It's now traditional that I start a new post with an apology for it being so long since the last one (four months, in this case). I maintain my position that it's better to actually be supporting our Great British Pubs by being in one, than on the laptop at home with a bottle of cheap supermarket-bought (well Majestic, for £1.25 a bottle) beer.
So where have I been all this time? Here's a handful of favourites.
1) The Shashton Arms, Ganton Street. Twitter followers will already know this is my new London residence. The only bad point is that it is somewhat difficult to find, even for airborne traffic reporters who should know better (I mean you, Veglio!) in a maze of Soho backstreets off Carnaby Street. But that's it. It's just two minutes from Meejah Central (ie. Golden Square), yet is a countrified haven of Badger beers. It IS undeniably popular, but they have so many staff on that I've never had to wait to be served, and the landlady is friendly, and well, that's everything you can ask for.
2) The Tiger, East Dean. This is another countrified pub, but this one has the excuse of actually being in the beautiful Seven Sisters country park near Ol' Pa Jackson's place in East Sussex. Its own Beachy Head beers (including the fine Legless Rambler at 5%) and tables looking out on to the prettiest village green make this the perfect place to take three generations of Jacksons to meet my friend Carina.
3) Stone Horse Paper Cow. See previous post, for nothing had changed when I visited this week. Still a good basement bar just a stone (horse)'s throw from Liverpool Street station. Still cool with quirky mismatched fittings, probably bulk-purchased from quirkymismatchedpubfittings.com, and American-style booths, pool and table football. Still good because you can get a seat, but still lacking any atmosphere because it seems to always be empty. Still good because they have Black Sheep on tap, but still more new bar staff, who on this visit were confused by my asking for "bitter". I want this place to be great, I really do, but just can't see how it's going to work...
4) The White Hart, Margaretting Tye. This is oddly akin to the Stone Horse, in that it manages to be somehow less that the sum of its parts. Or at least the recent refurbishment here does. The odd thing is that they've not actually changed anything - the food is good, there's lots of well-kept real ales which they've rightly won CAMRA awards for, and there's a pets corner including some rapey ducks. And they've decided to give the place a lick of paint. But they've obviously been to an Ember/Vintage Inn, and thought "well if the gastropub standard makeover is good enough for them, we'll get our own heritage paint swatch, some velvet curtains and hang a couple of pheasants in the corner too..." I can't fault the actual elements of the makeover - it's still a nice place to spend an evening, and indeed it's probably still the best pub around - just somehow a little less individual...
5) And an honorable mention for the King's Head in Orford, Suffolk for just being a lovely village pub, with a mix of friendly locals, Adnams ales, up to five dogs of all sizes in the bar at any one time, and some excellent food. A model of how to do it right.
If you can remember any other pubs I've been to and should have written about at the time, then do let me know, via an electronic mail communication, as the Chelmsford post is on strike. And now that you've read this, go to this beery blog which puts mine to shame and just gets better and better: Stonch's Beer Blog.