The Pub Diaries came to me as do many ideas over a pint. I’d be asked the question of how many pubs I had been to since moving to London in 2006. I didn’t have a clue. I just knew there were a lot. In the space of about 15 minutes I tallied over 200 (by no means an accurate figure). These 200+ were the places where I’d met, made and lost friends, had spectacularly good and bad blind dates (a blog in itself! But a gentlemen never tells) and where I would spend long Sunday lunches with friends or simply just a pint of Guinness and the paper when flatshare politics got too heated. Friends would call, email and text me for recommendations to the extent that I realised I’d become a one man walking pub directory. I’d always ask the same friends how it went and get a positive response. Tiring of the same old online pub comments and reviews I have decided to share my views of the best and worst of what London Pubs have to offer; so please join me as you read The Pub Diaries.
I first heard that the Draft House had a new Tower Bridge outpost through Twitter and a look at the website revealed a soft launch with 50% off all food before the “real opening” on 13th September. I suppose the thing with a soft launch is that it a kind of forgive us if you we make mistakes but we are only new, we’re not really open yet. Whatever your thoughts on that I thought it a fair enough deal at 50% off and based on my visit to Battersea I spent the rest of the day clock watching.
Captain English took little convincing and we spent more time debating how to get there. Now he holds a Boris Bike token walking seems so, well, pedestrian. Vernon as usual was a tentative and with that we had our three. I made it to Tower Bridge quickly through the City backstreets and all that stood between me and the a much needed beer was the tourist throng. I weaved my way through, taking no regard to stop while the fifth or sixth or seventh tourist took a picture of a loved one pointing at the bridge, at the river, at City Hall. It took on an almost Top Gear challenge anticipation as I got closer to the Draft House, expecting to see the Captain fly past.
Stepping in, I saw him just at the bar, wiping the slightest glint of sweat away, which seems to have been more from the mission to find a docking station than the actual ride. The décor is somewhere between gastro pub and diner with melamine tables and a pea green banquette around the walls and a centre high table with stools. The walls, as with the Battersea Draft House are hung with classic music posters and despite the table service by smart staff in shirt and tie it feels relaxed enough for a quick beer, a longer session or a proper meal, which seems to be the main focus.
Attention soon turned to the pumps. Despite the array of bottled choice, the first had to be hand pulled, but with a choice of 10 or more it wasn’t proving to be easy. We started with something we know, the Wandle Ale and steadily worked our way through Junction, Porterhouse Red and Sharps’, Chalky’s Bite, to name those that I recall. From the bottle we had Mort Subite Kriek (in place of dessert) and an Aventinus. It has been said that when faced with this kind of choice I am like a kid in a sweet shop, albeit the most intoxicating of sweet shops. This was no exception.
Food is an easy choice once I spy Pork Belly, served with a Black Pudding mash. Vernon has arrived by this point and turns his nose up at the thought of Black Pudding. In my mind unless you are a Vegetarian or acutely Hemophobic you have no business turning your nose up at Black Pudding, not least when it is mixed with mash potato The pork is good as is the crackling, albeit sparing in its portion. My appetite does however grow in proportion to the volume I have drunk, so I’d maybe have to return to comment conclusively.
Compared to my last Draft House experience this was comparable; with a great beer selection, good food and friendly and knowledgeable staff. Service was a little unsure at times, though there was always a more experienced barman to hand, but as I’ve already said this is early days. I will return, when I’m sure the service will be as flawless as the beer.