Thursday 8 August 2019

BRAPA's Theory of Evolution : Downe to Chislehurst (SE London 3/4)

London eh?  What a lav-er-ly place!  Not really of course.  As a northerner, I obviously find it bewildering, noisy and strange.

It is also the main part of the country that makes me think 'does the GBG really warrant 4,500 pubs?'  I'm not allowed to have such thoughts 'out loud', as people just think I'm trying to make my quest to tick off every pub in the Good Beer Guide easier!

So imagine my delight to find the first three pubs all 'above average', and my latest London bus escapade took me down narrow country lanes to a pretty village, easily the most remote 'London' pub I've been to yet.  Some purists may say Kent, the GBG would disagree.

Downe was where Charles Darwin lived and died, in the disappointingly unimaginatively named 'Down House', yawn, he could've called it Galapagos Towers or anything couldn't he?

The church had a sundial made in his honour, so he knew when it was 12 noon pub opening time cos, as we all know, he lost his Rolex in a giant tortoise's mouth in Madagascar.  BRAPA fact.

Nice church minding its own business

I couldn't be bothered looking for the sundial as I needed to get pubbing .... I noticed the pub was something of a GBG regular which is usually a good sign unless you are in Long Eaton .....

We NEVER talk about what happened in 2017, got it?

And yes, it did look promising ........

So called because Elizabeth #1 had a pint in here back in the day, Queen's Head, Downe (1709 / 2682) lived up to expectations.  I walked in and a bloke was wowing the two barmaids with his tales of travelling the world.  "I was walking down the street in China, when all these kids came up to me and asked if I was David Beckham", he revealed  "and it was only a couple of years ago!"  Borneo, India, Argentina (his wife liked the last one, probably something to do with Fray Bentos pies), the place names kept coming, their two headed posh dog called Bijou got a treat, and I edged my Good Beer Guide back into my bag as suddenly, my own swashbuckling tales of trips to Swansea, Castleford and Inverness may sound a bit lame my comparison!  When they left, a snooty lady wanting tickets for the Biggin Hill airshow came in, displaying a total lack of humanity.  When she left, a strangulated cry came from upstairs.  It was Mummy Queens, "Australia are 36/3 on the first day of the Ashes, GERRIN' THERE!" she explained.  NO WAY England could lose the first test from here.  Errrm, ooops.  I chatted a bit to the nice 'non daughter' barmaid who was a bit like a cross between every young lady in Eastenders.  Asked if Keston was walkable.  It wasn't.  Her and daughter barmaid then decided to have a "Love Island Critical Analysis Post Mortem" but every time they got into the swing of it, a demanding customer would interrupt them "where's the menu?" "there are wasps outside" "is my dog okay?" , meaning the conversation lasted, like the Bass in Tywardreath, 'in perpetuity'.  Daddy Queens shambled around too, he was a very nice bloke too with a Levellers and Stig of the Dump type vibe.  Great pub this one, please visit!

Liz enjoying a beer

Fake Beckham, Bijou, and this wonderful pub interior

The bus ride to Keston was short, but probably necessary and pub two was just across the road and around the corner.  An other wordly Greyhound looked down on me .......

But no time to dwell on that guy, as a terrifying dog mural (the pub saw my Twitter check in and disagreed) greeted me at the entrance, but I'll let you decide  .......

Well, it scared me anyway!

First impressions of the Greyhound, Keston (1710 / 2683) were not overwhelmingly positive, as I thought it might be a bit of a dining venue with some pretty ropey piped music and customer's dogs yelping from beyond.  The service was quite feisty and brisk, I actually felt a bit like a disobedient hound being properly schooled!   But I was quite wrong, the longer time went on, the more I grew to enjoy this pub, helped by a top quality pint of Tim Taylor Landlord, which I ordered as a nod to Yorkshire Day.  I sat to the left, on a nice long stretch of bench seating in the sun.  Ended up feeling more comfy than I ever had done in the lovely Queen's Head too.  The only locals were called were called 'Norm' and 'Trevor', yes this was a proper old school pub, how wrong I'd been.  In fact, it was Trevor who asked a hapless young bar lad for a packet of 'Old Man Crisps'.  The chap went for a fruitless rummage, before asking the main lady what they were.  I have to admit, I've been on this planet for 40 years and I'd never heard of them.  Well, turns out good ole' Trev meant plain / ready salted!  And the lad was expected to know this.  "And you are the one who's English, and I'm not!" she told him.  Well, you learn something every day! 

Lovely ale

Norm (I think) at the bar

Lunchtime at the cricket

My next pub called for a bus/train jiggery pokery as it wasn't immediately the most obvious choice for pub three, but a lovely man on Twitter called Charles had been imploring me to visit his wonderful local, and he'd sold me on the idea and didn't wanna let him down! 

Yes, Chislehurst was a third consecutive sedate leafy place, it had some caves where bats probably live or something, and with the afternoon sun pretty high in the sky, I was sweating like a bloke who wakes up to find a corpse in his swimming pool, as I powered up the hill, feeling like I'd had much more than two pints already!  

There was a nice nod to Barrymore .....

Nothing's Awrite

And again, the pub was a GBG regular that looked sturdy and promising .......

I'd probably say the Imperial Arms, Chislehurst (1711 / 2684) was the friendliest of the 12 pubs I visited on my two day trip, as despite a very motley selection of bar blockers, two members of staff made immediate eye contact, greeted me with a cheery hello, and almost fought over serving me.  London?  Are you sure?  I got myself an excellent pint of Harvey's Best as instructed by our new hero Charles, who'd be here later and knew all the blokes in my pic below.  A young lad in a suit (we'll call him 'Briefcase Wanker') kept looking suspiciously at me, he seemed to be embroiled in a business meeting with perhaps his Dad, a posh well-fed man who seemed to have been a local here once before making his fortune.  They were chatting to who might've been the landlady, smiling and resplendent in a brilliant green summer dress, obviously competing with our heroine at the Devonshire Arms in South Normanton last month.  I sat in a particularly weird seat, close to the bar but at right angles so I boxed myself in a bit, which I sort of regretted, as the more spacious left side of the pub may've allowed me chance to talk to some of the gaggle of fabulous friendly weirdos this pub possessed.  Even a sliver of fake bookcase wallpaper couldn't detract from the beautiful dark woods, red decor and traditional atmosphere of the pub.  Charles was right, a cracker.  Even the loos were pretty! Reminded me a bit of that fabulous Fullers pub near High Wycombe, who's name I can't remember.  Three out of three corkers, was I REALLY in London?  And just as I was thinking there was something almost 'religious' about the experience, I glance down and see an angel, wow .......

I walked quickly back down the hill, bumped into briefcase wanker and well-fed bloke who seemed to have popped into the rubbish looking gastro thing called Bickey or something.  Half way through the second day then, and what a start it had been. 

Could we keep up this level of quality for pubs 4,5 and 6?  Of course not, don't be silly!  Join me in the 4th and final part on Sunday for that tale of woe.



  1. What happened in 2017?

    Was the bloke who looked like David Beckham, whoever the Dickens he is, actually world renowned international footballer Jamie Wood in disguise? I can imagine him being stopped in China.

    The angel is actually a bat.

  2. Why do folk in Manchester complain about their public transport?

    Getting round South East London is harder than pubbing in Northumberland.

    I'd have walked to Keston. Think I did. Londoners are just lazy.

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