Having recently written a Crafty Pint feature on the London beer scene, it brought me back to previous posts hailing SE1, and indeed the South, as the place for all things beer. I’m now left pondering whether North of the River is actually out in front. It’s keeping me up at nights and no end of counting sheep seems to help.
While the Dean Swift, Rake, Draft House et al are as ever excellent, recent visits to Katzenjammers were dismal. I won’t waste too much time on this, but table service should have an element of well service in it and eye contact in some form shows that you’re still awake. I may have to get my fix of proper Pretzel and Paulaner elsewhere from now on. Any suggestions on the proper Pretzel front appreciated. Now it’s not really that the South on declining. It’s just that the case for the North seems to be getting stronger.
In addition to all the usual suspects of the Euston Tap, Mason & Taylor, Jolly Butchers and Cask I seemed to have blanked EC1 out of my mind. Strange as it’s a place I lived, worked and drunk in throughout my formative London years. It counts amongst it’s great pubs, The Gunmakers with an always excellent beer selection and menu, The Peasant, Jerusalem Tavern, Three Kings, of course the Ye Olde Mitre. The Castle (just inside EC4) tucked away on Furnival Street has consistently good Ale on offer and recently the odd keg of Anchor. This would all be compelling enough in itself. The killer blow has to be the soon to open Craft Beer Co. on Leather Lane. Although sad to see the Clockhouse, a decent enough market pub, close its doors, the fact it will be reopened by the team behind Cask is enough to raise a cheer.
Now can you see my dilemna? In the interests of me getting some sleep I throw it open to you. North of the River v. South of the River… vote, discuss, let me get some sleep!
It is again cold, dark and wet (a common theme in posts of late) as I head to the Anchor Tap in Shad Thames. After the excesses of a night at the Euston Tap I need a gentler evening in both beer and wallet terms. Where better in London to do this than a Sam Smiths? For the uninitiated all you really need to know is that a pint will cost in the region of £2, choice is limited to Sam Smiths products and the pubs are among the most characterful in London. Should you be alone or waiting for someone there is a certain amount of schadenfreude from watching someone ask for a Guinness without any luck. And then Carlsberg, without any luck. And then Stella. It doesn’t usually go beyond this point before they realise that the pubs policy on choice could have come straight from Henry Ford and they shuffle off to a corner bemused by their Alpine Lager and the price.
Stepping from the cold and rain I’m trying to find something to wipe my glasses covered in rain and steamed up from the sudden warmth of the open fire. I see a blurred figure waving from next to the fire grate. Either it’s the Dane or I’ve just pulled. Thankfully it is the Dane. On his last visit to London we took in the Draft House and Dean Swift; both within meters of the Anchor Tap. This time I’ve gone for the historical pub experience. Originally the brewery tap for the Anchor Brewhouse the pub has changed hands a number of times since being established by Courage in the late 18th Century. The brewery is now little more than Thameside apartments but the pub remains and for a very wet January night is doing a good trade with a mix of regulars, occasional and tourists. As a Yorkshireman you never quite lose the temptation to complain that you are being royally shafted by Southerners, but a trip to a Sam Smiths, with it’s White Rose (we won’t get into the Cropton debacle), open grates and cheap pints is like a piece of home; albeit only a stones throw from Tower Bridge.
Anchor Tap, 20 Horselydown Lane, Shad Thames, SE1 2LN
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