Posts tagged ‘pub review’

September 12, 2012

Hiatus, Ham, Hackney & Hopster

So It’s been a while since my last post but as is the way, life takes over and something has to give. Namely this. I’ve always hated posts full of fake apology – as if my absence from the blogging space would weigh too heavily on anyones mind – but i’ll just say that preparing to get wed, planning months of travel, leaving your job, moving home and hemisphere all at the same time isn’t a recipe for having time on your hands.

That’s not to say that i’ve not had any chance to indulge, just that i’ve not had the time or mental capacity to string a sentence together. So as I ease myself back in after the short hiatas i’ll just list some of the highlights, which I may expand on in the coming weeks.

copyright: Friends of Ham

Friends of Ham, Leeds

If you follow on Twitter (@thepubdiaries) you may have seen a flurry of Ham related activity as I recently turned porcine fanboy. My visit to Friends of Ham, was much anticipated (bt me, not them). For months there had been talk of its opening and I watched at a distance through social media. The name intrigued me, the logo enticed me and when I finally got to visit the space and the people in it beguiled me. A craft beer bar, come charcuterie where Cheers style everyone knows your name (but maybe that’s @lordofthebeers fault for pre-tweeting my arrival). Quite simply the best bar i’ve been to in years.

Cock Tavern, Hackney

In between the planning, packing and honing wedding playlists, I have been doing more and more freelance writing. Pots of espresso at 5am have become the norm as I juggle deadlines (lets just say i’d never get a job in the circus) and try and remember what the hell i’m writing about. Many of these have been for View London and as much as I love to find a new pub to add to the beer drinkers equivalent of the Knowledge it can start to wear slightly. Until the assignment is the Cock Tavern in Hackney. It’s up there with Friends of Ham, which is why i’ve put the two together and you can read all about it here. It’s places like this that reinvigorate me and make me realise why I do what I do.

London Fields Brewery, Hackney

I am a late comer to the charms of this East London brewer, but have fallen for them in a big way. When I discussed the beer list for the wedding I wanted some relatively cheap bottles of well known beer for the guzzlers amongst the guest list. Asahi was the choice. We then had a mix of Meantime and the other usual suspects. It still didn’t grab me and while I was tempted to just let it go, Clerkenwell Kitchen’s manager Ciaran came through with a suggestion of London Fields. It fitted the bill in terms of being locally sourced and with a craft angle. There’s nothing better than looking round and seeing people eskew their normal habits, holding a big bottle of Hackney Hopster or Love Not War (apt for the event I thought) and more importantly enjoying it.

June 6, 2011

Old Red Cow, 71-73 Long Lane, Smithfield, EC1A 9EJ

I stuck another pin in the London craft beer map on Friday. Heading to Farringdon via Barbican I stopped by the Old Red Cow on Long Lane. It’s been a while since I’ve last been in and the first since it joined the Dean Swift as a Local Beer House.

Smithfield and the surrounding area has always been one of my favourite places in London. As I’ve alluded to in past posts it’s where I spent my first years in London and still somewhere I can wile away a few hours at the Barbican or just a walk through the old neighbourhood. I usually head up St John Street to the Peasant or across to Clerkenwell Green. With 3 handpumps on the bar and 10 wall mounted taps behind the bar the old haunts have definite competition.

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Barbican

From the board we went for the Camden Town Pale Ale, a perfect start on a hot City day and already a firm favourite. The find of the day was the Redemption Trinity from the handpull. If there’s a beer for a Summer session this is it. Just 3% ABV, Golden in colour, I could just sit and watch the early evening light through it. That is if it wasn’t so damn tasty with its smack of Citrus and Hops. A lazy description perhaps but I’d just encourage you to taste it for yourself.

Old Red Cow, 71-73 Long Lane, Smithfield, EC1A 9EJ

Excelent pub photography courtesy of www.travelswithbeer.com

June 2, 2011

The Search Continues… Country Pubs

Last weekend was spent camping Thameside. Lou and I headed for Rushey Lock in Oxfordshire for a Bank Holiday of grey skies and occasional rain. Well it wouldn’t be proper camping otherwise, would it? The plan for the weekend was no plan. Just a few days of reading, wandering down the Thames and of course the odd pub. The Lock Keeper gave us the lay of the land which mainly consisted of his pub tips. Directions are easy on the river our choices being 4 miles one way and 1 mile the other.

First up was the Swan at Radcot. A large union flag flies riverside and the garden is taken up with ducks and geese. If the picture needed to be anymore British an E-Type Jag revs at the lights. The pub itself doesn’t live up to the promise. The interior lacks the warmth expected with prominent flatscreen tv, set dining tables and an uninspiring choice at the bar. Lou asks about the Rev. James. “It’s a strong dark ale.” There is a definite full stop. No more information will be shared, no further questions asked, just an unblinking stare that comes with years of practice.

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Sat in the near empty garden we watch the boats pass and the geese chase the ducks. A YouTube classic in the making, but it only raises a brief smile. A group arrive and sit on the nearest table to us, despite there being an entire garden to choose from. As they salute and shout ahoy to each passing barge, guffawing each time, it’s a sure sign that there will be no second pint.

We make our way back towards Rushey Lock, saying hello to those who we pass. It raises barely a grunt from most. Lou reminds me we’re not up North and such things are not wise. She may be an Aussie, but she certainly understands the North / South divide.  The Trout at Tadpole Bridge is our second attempt at capturing the perfect country pub, which when right delivers more than great beer. It’s about local character and a  real sense of where you are. With roses around the door and a Chocolate Labrador stretched out on the stone floor this is immediately more appealing; as is the beer choice. Starting with Butts’ Barbus Barbus we settle into the small bar area. As with the Swan much of the pub Is taken up with the restaurant. Most country pubs wouldn’t survive without a strong food trade and in the case of the Trout this would seem to be it’s focus. The bar, as pleasant as it is, seems like a mere waiting area. Evening service starts at 7pm and at 6pm on a Bank Holiday Sunday we are among only a handful of punters. Service seems oddly schizophrenic with a warm welcome to some and the bare minimum for others.

The menu looks good but we have we food back at the Lock. What is required is something to soak up the beer. We ask for chips. The answer is firmly no. Chips are only served as a side. It is also 6.30pm and we are reminded the kitchen is closed until 7pm. A kind of no and even if we did the kitchens closed, so unlucky and unlucky again. We have a second round, this time of the Ramsbury Bitter which is the surprise of the day. With a smokey ashen taste it’s unexpected but more than welcome to take our minds off food. Orders start to be taken and we decide to go with the local cheese board. Now this would seem simple enough but I’m again told the kitchen opens at 7pm. Thoughts of Michael Douglas in Falling Down spring to mind but I keep the rage under wraps. It’s 6.50pm and orders are being taken in the restauarnt. Added to which it’s a cheese board. Hardly the most taxing of dishes to prepare. I persevere and with a sullen shrug I’m told to choose a selection of 3. There’s no mention on the board that the selection is limited and when raised I get a stare that says it all. A few years practice and it’ll be spot on. The Oxford Blue, Single Gloucester and Bath Soft are served on slate, the edges look like they’ve been cut well before ordering and it suffers as cheese boards always seem to from a severe lack of oatcake. That is unless you want to load half a wedge of blue onto each one.

We leave a little more satisfied than the Swan, thanks wholly to the beer, but still not having found the Country Pub I’ve been craving. It’s proof that bricks and mortar, roses around the door and an idyllic location don’t guarantee a great pub.  So back to the Lock to singe some more grass and uncork a bottle of Lagavulin 16 year old, hoping that in the absence of TV we will be treated to more of the simple joy of watching a goose chase a duck.

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January 12, 2011

Mason & Taylor, Bethnal Green Road, E1

I have eagerly awaited a visit to Mason & Taylor since hearing that the folks behind The Duke of Wellington were opening on Bethnal Green Road. The Duke in Dalston was at one time just around the corner and quickly became a firm favourite. It has it all. Great staff, great beer, great food. It is as you may have guessed Great.

I was willing Mason & Taylor to be on a par with the Duke as I don’t live around the corner from the latter anymore but I do work nearby Bethnal Green Road. A first attempted visit had been thwrated by their Christmas Party but undetered and in fact more eager I headed to Mason & Taylor the next day. I won’t leave you hanging. It is in fact also… Great. The décor is stripped back concrete and canteen chairs. It bucks the trend of filling the space with kitch which more often than not looks like an explosion in an Oxfam shop. The staff are, as with The Duke, efficient, friendly and knowledgeable. The food is small plates for sharing; a British tapas I suppose. The York ham with poached duck egg and parsley sauce and a rarebit were my particular favourites. As for the beer there is a wide choice with around 12 ales and beers on draught as well as a seasonal bottled list. I had my first pint of Brodies, Redemption and Wandle at The Duke and Mason & Taylor continue the trend with an introduction to the Camden Town Brewery and their American style, Camden Pale Ale and the helles style Camden Hells Lager. Judging by the empties which soon pile up you can say it went down well.

In my post on the Owl and the Pussycat I pondered if it would only ever be a fallback. On the form of Mason & Taylor I don’t see that a fallback would even be needed.

Mason & Taylor, 51-55 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA

December 19, 2010

Snow Days: The Old Crown, Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria

With the snow descending again, London faces the prospect of grinding to a halt in literally centimeters of snow. A merest snowflake sees the tube full of welly wearing Bankers, panic buying and train operators dusting of the excuses tombala. Its at these times that I spare a thought for our friends in the North.

As any good son would I ring my Mum to check that everything’s ok.  The news is invariably that their Pennine village is snowed in. To some this would be a problem but to the village its just a fact of life and to the local landlord its a winter windfall. All roads blocked means a captive market and the tills ringing all day. This particular local isn’t exactly where i’d want to spend my snow days. That pub would have to be the Old Crown at Hesket Newmarket in Cumbria. On the Northern edge of the Lake District National Park, the pub is supposedly the first cooperatively owned pub.  And did I mention there is the Hesket Newmarket Brewery in the back? I mean who wouldn’t want to be snowed into a brewery!

If you can’t arrange to be snowed in you may just have to pop by for a pint of Doris’ 90th Birthday Ale, checking opening times to avoid disappointment.

The Old Crown
Hesket Newmarket
Cumbria
016974 78288

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