Saturday 6 July 2013

The Bull's Head and the Queens Head, Chislehurst

If you've never heard of Chislehurst, it's basically the Hampstead of South London. If you've never heard of or been to Hampstead, it's a ludicrously expensive little alcove of North London, filled with "boutique" outlets, antique shops and other assorted nonsense frequented by the rich unemployed who have nothing to do but look at expensive tat all day. There's also a handful of pubs, all of which require you to have a credit check before buying a beer and handing over the deeds to your house before buying a gin and tonic. There was a Wetherspoons in Hampstead once for the more "unwashed" visitor but sadly it shut down.

Chislehurst doesn't feel as rich as Hampstead but it does have the gentle air of a place where money probably isn't an issue for most of its residents. There are a decent number of pubs in the area. I've only managed to visit three pubs so far, after reading on the internet on what would be the best bet for a pint of decent ale. I'm not one for spontaneity. Just ask anybody who has had to visit a theme park with me, as every ride, meal and toilet break is planned to the last detail in what I like to call "regimented fun."

None of the pubs in Chislehurst feature in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, and you'd have to venture to Bromley or Eltham before you would find a pub featured in its hallowed, yellow and slightly curled pages. The Guide can't be treated as a bible though and there are a few good pubs in the Chislehurst area. First up is the Imperial Arms. This pub has been recently refurbished with rather eclectic décor and furnishings. It looks like the landlord has gone on a mad shopping spree in the local antique shops. Upon entering the pub I was greeted by two hand-pumps. After getting over the shock of talking hand-pumps I plumped for a pint of Harveys Best Bitter which was in excellent condition and very drinkable.

The other ale on was Sharps Doom Bar, so the pub may not have had the best ale selection but it's better than no ale, or even worse, John Smiths on keg. The only other customers in the pub were a group of rowdy labourers, their colourful language rather at odds with the attempted classiness of the décor. A tasty dish of ham, egg and chips rounded off a very pleasant stay at this comfortable, reasonably priced pub.

They like their cars ugly in Chislehurst
A not so reasonably priced pub is the The Bulls Head, in the more villagey part of Chislehurst nestled amongst quaint little shops selling wares you'd never want or need but will pay a fortune for anyway. An imposing building, it comprises of two bars, a restaurant, event/conference room and even has seven hotel rooms. The two bars are completely different decor and atmosphere wise - the lounge bar is decked out with traditional wooden walls and red booths and stools, and seemed more popular with the older clientèle who just wanted to enjoy a quiet drink. I was immediately attracted to this slice of old world pubbery, but The Lovely Jemma, with her young and modern ways, wanted to drink in the up to date main pub instead, complete with its sofas and high chairs (for adults.)

A pint of Youngs Bitter went down nicely, although it was close to £4 a pint which is a bit cheeky for this neck of the woods. The clientèle was certainly more moneyed than the Imperial Arms more down to earth lot. Standing at the bar was my favourite pub customer, the moneyed loud American. Not used to the surroundings of a nice country pub he resorted to barking orders at the staff and loudly telling "hillarious" stories to his tipsy British hosts. Despite him getting more rowdy and sweary as the afternoon went on I did what any British pub goer should do and stoically ignored him. Overall this was a decent pub but the high prices put me off making this a regular haunt.

Haven't had a TLJ nails picture in a while.
Here's the Summer Lightning.
My final Chislehurst pub is the Queens Head. Chislehurst seems to like pubs with "Head" in the name, with the aforementioned Bulls Head and there's also a Tigers Head in the vicinity. Let's hope a landlord called Richard doesn't open a pub named after himself here. The Queens Head is a Ember Inn, so basically it's a slightly more upmarket Wetherspoons. There was a good selection of ales and all were in good nick. Hop Back Summer Lightning was a pleasure as always. This was followed by a pint of Butcombe Brewery Great Grey Owl which smelled a bit like old socks but was a rather nice attempt at an American Pale Ale, with all the citrusy goodness that comes with the territory. A massive plate of nachos covered in pulled pork went down a treat and rounded off an enjoyable day out in this pretty little village.

I've got a fair few updates coming along in the next few weeks, including a jaunt around Preston and a trip to Tap East in Stratford, so don't give up on this blog just yet! Cheers.

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