I recently had the chance to visit two pubs nearby to me that I'd heard good things about but hadn't had the chance to visit. First up was the Eltham GPO. This is a recently opened Antic pub in the suburban mediocrity that is Eltham. The town already has one decent boozer, the Park Tavern, and the GPO is conveniently located on the same road as the Tavern. In a former life the GPO was called The Old Post Office, and it was a chav infested Jaegarbomb spewing hellhole best avoided by everyone. Now that Antic have got their grubby mitts on it the place has been spruced up, but also spruced down, being furnished with vintage furniture and sporting exposed piping and walls as part of the decor.
Having been impressed with the beer selection at the Baring Hall Hotel, another new opening from Antic in nearby Grove Park, I was looking forward to more exciting beers here. However the landlord has played it safe with the beer selection at the GPO, with five solid if not very exciting ales on offer, including Timothy Taylor Landlord. I opted for a pint of local brewery Hopstuff Fusilier, which was a classic best bitter. It was in good nick and went down perfectly with a very tasty Fish and Chip dinner, chosen from a food menu which again plays it very safe with pub classics such as sausage and mash. I did enjoy my time here and would stop in if I happened to be in the area, but unlike the Baring Hall I didn't feel it was a pub worth going out of the way to visit. Hopefully with two pubs in such close proximity to each other, the Park Tavern and Eltham GPO might step up their game ale selection wise.
Over to Croydon which despite its grim exterior and sometimes questionable inhabitants, it is bereft with decent pubs. In nearby Addiscombe is the Claret Free House. Unassuming from the outside, it looks like it could be a wine bar or restaurant. But inside there's no doubting this is a traditional local boozer, with a long bar and mock tudor interior. Five handpumps displayed a tantalizing selection of beer.
The Claret is "famous" for serving Palmers Best Bitter, with a certificate proudly displayed proclaiming that they have served over 1,000,000 pints. It would be rude not to try it and after a sip I could see why they sell so much. This was a easy drinking, slightly floral ale that went down a treat, perfect for a session or a quick one after work. Next up was W.J King Lost Kingdom. This was a heavier bitter, with gentle raisin notes in the aftertaste. It was fine but not as charming as the Palmers. Finally there was the Westerham Puddledock Porter. With its low ABV this was a light and refreshing porter, not too heavy on the coffee notes. This is the first porter I've ever described as refreshing.
A small collection of regulars were in, and the crowd got bigger as the afternoon wore on towards clocking off time. A telly in the corner was showing the cricket and I got the pleasure of watching England perform terribly in the Twenty20. It was a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere and although I was the youngest customer in there by far, I never felt uncomfortable. A pub well worth visiting if you're in the area.