Posts tagged ‘uk pub’

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.

May 30, 2012

Beer and Bunting: The Alternative Jubilee

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.

Saturday 2nd June – The Euston Tap, Lager Party

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.

Sunday 3rd June 13:00, The White Hart – Stoke Newington Literary Festival – Pete Brown’s Beer & Music Matching

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!

All Weekend, The Cavendish, Stockwell

I’ve always been a fan of The Cav and they know how to throw a party. They’ll have events from Friday onward. Balkan Bebop, Burlesque, BBQ, Bingo and other letters of the alphabet.

Know of other events going on? Pop it in the comments… God Save The Queen

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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March 19, 2011

Pint of the unusual

The 17th March would once be ringed in the calendar, as would the 18th March, as a warning not to plan anything too taxing. Back then my Guinness consumption was high and it was pretty much all I drank. It was the better option of few, it was consistent and it was reliable. I realised this year that things have changed. I spent St Patricks Day in transit and faced with Murphys in the airport bar I chose De Koninck. On my return home, faced with the option of the beat of the bodhran, a bowl of stew and soda bread and a pint of Guinness, I opted for a bottle of red and pizza at Franco Manca

I find myself wondering what’s changed. It’s not just about St Patricks Day and the whole Plastic Paddy ghastliness (and lets face it, that’s what you’ll get in many pubs). I rarely drink Guinness anymore. Yes, It’s still a good fallback but it’s not my go to drink of choice. In fact I think the point is now that I don’t have a “pint of the usual”. I have my styles and that’s what guides me these days. It makes the pub experience that much better. The process of selection, the chance to try something new and to take recomendation is all an added part of the experience which you simply don’t get with having a usual which you know will be on any bar. So with this in mind I don’t need to be carried along on a wave of marketting to celebrate International Guinness Day. It just doesn’t mean as much to me anymore. I am after all only a Plastic Paddy. Perhaps what I need is a new date to ring in the calendar which celebrates “a pint of the unusual“… Any suggestions?

January 19, 2011

Bib Gourmand: Canton Arms, South Lambeth Road, SW8

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

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