Never before had I planned a BRAPA trip with such meticulous attention to detail as my recent Essex holiday down to Colchester.
Pub opening times were double checked, triple checked, as landlord's and landlady's up and down the country fiddle around on a weekly basis, deciding 'what works best for them in these difficult times', hidden on Facebook timelines beneath 5 million posts about their award winning Sunday roasts and dogs that have gone missing in Ware.
Train and bus routes were plotted, as were potential country walks between venues. Vague maps were drawn, cauliflower and mini cheddars were packed. I even had to take into account the progress of my fellow pub ticker Eddie, joining me for two days of ticking comradeship.
Down in London on the morning of Saturday 26th June, I made it Liverpool Street. My first six Essex pubs bristling in anticipation for their BRAPA once over.
But when some poor soul decided to throw themselves onto the tracks at Gidea Park that same morning, all trains heading east were cancelled for a good few hours. My plans quickly needed adapting. I couldn't simply linger on the concourse for hours eating Upper Crusts and supping paper coffee. No, I had to adapt. London ticking here we come!
Not quite as easy as you might think, as I stepped out into the sunshine for the first time that day, blinking up like an Austrian who'd clambered out of a cellar. The majority of London City pubs don't open on a Saturday or Sunday, as the majority of their trade are business commuters. I found a grand total of one open BRAPA tick which was easily walkable. This is it.
A Nicholson's house opposite Aldgate station, Hoop & Grapes (1810 / 3239) initially told me "give us 5-10 mins mate" as I reached the entrance at 12:02pm. After a quick walk around the block, I return to find two large groups of perky twentysomethings already tucking into their linguine and Bellini. I'm ushered towards a teeny tiny QR code on the table and encouraged (forced) to download and use the Nicholson's App, just when my phone thought it was all Pub Apped out. Bit of a problem as the App tells me all the cask ale is unavailable, even though I can see handpumps on the bar, so I commit the cardinal London sin of 'going to the bar'. The main bloke is surprisingly engaging and helpful for this part of the world, and tells me they do indeed have Proper Job or Landlord. He even goes so far as to tell me the Proper Job is bottom of barrel, but the TTL is fresh on. Legend. So I get the latter. Glorious. And it should be at £5.40 a pint, a new BRAPA cask record which has stood since 4th Oct 2018 at Notting Hill Gate's Windsor Castle. 'I wonder how long this record will last?' I remember thinking at the time.......
|The App is lying|
|Perfect pint, ignoring the price|
|Could make cruel comment, but I won't, cos infinitely the best Hoop & Grapes in London|
There is no sign of the train situation easing, so I get myself from Aldgate to London Bridge where I have a duo to tick off, and both open Saturday 12 noon too, so makes perfect sense.
I see the first as soon as I glance up, having left the station.
|A quality cistern softens the blow of expensive beer, by 1%|
My other pub is close by, and before I realise what I've done, I've unwittingly walked into the bowels of Borough Market and is hard to imagine a busier place on earth in this moment as I strain to get any type of angle to take the obligatory outdoor shot.