Monday, 29 May 2006

All new pub! The Charles Dickens, SE1

Never off-duty, Li'l Garders and I went in search of new and exciting drinking experiences last week - and crossed another place off my to-do list.

This was The Charles Dickens, on Union Street, round the back of The Borough. And the news is that it was actually rather good. It's a very unpromising walk from Regulator Towers that takes you through some scaffolding hiding the road, and along a back street behind Tate Modern. But once inside, they've made a reasonable attempt at a makeover - you know the sort of thing: open up the windows, stick some sofas in... While they haven't followed it through 100% - the food is still sausage, chips and beans - this wasn't a bad place for a couple of cheeky ones after work. There are four or five interesting real ales on tap, and the food area at the back of the pub is no smoking; plus, as this is tucked away, there were plenty of seats free for an old man like me!
The pub even has its own, somewhat over-written website, where you can read about the history of the place, including that The 'J.P. Price' was renamed 'The Charles Dickens' at around 1911, when also 'Lant Street School' changed its name to 'Charles Dickens School'. Charles Dickens lived in neighbouring Lant Street as a boy at the age of 12, when in 1824 his father was in Marshalsea Prison for debt.

All in all, it was a good find in an otherwise not-great area - I think we'll be back here again...

Sunday, 28 May 2006

The Eagle and the Northcote

I know Will has posted about these two already (and the Falcon), but I've been meaning to get the photos up for some time, and now I've got a couple of moments whereby I can.
Here's Will outside the Northcote:

And here he is inside.

I think Will said the Northcote was okay. I thought it was depressingly average. Which is probably the same thing.

But then we found The Eagle.

Much as I hate the good pub guide (largely because the sort of people who contribute are called themselves things like "Dr. and Mrs. Welling" "Group Captain Richard Quim" and, hilariously, "The Diddler"), it is responsible for pointing us in the Eagle's direction, and for that I will be very grateful. It was a perfect fogey pub for young sorts, full of ambitious Sunday afternoon drinkers, strange architect couples wearing black roll neck jumpers, Swedish-style glasses and completely ignoring each other for the duration of their visit, and the usual panoply of geezers, gimmers and girls. The pub is all big hearths, leather sofas and newspapers, kept with a certain amount of pride by the staff. It knows it has tapped into that indefineable but widely hankered-after essence of pubness and is fighting to keep it that way. I think in that respect we were their ideal customers and so they were quite nice to us. This is what the barmaid did when I asked if I could take a photo:

And, of course they have handle glasses:

And they keep their beer very well too. London Pride, and two other strange ones which I'd never seen before which went down very well. A very good evening.

Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Young's Brewery to close!

Not a dream, not a hoax, not an imaginary tale. Apparently they are moving in with Charles Wells Brewery in Bedford. Bedford! It's Wimbledon/MK Dons all over again.

They say it won't affect the beer but they always say that. Beer has been brewed at the Ram Brewery on the River Wandle since 1581, making it the oldest site in Britain for continuous beer production.

I'm too upset to post more, except to link to the announcement and to hopeful news from The Publican that CAMRA are on the case.

Wells & Young's...can I hear the four horsemen of the apocalypse heading this way? "Vertically integrated" my arse.

Monday, 22 May 2006

Sunday, 14 May 2006

This month, I have also been drinking in...

The Angel, St Giles High Street
Returned here after several years absence (well, since Trafficlink moved out of Centrepoint) to find that the garden now closes at 5.15pm, but other than that, nothing whatsoever has changed: it's even still the same two somewhat grumpy barmen. BITE hits it when it describes the "folorn appeal" of the inside...

The Old Kings Head, off Borough High Street

This is NOT the Kings Arms, or even the Lord Clyde or Duke of Clarence, York, or Wellington, all of which are nearby. This is a proper smokey boozer down a side street, but not without charm and some impressive stained glass windows. A good alternative to the Borough Market regulars. Speaking of which...

The Wheatsheaf, Stoney Street, Borough Market
Neil G and I spent an evening sat in their "beer garden". It's like sitting in a doctor's waiting room, as the garden is actually the passageway round the toilet extension, so you're sat in a row next to each other rather than around a table. And the trains rumble overhead on their way from London Bridge to Waterloo East. But in an area where it's this, or standing out on a pavement, this is what you settle for.

The Hole in the Wall, Mepham Street, Waterloo Station

But if you like the trains going overhead, this really is the daddy, as it's in the arches between Waterloo East and Charing Cross. Everytime I come here, I can never make my mind up whether it's brilliant or terrible. And I think the answer may be both. The front bar has a curiously chalet feel about it. But this time we were in the larger back bar, which reminds me of the Essex SU bar of the mid-80s, with a long bar down the side, and slightly sticky lino/carpet. There's a big screen showing the footy and some Japanese tourists sat next to us eating a salami. Odd. But the beer ain't bad, it's next to the station and I'd prefer this to some of the other places round here. Plus how could you knock anywhere with a poster like this next to the fruit machine...

The Eagle, Chatham Street

Mr Wallis and I agreed to meet for a long-overdue catch-up in Clapham Junction. Not the most promising of areas, but a good halfway house between the Wallis in-laws and London's Murder Mile of SW17.

We started as always in The Falcon, which lived up to its previous reputation of being a nice boozer full of commuters and crazies. We decided to head up the Northcote Road, as this promised the best selection of bars and restaurants. Not being ones to go further than necessary, the first you come to is the, er, Northcote. I'm sure this is packed on a Saturday night, but on a wet Sunday afternoon, it had the football on a big screen and was otherwise unremarkable. But then we struck gold. We carried on up the Northcote Road, opting out of the Holy Drinker, and turned into Chatham Road.

There are two pubs here. Choose carefully. On the left is the Gardners Arms, looking every bit the 70s estate pub. Wallis seemed keen to visit for the sake of completeness, but when the sounds of karaoke drifted out of the window, even Nick's usual bravado deserted him (I didn't have any to start with) and we opted for The Eagle opposite.


Nick got the attraction of The Eagle spot-on when he said it was "an old man's pub for young people". Nice beers, just dark enough to be cosy, comfy sofas, friendly staff. Yep, just about everything you could want. We'd rolled up about 4pm, and there was even a (young) couple asleep in a corner with some alcopops in front of them. Good work!

It's a shame this place isn't just a little bit closer to the station, as it would be a great stop-off point, and infinitely preferable to The Falcon. As it is, it's worth the ten minute or so walk from the station if you're planning to stop for more than one... and I would do!