Honest Burgers.. It Would Be a Crime Not To Visit!

Believe it or not, I have something in common with the following people. Micky Dolenz ( he of Monkees fame ), Paul McCartney ( he of marrying a one legged loon fame ), Sheena Easton ( 1980s pop star whose most popular song was a cover of a Dolly Parton hit, 9-5 ), and lastly, Kerry Katona ( the one off of the Iceland adverts who constantly claims bankruptcy and has had more chances than a monopoly board game! )… So what is it?

Well, we all got married in 2002. In the 14 years that have passed since, Katona has gone on to claim a hat – trick of hubbies ( poor souls ), and McCartney has split from mad Mills and is I believe due to take the plunge again very soon. He must be running out of money!… Myself and GB, that’s her indoors for those unaware, will celebrate 14 years of wedded bliss on Monday ( she may beg to differ on the bliss part ). We have been together for 25 years, and before you think or say it, I know, people get less for life. You know what though, I wouldn’t change a thing. Of course we have our moments but who doesn’t ?… I guess the difference between us and the likes of Katona is that every time we have a moment it doesn’t end in divorce!

Our last “disagreement” was on Thursday. I don’t imagine we are the only people to have a heated conversation over the topic. Since Thursday we have had no gas. National Grid have disconnected our gas supply. I won’t go into the reasons as to why short of saying this. it’s not a financial thing. National Grid have arranged with no residential consultation to change the mains gas pipe in our street. Ours is proving more difficult than others to replace, and irrespective of it being the coldest week of the year they have decided to cut our supply regardless. Luckily we have a log burner so warmth isn’t an issue. Hot water and a shower however, that’s another story. 

The beaten track I lead you off of. Back to the correct pathway… It’s our wedding anniversary , have I mentioned that yet? This year GB had organised our celebratory plans. Saturday afternoon involved a visit to the “Crime Museum Uncovered” exhibition at the Museum of London. Tickets were just short of 20 quid each inc the booking fee. I will give you my honest opinion. Our booking/appointment time for entry was 15:30. It was overly crowded meaning you struggled to get a real decent look at anything. An hour later, it was less busy and therefore worth considering if you were thinking of paying it a visit. It’s not necessarily what I expected but I did enjoy it. We both did. With a dodgy back following a small op I wasn’t looking forward to a lot of walking. Luckily it wasn’t in a huge space and was well thought out. Plus there was seating for those of us needing to take the weight off our plates now and again.

The exhibition details the start of the Metropolitan Police and how it has evolved since. Without giving too much away I would say this. The last area before the exit makes you think about what is around you and the importance of it. Personally I wasn’t really appreciative of what surrounded us until this point. There are some real interesting and eerie artefacts in there. Personally I loved the “Great Train Robbery” piece. The more up to date stuff on terrorism sends a shiver up the spine. We never knew for instance the Hyde Park bombing in 1982 was on GB’s birthday. Overall the burning question is, is it worth the wonga? … Hand on heart, I would say pay your money and make your own decision. I wouldn’t visit again, BUT I’m very happy I’ve been. It was an educational experience.

We had arrived in Liverpool Street with plenty of time to spare. The museum was a 10 minute walk away and we were both Hank Marvin. Having not eaten properly the previous evening due to an impromptu visit from neighbours, and with no cooking facilities thanks to National Grid, breakfast had passed us by. On a few occasions that I’ve been around this area I’ve often passed by the Honest Burgers restaurant in Widegate Street on my way to Spitafields. More importantly I’ve wanted to try it. With an hour to kill and both of us being hungrier than a carnivore at a vegan convention, I threw my hat in the ring suggesting a visit. It took less than a minute to get there and within 6-7 minutes we were seated on a large communal table in front of the kitchen area with four more stragglers. 

It was a busy old place but the service was swift and attentive. GB had a Diet Coke ( served with a straw in the can ), while I had a pint of the Beavertown Pale Ale, purely for research purposes of course. I’m no connoseuir of real ale but I think HB have a winner on their hands. It certainly wasn’t a struggle to drink. Then the main purpose for us being there, the food. GB ordered a Tribute ( no onion ) and a side of Apple, beetroot, red cabbage coleslaw. I went for the Tribute-to-Bacon Special ( see picture for details of what’s in it, although I had no pickles or lettuce ).

  

Both meals came with Rosemary Chips, and all jokes aside they were chips fit for a Las Vegas poker table. Completely knockout. The Beef & Bacon Gravy.. It’s so nice it should be illegal. I’ve not even touched on the burger yet! Well the burger itself was pink inside, perfectly cooked. The flavour was full on. I would go as far to say it’s THE best burger I’ve eaten, and I’ve had a few. The bacon ketchup was delicious and I don’t even like ketchup. The brioche bun was light and fluffy with a slight crunch.

 I nearly forgot the onion rings. I loved the onion rings. Both GB and me would have given it 10 out of 10 if it wasn’t for waiting for a table and then hanging around to pay the bill. So we are going for 9.6 out of 10. It was as close as it could get. The staff were friendly, and I like the fact that the lady who took our order wrote nothing down, but the food came out exactly as requested. You really need to get to Honest Burgers, no porkies!…. There was one downside to all this. We had a restaurant booked for 19.30 and were both absolutely stuffed. What a place though.
Next up… What we did in the evening, the celebrations continue!… Happy reading!

N x

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Sunset in Kefalonia

 

Who Needs Busy?


  There are some things in life you simply cannot beat. Del Boy falling through the bar in Only Fools And Horses, or that little pot of mint raita you get to go with your poppadoms in an Indian restaurant. For others it’s a babies first steps, or a winning goal at the home of your local rivals, ( I can vouch for that one ). Another thing you can add to that is a “Snap a Sunset” competition. This particular one from Olympic Holidays gives me the opportunity to tell you a teeny weeny bit about Kefalonia, and it’s incredible dusky skyline. 

Snap-a-sunset

( in the rules I have to include a link to the competition, so there you go,  but come on, have you read this?… I’m already packing my trunks ).. Joke!
 It’s been a while since I’ve been I grant you. I remember Kefalonia well, mainly because at the time, it wasn’t necessarily the tourist haven it is now. 4 of us went on this particular holiday. The year before we had ventured to Kos, and having had such a good time we decided to do it all again, but this time on a different island. A few things spring to mind when I think about Keffers, ( it’s okay, I’m down with the kids ). The steep, hilly, roads. The even steeper driveway down to the beach, and more importantly the struggle getting back up. 

I should also mention the friendliness of the local people. I add this in owing to the fact that quite often, the deckchairs attendant would give the 4 of us a lift back up to the main roads. I can only guess that he had seen us suffer enough on the first day. Our gangly white bodies toiling up the 75% gradient in searing heat. A Moxoto, ( that’s a mountain goat to you and I ), would have struggled to climb this bad boy. Yes of course I’m exaggerating, but it’s for the benefit of the story!… It was ridiculously steep though. 

There was a magnificent bar on stilts sat on the beach, where you could sit watching the world go by, well the odd boat anyway. Our legs would be dangling over the ocean and we’d have not a care in the world. They would cook up a beautiful Meze as the sun went down…

Ahh, the sunset. The one thing you can count on in Kefalonia to wholeheartedly take your breath away. As the sun fades into the darkness it truly is a sight to behold. The Calamari ( with a squeeze of lemon ), suddenly tastes that little bit better. The drinks flow that little quicker, and Kefalonia, hidden under a scorching day sun ultimately comes to life in the evening. It’s heartbeat gets stronger with each passing moment the sun relinquishes its grip.

The definition of rush hour and nightlife on this particular Greek isle is not like London thankfully. 15 cars and a donkey is more likely, but with colours and a sunset like that, who needs busy?

Sofitel – Gatwick Airport

  Firstly, let me share with you a tale of two star – crossed lovers. They met while in search of inner peace on a Himalayan trail. After the female offered a helping hand to a wounded male Trekker who had badly injured his ankle. Both sat gazing out across the landscape and with almost no words said realised they had found “The One”. 

Of course, you and I both know ( yep, I’m being assumptious on the basis of using the word both, but hey let’s live a little ), that unless you are Kate Winslet in Titanic, it very rarely happens that Prince Charming, or in Kate’s case Leonardo Di Cappucino is waiting to hoist you up onto the masthead of a ship while Celine Dion sings in the background. I guess in some ways it also proves important that by the same margin, any relationship you embark upon tends to last more than the 2 hours and 30 minutes Winny and the Caps did. Ideally your other half doesn’t die in the cold of the Atlantic while you watch from a broken bit of 4 by 2  either.

It’s more than fair to say that GB and I did not meet in any sort of Winny and Cap way. We did meet over a crowded kitchen sink at a friends 18th birthday party. Romantic I hear you say!…. Not really, I thought she looked like a waitress who had come straight from a 12hr shift, and GB was similarly observant in that I was morbidly obese. It turned out, neither was true. GB just had a bad dress sense and I was wearing a coat 5 times to big for me! In theory I guess that means I too had a bad dress sense. Our first thing in common.

After a disinterested glancing “Alright” we both went about our business and spoke no other words on that cold winters eve. Two weeks later however, after a few phone calls and some rather frank verbal exchanges we met up for a date. I had relieved myself of the coat in question, coincidentally shedding about 5 stone at the same time, and GB arrived looking amazing wearing an at the time, very trendy, double denim look.  Bear in mind, back then, there was no “Plenty O Fish” , “Grindr” , “Blendr”, or any other kitchen utensil based dating website. It was all done old school sty-lee. 

What’s the point of all this you ask? Well fast forward 25 years and here we are. Still together and I think it’s fair to say relatively happy. We have a cat Madge, a little house on the Essex Riviera and more than that, we still know how to make each other laugh, smile, and when we argue, how to wind each other right up!… We don’t argue often though, as ninety per cent of the time I can’t get a word in edgeways.

To celebrate our milestone, some would argue millstone, GB booked us a short stay in Tenerife. 5 nights, all inclusive. Happy days. We wouldn’t celebrate normally as such, but we both decided 25 years was worth at least acknowledging. To cut out the aggravation of rushing on the day,  (early flight), it was a joint decision to crash at the airport the night before. By crash, I mean invest in a room, and not to drive up to Gatwick at high speed looking for potential whiplash victims. 

This way we could get the car parking included  with the room, therefore killing two thoras for the price of a popular Mexican forename. ( two Thora Hirds, that’s birds – popular Mexican forename, that’s Juan). 2 for the price of 1.  Maybe I should have just typed that first off!
Arriving was fine. Nice chap at the doorway downstairs took the bags and I nipped off to park the car. Car park attached to hotel and hotel has a walkway into the North Terminal, so easy in, easy out. GB had a quick smoke and then we took the escalator up to the reception. It’s a big area, but a bit blocky. Not the greatest description I grant you, but then it was quite non – descript. Very beige. A little disappointing.  A very helpful young lady on the desk (Zainab), got us checked in, straight forward and simple enough.

 We fluffy Bob – tailed up to the room only to find we’d been given a twin.  Maybe after 25 years it was par for the course. I mean I can take a hint!.. A brief conversation ensued with reservations and we found ourselves back in the foyer. Room swapped, panic over. Our new room was located and with a swipe of a key card we were in. The room itself lacked personality but was nice enough. The bed was huge (thumbs up), and the bathroom was pleasantly roomy. I’m not sure I could have swung a cat in there but

A. Madge wasn’t with us to test the theory

B. Even if she was I don’t think she’d have appreciated being thrown around like a car on a waltzer at the fair. 

C. I would never do that. First rule of staying in a hotel, always take someone else’s cat.

The shower was nice and powerful and the toiletries tasteful. The room in essence was a little like the lobby. Luxurious enough but just a bit bland. 

There are 3 restaurants to choose from. A bistro, the food was nice but it has to be said expensive. A Chinese eatery, which looked very tasty but again wasn’t cheap, and a cafe’ serving anything from pizza to curry. It looked OK in fairness. There is however a 4th option. Less than 30 seconds walk away is Lenny Henry’s choice of kipping station. A Premier Inn. Serving half decent food and drink at half the price, it’s a no – brainer. We had Mushrooms(GB) and tomato soup(moi) to start, the Tommy soup was lovely. 

Mains were Gammon steak for me and some form of Rugby World Cup inspired burger for the good lady. Sadly she did have to send it back as it was overdone (burnt), meaning I’d finished by the time GB got her dinner. Not ideal, but hey ho. The food was adequate, GBs burger looked much better second time around, was tasty and price wise there was no comparison with our hotel. We were not the only couple to think this was the case judging by the exodus from our hotel and into the PI.

We made our way back to the room and both fell asleep. The beds are tremendous. I woke up at around 8pm and made my way down to the first floor cocktail bar. A lovely area. £7.95 for a Gin & Tonic though isn’t the cheapest. It did go down rather well though, and while watching the ROI v Bosnia qualifier I managed to sink another 3 or 4. What?? They didn’t sell beer up there. A bit later GB showed up and we had closers in the lobby bar. Table service was a nice touch, before hitting the hay. 

Check out was extremely easy, and on our return we were in the car within a minute or two of getting the cases. It worked exceptionally well. Overall it’s certainly not on a par with the Sofitel in Heathrow. I will say though that all the staff I spoke to were very polite and helpful. I love the colour brown but it’s just too brown. I’m no interior designer but if someone has been paid lots of money for that, then I’m still in with a chance of making it. I guess the burning question is would I stay there again, and I would, providing the Premier Inn wasn’t fully booked. 

The Bunch Of Grapes ( London Bridge ) + Other Reasons To Be Beer – Full!

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.

The Bunch Of Grapes ( London Bridge ) + Other Reasons To Be Beer – Full!

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.

Arsenal V Bayern Munich ( Alternative TV Review )

Arsenal v Bayern Munich ( The TV Alternative review )
I was going to call this Arsenal V Bayern ( balancing out the scales after BTSport’s embarrassingly biased commentary ). Then I thought of “Arsenal V The worlds best 11 players according to BTSport “. In the end I came up with what’s at the top. I do feel though that I need to redress the balance after yesterday. 
Let’s start though with the initial cost of the match ticket. The cheapest ticket was £64. This isn’t palatable for the majority everyday Arsenal fan. It certainly isn’t affordable for me. Munich fans made their feelings known by protesting outside for 5 minutes, and fair play to them. What isn’t added to the equation is the cost of the ticket to an Arsenal season ticket holder. Lower tier, where most of my friends sit, a ticket for last nights game cost approximately £41. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. That price is included in the season ticket, so is it really that expensive?… Well BTSport obviously thought so as they mentioned it on a number of occasions, while providing us with costs for going to see the “worlds best 11 players”. 
Next we have the fans. Last night was a good night. The Arsenal fans in stages were magnificent, especially during the 2nd half. In general we Arsenal fans are not known for our loudness at home, however Tuesday proved when needed the noise can cascade around the ground. The Arsenal away support is also as good as any away support I’ve encountered. There is one thing that I noticed though. How is it that Arsenal fans have been turned away from Ashburton Grove ( remember that ), for carrying inflatable objects and yet on TV, a Bayern fan who was also standing up ( naughty naughty ) was clearly holding a metal megaphone!… So let’s get this straight, blow – up banana confiscated, metal megaphone, as seen in a hostage situation in many a TV programme is absolutely fine!. Well I know what I’ll be taking to Everton at home on Saturday. 
Now the fun bit, the players. Here are facts admittedly courtesy of The BTSport commentary team about the “worlds best 11 players”:
They had become the first team in Bundesliga history to win their first 9 games. ( Judging by the strength of the German league I would suggest that Burnham Ramblers would have a chance ).
They had won 12 games on the bounce, scoring 25 goals in 7 games. No arguments there except they aren’t the first team ever to do that. With regards to the goals scored, at the end of the Arsenal championship winning campaign in 1991 we had scored 26 goals in 8 games. Bayern have scored 25, and they now have not won 12 on the bounce. 
Bayern had not failed to score in 23 previous CL appearances. Scratched!
Listening to BTSport, Owen Hargreaves in particular made me cringe at times. I think Owen is still unsure of where is heritage lies, at times using the word us when talking of Bayern, and then Arsenal. He does however categorically love Douglas Costa. At 22m quid I’d like to make a valid point. Surely for that amount of money of the 6 deadball situations he took control of at least 1 of those should have beaten the first player in the box. His crossing was diabolical.
 I will agree he looked quite a player in a 1-on-1 situation but take him out wide and he can’t cross the ball. A very good player but not a patch on Thiago judging by the commentators dribbling after One little back drag and spin he done. Sadly Stoke City’s Arnautovic had beaten him to it the night before against Swansea, but Arnautovic doesn’t play for Bayern so it doesn’t count as skill. Personally I do think Thiago is a fantastic footballer, but don’t go overboard BTSport!
Xabi Alonso. If you believe the comments made by Owen and his fellow commentator in the gantry he was born in a stable. Three wise men arrived after his birth delivering gold, frankincense and myrrh for the holy one. His feet did not touch the pitch as he levitated across the pitch. Well, I hate to disagree but was he any better than Santi, Mesut or Alexis? I’d love to know the number of chances he created during the game, because of all the 73% possession Bayern had, Alonso was the one with the ball at his feet the most. Listening to the team commentating I thought at one point Bayern were 5-0 up. Alonso had set up 3 for Lewandowski with Mueller scoring the other two laid on by the Spanish OAP. 
I have no argument about Lewandowski or Mueller in fairness. They are both excellent footballers who on their day can score against anyone. 22 goals in 16 games is remarkable form, and BTSport were full of praise for Lewandowski. Of the 2 though I’d still take Mueller first, but that’s just me. I thought our defence played exceptionally well and contained the Bayern forwards barring one or two tricky moments. Yes Bayern had a lot of the ball and yes they had lots of shots ( 6 on target, 2 less than Arsenal ) but several of them were regulation saves for a keeper with the stature of Cech. There is no doubt with Cech in goal we look a far safer, stronger unit. 

 

Then we have Lahm and Vidal. Lahm is a truly classy player. He can play anywhere across the back and in midfield. I can understand the praise he receives. 2 or 3 years ago he would have gone into any team I picked as a current best 11. I’m not so sure now. As for Vidal, the £28m pound Chilean is an embarrassment. The only hardman that loves leaving his foot in but cannot keep his balance when anyone so much as tries to tackle him. He was constantly in the face of the ref trying to get players booked with his acting. I noticed it in the CL final last year when he played in a similar fashion. We definitely got the better Chilean of the two. 
Finally there is Neuer. Described regularly as playing a Beckenbauer sweeping role he looked more like Jack Bauer at times , once kicking the ball out for a corner to the opposition and then obviously his error for the goal. I will say though that the save he made to keep Theo’s header out was world class. The fact that he nearly repeated it in the 93rd minute, the ball having already crossed the line is testament to how good he is. I do think though that his arrogance shines through making it funnier when he makes mistakes. BTSport would have you believe this man is the best goalkeeper in the world and there is no – one near him, in fact others should wash his feet, and maybe they would if they could get past that arrogant attitude. 
I’m not belittling Bayern Munich. They are a fantastic team. I just think there was a complete lack of balance in the commentary. I thought Santi was excellent. Theo scared the life out of their defence and both Sanchez and Ozil both contributed well. The Coq was at what is now becoming a consistent and regular level of control in the centre, and when we broke away we looked like we could score. We have now scored 8 and conceded 0 in our last 3 games. Didn’t hear BTSport mention that!
The Sac and Kos are starting to play together well again and either side of them while Hector is still learning he looks a great full back and “So Nacho” after a rough start to his Arse career looks solid enough. I like Olly G. I know he has his critics, and sometimes they are justified but when he plays well he is one of the top forwards around. Is he in Lewandowski/Muller class? Probably not, but at this moment in time he scored and they didn’t so who cares. In goal we have Petr. I’m happy enough with that!
Shortly we go to the Allianz Arena. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Then again I wasn’t looking forward to Tuesday’s game, so maybe I need to be more positive!.. I do hope the cheat that is also known as Arjen Robben isn’t playing though. Such a talented footballer, but a serial diver. 
* please note when talking about Thomas Muller I spelt his name wrong most of the time. Sorry, but I can’t be arsed to go back and change it. 

Balance addressed, thank you.

Kings Head Inn, Hursley, Hampshire

The Kings Head, Hursley, Hampshire.
Never done this before, but just to make it different I thought I’d try and poem my way through a review. Don’t expect Keats though. Plus my constructive critic, DS, thought my last blog was “lacking in wit” ( that’s rhyming slang for how he more blatantly expressed his feelings towards it ), and he may have had a point as it wasn’t the best.
( clears throat ).
In July it was GB’s special day,

She was er.. 21 again, I’d better say.

We went somewhere pleasant,

Just as a nice present,

To Hursley, ( I couldn’t afford Bray ).

It was only one night, just a treat.

A teeny weeny village, in Hampshire near Fleet, ( closer to Winchester but this ain’t easy you know ).

We stayed at the Kings Head

Just a meal and a bed,

Cheap as chips, lovely food, Bon appetit…..
We travelled down in a car, GB at the wheel,

Our SatNav though, tried taking us via Deal. ( I know every slip road off of the M3 now ).

The sun shining bright,

The Inn glistening white,

The interior had a cosy ‘n’ comfortable feel…..

Our table was booked at half three,

A roast dinner, can’t beat it, pot pourri.

Quick drink in the sun, ( outside, not in another pub )

The garden is fun,

Then time for our dinner, hope no broccoli!…..
Broccoli came out on the plate,

You can’t win them all I must state,

The rest of the dinner,

One hundred per cent winner,

The roasties, top drawer, really great……
Our room was cool, done in grey and sage,

Not a hint of boring old beige, ( praise the Lord )

A fair old sized shower

With bundles of power,

We weren’t in there together, at our age??……
It had a nice little sofa to sit,

With views of the church opposite,

It has to be said,

On Sunday, Hursley’s dead,

But the pubs own Skittles alley was a hit! ( I didn’t play due to an injury but it looked the dogs danglies )… Other games available also but SKITTLES, that’s quality!…..
A beer in The Dolphin and a relaxing stroll, ( I had to take it slow, The Dolphin is 100yds away )

We returned to our lovely Hampshire bolt hole,

Sunday eve at The Kings Head,

They do a cracking flatbread,

Might be wrong but cooked on charcoal? ( ask the owners, Penny was very helpful )…..
The courtyard reminded me of the med,

Stunning patio heaters, vintage red.

With a glass of white wine,

Lovely area to dine,

Pretty soon it was closers ( last drink ), and then bed…..

Next morning , a full English, in the price,

Have to say, it’s high five, very nice,

All the food was exquisite,

The Inn’s well worth a visit,

Would I go back?.. You don’t have to ask twice!…( Take me now! )

………..
Small print. Ok same size print but small extra details…. And not in poetry form.

All the staff were very friendly and helpful.

We booked a “Spoil Yourself Sunday” deal. It was by a country mile the cheapest place I found. On a serious note the food was very good. We stayed in the Baxendale room. We loved the clean, airy, bright room. No window in the Baxendale bathroom, but it’s not the end of the world.

Winchester is very close and has, providing you are able, some lovely areas to wander around.
Hope you liked my efforts. If you didn’t, well, at least I’m experimenting various avenues!… Think Keats might be safe for now. Following this, The Ivy, described through the medium of breakdance!…
Next up, The Foodies Festival!