Wednesday 7 November 2012

Mitchells and Butlers, Brewdog Shoreditch

I'm convinced that ordering food at an unknown pub is always one of the biggest gambles you can take in the UK. Forgot about the bookies or going to a casino, ordering a "Huntsman Chicken" and seeing if the chicken is (a) not as pink as my nose on a cold December day and (b) actually chicken and not "avian substitute product" is more risky than those ridiculous Ladbrokes football bets. The ones where you bet Rooney will score a goal at precisely 7:43pm off the backside of a passing goose. To be fair I've heard tales of what pub food was like in the dim and distant past, which seemed to consist of pickling anything that could fit into a human mouth and maybe a limp soggy bap if you were lucky, and I'm grateful we've moved on from those days. But sometimes it's better a pub serves no food rather than over-stretching themselves

Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) are a owner of chain pubs that have really taken on the pub food mantle. So much so that I would rarely go into if I just having a pint. I recently visited an M&B owned "Vintage Inn" pub near Biggin Hill, the Aperfield Inn. I'd be tempted to call this place a restaurant rather than a pub. There is a bar and a small seating area for drinkers but this was basically a Harvester in all but name. The small ale selection had London Pride and Youngs available. I opted for a pint of Youngs Bitter which was in good flavour, befitting of the Casque Mark the pub had been awarded. It's a shame the Aperfield isn't more welcoming to drinkers, as it's the only pub nearby in the area and it would make for a good community hub. To be fair the food I had was tasty (a Pork Belly Sunday Lunch) but this wasn't really a place you could go for a chat and a pint.

M&B also own the Ember Inn brand. I've generally thought of them to be more as food pubs like the Vintage Inn but my view was changed when I recently popped in to the Railway Hotel in West Wickham. As it's mentioned in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide and I just had to tick it off on their mobile app, I went in for just a quick pint. There was a mini ale festival on with a good selection of Great British Beer Festival winners, so I ended up staying for a couple. I enjoyed a pint of RCH Brewery P.G Steam, a solid best bitter with a pleasant hint of sweetness. The Leeds Brewery Leeds Pale Ale wasn't as good, but was still a tasty, floral and hoppy ale. The atmosphere was comfortable and overall I spent a perfectly pleasant evening there. It certainly exceeded my expectations, or perhaps misconceptions, of what appeared to be a nondescript, everyday chain pub.

Obligatory terrible camera phone shot of the interior of Brewdog Shoreditch
Aw shucks
I also had the pleasure recently of visiting the recently opened BrewDog Shoreditch. I've visited their Camden venue previously and while the Shoreditch outlet was similar it also felt a little different. It's a large space with a downstairs basement which will apparently be used for live gigs in the future. It has the same industrial interior with bare concrete ceiling and walls, metal grating and exposed wiring. This is fine at night when the bar is dimly lit but I imagine it could start feeling a little oppressive during the day. The beer selection is as impressive as ever with the usual BrewDog suspects on tap, along with rare guest beers and a wide selection of bottled beers. I enjoyed a half of the Punk IPA, its fruity flavours with a slight tangy edge coming through pleasantly as ever. I also sampled a couple of American guest beers. The first was the Rogue Hazlenut Brown which tasted suspiciously like a Cornetto but was oddly addictive. Second was the Double Jack from Firestone, a really rather good brown ale with a subtle hoppy taste. Most American beers have a overpowering flavour of fruity hops and can be reminiscent of drinking an alcoholic Um Bongo so this made a pleasant change.

The artists rendition  of Paddy is scarily
There is a small food menu, although the excellent burgers and pizza from the Camden branch are missing from here. The menu has a Japanese theme, with beef buns and chicken skewers. There's also JFC which apparently stands for Japanese Fried Chicken. I initially thought it was Jewish Fried Chicken and I expected a nice old lady to bring out a huge bucket of chicken because you're looking a bit thin these days don't they feed you at home? You're going to catch your death of cold! Sadly I didn't get the chance to try the food. Peeking at other tables the food looked pretty good and I'd like to give it a try next time I'm there.

Finally, considering the Shoreditch location, I'm pleased to report the bar was largely hipster free and I didn't feel the urge to punch anybody in the face. I can't guarantee that's the situation every night though.

I'm going to try and start doing more regular updates of this blog. In the future there will be a new post on the 15th and 30th of the month as a minimum. I do enjoy broadcasting my inane thoughts over the internet, and I hope you enjoy reading them!

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