Monday 5 January 2015

BRAPA : the archives (71-80)

As we get towards the 'London' entries, I must apologise (mainly to myself) for not being able being able to pinpoint dates as accurately as I can for say 'Boston away' but it is hard to remember when we first utilised these places.  We started travelling on trains regularly for London away games some time after my trip to Ipswich in Aug 2006 when I convinced Dad that Tom n Chris had been right all these years!

71.  ROCKSTONE, Southampton - 9th Nov 2013 and I've never been colder and more drenched (well apart from my 2007 trip to the same town).  With Dad and Tom (who popped up from nowhere) in tow, we arrived as the first customer's at this 11am opener and settled down for a superb pre-match session.  On the downside, it wasn't the kind of pub you could get dried off in quickly, plus it was soon heaving with lunch eaters, for this is one of the 21 best places in the UK to get a burger - apparently!  Call me a miserable old curmudgeon, but I like my pubs to be pubs.  From a beer sense, it was just that with loads of ales and breweries I'd never heard of and the local Rolling Rockstone was a contender for pint of the season.  Incidentally,  a sign for the back door said to be careful as it "slams with the force of 1,000 tigers".  We tried it on the way out, where it pathetically whimpered closed, then we lost 4-1 - fitting!  Also, a point to the clientele.  Pretentious burger eaters they may be but returned my mobile phone which got left on a table when Dad left the pub whilst I was still in the loo.

A good omen at the Rockstone?  Perhaps not! 
72.  OLD BLACK BULL, Preston - All seemed to be well with the world, my sister was firmly established in her first year in Preston, she was now well into real ale like me, so I arrived for a visit with an Autoroute map of the centre, with the various 2003 GBG pubs dotted around.  This was probably spring 2004.  One of our later pubs on the Friday night, it was fairly busy but we ordered a dark guest ale and sat in the middle of the pub.  We noticed it tasted a bit vinegary, and there was a very disturbing congealed substance forming on the head of the beer.  I think we were with a couple of her friends/flatmates.  Never a shrinking violet, my sister took them straight back but the young bar man told her (and I quote) "typical students, if you can't handle the taste, go back to drinking lager!" and destroyed all the work CAMRA had been trying to do since 1974.  As an "experienced ale drinker", she called me over but he wasn't having it.  A local sat at the bar told us the barman was an ignorant arsehole by nature and we shouldn't take offence.  We composed and wrote a letter of complaint to send to CAMRA next morning, not sure if it was ever sent, but it was cathartic at least.  It has been in nearly every edition of the guide since, so may be he has left, but out of principle, we vowed never to go back, ever.

73.  CRITERION, Leicester - Dad and myself have had a few goes at finding a pub "home" on our many trips to Leicester, with nothing entirely convincing, from the early days of the Globe, to the good but less unatmospheric Slug & Lettuce and The Pub, to the "always closed when we visit" Salmon, to many I can't even remember names of.  This is as close as we have found to a regular, our first visit was good in that it was warm enough to sit out at the enclosed front beer 'garden' for the pub is nothing to write home about, basic 60's quite shabby but with fantastic ales, I remember a focus on Oakham which is always bonus points for me, and it is near enough to the ground for an easy walk but far enough away not to get as busy as the likes of Swan & Rushes.  This first visit would have been 24/3/12 and the following season, on a freezing Sunday lunchtime, we finished here after a mini-crawl of the town.  This time, we had to sit in.  Dad had his stool stolen in a very controversial incident where the 'spineless' friend was derided more than the stool pincher.  I thought the beer was less good quality this time but it may have been the stool incident!

74.  ORGAN GRINDER, Loughborough - Blue Monkey has always been a great brewery for me since I had my first sip of BG Sips in Donny's Cask Corner a few years ago, so to visit one of their pubs in Loughborough on the final A-Z day (15/3/14) was always going to be a treat.  They had the full range on from what I could tell plus guests from other breweries so I had one of their Guerilla stouts, absolutely gorgeous and it helped that the pub had been done in a low key, bare boarded way though the aimed clientele was obviously a younger crowd.  It had only recently been renovated as this name, having been the Pack Horse before, a not very good pub apparently.  This was mine and Krzb's pub of the day, though a huge mural of a monkey staring at you was a bit off-putting.

Quality pubs in Loughborough, was this the best? 
75.  BERKELEY HOTEL, Scunthorpe - Despite it's North Lincolnshire location, I've been reading about this recently in my YORKSHIRE pub heritage book I got for Christmas and probably didn't see  the whole interior to appreciate it's true beauty.  Having said that, if you can immensely enjoy being stood up in a corridor with a pint of Sam Smith's OBB, you must be in a pretty good place!  I like what Sam Smith's do with pub designs and style, despite their feudal flaws, and this is more magnificent than most but cosy and carpetted and probably very similar to when it opened in 1940.  It's not too far from the ground either and Colin taxied us around which was nice, considering we beat the Scunny bunnies 5-1 at their DIY superstore with the roof cut out AKA G(b)landford Park.
5/2/11 was the date for spreadsheet logging purposes.

76.  CRAFT BEER CO, Hatton Garden - 28/4/12 and it was time to escape Upton Park after the last day of the season (easier than usual as the east enders stayed behind to do that pointless 'lap of honour' bollocks, I mean Corry Evans had just scored against them, do they have no shame?)  Although Dad had gone missing, he knows his way around Farringdon so after a painful squashed tube journey, we found him lurking upstairs having just had a friendly chat downstairs with some fans of some other team I can't remember.  There were many strong dark ales on so Ben n Mark were loving it, and it left enough of an impression on me to suggest it as our pre FA Cup Semi final meeting point.  And to my surprise, everyone thought it was a great idea!  Even London pub expert Chrissy D liked my 'wrong way on the line' thinking.  Despite it's name, this pub has 16 handpumps, young friendly staff, and proper bar snacks - it is fair to say I love this place.  After the game, a one-man band who looked like Nicika Jelavic did Piano Man by Billy Joel, though he was cup tied so may have been really him moonlighting.  As the Semi Final was (eventually) a success, we made this our base for the final too and was surprised to see most of the ales were from Yorkshire micros like Salamander and Abbeydale.  A truly wonderful pub.

Great pub, awful rosette pre FA Cup Semi Final
77.  HAMILTON HALL, Liverpool Street - I've been here 3 or 4 times, probably pre West Ham but I think also before getting a train to Ipswich one day so no idea on dates, but I'd guess 20/2/10 on a very very cold day with Ben for my first visit.  For a station 'Spoons, this actually has some decent qualities with a really beautiful ornate upper level which has always been cordoned off on my visits.  The most notable experience was with Dad when some Norwich fans arriving in London for a lunchtime kick off swamped the pub, created an intimidating atmosphere (yes, I did say Norwich fans!) and in my haste, backed into a fruit machine, unplugged it from the wall, and nearly put it through the window.  I don't think anyone else noticed.

78.  EAST INDIA ARMS, Fenchurch Street -Wednesday 28th Jan 2009 and it was time for my first trip to Upton Park for 19 years, when we actually won making me amongst an elite band of Hull City fans to see a win at WHam.  This was an overnight stop and little birthday outing for Dad and Christine, with Ben and me in tow having checked in at the same travelodge.  This was our second pub of five or six that night, and the best of the lot.  Amazing building shape and design from the outside, small one-roomed inside and being one of those which doesn't open weekends, it was heaving with city workers with braces and briefcases but they were actually amusing, polite and friendly which shattered my stereotypes!  This is a Shepherd Neame pub which is a rarity for me, and I remember my pint of whichever guest I chose being superbly clear and quality.

Walked past this pub on my recent London trip.

79.  CROSSE KEYS, Gracechurch St - I've been to this absolutely gigantic Wetherspoons twice, once before one of those jolly end of season Watford away games with Dad, but before that, on my own probably before West Ham on 20/2/10 before meeting Ben at Hamilton Hall (see above).  I'd been wandering around Pudding Lane looking for Great Fire of London remnants when I decided to come here for breakfast.  I was amazed to see a plasma screen listing about 50 (normally 24 but they had a festival on) and it took the staff about a mile to walk around the bar to serve me.  This huge former bank has marble pillars and is very grand.  I sat not too far away, but my table number was still something like 239 (honestly), I've never seen anything like it before or since.

80.  MABEL'S TAVERN, St Pancras - In our early days of away London trips, finding a pub around Kings Cross was not difficult but the quality of the establishments was sometimes questionable.  Doric Arch never quite lives up to expectations, Euston Tap is limited, Euston Flyer is downright scary, Bree Louise goes from the sublime to the ridiculous, there's been a couple of others two which don't stick in the mind quite so much, and this, despite being a GBG regular, is one of them,  I think you are looking at 2007-2008 when my only 2 or 3 visits here occurred, and yes I can appreciate the cosiness and again, being a Shepherd Neame pub is almost quirky for me, and I don't doubt a former landlady called Mabel still haunts it, but is it really Guide quality?  I've never been begging Dad to go back with me, and what's more, I''d never convince Tom after the most memorable experience here.  As a blackcurrant drinker, we always find it amusing when ordering him a drink how the prices can vary so wildly, from "free" to about "£2" and beyond probably if our recent trip to Wimbeldon was anything to go by.  Here was the best, "no we can't give you it with tap water because it isn't safe to drink!  And that for me, says it all.

Next time up in archives, we'll mix things up a bit and have a York special..... watch this space!


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