|2016 pub ticking gets underway in London.|
I was due to travel via L**ds (something about an amended ticket that's too complicated to explain here) but the 06:52 from York to L**ds was cancelled meaning that I wouldn't make my connection. I therefore had to beg the train guard to let me on the 07:01 direct to London instead, which he did with the air of a man who was doing me a "massive favour"(I was booked in first class too but now felt too guilty to use this hospitality!)
|Cancelled train woes in York.|
770. Masque Haunt, Old Street
So the first BRAPA 'tick' of 2016 and quite an inauspicious start. A friendly Aussie-Chinese barmaid (temporarily making her 'barmaid of the year 2016') served me a ginger flavoured ale, I chose it solely because the pump clip was upside down. No science to my methods. £2.70 despite using my new batch of 'Spoons vouchers reminded me I was down south, I made up for my lack of first class breakfast, and ordered the Eggs Benedict which was tepid, a bit like the pub temperature, and the limp lettuce accompaniment did nothing to help. A sign on all the tables warned customer "Watch Your Bag!" making this perhaps the most dishonest JDW houses in the UK. Even some of the chairs had the pub name on. Still, I now know that Old Street is not like a 15th century time warp area like I'd imagined, and Dad had caught me up so we made a hasty retreat for pub two before he'd have time to get comfy (if getting comfy had been possible here).
|Watching my bag very carefully, who needs table numbers?|
Pubs in Shopping centres eh? There aren't many of them and I used to absolutely LOVE the Cork & Cheese in Southend, alas I fear it is no more as it was always under threat when I visited and not heard about it for ages now.
771. Tap East, Westfield Stratford City
When we finally found it, it reminded me of Micro Bar in Manchester's Arndale Centre, an open bar area in the shopping centre rather than a separate building in it's own right. Tom, who'd sneaked in through a glass door at the back, commented it didn't have the charm of the Micro Bar but I actually think they've made a good job of making it as cosy, quirky and characterful as possible under the circumstances. They brew their own beer for heaven's sake and with the brewing equipment on display, we tried a strong red ale which blew our socks off. The staff had facial expressions set to 'sycophantic robot' mode, in-keeping with the Westfield, but at least they smiled. Good seats were hard to come by, a point which Dad was keen to exclaim very loudly at the bar, so we snuck into a settee next to an angry ruddy faced local who tried to ignore our inane conversations. I think it's easy to slag off this place, but I can see it's charm, and would return, but maybe via St Pancras and Stratford International instead!
|Me in the Tap East bar area.|
772. Eleanor Arms, Bow
And isn't it true that arriving at a pub in a positive frame of mind like this (rather than through the Westfield) will make you feel more kindly towards a pub from the outset? Obviously. Anyway, this was unlike any other pub we visited today in that it was a proper no nonsense back street locals local, with a jolly round landlord overseeing everything, and walking down a thin creaking old corridor to the loo past a lot of chatting locals has almost become a novelty factor in London for me. The pub seemed tied to Shepherd Neame, first time in ages I've been in one of their pubs, I always think of that fantastic East India Arms in the city. The Whitstable Pale was perfectly decent. We must have been having animated pub-geek style conversations, as the landlord soon brought us round a huge book to look at, "London Brewed", a superb huge heavy encyclopedic effort put together with much love by people who are passionate about pubs in London. Don't try telling me pubs are no longer relevant in today's society! On the way out, the landlord and some locals tried to advise us to get a number 8 bus to our next pub, which would have been better probably, but Tom wanted to visit the bakery and it's always good to "stick to what you know" when you are in a strange land!
|Arriving at the Eleanor, strategically placed in front of the bin.|
773. White Hart, Whitechapel
We arrived just at the wrong moment as a huge group (including an old woman who had to be wheeled in, how dare she?!) and had to virtually queue to get in, so Dad, more curmudgeonly than a pub curmudgeon, declared "it's going to be the worst pub of the day!" and having no patience whatsoever, he broke in through an unlikely back door. Once inside, the clientele was a lot younger than we'd been used to, but upbeat staff and superb beers from One Mild End brewery (underneath the pub or something mysterious) meant Dad was happy to retract his words. A welcoming table had been vacated next to a large window giving the pub a nice airy feel, but whoever had turned the radiators up had seriously misjudged this mild winter. So, not that airy then! Annoyingly, the large group were all ordering lager which makes no sense when the likes of Temperance Session, Salvation and Hospital Porter are looking so welcoming. To help Tom and Dad get a sense of the atmosphere, I read them the (hoax) 'Dear Boss' letter in a sinister voice, just to enhance the experience. Sure they appreciated it.
|Dad indicates the White Hart, note the group entering, about to upset him!|
774. Crown & Shuttle, Spitalfields
Oh dear, well it was always likely to happen that we'd visit a less good pub sooner or later, and this pretentious nonsense was evident as soon as you'd read the food menu on a blackboard outside. "Cheese Mint Slaw", "Brioche Buns", "Salad of Giant Couscous", "Pink Grapefruit & Pomegranate", "Barbecue Turkey Succotash Salad" .... I'm a working lad from Yorkshire and I want a Chippy Tea!! (with apologies to the Lancashire Hotpots). The bar was split into two distinct areas, but despite the length of it, only two handpumps were on offer and about 500 keg beers. The clientele were young, bearded, with skinny roll up jeans, back tattoos of Jackson Pollock art, and man bags containing biographies about Japanese Rockabilly. Probably. The toilet walls were clad in sackcloth, which was probably supposed to be cool but just seemed unhygienic. People were there to be seen, rather than just 'come to the pub'. We managed to jump in the graves a very slowly vacating group, and Dad read us a great Bill Bryson paragraph about how Mount Everest was named which was a welcome distraction. The GBG states the pub once had "an unsavoury reputation", I wish I'd visited it back then. You could see it was a nice building, so a real shame!
|I might not have a beard, but I have a snazzy red hat!|
A short walk towards Liverpool Street took us to our final pub, down a little side street where a rubbish van was trying to mow us down .......
775. Williams Ale & Cider House, Spitalfields
Ah, this was much more like it! We were greeted with a cheery "Happy New Year!" from friendly barman, a young Ahmed Elmohamady if you like, but harder working. The amount of ales on show was stunning, and I didn't get to see three quarters of them until I'd already ordered my Hop Stuff Saisonniers which tasted nothing like a Saison but was great. Again, it was a lively young vibe with some funky music playing (a little bit too loud, one of our group complained) and everyone was having a great time as a group behind us had one of the most dramatic games of Jenga ever. I like board games in pubs, I think there were a few from what Tom said, someone was playing Connect 4 too, We sat in a raised comfy booth, and I had to admit I regretted my decision not to make everyone come here for a West Ham away game a year or two ago. After the last pub, we decided a menu comparison was required, a lot more acceptable on the whole, but the price of a bowl of mixed leaves rose from £3 to £3.50 whilst we were in the pub - now that's inflation.
|Last pub of the day! Williams in Spitalfields.|
On the way back, I made up for not using my First Class ticket on the way down by eating a tonne of sandwiches, crisps and snacks. A bit of drama ensued as the milk went off, I said that I couldn't tell the difference to which 'Katrina' screwed up her nose and said "ugh, well I wouldn't drink it!"