Drained. That is how I felt at the end of my first day on 'Project Calypso' down in London, two weeks ago tonight in fact. It was all I could do to drag my living corpse the 15 minutes from Angel to Essex Road/Street/Lane (I don't know, it was a godforsaken hole of a station, would be great for filmy gritty murder mysteries).
And after a scorching crammed train journey along the Hertford line, I jumped off at BRAPA friendly leafy North London suburb of Winchmore Hill, boasting not one, not two, but THREE GBG ticks. I hadn't been concentrating though, the one which was pub of the year (The Little Green Highlighter or something) was closed on a Monday. Ahhh, Mondays! The curse of the pub ticker.
Still, the other two had GBG entries boasting of their long standing number of years in the Guide so expect to see both displaced by Micro Brewhouse Kitchen Bowls Clubs opening for 20 minutes a week in 2020's GBG.
|Step 1 - Walk down a street towards a pub
|Step 2 - See the pub and take photo that looked amazing at the time
|Step 3 - Pause at entrance for better photo, take deep breath, go inside smiling.
This was nice London. The landlord called me 'Sir' Everitt (well, Sir, not Sir Everitt, I'm not a Reading pub ticker you know), I smiled and said 'ow do' at the locals who looked a bit startled but mouthed 'hello' back with fearful eyes. That is as friendly as London pubbing gets. I was content. There were only 3 ales on, all standard London choices, and a younger BRAPA may have baulked at the 'guest' not being on, but the modern day BRAPA with RM and Curmudgeonly DNA rubbing off on him was delighted to find a Young's Bitter in perfect condition, and it rejuvenated me like no other substance on earth could. And apart from a Polish man giving himself a foot massage at the bar, all that was left to do was enjoy a bit of Whitney Houston and relax into the backstreet ambience.
|As good a pint as I've had so far in my time in London
|I feel this shot really summed up the pub
Orange Tree, Winchmore Hill
And just as pleasant an atmosphere in here, in fact this pub had a bit more to it, less basic, more large grand, aesthetically pleasing, for those of you who like to take things at face value (like idiot dogs) rather than delve into the cracks of pub inner fibre (like nice cats), which of course sets me apart from basic mortals like yourselves, no offence. Again, the welcome was first class, from an oldish bloke with an Irish burr who really seemed to 'own' the place, which I suppose he might well have. I pondered over a house beer called Orange Tree, having had some bad experiences with such ales, but put this to the back of my mind, it might taste like oranges and trees, I thought somewhat strangely. Uh oh, it actually tasted like vinegar. I tried to convince myself otherwise, after all, this pub had been in every edition of GBG since 1995! But reputation means nothing in this game, and as I wandered back up to the bar, he seemed to know what I was going to say within seconds of me standing up! "It's gone hasn't it, I had a feeling it might, bottom of the barrel!" he said. Hmmmm. Well, he was drinking Guinness with his mates on the other side of the bar, and when a lady enquired about Hop House 13 lager, he gave it the right enthusiastic hard sell! So perhaps he ain't an ale man. But then again, every year since '95? I got a bit surrounded by posh tanned duffers after that celebrating a blokes birthday who hated the fact it was his birthday. The 'bantz' was incredible. "I had an incident on the golf course today" said one bloke. "What? Someone admitted they'd vote Labour!" roared another guy. "I went to Lichfield the other day .... WHAT A PLACE" squealed a lady. My replacement beer was great, so not too many complaints when all said and done.
|So good, even their beer garden has been pub of the year 5 times.
|Keep editing that last digit and all will be fine!
I hopped back on the train, back in the direction I'd come from. I still had another pub in me, a stop or two down the line at Palmers Green. Sure it was a 'Spoons, but 'Spoons after 9pm on a Monday can be amusing, and I'd seen this one in the GBG plenty of times.
Alfred Herring, Palmers Green
The place was dead, no huge surprise there I suppose. In fact, the barmaid who served me my Swanney Mild (good quality) was moaning to her colleagues that she had nothing to do. This was after I'd passed over my 50p off voucher but forgot that I needed to pay with actual money too, not even Mudgie vouchers give you this level of 'free pass'. What is it with me trying to get out of paying for drinks since the 2019 Guide came out, it's becoming embarrassing. I sat at a high stool facing the bar so I could monitor the bar area for amusing events, a trick I learnt in Winsford and have adopted ever since. Well, she totally tempted fate with her bored comment! A demanding Spanish bloke (a staple of the BRAPA London Pub experience, possibly one paid actor following me about, (El Cookio Lagere?) appeared with his wife and started demanding all these lagers ..... which they had none of! Granted, the Heineken had just gone off. The Stella hadn't been cleaned. He then asked for Kronenburg. She went to check. That wasn't on. Don't you have Grolsch? No we don't. I was almost doubled over in awkward hysterics by now. They finally settled on a bottle of Corona each. And just when I thought it was all over, he marched his wife back to bar. "She wants a glass". "No, not a wine glass!" "And put some ice in it!" One moment only perhaps, but absolutely priceless. Instead of leaving the usually BRAPA card, I left two walnut cookies the hotel had given me when I checked in, trying to kill me of course.
|The scene when I arrived
|A different barmaid who wasn't bored cos she had blue drinks to make
Back at Essex Avenue or whatever it's called, I was dying for a loo stop but couldn't find one anywhere. HOWEVER .... although I'd been perfectly happy to declare on 3 pubs for the night, I was directly passing a BRAPA tick on the way back to Angel...... it looked open.
New Rose, Islington
Well, I say it looked open. A door was open and a barman was crouched down behind the bar with his head in one of those boxes of crisps. "Are you open?" I asked. He said indeed they were, and made some quirky joke which I laughed politely at but can't remember now. The pub was almost empty, very dark, a few deep reds and wood panels, was a bit like being in Amsterdam, but with a picture of Barry Chuckle on the Gents, and no brown cafe or brothel has ever gone to those measures, or not that I've heard anyway! I'll ask the guy from work who goes regularly (to Amsterdam brothels, not the loo). I expect with the decor and name, based on the Damned song often known as the first punk single, that this place is all quirky, fun, cool hipstery chaos at busy times, but for me, it was like drinking in an abandoned fairground with less Scooby. The beer was dreadful, murky even in the murky light, a bit like soil. And not much else to report, so that's nice isn't it? Bye.
|I can't stop to mess around, I gotta brand new rose in town!
|Bet Geoffrey off Rainbow is on this door now
|A sexist lamp, probably
|A haunted piano
So there you have it. I did more pubs on the Tuesday night which I'd love to review for you, but I'm off down again to London tomorrow (this Tuesday) til the weekend for hopefully more pubs in between Calypso mayhem. See you then on Twitter. Might have to cancel my Autumn holiday to catch up on blogs at this rate!