After a splendid afternoon in the comfy surroundings of Carshalton, it was time to head to the grittier climes of Croydon, a half hour bus ride away. Croydon has the air of a place that was built with great intentions, in this case an attempt at being a New York style city of business, but the time and money wasn't really invested into it to pull it off so it got left behind and forgotten about. It's a real shame the council can't do more with the place as there is huge potential with its decent transport links and plenty of office space available. Apparently the monstrous American shopping "mall" experience Westfield will be moving in, but judging by their soulless labyrinths in Stratford and Shepherds Bush, I'm not expecting much from them - it will likely end up being a glamorous playground for bored scummy kids to hang about in.
Despite Croydon falling far short of what it initially promised, it does have some decent pubs. I'd written about two of them previously and this time I tried out a few pubs mentioned in the Good Beer Guide that I hadn't been to before. First up was the Skylark, right on the outskirts of town. This is a large Wetherspoons, and probably the most generic Spoons I'd visited in a long while. No excitement here, just the usual muddy brown/red carpet, slightly sticky furniture, dim lighting, collection of bored single elderly punters and a long bar serving a big collection of ales. Their beer festival was on and I tried a Bedfordshire Clanger from Banks Brewery which to be honest was a bit of a mistake. It was ludicrously bitter and a chore to drink - it was if they'd messed up the quantity of ingredients during the brewing process and couldn't be bothered to fix it. I tried the new burritos Spoons are doing now and it was fine - a bit like having a Tesco ready meal but tasty enough.
After this lacklustre experience I was looking forward to the Green Dragon, a popular pub that gets good press. This large centrally located pub is right next to the Tiger Tiger and Reflex nightclubs, so no doubt a good place to load up on booze before attempting to have a dance. Five ales on handpump were on offer, plus a barrel of Black Sheep was being gravity dropped. Nothing really stood out as exciting from the ale selection, and I went for a Dune Raider from the Sunny Republic brewery. Sadly this was another disappointing ale, with a limp watery flavour - it needed more oomph. There was a smattering of young and old customers in on this dreary Thursday afternoon, and while music was being played when I walked in it cut out shortly after, leaving a bit of an odd atmosphere. I have a feeling this place might be more fun in the evening.
The last pub on my tour is owned by the former landlady of the Green Dragon. The Oval Tavern is a surprisingly large pub in the middle of a largely residential area. The Lovely Jemma works nearby and I had no idea this pub existed until I saw it mentioned in the guide - I thought it was all houses in the area! The decor inside is a little shabby and studenty but it has charm, there's also a large beer garden accessed by a flight of stairs. I was the only customer in but it was a comfortable enough place to enjoy a quiet half. Sadly I was lumbered with another beer that wasn't too great, although it was my fault for not reading the label correctly. Blue Boar from Everards is a standard bitter but with honey and mead chucked in, and unfortunately I didn't realise this fact until it was too late. I was basically drinking boozy Lemsip. Luckily the amusing posters dotted around the pub and the good music being played made the drink go down easier.
With a lot of live music events on as well, The Oval is having a good stab at being a community boozer, and I wish them all the best. I look forward to returning. Next week I'll be telling you all about Helsinki which I visited over the weekend, hence why this post is a few days late. Hope you can join me!
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