Given our travels - well documented on these, er, pixels, it's now rare that I get to go to somewhere I haven't been before in central London - and rarer still that it's only a couple of minutes walk from Liverpool Street. So I was excited to read about Stone Horse and Paper Cow, owned by the same company as the well thought of Balham Bowls Club and also now the Tooting Tramshed. Although the address is Bishopsgate, it's tucked away down a side alley next to the Heron Tower building site - and either it's difficult to find or the credit crunch has hit those City boys REALLY hard, as it was pretty quiet on a Thursday evening. Anyway, there's a shop front, you walk down the stairs, through a net-curtained door, and there's a long bar in front of you, with the usual mis-matched salvaged furniture. What you're not expecting is that down the far end, there's a whole further room, with a couple of pool tables and some nice US-style booths. It's a big ol' place.
There's even a couple of proper ales on tap, including Pure Ubu. However, what let it down for me was the bar staff, who were so busy cleaning the bar when I arrived that I was left standing there until I shouted "hello" at one of them. They were then all called over for a chat with the manager, who gave them the standard "don't be generous with the measures, be careful when you pour a pint" message that bar-staff everywhere will recognise from the day after a stock-take's been done. And then on the second round, the barman wasn't aware of the work of "lager top" and couldn't find the orange juice button on the till. If they can get that sorted though, this will do a good job as a modern-day recreation of the sadly-missed Throgmortons.
Meanwhile, I've been back to Shunt a couple of times, and there's mixed news. I went there once on a Friday night, stayed later than expected, and was worried it had jumped the shark. It seemed to have lost its artistic quirkiness and have become a standard bar full of Shoxton types with asymmetrical haircuts talking about how cool it was to be there. And that's not cool. Couple that with rumours of its demise, and I was ready to take to the blogwaves and pronounce it as "so 2008". Then I went back, earlier on a Thursday evening, and normal service had been restored. There were tasty snacks on the bar, and thirties tunes on the PA, and all was well. I've even had a mailer to say that while there IS a new Shunt space in Bermondsey, the Lounge remains open until at least July, albeit with a slightly smaller space.
And in Chelmsford news, Garders and I decided to go townie and do a crawl of the High Street chains. No, I don't know why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm pleased to confirm that Yates Wine Lodge is every bit as terrible as I expected. The barmaid appeared to have Swine Flu, and I think she even managed to cough in my pint of John Smiths Extra Cold - although the place is clearly set up more towards the Corky's Toffee Vodka Shots market. Edwards was marginally better, but only because the barmaid was fit (as in healthy, of course!) and there was a glitter ball, which made me feel like I was in the studios of Heart. Finally, The Ivory Peg from Wetherspoons is let down by being a nasty square box of a room next to a bus stop, but gets an honorable mention for (a) having a very nice smoked beer on draught as part of its real ale festival, and (b) being cheap.
Other bars are also available. Use them.