Bunch Of Grapes ( nr The Shard ) + Other Reasons 2 Be Beer-full!
What’s in a pub? What draws us to it? Why do so many of us find solace in a pint glass and a friendly face? For some it’s the atmosphere. For others it’s a safe haven of what they know. I’m sure there is the odd fellow out there who frequents a particular bar because the barmaids are prettier in his local as opposed to the one 200yds down the road. Sometimes it can be the particular brand of beer or the food served up. For example, I have one particular friend who refuses to go into a pub if they don’t have his beer of choice on tap. He’s a fan of Stella Artories ( as Micky Flanagan would call it ) and many a ale house has been excluded from a day out in the country if the “wife beater” isn’t available. Not that he beats his wife of course. He hasn’t even got a wife. Then again maybe it’s because he drinks Stella he hasn’t got married. Well there’s a vicious circle!
It could be any number of things, The obvious one being alcohol of course. Take my local pub, The Traitors Gate. It’s going through a bit of a transitional phase at the moment. For a start, a paint job, it’s the brightest pub on the Riviera, and it isn’t due to the intelligence of a quiz team. fresh new beers on tap albeit at fresh new prices, and a reputation for good live music. The Traitors also brew their own beer. Deverells Darkside is my pick of the bunch, plus they have one pump solely for Mighty Oak and various guest beers which are well chosen. Colchester – Brazilian is a personal standout I remember or maybe it’s more that someone reminded me the following day but anyway, let’s move on. . I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad Mighty Oak real ale either and there is a few to choose from. A tip top brewery.
It’s a simple fact that as a publican you just cannot afford to stand still. The biggest problem is breaking from its traditional shackles and developing itself into this new venue for the hottest new local talent, while remaining true to its real ale roots and regular customers. I drink there as often as life affords me, because barring the very rare occasion its trouble – free, ( I’m under the safe – haven banner ), and I know enough people in there if it becomes troublesome.
For reasons that are self explanatory, another of my favourite watering holes is The Woodbine Pub in Highbury. As an Arsenal fan, it’s an ideal meeting point to congregate with friends, talk rubbish and have a couple of beers. They do have a massive selection of beverages to choose from as well. If you like your real ales it’s a winner. The fact that it’s clean and tidy helps. Far enough to be away from MOST of the madding crowd, however only a 10 minute walk from the ground. A win double to rank alongside Torvill and Dean I say. If you are ever at a loose end and want to read about The Arsenal, check out the blog StubbysTours on WordPress. He introduced me to the next pub funnily enough before an Arsenal home match.
The public house in question is The Harp in Chandos Place, ( Covent Garden ). Not only do they have a vast array of beers on draught but they have terrific guest brews from all over the place. The best thing about The Harp though is the Sausages. It’s their gimmick if that’s the correct word. They specialise in a tremendous sausage roll. A variation of flavours makes The Harp the place to go when in and around the west end for a pint and a porky roll. It’s also a real drinkers pub. No music or jukebox.. Just beer and conversation.
For reasons of trying to keep this blog short others that are worth a mention are:
The Bargemans Rest – Newport ( Isle of Wight ) nice setting, nice beer, it’s our recovery pub when at the IOW festival. It also does plates of food the size of a house!.. It serves fuggle – Dee – dum which is an island brew.
The King Lud – Ryde ( also on IOW ). I’m not exaggerating when I say this pub has the most bizarre and eclectic customers. The live entertainment can be anything from the weird and wacky to seriously good rock music. They do serve a fair pint of Guinness as well. If you think you’ve seen everything, spend a night in The King Lud.
The Hoop – Stock, Essex. I’ve only ever been here twice. Incredible beer garden. Lovely food, attentive bar staff. Nice drop of Doombar as well.
The Grapes – Limehouse. It’s on the river. It’s very old fashioned. Very welcoming and if you are lucky enough to get out on the balcony, you can sit whiling away your day while the Thames crashes into the wall literally below your feet. In fact on a bad day you might end up with wet feet. A terrific pub. Little fact for you. The leaseholder is actor Ian McKellen.
That leaves me with my favourite 3 pubs, ( I’m not including my local ).
As they would say on X Factor in no particular order.
The Black Lion – Plaistow. Now I’m slightly biased in naming this pub because I know the lovely lady who runs it and her equally fantastic daughter ( just don’t let her mention the board game “Frustration” ), who also works there. However it’s difficult to deny that in general most of my friends who have visited this establishment get exactly the same treatment. A smiling face and all encompassing welcome. They serve a decent pint and if you are very lucky you might even get a seat. We tend to visit on match days though when going to West Ham so it’s fairly busy. Friendly banter before and after the game is most definitely the order of the day at TBL.
The Gun, Docklands. – I’m not really sure how we ended up going to The Gun the first time, but I’m happier than a cat playing with a solitaire set made of marbles that I did. The food is lovely. There is plenty of room, regardless of whether you want to sit in the sun overlooking the River Thames, sit by the roaring fire which is cracking in winter, or do what we do… Wait till it’s freezing outside, get a wine ( ideally mulled ) and sit outside anyway. They also have a few nights in December with people singing Christmas carols which after a bit of grub is a songtacular way to spend a Saturday evening.
In an ideal world I would live in one of those houses as tons throw from The Gun. This would be my pub to stroll to on a Sunday. Have a read of the free broad sheets offered, ( Ok, the Mirror or The Times if it’s for the magazines ), a Bloody Mary for GB and a pint for moi, then to finish off, a blinding Sunday roast. The Gun delivers on all 3 fronts and is just a proper feel good cosy pub. The Gun also has the odd cinema evening showing a movie in their function garden/terrace. They also do a bit of foodie fun like the “Slider – Decider”. We were present this year when a lot of top chefs went up against each other for the ultimate slider. It was a very good evening with lots of decent food on offer, plus your music and cocktails, beers etc.. A feelgood pub of the highest order.
Finally we have The Bunch Of Grapes, ( it must be that I have a thing about a pub with grapes in the title ). The rub – a – dub – dub in question is a stones throw from The Shard, next to London Bridge Tube. Takes me less than an hour to get there from the Thurrock Riviera. It’s also opposite Borough Market so there is plenty in the area to do before quaffing a few sherbets. TBOG has a small area out the front for smokers and a nice open multi – levelled seating area out the back for when the sun decides to make an appearance. It’s not huge but there is plenty of tables if you get lucky with the weather.
One thing this ale house does have in abundance is atmosphere. Yes it is in a tourist trap, so you do get the odd shouty American telling tales of NYC being the best city in the world but ignoring that, the whole mindset of the pub is positive with a capital P. In fact it’s that upbeat it should have two P’s. The background music, played at a high enough level to hear and low enough to hear yourself speak is a good choice of anything from Oasis to James Brown. TBOG smothers itself in the feelgood factor like a doughnut surrounds itself in sugar.
The decor is cosy enough and they sell Meantime beers which gets a thumbs up from this blogger. The choice on offer if you don’t happen to like MT however is substantial enough for you to not have to worry. The staff that serve you ( or at least have served me ) have always been friendly and helpful and will strike up a chat when they aren’t too busy. One thing I do like is that it never takes an hour to get a drink like in some watering holes. There are normally plenty of staff behind the ramp.
The other thing about TBOG is the food. Recently I had one of their burgers. I guess I was expecting a bog standard pub burger but I have to say it went far beyond that. It was a big thick piece of meat, with bacon, cooked to perfection inside a lovely brioche type bun. Absolutely doodley! ( that’s not a proper word is it ).
The onion rings, purchased separately were the size of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Proper old school onion rings. Along with fries the whole thing went down like a building full of dynamite. Quick and easy. It’s so easy to criticise the majority of places for their outlook on food being easy money but I think you get what you pay for at TBOG. The menu does have a nice variety to it as well, so get yourselves down there. It’s not the cheapest pub in the world, but consider where you are and you certainly aren’t being had over price wise.
Right that’s it. Reasons to be beer-full, 1,2,3.
See you fish ‘n’ tater.