Archive for ‘cask’

April 27, 2010

The Warwick (The Gastro Half Marathon)

The Warwick in Pimlico was the venue for a Sunday lunch which will not soon be forgotten for food and service which were poles apart.

As Lou and I arrived at 1pm to meet O and Meister there were only a handful of tables occupied. Designed from the gastro pub by numbers manual it’s a mix of mismatched tables and chairs, benches on stripped floors. Asking for a pint of Royal London, one of only three Ales (Green King IPA and Abbot Ale being the others) the barman seemed confused by my choice. Repeating my choice again I pointed at the pump. This first sign of the trend for the afternoon barely registered.
As the bar filled over the next 2 hours a definte division formed with a Nappy Valley developing in the lowered area. Getting from the table to the toilet became a mission, weaving round strollers, toddlers and their parents all blocking the passageway to the toilets.

The pace of the 3 staff increased with every new table, dashing from one side of the bar to another, in and out of the kitchen, nerves fraying, a scene of inefficient fire fighting. Plates were stacked at either end of the bar, constantly fed by annoyed diners clearing their own tables. The pile closest to Nappy Valley looking as if there could be a cascade of knives, forks and gravy at any second. Although this should have been our cue to leave the food looked and smelt great and watching what would unfold next was like strange voyeuristic theatre.
The danger to Nappy Valley is cleared by one of the kitchen staff, or perhaps even the chef, which could go some way to explain the near 60 minute wait for food. There are no thoughts of the chaos around us as we ravenously attack the Soft Shell Crab, Pan Fried Scallop and Seared Foie Gras. If the kitchen is at boiling point at this point it doesn’t show as each dish cannot fail to impress, from good produce to presentation. The scallop and foie gras dishes while pan fried or seared are crisp from the pan but not overcooked, as is often be the case when diverting from normal pub menus. The accompanying carrot puree with the latter dish adds a subtle sweet edge to the richness of the main element. Its safe to say that appetites are sated and we are ready for the main courses.

We prise another bottle of Malbec (Mendoza 2007) from the bar after pointing it out on a stained and sodden wine list, an early casualty of the plate mountain. This sustains us for the 35 minute wait for three mains, the fourth coming 15 minutes afterward having been left off the order. All I can do is drool at the plates as the other three tuck in. The roasted cod looks good, though there seems to be a shortage of puy lentils. My roast pork belly arrives without any word of apology. Its at this point that my nerves start to fray slightly and I ask if they expect me to pay. The manager waves his hands around and mutters for me not to worry. He’s probably contemplating that there are many hours of this left; with a group of weary London Marathon runners limping in medals round their necks. I’m thinking we deserve one at this point for the Nappy Valley Slalom and the Freestyle Drink Pointing. Despite all the grief it’s certainly worth the wait. It has a thin scored crackling which delivers the required sweet fatty hit without picking it from the molars for the next week. The pork is moist, the accompanying veg, apple sauce and Yorkshire Pudding are all to a good standard.
Our own half gastro Marathon complete consensus at the table is that dessert may be a dish too far. Meister and myself leave quickly for a pint at Cask while the ladies settle the bill. We are seated and served when we receive a call to say that we need to guess the bill. They sound please with themselves. We have a little time to think before they arrive. Knowing that it should be in the region of £150 we are dumbfounded with the final bill after an expert complaint. £55. Was it the right bill that they discounted? How did they reach that amount? I’ll probably never know if this was an isolated incident for The Warwick, as despite the fact it was hugely discounted and the food was superb there are plenty of places that can get both right. So, Gold medal for Lou and O for world class complaining, Silver to myself for the Slalom, Bronze to Meister for his choice and a wooden spoon to The Warwick.

April 14, 2010

Stockwell Easter Crawl Pt 1: The Grosvenor / Queens Head / Marquis of Lorne

A good night can often can turn into an impromptu pub crawl and planned pub crawls can in turn be mundane tick box exercises; dictated more by the proximity of the first to the second to the third pub. With this in mind Captain English and I set out on our Easter Crawl knowing only the starting point: The Grosvenor, Stockwell.

Set amongst council blocks and displaying posters for thrash metal gigs many would have second thoughts about our starting point. Having downed plenty of pints there in the past we had no such hesitation. Slightly down at heel and with a well used pool table its a reminder of student days spent in smokey pubs playing pool badly and feeding the jukebox. The crowd at 6pm on the Thursday was a mix of Portuguese tradesmen playing pool, a couple of old Irish pensioners sat supping at the bar and a group of students putting the world to rites as well as a barrel of cider. Being Cask Ale Week and feeling nostalgic I went for a Moorhouses Bitter, a hoppy session beer. A great start. Two pints down and we move on towards Brixton and the The Queens Head.

Formerly The Far Side, The Queens Head as it is now is far removed from The Grosvenor. Superficially it’s nicely renoavted, as premium lagers and one token ale. Adnams. My heart sinks at the sight of it and we opt for a cool pint of Erdinger. Large Gorillaz canvases adorn the walls, and although they are now on their third album, its still a touch that you would expect in about 2000. My thoughts overall would be that its nice. Not exceptional. It’s proximity to the Brixton Academy would probably make it a good stop for a pre gig drink but otherwise I wouldn’t make a point of stopping by. With that in mind we declined a second round and moved on.

It may be cliched to say that stepping into the Marquis of Lorne is like stepping back in time but in this case it is fitting. Approaching the pub you notice the original ornate tiles outside. It is hard to think many breweries or pubco’s today would lavish money on something so ornamental. Much more likely to invest in a Sky subscription and a Big Screen. Thoughts of an interior to match are dashed as we get inside. This is pub three in our crawl, and as much a change from the Queens Head than is possible. On the inside its a faded boozer with character (or characters as the case may be). Looking round the pub seems to be pretty much exclusively regulars. The pool table is in constant use and there are signs that the dart board gets its fair share also.

After five minutes I take a call a call from Lou and step outside as I feel that along with a smoking ban phones should be next. I peer through the window to see that Captain English has made a new friend. Stepping back inside I am intoroduced to the Landlord, who’s sat at the bar. He tells us about his improvements and plans for the pub, the area and how its changed. He’s a South Londoner through and through and proud of his pub. It has to be said that he’s had a few at this point but amiable with it. As he launches into a passionate description of his Garden he reaches over to his cigarettes tapping one on the box, lights up and casually chuffs away, waving the fag around as he talks. Now in saying its a step back in time you could date this as anywhere before 1st July 2007, when such a simple act wouldn’t raise so much as an eyebrow. The barmaid, gave a concerned look toward the guvnor but he was plainly oblivious. Two pints and it was time to leave Summer 2007 and venture back to a cold 2010 and the next pub…

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