As the bunting is strung up and Londoners prepare for public transport meltdown, Pub Diaries is here to tell you beer drinking proles what else is happening in the capital this weekend. If your idea of a good day isn’t watching Her Maj’s booze cruise putter down the Thames here are a few alternatives which may float your boat.
A day of Punk and Hotdogs awaits at the Euston Tap’s Lager Party. Czech Pilsner, Bavarian Helles, local boys Camden and their Black Friday await. For fans of self styled beer punks Brewdog there will be an exclusive supply of Growler, a Citra infused lager. We’re told that they’ll be using the UK’s only Randall beer infuser.
Billed as Pete and his iPod I’m thinking this could go either way. After seeing him tweet Eurovision on Saturday night I’m hoping that I’m not subjected to an afternoon of Boom Bang a Bang. At £4 for a beer flight and the opportunity to hear the beery bard I’m willing to take the risk. Tickets are selling out so get in while you can!
So a little diversion from pubs and beer as man cannot live by beer alone. A shocking revelation I know. He or she (we’re all for the sisters here at Pub Diaries) also needs sustenance and what better than Pizza. It’s much abused in the UK whether you are talking about the local kebab-come-burger-come-chippy-come pizzeria or High Street chains, churning out doughy monstrosities that would have the most macho Italian weeping. There are the exceptions and wherever I go I have one benchmark. Brixton institution Franco Manca. It’s a simple formula. Sourdough base, great ingredients and great service. They have a swankier Chiswick outpost but for me sitting in a Brixton indoor market is how it’s beat served.
The pizza is available as takeaway and opening seems to be dictated by the market times, so Thursday evenings and daytimes are your opportunity to get your fix.
Having spent the last few weeks walking the Coast to Coast I’ve been pretty oblivious to the epidemic that has swept London in my absence. Bunting. You can’t move for the stuff, in different shades of patriotism; with everything from St Georges Crosses and Union Flags to neutral shades flying on the Southbank. I even saw a Brockwell Park Shelter daubed with St Georges Cross’ and slogans such as St Georges Day is ‘ere so give us a beer. Sheer poetry. With the addition of a Royal Wedding it’s a bumper year for bunting manufacturers all over Taiwan. I’ve tried to ignore the Press, good and bad, and the rumblings and chunterings about the supposed Beer Ban. I have a simple view that at the end of the day I’ve got a day off work and it’s as good an excuse to raise a glass or three. I’m sure you’ll do the same whether it’s in a boozer full of bunting or a free zone such as the Duke of Wellington in Dalston, who will be saying wedding, what wedding? Oh and don’t worry those Greens out there, i’m sure the millions of meters of plastic bunting will get a dusting off when the Olympics swings around.
Bowie’s Moonage Daydream playing as you walk through the door of a pub for the first time. It’s possibly the best hello you’ll ever get. This was my mine from the Victoria Inn on Choumert Road in Peckham; and after the hello there’s the conversation opener, a pint of Atlantic IPA, Sharp’s Spring seasonal ale. A very good start.
The Victoria is Capital Pub Company through and through, with familiar design touches that make the experience relaxed and comfortably familiar, without the feel of an indentikit chain. The previous incarnation, the Wishing Well was immortalised in Last Orders and i’m sure Pub purists lament the loss of such a solid boozer. But, things move on and if that pub woo’s me with Gimme Shelter by the Stones, then I think it may be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Victoria Inn, 72-79 Choumert Road, Peckham Rye SE15 4AR
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.
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.
Yesterday my Twitter feed became positively gourmet as this years Michelin announcement was made. It’s a time when the culinary elite hold their breaths to see whether they are ascending or descending the ranks.
Little you would say to do with the humble boozer? Well not quite true. Entering the 2011 Michelin Guide was a firm favourite. The Canton Arms in Stockwell. Yes, Stockwell. It has earned inclusion as a Bib Gourmand, denoting quality food, service and value.
Since my early visits and my posts in reverence of what they can do with a slice of bread and a Toastie Machine – think Foie Gras or Haggis – I’ve returned regularly. Now and again service hasn’t been quite as expected but even so I’ve always walked away well fed, well watered and happy (and eager) to return. It’s good to see the Michelin Inspectors recognise this small piece of South Lambeth Road and makes me wonder if they tried the Toastie.
Canton Arms, 177 South Lambeth Road, Stockwell, SW8 1XP