hull City joke even if I do look delighted in the above picture in my 07/08 top, oh when Frazier Campbell could play football ..... sorry, I digress. This place was SO modern, I had to check about 4 times I was in the right place, Ben who'd travelled on his own was already here, and soon we were at the bar where despite some chirpy young friendly staff and a relative lack of punters, service was a struggle. Ben tried for a cider, it spluttered and both of us knew it had run out about 10 mins before the staff. It all felt a bit 'Spoons re service. I'd enjoyed the pre-emptive Draft House in MK in a strange sort of way, but this had ramped what I believe is referred to as "Utilitarian Modernity" up to 11. 11 being code for "quite shit". Luminous signs saying "Yolk, Smoke,Poke" and "Wing It" just felt upsetting. It made Drygate in Glasgow seem down to earth. My London Crate Ale was limp and lacking much life. A couple appeared to be having an awkward first date here - he face-planted his palm as he realised she was probably day-dreaming about the Boar's Head in Stockport (see top photo on this blog). No wonder Dad went for one of his legendary post-match walks. This was not an easy place to debrief of subjects like the mental state of Ehab Allam and I had a headache. On the other hand, it was quite appropriate.
|Yolk, Smoke and Poke|
|Dad goes for "some air" (even though pub doesn't have a front door)|
Ben wondered if we could squeeze in another pub before my 8pm train home, the kind of BRAPA challenge I like, and after a few seconds research, I found one just up the road in East London.
The walk there was weird, there were lots of young dudes pulling wheelies on BMX's, flipping skateboards, wearing double denim. It was a bit 1980's and a bit Mad Max, in a Hipster way. Could I really expect much from our 5th and final pub?
|Time for the last tick of the day!|
1231. King's Stores, Spitalfields
I quite like pub ticking in this part of the world as I've read so many Jack the Ripper books, but I guess that for your slightly deranged lunatic Londoner, Greene King Metropolitan pubs are a likely tipping point. This pub was buzzing with the evening 'double screen event' of Stoke v Arsenal, a fixture that had drawn in plastic Gooners from all over E1 and apart from one strange guy with a top hat who no-one could see apart from me, faces were glued to screens as far as the eye could see. At the bar, I'd ordered first and then pushed the others forward, which confused a young Asian bar fellow who then forgot to pull my pint altogether. I brandished my BRAPA logo and eyeballed him sternly. He cowered apologetically, waved, and pull me his best ever pint. Or so it seemed at the time. Under the circs, we did well to find a table and standing space for 4 people towards the rear of the building, though Ben had been accosted by two men who weren't watching the game either. Tom ate cake through his beard and looked content with his own thoughts (insert joke here), so me and Dad, realising there was nothing exciting about the pub, controversially took our pints slightly outside onto the not very wide Widegate Street, where we saw an old 1890's picture of the area and a plaque which didn't add up "out of 95,000 Londoners in the 1890's, 250,000 of them lived in Whitechapel". A tramp slimed up to us and complimented my shirt on the proper Tiger badge before our current owners ruined it. I was thinking "cut to the chase, mate" so his voice went all quiet and pathetic and he did his "I'm a poor cockney wastrel" routine. Having already declined the offer of giving him cash, we looked down and saw he was brandishing a huge KFC box meal! "You've got more food than us!" exclaimed Dad, and we snuck back inside. Ah, the homeless of E1 in the 21st century. Back inside, a huge roar as Arsenal scored. DISALLOWED! The 5% of us non Gooners cheered wildly, a posh woman looked suitably cowed so I gave her a friendly thumbs up, the poor plastic bint. Quite a funny experience, cos Londoners are funny without realising, but not a pub I'd necessarily bring my ripper victims to if I was Jack.
|"We're gonna score in a minute!" think the "Arsenal fans"|
|Can you see the ghostly guy in top hat who looked other wordly?|
Just time for me and Ben to sneak in a quick half of ESB in Parcel Yard back in Kings Cross. Three QPR fans leaned over their pints looking emotional. 4 Hull City fans with no shame chanted "Slutsky" at me but looked aggressive. I went to the loo. A Sheffield Wednesday fan "booed" me and said "bluddy Hull City innit?!", his friends laughed and I was too scared to dry my hands. Then, a Walsall fan leaned a long neck around a dark doorway and eyeballed me. He had about six eyes and a forked tongue. Finally, two bald Barnet fans appeared at the bar and looked at me and Ben like they were embarrassed on our behalf. The beer was warm. I'm going to Scottish Stores next time.
So that was fun. Depending on your definition of fun. My first 5 southern pubs of the month, and first in West London in the 2016/17 pub ticking year. Better late than never. A productive day.
Back in GMR on Tuesday evening for one or two ticks in another probably odd place. I won't spoil the surprise. See you Wed night for that write up.