Monday 10 December 2018

BRAPA - Auntie Maggie's Blackcurrant Remedy : Tales from Streatham & Beyond

Plum Porter Grand Reserve, Stormbird (closest I'd get to pint of Blackcurrant today)

My good friend Tom isn't phased by much.  That much should be clear to those of you who read my blog regularly (you poor scarred individuals) or have met the chap in real life (you poor scarred individuals).  

But since the BRAPA inception (5th April 2014), there's always been one word that you can see immediately strikes fear into his young/old heart.  "Streatham".  The home of his Auntie Maggie, who very much sounds like your archetypal Aunt Agatha from Jeeves & Wooster.  For years now, I've teased Tom at his reluctance to bring us anywhere near Streatham on BRAPA days, but this time he finally cracked and arranged our pre-Millwall drinks in the area.

How I imagine Tom's Auntie to look
Early on, myself and father BRAPA were due to meet Tom, who was lurking about the railways as per usual, at the Great North Wood near West Norwood, but with us ahead of schedule, cold and impatient, instead of waiting for the 10:30am opener, we stayed on til Sutton where there was 'Spoons joy to be found.

I've always wondered what Sutton was like since, as a twild, I remember them being my first memory of football 'giant killing' when they beat Coventry in the FA Cup.  And now I know,  it is like a South London suburb, some said Surrey, my GBG disagreed, it likes to be awkward like that.

1412 / 2385.  Moon on the Hill, Sutton

First thing that struck me was how heavy and awkward the entrance doors were, meaning anyone of brittle frame or work shy nature might simply give up trying and slope off to 'All Bar One' across the road, hence the clientele were the cream of the crop, a 'Spoons crowd of character and fortitude you might say, and how often can you say that?  I often point to mine and Dad's less than satisfactory Wetherspoons experiences, and I think the reason is clear, 11am ish on a Saturday is NOT a good time to visit them.  Midweek daytime, even late evening Mon-Thu, but not now, when breakfast crumbs, buggies and coffee refills dominate.  But here was different.  A barmaid of some quality served us quickly, smile of her face, even engaged with us in a friendly manner as Dad had read out the beer description rather than the wordy official name.  She set the standard for what would prove a great day on the staff front.  An old bloke who was off to All Bar One gave us his table, and most people were just drinking stoically, chuntering and grunting.  I read about HG Wells, he didn't sound a very nice man.  One man had an ice bucket for his wine, I kept expected a wife or 'other' to come in and share it with him, but he was quite happy enjoying it alone, he'd drained it by 10:45am and then he left with a spring in his step to do his morning chores.  A sign showed the pub's pride at being listed in the last four consecutive GBG's, but it showed 6 GBG covers, what could it all mean?  But on the whole, an above average 'Spoons this, good start.

Barmaid being a legend

The sign that confused me (nice carpet btw)

"Will you let us know when the wine has chilled to an acceptable temperature mate?"

"No problemo Bernard, I'm all over it!"

Canadian jeans and beer bellied vest wearing Savile ghost at bar.
There wasn't really time to go back towards Tulse Hill and walk to West Norwood with 12 noon approaching, so we arranged to meet Tom in Streatham.

Predictably under the circs, he was in disguise, a bright 'Animal' rain coat he'd got for a fiver.  It wasn't at all the type of thing you'd expect him to be wearing (mainly cos it wasn't from Monkey World).  He had his hood up the whole time, not due to the rain, but fear that Auntie Maggie was on the prowl......

We popped into a giant Tesco so I could use the facilities and Dad could get excited by the shower gel offers.  But soon Tom was hiding in dark corners and muttering "this is the kind of place she could be" and out of compassion, I tore Dad away from the Zesty Lime Original Source and towards the first of two pubs we were planning on doing here.

1413 / 2386.  Bull, Streatham

Tough luck on BRAPA, some pubs (usually in London) seem to exist almost to get me into trouble.  They are so London, so 2018 and oh so 'Woke' that I'd have to invent a term for them, 'Twoke'.  It all started in the echoey huge one room dining mess as staff zipped about setting up for lunch and we had to dodge them to get to the bar.  Once there, a barmaid of extreme cleavage served me, but of course it is important we note I only had eyes for the pumps (hand pumps I should clarify).  After all, she is entitled to wear what she wants without mediocre young gammon like me ogling her.  "A pint of Young's Bitter, a Winter Warmer and a pint of blackcurrant squash, tap water, no ice" was my order but as I handed over the tenner, she says £11.25.  Well I never, I could've got 11 and a quarter bottles of shower gel with this!  I rummaged around for the extra £1.25, but she'd put ice in Tom's blackcurrant so I made her fish it out, AND it was seriously weak in strength (I am now an expert in blackcurrant strength).  We sat in a 'later to be reserved' low flung settee by the glorious pub fire, easily the highlight of the place.  I spied a bloke outside tapping on the window and singing, he was taller than Kevin Francis, wore a leopard skin coat, and did a weird moonwalk style dance.  We didn't know whether to shriek in terror or laugh hysterically.  But what if he had mental health issues?  So I did neither.  #WokeSi2018  Next up, a gay couple sat next to us, married, said Dad, being more of an expert than me on these things.  Perhaps he could see their rings?  They were expertly groomed and had a pet sausage dog which they passed around like a pass the parcel, so it got equal love from both fathers.  Nothing to see here.  #WokeSi2018.  Then an almighty crash, a huge buggy parked in the middle of the floor previously carrying about six twild folk and toppled over, seems the under carriage was full of bottles which rolled out, I can only assume they were some 11.5% gooseberry saison.   I tried to look over as though they'd disturbed the calm, but then remembered how hard it must be juggling kids and craft ale in the modern day and smiled politely. #WokeSi2018.  My ale was warm and flat but that probably serves me right for drinking boring old fashioned hand pulled beer in 2018 and paying by cash.  It was time to leave.  

Ales, no barmaid in sight

The highlight

Tom contemplates hiding place options if Maggie walks in

It isn't Royal Oak (Th' Heights) in Delph is it?

Woke Sausage Dog doesn't trust me at all

Well this is turning into an epic blog already isn't it?  Sorry about that, perhaps if I call it a 'long read' like the experts do, you will feel obliged to 'stick with it' til our painful conclusion in 3 pubs time.

Back towards one of Streatham's many dull stations, the one that was good for the ride up to South Bermondsey, was our next stop ......

First evidence of a growing problem today - Dad failing to get pub sign in
1414 / 2387.  Railway, Streatham

I like my 'Railway' pubs to be nice and grotty, a bit stained with centuries worth of smoke and diesel, brickwork that has not seen light since the second world war, a bit dark inside and struggling to get more than two handpulls on as some wheezy old bugger pulls 'em through.  I don't know why, it just feels 'right' that way.  So this was a bit of a let down from the get go.  A lazier pub blogger might just say 'more of the same' after the Bull, but something about the busy street corner location, and a more controlled professional feel from the staff meant that despite the aesthetic deficiencies, and there were plenty, you could respect this pub more.   Dad hit the nail on the head when he said "just a bit more attached to the real world", the service and beer were better, but soon he bemoaned the clientele "they're a bit normal in here aren't they?"  He certainly wasn't meaning the attractive American girl in the corner, eating chips, sorry fries, smiling manically around the room with her backless dress and cleavage to give our previous barmaid a run for her money.  What's with Streatham, does Auntie Maggie do this too?  I forgot to ask Tom on the day but he can reply in the comments section below.  But all good, friendly feel despite more buggy action, everyone eating thrice cooked chips and what the heck is a "kids and adult lucky dip"?  Sounds sinister.  But no time to dwell, Tom noticed a train was 3 mins away so we necked our drinks and made a run for it......

Time for a pub stop half way to the ground, and this was one I'd been looking forward to, considering the rave reviews I'd heard and the fact they follow me on Twitter and once said "when you're in, tell us you're here and we'll get you a pint!"  and sound like lovely folk ......

Problem was, we could see a busy pub across the road but no pub name.  Was this it?  The foliage had grown over the sign, so you had to peer closely through the shrubbery like some acceptable David Bellamy to reveal that yes, this was in fact the right place .....

Scary!  As close to pub sign photo as Dad could get, a good effort.

1415 / 2388.  East Dulwich Tavern, East Dulwich

The EDT, as it is known to the cool kids (like me), presumably because it isn't just a pub, "it is an institution", or one of those things, seems loved by all and was very busy with 20 and 30 somethings milling around the large high roofed building, heads in the nosebags, mouths in the troughs.   I needed a pee desperately and it wasn't my round but no way I was gonna go saying "cough, cough, I am BRAPA give me free beer my twitter friends" cos I ain't a nob in that way and no doubt the already hassled staff would've correctly told me to piss off.   We managed to secrete ourselves into a seat which at 3pm was going to be reserved by someone called "John" who had the tables next to us too, and whenever a bloke hovered anywhere near us, we looked at him like "if you are John, you can bloody well wait til 3pm chum".  One thing was troubling me, I'd see 3 Volden ales which immediately makes me think 'Antic', but when you look at the Antic bingo card, the EDT didn't really display the hallmarks.  No exposed piping, no knowingly shite quirky decor, no glowing modern canteen, this was actually more like being in a 'pub', can you believe, and in that respect, it put me in mind of that Royal Albert at New Cross.  I thought it was a good time to get out the BRAPA Quiz* I'd prepared, but Dad was deducted 3 points for being obstrocalous (Yorkshire for obstreperous), then they told me I had to concentrate on drinking up, so the quiz was shelved and Tom won by default.  They left me to drink up, and Dad came back in to tell me to hurry up, so obstrocalous, but I knew the train was delayed, and did it really matter if we missed kick off?  

"On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ....."

The over hanging sharp stars had me on edge throughout

Half a sausage left by girl next to me .... her boyfriend snaffled it seconds after in this photo of the day contender

But we didn't miss the match, sadly.  In fact, when we got to South Bermondsey, we were the only ones walking through the cage (for our own safety) to the away end but I've been to the New Den a few times now and never found it in the least bit intimidating, partly cos they have hardly any fans of their own and play goal music when they score like a tinpot South Yorkshire club.

The game finished 2-2, and was like watching a League Two fixture for the most part.  We were poor, so were they, after going 1-0 up, we should've been better, but at 2-1 down, looked a certain defeat, and we scored from our only two efforts so cannot complain. 

Time for post match refreshment then, after all, loadsa time.  We were booked on the 8pm.  Weren't we?  

Despite BRAPA being my thing, I allowed Tom to dictate strategy here, which meant changing for a place called Denmark Hill, which allowed us to reminisce on Jan Molby's reign as Hull City manager, which wasn't much fun let me tell you.   Like when we beat Carlisle 4-0 and he still said if he had a bus, he'd drive the whole team off a cliff! 

After a longish walk down a main road, we came to a place called Camberwell where there was a GBG pub,  FIVE on a match day, a pretty good return ....... again, our close proximity to the pub meant a difficult one to photo well, and my jaw has done something weird, Tom looks like he's seen his Auntie Maggie floating in the background.

1416 / 2389.  Stormbird, Camberwell

Although this place carried on today's pub theme of wooden floored, echoey, modern, young and quite trendy, there was something very pleasing about this pub from the off which put it in the higher echelons of 'pub of the day' contender.  What helped early on was seeing what I thought was Titanic Plum Porter through a crowded penalty area, but once we'd ordered, I realised it was the stronger Grand Reserve.  Ooooof, well, kind of needed it after that match!  Our barmaid was an absolute gem, engaging with an element of Villanelle from Killing Eve without the brutal murdering bit which is always worthy of a staff point, especially when Dad tried to hand over £10.30 only for her to charge us £7.30, which seemed incredibly reasonable considering what I'd paid earlier for a much less impressive trio of drinks.  We managed to funnel our way into a seat in the corner,  and apart from a fleet of police cars responding to some probably crazy incident, it was top drinking.  Over the road, I'd spied sister pub the Hermit's Cave which looked nice and apparently has a calmer feel an older clientele so we were just about to do it as a pre-emptive, when Dad noticed we were actually on the 7:30 back to York, so we had to leg it back across London post-haste.  

Dad and Tom as we wait for our drinks

Diff piccie of me from the top one

View of the pub and I want a grey tracksuit now

Hermit's Cave - so near, yet so far!
So that was the end of a good day, nice to get 5 more South London ticks and I've now done 51 pubs in the region, putting it 7th in the BRAPA league table but still loads to do down there.  

* The BRAPA quiz centred around 8th December being the day in the year I've had most BRAPA outings.  Pubs 'on that day' included Gardeners Rest in Sheffield (2004), Brittania in Plymouth (2006), Guide Dog in Southampton (2007), Cleveland Arms Paddington (2012), Fanny's in Saltaire (2013) and Arcade in Barnsley (2017).  So now you know!



  1. I had 3 pints of Plum Porter Grand Reserve that day. Well, it was my birthday. Deadly stuff. Finished me off by 4pm.

    1. HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY! Trust you to share it with the most popular day in BRAPA history. Even one pint and I could feel my limbs not wanting to move.

  2. Love the Wodehouse reference.

  3. "How I imagine Tom's Auntie to look"

    What are those two black things she's holding? The eviscerated innards of her enemies?

    "it is like a South London suburb"

    Yep, Wiki shows the boundaries of London including Sutton. I mean, it's a stone's throw from both Croyden to the east and Morden to the north.

    "The sign that confused me"

    My guess is they've been in six times but only the last four were consecutive.

    "Canadian jeans and beer bellied vest wearing Savile ghost at bar."

    I didn't know there was such a thing as Canadian jeans. :)

    "and oh so 'Woke' that I'd have to invent a term for them, 'Twoke'."

    I like it! (thumbs up)

    "a barmaid of extreme cleavage served me"

    As the saying goes; pics or it didn't happen. ;)

    "but then remembered how hard it must be juggling kids and craft ale"

    I didn't know crafties and kids mixed.

    "you will feel obliged to 'stick with it' til our painful conclusion in 3 pubs time."

    Crikey! Thanks for the heads up (pours another beer).

    "So this was a bit of a let down from the get go."

    It doesn't help that Google Streetview says it's 'a bright gastropub and comedy venue'.

    "and what the heck is a "kids and adult lucky dip"?"

    Saw that in the photo. Not a bloody clue.

    "The over hanging sharp stars had me on edge throughout"

    Ah. The stars of Damocles. :)

    "Ooooof, well, kind of needed it after that match! "

    Pfft. It's only 6.5%. I'll be having 1.5 litres of IPA at that strength when talking to my brother on Skype for an hour later.

    "which seemed incredibly reasonable considering what I'd paid earlier for a much less impressive trio of drinks."

    And closer to the centre of London as well!

    "and apart from a fleet of police cars responding to some probably crazy incident,"

    I thought things like that and 'not normal' folk were part of the experience on your outings?

    "View of the pub and I want a grey tracksuit now"

    It does seem to pull in the ladies. :)


    PS - "smile of her face,"

    I think you mean on her face. :)

    "I kept expected"

    Expecting methinks.

    "has a calmer feel an older clientele"

    And, not an.