Archive for ‘bar’

February 26, 2011

Q&A with The Crafty Pint

The Crafty Pint is one of my go too sites for the lowdown on the Aussie Craft Beer scene. I caught up with Crafty ‘s James to get the lowdown on his view of beery Heaven and Hell.

Favourite place to enjoy a Crafty Pint? 

In the UK a Bass from the jug at my folks’ local.

In Australia pretty much any Barbie, anywhere with the right people and a well-stocked Esky.

Can you define the perfect pub?

Good beer selection that’s well looked after and understood by everyone from owner to bar staff – ideally with a bit of rotation and some craziness in the fridge – plus good music (but not so loud you can’t talk), comfy chairs (but not necessarily sofas – can be too relaxing for proper beer enjoyment) and a well conceived beer garden. Food optional if everything else is up to scratch.

What’s your idea of Beer or Pub hell?

In the UK, Yates’s (do they still exist?). Possibly the very definition of hell full stop. Shit beer (and wine), clueless staff, bonehead security, dickheads slamming Jagerbomb’s to a backdrop of extremely loud R ‘n’ B and flashing disco lights at 5.30pm on a Wednesday. At least that’s how I remember them!

In Oz, sadly, the most common format: TAB (sports betting), pokie room (gambling machines), monochromatic beer selection, design based on the Woodall Service Station canteen. Thankfully, times appear to be a-changin’.

What’s most likely to be heard while writing Crafty?

Currently, John Grant’s Queen of Denmark is getting a good run with The Lemonhead’s It’s A Shame About Ray; but usually it’s iPod on shuffle, with the Flaming Lips, Alabama 3, Super Furry Animals, Paul Kelly and Aphex Twin having the greatest probability of appearing.

What was the last thing you got excited about – beer or otherwise?

This message from a Mountain Goat brewer: “Just bottled 400 cases of IPA. Tasting great.” Hopefully, he’s mislabeled a few for the staffies pile.

Whats happening?

Taking The Crafty Pint interstate one step at a time. Persuading the mainstream media to give what’s happening with Aussie craft beer more column inches. Getting more Aussies to wake up to what they could be drinking rather than what they’ve been forced to drink for so long. More hand pumps and quality real ales in Aussie beer bars. And working out how to lose weight while doing what I do.

If you weren’t writing The Crafty Pint?

I’d be writing about something else with a fatter wallet and a slimmer gut.

Get your daily top up at www.craftypint.com

February 18, 2011

Aussie Fundraiser: Punch Tavern, 99 Fleet Street, EC4

Floods, cyclones and fire… Australia has been positively biblical of late. For many Aussies watching from the UK, thoughts of home can’t be far away. For Dave Pocock (AKA the Punch Tavern’s “token Aussie”), these thoughts have turned to action and a special fundraiser.

The Punch Tavern will be opening it’s doors, on the evening of Saturday 5th March, in aid of the Red Cross (for Victoria) and the Premiers Disaster Relief Appeal (for Queensland).

As well as an ample supply of Aussie inspired finger food there will be a Raffle, Auction and an “Australian music marathon”. Tickets are just £10 with 50% donated. To buy in advance contact dave@punchtavern.com or alternatively buy on the door (if there’s any left).

The Punch Tavern, 99 Fleet Street , London, EC4Y 1DE

February 4, 2011

Q&A: Matt Marinich of Sail & Anchor, Fremantle

In a first for The Pub Diaries we caught up with Matt Marinich of Fremantle’s Sail & Anchor for a quick Q&A.

What’s most likely to be overheard in the pub?

“I can’t choose, there are too many beers!” I like when I hear a customer say this, its rewarding. With 43 beers taps with 26 different beers running
through them, I like to spoil the beer geek in everyone.

Favourite place to enjoy a beer?

Short of my own haunt, Monk Brewery and Kitchen is about 30m across the road. Great Rauchbier, superb Kolsch and a 6.2% Hibiscus Wheat beer with serious flavour. I worked with the Head Brewer Justin Fox at the Sail back in the day.
If I wasn’t running a pub I’d be…

a commercial brewer. I am an avid home brewer and massive beer geek so I would get certified and would love it.

What’s your definition of a perfect pub?

Tough question…a venue with solid examples of beer styles on tap and in package, not just random beers for the sake of it. Simple offerings, nothing over the top; genuine customer service from staff who really care about the beer.

What’s your vision of Pub hell?

I had a nightmare once that all I could order at this pub was XXXX Gold. It really disturbed me. I woke to realise no one is that mean.

What was the last thing you got excited about?

Becoming BJCP certified. Currently studying with random brewers/beer judges whenever I can. I will be associate judging at this years Perth Royal Beer Show. Secondly, I’m pretty proud of my organisation/execution of FEBREWARY. Also, the Sail and Anchor being voted “BEST BEER VENUE 150PAX+ IN WA.”

What’s happening? Future projects, hopes etc.

IRON BREW

Amateur Brewing Competition will see an old school favourite be welcomed back to the taps. Moreover, the chance for some talented Aussie home brewers to shine. FEBREWARY -
Pouring in Febrewary will be a total of 42 beers from:

Rogue (US), Southern Tier (US),

Mikkeller (DEN), Nogne-O (NOR), Dupont (BEL), Lindemans (BEL), BOCQ (BEL), Weinhenstephan (GER), Sunner (GER), Weltonburger Kloster (GER), and Brew Dog (Scot).

Epic (NZ), Renaissance (NZ), 8 Wired(NZ)

For some of these beers it will be the first time they have been poured in WA

Sail & Anchor, 64 South Tce, Fremantle, Western Australia, 6160

February 1, 2011

#Meateasy, Goldsmiths Tavern, 316 New Cross Road, London SE14

I’ve come to the Meatwagon late. In fact so late that it’s been stolen. The South London burger wagon that became a food cult was stolen in December and it looked like I’d never get to taste the meaty goodness I’d heard so much about. I was just going to have to live with it. At least until the birth of the #Meateasy. This pop up venture above the Goldsmiths Tavern in New Cross is looking to raise funds for a new Meatwagon. This is their second chance and my meaty redemption.

It’s just English who responds to my #Meateasy invitation and like me I think he’s considering his choice days in advance. As we arrive at Goldsmiths Tavern we know we’re in the right place but all the same its not giving us any clues. The barmaid, looking the two suits up and down, has the answer: Meateasy? Thru-the-back-turn left-thru-the-door-up-the-fire-escape. She’s obviously said this a few times over the last few weeks. Peering into the back and a darkened dancefloor it looks unlikely to lead anywhere but we obediently make our way to the back. And this is how I find myself stood on a dark dancefloor in New Cross, with English; as Rhythm is a Dancer pumps through the speakers. It’s a bizarre moment to say the least. Then to the left, a chink of light and we’ve either found it, or the bogs. It’s raining as we ascend the fire escape from the beer garden. A family pass us on the stairs and straight faced tell us that it’s not too busy. I don’t get my hopes up as the meatwagon queues were legendary. My caution is well placed as we are greeted with a smile, given a raffle ticket and told that we will order in around two hours. There’s no question of leaving – we have tickets and we have a bar – what else do we need?

The room is busy with expectant punters sat, stood and perched; the kitchen looks to be working at full capacity and the front of house staff are screaming. Raffle ticket numbers to call people into the order queue and names for those about to be served. As time passes voices start to strain and the loud hailer comes out. At the bar its as hectic with a choice of cocktails and Meantime London Lager and Union. At £3.50 a bottle its not going to be the cheapest of nights but then they hardly need to push cheap beer to pull the punters and to be fair the atmosphere is better than any bar in Central London which would charge the same or more.

As food leaves the open kitchen necks are strained, usually followed by ohhh I might have that, or that, ohh no that. We hardly notice the wait, which is pretty much the 2 hours predicted, though coming later seems to be the best tactic for a shorter wait. Before long our numbers are called and we are in the queue having to make choices. Not everything at the #Meateasy is easy! With the French Dip and Philly Cheese Steak sold out I opt for the Dead Hippy as much for the name as for the fact that it’s what Big Macs should taste like with its double patty and special sauce. Onion Rings, Fries and Buffalo wings accompany – I mean it would be wrong not to wouldn’t it. I can honestly say that I could have closed my eyes and been in Brooklyn. Its the best burger experience i’ve had in the UK and perhaps anywhere.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The Goldsmith Tavern is due a Capital Pub Company makover shortly and #Meateasy is open now until March. My advice is to get in while you can. When the Meatwagon returns a fleet may be needed to satisfy fans old and new.

Pics courtesy of Tehbus

#Meateasy, Goldsmiths Tavern 316 New Cross Rd,  London SE14 6AF

January 24, 2011

Hey Amigo: Moo Grill, Cobb Street, E1

“HEY AMIGOS!”…

is the greeting as you enter Moo Grill. At a cheesy Mexican chain it would have me cringing and heading for the door, but here it’s sincere, authentic and with no hint of a corporate handbook. To be found between the City and Whitechapel, this Argentinine café bar specialises in tasty Lomito (a simple steak sandwich) and other quick Latin inspired snacks.

 

It’s become a regular stop, offering great value and genuinely friendly service. A simple Lomito (with lettuce and tomato) is served with homemade fries and soft drink for just £5.90. The steak is tender and best served with a liberal helping of chimichurri sauce.

Breakfast is yet untested but with the value of lunch its sure to be before long. So what are you waiting for Amigo’s?

Moo Grill, 4 Cobb Street, London, E1 7LB

January 24, 2011

The Bear Freehouse, Camberwell New Road, SE5

Until now I’ve only seen Camberwell from the top deck; a view of pigeons picking at takeaway leftovers and pound shops. I will admit it wasn’t at the top of the list for a Sunday lunch but when given a Twitter recommendation by an aptly named Pub Geek (@thepubgeek) it would be bad form not to give it a go.

Arriving at 12:45 the pub was already close to full. The Bear don’t take bookings so it’s advisable to get in early to claim your table and mark your territory with the Sunday paper and a pint. While Lou and I wait for the others we take a menu and commence salivation. There’s a good choice of about 5 starters of soups, soused herring and game which although tempting make way for the Sunday classic, a Bloody Mary. A usual go to for a kickstart after a heavy Saturday night it delivers a good hit of spicy warmth, which prepares me for the main.

I find it very difficult to resist a roast on a Sunday menu and even more difficult to resist Pork Belly, whenever offered. This is no exception and I’m not disappointed. There’s the right balance of meat to fat and the long thin crackling is brittle with just the right amount of bite; without the tooth picking stickiness you sometimes encounter. The veg could be slightly warmer but the roast potato is perfectly crisp outside and fluffy within. A well balanced portion ensures that dessert is an option without unnotching the belt.

Service at The Bear is friendly and laid back.  The absence of a booking system means that you can take time to enjoy a leisurely lunch. Which is what Sunday lunch is about, is it not? A great find, thanks to the power of Twitter and the Pub Geek.

296a Camberwell New Road, London, SE5 0RP

January 16, 2011

Euston Tap, Euston Road, NW1

Faced with a dark January evening, monotonous drizzle and waves of commuters my patience is quickly waning. I’m heading to the most eagerly awaited addition on the London Craft Beer scene, the Euston Tap and telling myself it will all be worth it. Having watched English cover all sides of the Euston concourse in search of a working cash machine we head out of the station in the wrong direction and towards King Cross. I’m close to breaking at this point. Craft beer, craft beer, craft beer is the mantra in my head willing me forward. Finally, after the interventention of google maps we are heading the right way. A neon sign glows up ahead of us like a craft beer beacon.

Housed in a a remnant of the original station, the Portland stone lodge bears no resemblance to the 60s concrete blight of the modern Euston. The view as you enter through the double doors is of a bar top clear of pumps. Taking a cue from across the pond beer is dispensed from a wall of taps set into a copper backingl; the blackboards flanking each side are almost overwhelming with a choice on tap of 25+ beers and much much more in the fridge. It’s difficult to know where to start. Working through the blackboards we start light with Camden Town Brewery Pale Ale and Mahrs Pils before moving to Erdinger Urweisse.

The downstairs horseshoe space is compact and you could be forgiven for missing the original narrow spiral staircase leading to the upstairs seating. A tad precarious after a few pints perhaps but pint holders are available. Upstairs is a litlle sparse but is perhaps a work in progress and lets face it – we are not here for the decor.

As the evening progresses as does the thirst for something new which leads us from the lighter starters to the heftier and to my mind superior Thornbridge Raven and Bristol Beer Factory Ultimate Stout. With only a small dent made in the ever changing list there is no chance of getting bored with whats on offer and now I know where it is there’ll be no need for google maps or the mantra as “craft beer” just doesn’t come close to describing whats on offer. Another landmark on the London craft beer map.

Euston Tap, West Lodge, 190 Euston Road, NW1 2EF

January 7, 2011

The Owl and the Pussycat, Redchurch Street, E2

I must be getting on now as although Brick Lane is literally on the doorstep it’s less and less becoming a place where I chose to drink. Apart from the odd gig the only thing that draws me in is Rough Trade, Beigel Bake or Fika. The nearest I get these days is Redchurch Street. The imaginatively named Redchurch Bar is an old favourite with an extensive stock of liquor and a cocktail list running to over 10 pages; though its always a pint of Sierra Nevada which is my go to. When I want shades of a cook Williamsburg (Brooklyn) bar this is where I head. Change is afoot with new additions to the strip running between Bethnal Green Road to the East and Shoreditch High Street to the West (where strip can beused in the literal sense)with; Mason & Taylor (see imminent post), technically on BGR and The Owl and the Pussycat which having hung on for a number of years finally succumbed to the march of Shoreditch gentrification last year. In its previous life The Owl and the Pussycat was what some would term an Old School Boozer. Shabby but without the chic it had erratic opening hours and service which was comic; unless it was being inflicted on you when it became infuriating. I first heard of its refurb from Cheese and Biscuits and a post which seemed to polarise foodies in their comments and drew a direct and convincing defence from the management. There was more than a hint of the gentrification debate in that post which I will touch on only briefly. My view put simply is that things move on. People love to have someone to vilify when it comes to East London whether it’s the Nathan Barleys in the early and mid noughties or more recently the Suits as the City swells outward. Pubs need to continue to be relevant to theirchanging clientele and cannot be preserved in aspic. The Old School Boozer tag in itself can itself be an excuse  for bad beer, service and décor; the latter of which I can forgive, the others I can’t.

As we arrive Edwyn Collins is playing, which is a tick on English’s mental checklist. The décor is the Shoreditch jumble sale chic which comes as no surprise. It’s relaxed with a comfortable bar area and more formal dining upstairs. Run by the team behind The  Fellow in Kings Cross it’s sure to be a winner. First impressions were mixed with only 1 of the 4 ales on; the other draft choice being the likes of Becks and Heineken. That said the fruity Ringwood Boondoggle was on and sustained us through 2 rounds. Whether it becomes a regular haunt remains to be seen. Mason & Taylor was the intended destination (though closed due to their Christmas party) and my thoughts are that if half as good as their Duke of Wellington in Dalston, The Owl and the Pussycat may continue to be just a fallback.

The Owl and the Pussycat, 34 Redchurch St, E2 7DP

December 19, 2010

SE1: The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

After my high praise for SE1 as the pub destination I thought I was onto a sure-fire winner with the Garrison on Bermondsey Street. It’s been a few years since my last visit but it seemed like the perfect place for a December Supper Club (albeit Sunday lunch) and another tick for SE1. This unfortunately wasn’t to be the case with an experience that is truly frustrating. There are aspects that I would rave about and others that ultimately had us walking away disappointed.

So in the interest of fairness the positives. Firstly the food. We all agreed that it was very good. Cockles going as far rating as one of the beat roasts he’s had in years. Then there’s the little things; those nice touches that stick in the mind and ultimately should bring you back. The barman volunteering a small taster of the beer was a good start and the Garrison jam recipes with the bill should have bookended a great Sunday lunch experience.

Without even stepping through the door things had already taken a turn for the worst. Despite having booked a month previous a confirmation call the day before told us that our leisurely lunch would be curtailed with just 90 minutes available for our table. I fully understand the rationale in turning tables but to find out with less than 24 hours notice gives you little choices to change. Throw in Transport for London and Gio’s Italian time keeping and 90 minutes isn’t a great deal of time.  Add the service at a snails pace and things don’t look good.  On this occasion any hope of getting a drink at the bar without waving your arms was unlikely. Once seated with the clock ticking starters are off the menu and we move to the mains; a shame as we all have something in mind; and the point of the Supper Club is indulgence, when thoughts of cost and fat content are forgotten. The mains as said are great and as the plates are cleared the dessert menu is offered. At this point there may be enough time but it doesn’t materialise for 15 minutes at which point we are told to order quickly as the table is booked. To me, in fact to all of us, this was a final disappointing act which left the bill as four mains plus drinks. Service was excluded and when explaining why it hardly seemed to register. The website boasts Michelin recommended which for the main course stands up. I obviously cannot comment on starter or dessert, but service needs to take a huge leap forward. Perhaps Supper Club will next reconvene North of the river.

99-101 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3XB

October 6, 2010

Dovetail, Clerkenwell: The Saviour of Tuesday

There was a time, not that long ago, that a few beers on a Tuesday night could turn into an unexpected session. Random dives, curry and kebabs would likely be involved; as inevitably would the Wednesday morning hangover and the prognosis of: it must be something I ate. Nowadays I’m a little more restrained. Attributable in part to the conversion. Not of the religious kind, Though on reflection it does involve a morning baptism and a great number of oh god, jesus, jesus’s, as I plunge into an outdoor pool which today read 15c. It’s not something to be attempted with the remnants of a session clunking round your shattered mind and body!



So planning a few Tuesday evening drinks these days requires more thought. The main rule here is that too much of a good time should be avoided or you are risk of a session.

Meeting Captain English around Farringdon I’m stuck for a venue. I’ve always found the station end of Cowcross Street to be a wasteland for decent pubs and bars so this is firmly out. Ok so I said too much of a good time should be avoided, but a bad time is just a waste of time and money. There’s a niche between the two which is pleasant conversation, a few laughs (but not too many mind) which will see you on the right train home every time. Clerkenwell Green, the Gunmakers and the Peasant would all be too dangerous a proposition so the choice was the Dovetail. A bar specialising in Belgian beer should surely be a dangerous choice? But strangely it isn’t. The service is ok, the choice is extensive and tucked away on Jerusalem Passage it’s a relatively quiet location. I’ve spent time here for after work drinks and on weekends when I lived around the corner but have never made a connection in the same way as say the Peasant or 3 Kings, that makes me want to stay. English and I ponder this over a Kwak; the conclusion is it’s identikit feel; with Tin Tin posters, pews, Belgian beer memorabilia, not to mention the stale chip fat aroma, we could as easily be sat in a Bromley chain bar. A shame perhaps? Well not really as without the likes of the Dovetail occupying the niche between favourites and the likes of Cowcross Street, Tuesday nights could be a thing of the past. As conversation strays to the existence of a Kwak Pipe it’s time for the short walk to the train station.

9-10 Jerusalem Passage
Clerkenwell
EC1V 4JP

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