Croydon must have seemed amazing to visitors back in the 60's. I can imagine visitors being enthralled as they drove their Ford Cortina down a sweeping dual carriageway buffered by soaring multi storey buildings. There's even an underpass in case tall buildings scare you. It would have been a shining beacon to the adversity of Britain, that a shimmering new town can rise from the rubble of bombed out ruins. I'm probably romanticising it a bit but I like to think Croydon was exciting once. Sadly nowadays it's pretty grim, the buildings ageing and imposing, the roads unable to cope with the 21st century levels of traffic, and the people ready to stab you at a moments notice. However Croydon does have a Waitrose and an artisan bakery has recently sprung up, so maybe things are looking up.
Nestled in the rather grubby town centre, across the road from the cultural delights of Tiger Tiger and the 80's Reflex bar, is The Spread Eagle. A large Fullers Ale & Pie house it is a welcoming, cosy oasis in the wilds of Croydon. It boasts an impressive interior, with two large chandeliers above the bar and a sweeping staircase to one side. The place was busy but me and The Lovely Jemma managed to grab a seat on some sofa's in the corner. The long bar serves the standard Fullers ale range, and although a guest beer from the local Cronx brewery was advertised on a blackboard behind the bar, it appears it was off as there was no mention of it on the handpulls.
I never find the Fullers range very exciting. I usually resort to getting a Chiswick or a ESB depending on how pissed I'm willing to get, but with neither on offer I started with a HSB from Gale's. This ended up being a good choice of pint for a chilly Autumn's day. Dark in colour with a rich, fruity taste, it was in perfect condition and went down a treat. I then opted for a half of the Fuller's seasonal Black Cab Stout. This was a perfectly pleasant stout with the coffee and toffee flavours present and correct, but it seemed to play it safe taste wise. Nothing too strong or threatening, it was almost like a stout for beginners. If you're ever unfortunate to be in Croydon and want a drink I can definitely recommend this place. Good beer, good atmosphere and also less chance of bumping into the unsavoury characters you get in the The George down the road.
The General Wolfe in Westerham is a pub I have blogged about previously. Since that last post, the place has been taken over by a new landlord, has had a refurb and has lost its place in the Good Beer Guide. I made a return visit last weekend to see how the place was post-refurbishment. Walking in it was initially hard to tell the difference the refurb had made. The layout is pretty much the same and the general decor hasn't changed much. But the furniture has been replaced and is looking much fresher, and the bar appears to have been extended, with the number of handpumps increased from three to five.
The beer selection was never very exotic pre-refurb but the ale was always in good condition. Now with an expanded range I'm pleased to say the beer is still in good nick. I tried the house beer, General Wolfe from Greene King. I suspect this is a re-badged beer, I initially thought maybe Old Speckled Hen, although it was only 3.9%. It was pretty good, a full bodied bitter with a fruity hoppy finish. I also tried a half of the guest beer, Brewers Gold from Whistable Brewery, which wasn't as good but was still pleasant with gentle light bitter notes. A food menu was available but I didn't see anybody eating, even on a busy Saturday afternoon. It looks like the regulars come here for a pint rather than a bite to eat.
With the decent beer and polite, prompt service this pub was looking like a winner. But unfortunately the atmosphere was a bit like having a pint in a retirement home. Me and The Lovely Jemma were the youngest people there by a long, long way. It was all very cosy but I started feeling a bit uncomfortable and we had to leave after a couple of halves as we just felt out of place there. It was the first pub I'd been to in a long time where the clientèle was exclusively oldies. Maybe at other times the pub has more mix in the customer age group.
That's it for now. See you next Sunday!