After the fun and frolics of exploring the pubs and bars of Hong Kong, a couple of days ago I had the day off work and took the opportunity to visit some pubs that I haven't been to before in my local area, the London Borough of Bromley. The weather was on my side and I spent a glorious, crisp winters day walking and enjoying the wintery scenery inbetween sipping some warming ales.
First up was the Shortlands Tavern. I've passed this pub many times while on the train to Bromley South station, as the pub nestles in the shadow of Shortlands station. Until recently from the outside it looked like a grubby and not particularly appealing place to have a drink, but it is now under new management who've done such a good job it's now in the latest Good Beer Guide, so I decided to pay a visit. The pub now looks much more welcoming from the outside, and there's also a charming garden with quirky decoration as well. Inside the good first impression continues, with a tasteful renovation clearly taken place. The owners have gone for a comfortable, nostalgic look and it works well, with antiques scattered around the pub and warm furnishings. So far so good, and I was pleased to see a decent selection of ales available.
On a Friday lunchtime the place was pretty quiet. I asked the friendly barman what he would recommend and he poured me a half of Thwaites Yule Love It. As I'd given him no indication on what beers I liked this was a fairly safe choice, nothing offensive and a perfectly suppable bitter. Can't say I loved it but it went down easy. I then tried a Santa's Slavo from the Nelson Brewery, and this was better - well hopped with a bit of spice in there as well to warm the cockles. Food was available and it all sounded tasty if a bit expensive. I didn't try the food but I'd be happy to go back and give it a go. With the pub situated next to the railway viaduct the room plunged into darkness every time a train shot past, which oddly contributed nicely to the atmosphere! This pub was a happy surprise and as its only a pleasant ten minute walk from Bromley town centre I might have to make some more visits when shopping in Bromley has just got too much for me.
After an enjoyable time at the Tavern I hopped on a bus to Beckenham to try out the Jolly Woodman. This is a Good Beer Guide stalwart and walking in I could sense why - it's a very traditional pub experience. Simple furnishings, a small bar area right by the entrance and a friendly collection of regulars were all present and correct. This is a drinkers pub and on a Friday lunchtime a few punters were coming in for a quick liquid refreshment. A small selection of sandwiches and toasties were also being served. I had a pint of Timothy Taylor Boltmaker which I rather enjoyed - a fine example of a best bitter but I wouldn't say it was "Champion Beer of Britain" material, as CAMRA deemed it to be this year. My pint was in good form but the next customer wasn't happy with theirs as it was looking a bit cloudy. The landlord was happy to change it with no fuss at all, and after a quick trip to the cellar the Boltmaker was back on and being served in fine form. Good work from the landlord there. I'd be very happy to have this place as a local.
The next stop was the Bricklayers Arms, located in Beckenham Town Centre and handily located across the road from the cinema. Walking in at 2p.m the place was doing a brisk trade, filled with workers most likely enjoying a early finish from work for their Christmas break. I didn't notice any food being served, so it was nice to see a drinks led pub so busy on a weekday afternoon. The ale selection was nothing outstanding but my pint of St Austell Proper Stuff was in good nick, and even better I got 50p off a pint for being a CAMRA member. Most of the punters appeared to be regulars, sitting around the large U shaped bar. A decent pub and it would make a great place to stop before or after seeing a film or hitting the Beckenham shops.
That was it for the Bromley area pubs. I hopped on a bus to join The Lovely Jemma at her works Christmas party in Croydon. Normally I'd try to stay out of Croydon but the do was being held at The Glamorgan, a fine pub and one I'm always happy to pop in to. They had Cronx Happy Cronxmas on, a locally brewed Christmas ale that was very tasty indeed, with lovely spice and plummy flavours. I also had a Bacon and Cheese burger that was absolutely delicious. You know a burger is going to be good when they ask how you'd like it cooked - I went for Medium and it was spot on. A lovely boozer and again one I'd be happy to call a local.
The Shortlands, Jolly Woodman and Glamorgan are all fine examples of a top quality locals pub -serving good ale and conversation to a wide range of punters. It's great to have little local treasures like these floating about. If you ever find yourself near any of them pop in for a pint - you won't regret it.
This is my last update for 2014, I hope you have a great Christmas and a very happy new year. In January I'll be aiming to visit two micropubs near to me, The Long Pond in Eltham and The Door Hinge in Welling, which has recently won pub of the year. I'll also be off to Paris towards the end of January and I will be trying my best to visit a couple of bars after failing dismally last time. See you in 2015!