Monday, 28 November 2011

The Grafton, The Compass and a Lloyds

Holy crap I've just realised that's Rik Mayall!

Walking into a pub you haven't visited before for the first time is like opening an anonymous brown bag found in a park and looking inside. Will it be gold or will it be shit? The past week saw me enter two pubs for the first time, and both were different experiences. First up was The Grafton Arms near Warren Street, an area devoid of decent pubs. but plenty of mediocre ones. The residents are predominately international students staying at the UCL dorms, as they are the only ones who can afford to stay in London dorms. I guess the pub landlords are happy to palm them off with any old tat as they desperately work on a worthless degree which will guarantee them being told they're overqualified at every job interview they go to.

The Grafton Arms has been around for a while and its current owners are Greene King. It's a surprisingly pleasant two floor pub with a lovely outside terrace which is apparently often booked for parties. As it's a Greene King pub the ale selection wasn't spectacular. In fact it was so unremarkable I can barely remember what was available. I think IPA and another GK was on, plus a guest which is what I drank. Ashamedly I can't remember what the guest ale was called. But I do remember singing along loudly to "Wired for Sound" while pretending to rollerskate around Milton Keynes, followed by a horrific crashing sound as near 20 beer glasses fell of a table and down the stairs. It was that kind of night.

What the hell possessed me to go inside?
I couldn't even spot any hot goths.
We visited The Intrepid Fox after but I'm not going to comment on that.

Later on in the week I paid a visit to The Compass on Chapel Street, Islington. Although very busy the atmosphere was oddly cold and lacking. I tried a pint of the Adnams Spiced Winter Ale which was rather good, with a nice hoppy flavour and subtle spicy undertones. Adnams really seem to have improved in the last few months and I've been enjoying their new tipples. They're moving away from the processed, chemical taste which sometimes befell them and are starting to taste like decent, solid ales. Sadly the taste was tarnished a little when I was charged £3.80 for a pint. A ridiculous price and I ended up having to nurse my pint for a hour in fear of having to take out a mortgage for a second pint.

This was followed by a curry at the Delhi Grill, a rather good Indian restaurant that is a rare ray of sunshine on the windswept hellhole which is known as Chapel Market. I was also pleased to see the Elbow Room has closed down. What a miserable grim pit that was.

This chap is wondering whether to go back in
for another pint at 11am or just end it all now.
On the theme of miserable grim pits, we popped into the Glass Works, a Lloyds Number 1 based in the Islington cinema complex. Just kidding, it wasn't that awful, although the ale selection was dire. I ended up going for a pedestrian pint of Abbot Ale, which was fine but nothing earth shattering. At least I got a quid off my round thanks to the CAMRA vouchers.

Although I wouldn't make a special trip to return to the Grafton or The Compass, they're both good bets if you find yourself stuck in the area and require a pint. Just remember to stop by Nationwide near The Compass to take out a loan before stepping in.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Soapbox, Richmal Compton, Orphans

If there's one thing UK government don't seem to like it's seeing the general populace having fun. You can't even swing innocently on a cenotaph these days without getting banged up for sixteen months before pissing off early after four. Admittedly I, like Charlie "Brown" Gilmour, didn't know what a cenotaph was either until I saw a picture of one in the paper. I had just assumed he was caught swinging off a mythical beast with a horses body and a human head.

One way the government is cracking down on fun is by interfering with the beer industry. The government has recently announced tax concessions on any beers brewed at 2.8% ABV and below. Everything above 2.8 is still getting taxed at a ridiculously high rate and prices will only go up in the future. I cannot see the point of a 2.8% beer. Most people drink alcoholic drinks because they want to get a bit drunk. There's a reason they've chosen a beer and not a coke or a cup of tea. A 2.8% beer isn't going to do much for most folk. I find it sad that our government must think that if the public drink anything stronger than 2.8% they will immediately turn into yobbish, terrifying buffoons running through the streets destroying everything and everybody in sight. The reality is the majority of pissed people will either shout or giggle hysterically for a little while before falling asleep.

Of course the taxes don't affect the MPs themselves who have refused to get rid of the subsidised bars in the House of Commons. Even if they did shut down the bars there's a Sam Smiths just across Parliament Square which will take care of their cheap booze needs. I still don't trust Sam Smiths beer and can only assume it's so cheap because it's made from the tears of exploited orphans.* Incidentally I once went to the pub with some orphans. They asked me to get them something they've never had before, so I got them a round of Fosters. They weren't amused.

Thanks to taxes and London being a generally expensive place to live the average price for a pint is now pushing the £4 boundary. Therefore last Sunday I was pleased to walk into the Richmal Compton in Bromley. I'm not usually pleased to walk into this dreary Lloyds No. 1 bar as it attracts the usual Wetherspoons old man crowd during the day and the usual terrifying orange skinned crowd of "ladies of a certain age" in the evening. The certain age being around 35 to past it. However on this Sunday evening all ales were £1.50. That's one in the eye for David Cameron and that sinister Vince Cable bloke. I enjoyed a fine pint of the Burton Bridge Brewery "Knot Brown Ale" a tasty brew with a faint chocolate taste and pleasant hoppy aftertaste. I then went for a pint the "Red Nectar Ale" brewed specially for Wetherspoons by the American Firestone Walker brewery via Shepherd Neame. I didn't enjoy this brew as much, which had a slightly spicy taste which I didn't find to be very pleasurable.

After enjoying two pints of ale, both above 2.8% for the princely sum of £3, I immediately went outside and stole a bulldozer before running over 20 old ladies and a dog, urinating and laughing as I went. Guess the government was right after all!

You may have noticed that there are no photos in this blog entry. I'll leave it up to you to decide why.

*If anybody from Sam Smiths is reading this - this is parody please don't sue me for libel.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Westerham, General Wolfe and Kitchen Aids

I paid a visit to Westerham last weekend, a quaint little village in Kent not far from Bromley. Whenever I'm going somewhere for the first time I do what every self-respecting beer nerd with a internt connection does – look up what the best pubs are in the area at (or BITE.) It's true that the people who leave comments on there prefer a certain type of pub – the more old fashioned, quiet and devoid of anyone under 30 it is the better. Except for pubs in London where all that matters is that the pub serves a ridiculous amount of ale and that there is nobody there in a suit. God help you if you're a landlord and your pub plays loud music, has bright lights or a chav accidentally wanders in and orders a Fosters while a BITE user is there – that's an immediate 1.5/10 score and your pub shunned by beard wielding ale geeks forever.

To be honest all review websites are generally a bit of a minefield, as the majority of reviewers are schizophrenic nutjobs who only award one or five stars to everything. TripAdvisor reviewers are usually the worst, generally consisting of complaining Americas with reviews along the lines of “the room was fabulous, the scenery amazing, the food fantastic but the bell hop handed my bag to me using his right hand which is of course terribly offensive and rude ONE STAR.” In fact some reviewers are so bad Channel 4 did a documentary about TripAdvisor, with tales of downtrodden hotel landlords having to close down their business because of some bonkers reviewer starting a hate campaign because "the toilet flush only lasted five seconds, completely inadequate to clear the enormous turd I'd deposited in there and causing great embarrassment to me and my miserable frigid wife ONE STAR."

I am the destroyer of meats and the creator
of dinners.
But I digress. I've passed through Westerham a few times and there were a couple of pubs that looked nice, and BITE agreed that they were worth visiting. The first stop for me and The Lovely Jemma was the General Wolfe, which is a few minutes walk away from the village centre. Before going there we first had to drag ourselves away from the village cookery shop. Every time I go into a cookery shop I want to buy everything in there. The ridiculous novelty salt and pepper pots no doubt shaped like barnyard animals. The hilarious range of whisks and cutlery no doubt shaped like barnyard animals. And the Kitchen Aids, monstrous blenders from America that could quite easily destroy some barnyard animals. The main reason I would ever consider getting married is so I can put a Kitchen Aid on the wedding list. And a Playstation 3. If I'm going to commit to something for such a long length of time I might as well enjoy myself.

The Gangly Ghoul. Yummy. And spooky.
Yooky, if you will. Or Summy.
Walking into the General Wolfe we were greeted by the landlord, one punter and a trio of dogs. The punter and two of the dogs promptly left leaving just me and TLJ as the only customers left in the pub. The landlord turned out to be a lovely bloke and with the log fire burning away and the pub dog scampering about it was a pleasant atmosphere. The pub is tied with Greene King and the seasonal Gangly Ghoul was on offer. This dark bitter was in top condition and was an excellent pint. The landlord also had a Cains ale on tap but he wasn't going to serve it until the evening when it was ready. A shame as I love a Cains ale and you rarely see them in the South but good on him for not serving it until he was happy it was ready. We tucked into a tasty lunch as locals stopped by for a quick pint. As we were leaving a few regulars were at the bar creating a buzzy atmosphere. A very pleasant pub and I look forward to going back.

We also stopped into the Grasshopper on the Green, a large multi room pub slap bang in the centre of the village, next to the green funnily enough. This was a food orientated pub but they were quite happy for people to just have a drink. Unlike some foody pubs we were even allowed to sit at a table despite not ordering food! There wasn't even a customary evil glare from the staff. I felt truly honoured. They have a ale specially made for them by the local Westerham Brewery. Sadly I've forgotten what is was called but it wasn't a particulary nice pint, which was a shame. The pub was pleasant enough, with a lovely fire burning and the regulars were having a grand old time.

Overall it was a very pleasant afternoon, and the General Wolfe is well worth stopping in to if you're near by.

Hello! I'm the chap who writes the image captions for this blog. If you're reading this, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SEND HELP. Dave has broken both my knees now and won't let me leave the house. Many thanks.