Sunday, 29 April 2007

Two things today...

First, we should all support this:

... CAMRA's full pint initiative. You can sign the online petition here.

Second, I've been back to Waterloo's, er watering holes, a couple of times in the last few weeks. I know this is a regular topic, but the position is always changing. I have three regular haunts there:
1) The Hole in the Wall. Yes, it's a bit dingy, with a lino floor in the back bar, and the feeling of a 70s Swiss chalet in the front, but it usually has at least one interesting beer (from the Twickenham Brewery on my last visit), and there's a picture of a funny monkey too. But it's just always incredibly smokey. This could be a good bet after 2nd July.
2) The White Hart, Cornwall Road. My favourite of last summer: comfy sofas, good beers and - for my single friends - lovely barmaids. But now a contender for "when good pubs go bad"... the real ales are usually off, the service is terrible, and they've clearly fallen out with the neighbours, as you're now herded into a small roped-off standing area outside with a list of instructions on do's and don't's. The Anorak Stacey Harris commented that you don't need to be told how to drink. So off we went to:
3) The Kings Arms, Roupell Street. A good old favourite, that doesn't usually disappoint. The neighbours here are clearly more understanding as you can stand where you like, other than a sign on a windowledge opposite asking people not to put their pints there, which is fair enough really. SOMEONE ELSE told me that they recognised one or two of the bar staff as having come over from the White Hart, too. And we watched a Toyota Yaris advert being filmed at the end of the road.
Of note here is a new pump I noticed from East Angular's Adams brewery. When I found a bar person who spoke English and knew what it was, I was told it's "like an ale, but served cold". It was called Spindrift, and a bit more research shows it to be "a top-fermented, five per cent ABV, chilled and filtered beer, which will be targeted at premium pubs and bars." But without wishing to be old farty about this, if I want a cold beer, I have lager. If I want a beer beer, I have bitter. There's no need for anything in between. Despite this, a couple of pints went down rather well, and the Kings Arms regains its title as our favourite Waterloo local.

Monday, 9 April 2007

The votes are in...

And the mid-Essex branch of CAMRA have crowned a new champion: the White Hart at Margaretting Tye is this year's Pub of the Year. This spurred TCMJ and I to leave our sun-drenched back garden and head into the depths of the Essex countryside to check it out. And I'm pleased to report it was well worth the effort, and definitely deserving of the title. In a way, I'm glad its a four-mile drive from the house down a narrow country lane, otherwise I'd be here every night!
In summary:

It's animal friendly. This must be the only place where I've seen a Mum arrive with her small child on a Shetland pony. There is also a pets' corner, with a fed-up looking goat, lots of squeaking guinea pigs, several rabbits and an aviary. Oh, and a large duck pond with some randy ducks providing entertainment for the parents, who were busy answering the question of why the lady duck was giving the gentleman duck a piggy-back!

Here instead of some hot duck action is a picture of a sleeping cat and a guinea pig.

The location is almost impossibly English. This could only be a better place to bring an American tourist if a soldier wearing a bearskin was drinking Beefeater gin before being arrested by a policeman whistling and swinging a truncheon. Look, a village green with a waterpump and a red phone box! They don't make 'em like this any more.

Meanwhile, like an episode of Life on Mars, Helen reads a copy of The Taproom sat next to a vintage red post box and an R Whites litterbin from the 70s.

Oh, and the beer? Excellent - you don't get to be POTY for nothing - six real ales on at any one time. I had a pint of Nobbys Plum Porter from Northamptonshire which was very plum coloured, but not very plum tasting. But a good well-kept beer nevertheless; and as well as the usual local Crouch Vale there were several other interesting beers on offer. They hold popular beer festivals here too - the next in June - and a village fete and jazz day in August. I'll definitely be back!

One note of caution if you're thinking of trying this place - it's not in Margaretting itself... it's tucked away down a single track lane between Margaretting and Stock - check the website for a map... you'll need it, but it's well worth a bit map-reading to find it!