Sunday, 9 September 2012

Limehouse


LIMEHOUSE (05/09/12)

It was finally time for a visit to Limehouse this week, a station we’ve been half-heartedly trying to get to for quite some time now.  It just seems that each time we finally get around to it we get a more enticing offer, which to be fair is not that difficult a feat as Limehouse is far from being one of the more appealing locations on the DLR.  Last time for instance Tindall asked me if I fancied staying in instead to watch episodes of The Big Bang Theory back to back.  Only kidding of course, I’d never watch that crap.  But tonight we took the plunged and I met Rob straight from work at our first pub for the night.  I entered the Railway Tavern to find him and a pint awaiting me.  He didn’t look out of place though, for this pub is ideal for the lone drinker with time to kill as they wait for their train or their DLR Challenge buddy to arrive.  Indeed, it seems highly unlikely that this is a place that you’d come regularly, and this lack of familiarity perhaps dampens the atmosphere slightly.  Having said that, as we’d move on to discover, The Railway Tavern is probably one of the better pubs in this area.

The Railway Tavern Ratings
Facilities – 2.5
Atmosphere – 2
Cost – 3
Entertainment – 3.5
Selection – 2
OVERALL AVERAGE – 2.6/5

We headed next in the direction of The White Swan, but instead stumbled across a tiny bar called ‘Jacks’ sandwiched in between a row of closed down shops (nothing much appears to be open in Limehouse anymore).  The owner (presumably Jack?) stood at the door and welcomed us in as we passed him.  Quite a homely feel to this place, it’s clearly a converted shop with a bar in it but was nevertheless very welcoming.  The only let down really is its location.  Situated on Commercial Road, the steady stream of traffic and blaring sirens, set in front of a backdrop of derelict buildings doesn’t really leave the drinker with much of a view.  Indeed, I actually preferred to look at Tindall than out of the window.  Perhaps this place had only just opened, there was no food menu but empty blackboards galore, seemingly placed there once either Jack or his wife had had time to do a big shop and rustle up some food.  One pint of Guinness each later and we were back on the road.

Jacks Ratings
Facilities – 2.5
Atmosphere – 3
Cost – 3
Entertainment – 1.5
Selection – 1
OVERALL AVERAGE – 2.2/5

It was then that we found The White Swan, although it had been boarded up.  Sadly this would become a common theme as the evening progressed, as we passed 4 more pubs that no longer existed.  Our next venue Brewery Tap had also seen better days.  Incredibly though it was still open.  Although it may score higher than others on our controversial and admittedly ridiculous FACES scale, this must surely be the worst pub that we’ve come across so far.  As we entered we were greeted by the fixed stair of an old man with one tooth who looked as though he spends every waking moment of his remaining days there.  In fact, I imagine he’s sitting there right now, propped up against the bar, staring at the door in the hope of a new customer to look at.  He had to make do with eavesdropping on the four guys occupying the table by the door on the evening that we visited though; another set of regulars who most likely are used to having the pub to themselves.  I’m not too sure the barmaid was overly pleased to see us either, she spent the whole time we were there eyeing us suspiciously.  Granted though, when two guys wearing suits come in and start scribbling notes on pen and paper she was probably worried we were from the brewery and had come to close her down. 

Brewery Tap Ratings
Facilities – 0.5
Atmosphere – 1.5
Cost – 4
Entertainment – 1.5
Selection – 2
OVERALL AVERAGE – 1.9/5

We chose not to stay for long, Brewery Tap really didn’t have anything going for it.  The dĂ©cor was awful and probably hadn’t changed in 40 years, the atmosphere was non-existent, and the pint glasses were wobbly.  After 15 minutes or so of trying to drink whilst keeping one eye on a potential escape route and another on a gnat that had joined us for the duration of our stay, we quickly upped and left, safe in the knowledge that no matter where we ended up next, it would be more comfortable than here.

We were wrong.  The next pub, The Old Ship, was much nicer, but far less comfortable.  As we approached the venue things looked promising.  The Ship didn’t belong here, it looked nice, it looked clean, and it looked open.  All good signs.  Hanging baskets, erm, hung outside and a warm glow emanated from within.  This was better.  We entered, ordered our pints and found a table.  The barmaid informed me that she’d just changed the barrel when it came to serving me my drink, and things didn’t taste right.  I took a sip and decided I needed to switch, complaining to her that my beer tasted ‘fruity’.  As it turned out this was the wrong choice of wording as I then glanced to my left to discover a man wearing make-up.  We’d entered another gay pub.  And once again, such as it is in modern times I feel the need to add the disclaimer that we have no issue with gay people, nor with establishments that cater primarily for them, it is however a little awkward to be entering these bars, in a couple, with another man.  Why?  The crudeness.  Every single time we’ve been to one of these gay friendly pubs the clientele cannot seem to speak without every other comment being a sexual innuendo.  It does make for a slightly discomforting experience.  However, we’re here to judge a pub, not those that frequent it, and so we set about analysing our surroundings.  And we were pleasantly surprised.  It was a relaxing venue, it was clean and we didn’t feel threatened as we had done in the pub previous to this.  Entertainment was rife too, with a drag act once a week, it was so welcoming here in fact that for a second we thought we’d consider popping back in a few days time to watch ‘Saucy Sophie’ or ‘Slag in Drag’ perform.  And then we came to our senses and decided never to mention that rogue thought to anyone, anywhere, ever.

The Old Ship Ratings
Facilities – 3.5
Atmosphere – 3
Cost – 3
Entertainment – 2
Selection – 2
OVERALL AVERAGE – 2.7/5

Our evening ended with a visit to The Queen’s Head.  It ended rather abruptly too as the staff around us started to close up at 10pm.  In fairness to them at this point we were the only two left, and besides ploughing money into their quiz machine we were hardly worth staying open for.  Queen’s Head had seen better days.  It was a huge pub on the inside, but unfortunately had nobody there to fill it.  On the wall was a picture of The Queen’s Mother pouring a pint there in 1987, which incidentally may well have been the year that the Quiz Machine that we were playing on had come from.  After nabbing £3 from it (after only putting about £5 in!) we drank up and left before being told to leave by the waiting barmaid, off into the night, almost another DLR station light. 

Queen’s Head Ratings
Facilities – 2.5
Atmosphere – 1
Cost – 3.5
Entertainment – 2.5
Selection – 1.5
OVERALL AVERAGE – 2.6/5

There are still some pubs in the area to visit, fortunately some of which are on the south side of the station at the Quay, a much more enticing area.  Hopefully we can revisit here and wrap up any loose ends shortly.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

West India Quay


WEST INDIA QUAY – 25/07/12

Once again it’s been a long time since we were out drinking on the DLR.  Our last venture away from more familiar surroundings in the City was actually on the night of the European Championship Final.  Eager to go out and see the game (I had a few cheeky bets on – which of course I lost) but without the tenseness or pressure of England taking part we decided to head over to Stratford High Street.  It was a bit of an impromptu visit to be fair, the evening began with a bit of necessary shopping (my annual trip to buy a new shirt for work) and ended with 4 DLR pubs ticked off.  This was of course over a month ago but laziness means I have once again not blogged our findings.  To try and think back and re-cap then I know that we started in King Edward VII (King Eddy’s) although this pub actually fell outside the jurisdiction of both Stratford DLR and Stratford High Street DLR.  But seeing as I used to briefly live in the area (very briefly, my flatmate hated me for feeding her cat and we never recovered from that causing me to scarper back to Benfleet sooner than intended) I insisted on taking Tindall there because it proved to be one of my favourite pubs. 

To be honest from there on I’m not entirely sure of the path we took, I’ll have to check with Tindall but I figured it best to jot down what I can now and I can always alter it later.  I know we watched the game across 2 different pubs, the first being The Princess of Wales.  A dingy pub this one, with a less than enthusiastic barmaid and some extremely worn furniture.  It wasn’t particularly clean either as emphasized by the two flies that were buzzing around and trying to mate in front of us, I would say obscuring the view but that would be going too far.  Nevertheless we moved on at half time to Ye Old Black Bull and watched the second half of Spain’s demolition of their opponents in the comfort of a lovely little beer garden with an outside TV and sound rigged up.  After that we ended across the road in the Langthorne for one last drink, a pub that I can neither recommend nor put down seeing as all I remember is it containing what is most probably the world’s largest disco ball hanging from the ceiling just outside the toilets. 

Of course I’m supposed to be writing about West India Quay right now, and that does stick more firmly in the memory as it was only 3 days ago that we were there.  Many of the pubs at Canary Wharf fit into the West India Quay radius but we decided to leave them to their parent station and just concentrate on the bars that form a line from the converted docklands warehouses.  So then, each pub was pretty much exactly the same in terms of facilities!   We started at ‘Via’ which after much discussion and marketing analysis from Tindall we decided was a dreadful name for a bar.  I think they were going for ‘Via – a place to visit on your way home’ but it came across more as ‘Via – this isn’t your final destination for the evening as this bar is a bit shit and you’ll soon want to move on’.  The food did look fantastic, although almost certainly overly expensive considering the area we were in.  There was also a very uncomfortable ‘table for two’ situated on a tiny balcony above the entrance to the bar – fine for a romantic meal with a loved one, if that is the couple envisage sipping wine with a crowd of pissed up city workers in suits standing just metres below them as being romantic. 

As I said each bar on this strip was much like the one before, Henry’s next door was much of the same although a touch less ‘covey’ as I seem to have written in my notes.  A let down too, it was one of those bars with nobody trying to order yet seemingly nobody getting served either.  The barman seemed busy, but I’m not quite sure what he was actually doing.  After wandering about for a bit he did finally serve us, and proceeded to pour quite possibly the world’s worst pint of Strongbow, to say the tide was out a bit on that one was a huge understatement. 

It turned out that most of the bars here were indeed predominantly restaurants so we were saved from having to enter them all.  So before long we were sitting in the Wetherspoons at the end of the row of bars, tucked away as it was behind the German Camp for the Olympics.  Due to our crazy rating scheme this pub (The Ledger Building) would actually end up being rated as the best pub in the area, purely down to the fact that it being a Wetherspoon meant that the prices were so much cheaper.  Clearly being in the land of sticky tables and no background music should mean it’s not a great pub, but our ratings tell us otherwise.  We opted to eat here though, the menu was standard as expected but they do microwave a good meal for you! 
Over all, Via bar received an average rating of 3.1, Henry’s a marginally worse 3.0 and The Ledger Building a probably a bit preposterous 3.7. 

And that’s where things get a bit complicated.  With time on our hands we chose to head over the water and mix it up with the ‘wankers in suits’ as I like to call them.  They are probably all lovely people of course (or not) but from working there for over a year, I’d seen enough to know that this area was not for me.  Months ago now we started on the Canary Wharf side, having a pint in Brodie’s bar (for which all I have in my notes is ‘smells a bit like a swimming pool’) and then moving on to Davys where I didn’t make any notes at all.  We decided to make some more headway at this station and so headed for one more pint in Corney & Barrow.  And maybe I’m being biased due to my aforementioned hatred of the area but this pub came in with possibly the lowest rating so far (an average of just 1.6).  Worryi0ngly too it scored very highly on Facilities, leaving much to be desired from every over aspect of the pub.  The drinks menu is best described as deceitful, advertising as it did a range of beers only for us then to discover that the only options on tap were Peroni and Guinness.  We opted for a Peroni and a Guinness and received this time the world’s worst poured pint of Guinness.  Now bearing in mind that Tindall is now a keen and expert Guinness drinker, (why, the man has poured his own pint back in Ireland – and he has a certificate to prove it), he was understandably perplexed and disappointed to see that his ‘pint’ was indeed about 1/3 ‘head’ once it had finally settled.  Drinking up quickly we headed home, another DLR station light.










Crossharbour and South Quay


CROSSHARBOUR AND SOUTH QUAY (09/05/12)

A cheeky mid-week jaunt along the DLR enabled us to tick off 2 further stations.  This is yet to be officially confirmed though as more research is required to ensure that we have covered every drinking place at South Quay.  It appears that we have been remarkably quiet on the DLR Challenge front over recent weeks and whilst this is partly true, there have also been two visits to the Tower Gateway area which I have not thus far got around to writing about.  It was when studying this stop that we have discovered another stumbling block in our attempt to visit every pub at every station.  At first glance Tower Gateway seems to have no fewer than 26 drinking establishments.  We discussed potential ways of getting around this problem and perhaps bending the rules slightly (ideas ranged from just visiting the 10 closest pubs to the station, to just outright lying and pretending we went to each venue – all that would be needed for that would be a mischievously grinning shot of Tindall standing outside a pub and people would be none the wiser).  But no.  That would not be in the spirit of the challenge, so we’ve instead opted to visit that area on occasion and intermittently check off a couple of pubs.  I’ll detail those pubs at a later date but at this stage we have been to 4 places there.  Just the 22 pints to go then.

On this evening though, our thoughts were firmly on rounding off Crossharbour and South Quay.  

Crossharbour only has 2 pubs, one on either side of the water so we knew we’d be able to complete our 7th station of the challenge, and as far as we can tell South Quay only has one.

We began at The George, a very quaint and traditional looking pub that had clearly been there long before the DLR ever came into existence.  It serves as a perfect place for both local residents and suits who fancy dropping by for a quick beer on their way home from work.  This blend of customer was immediately evident on entering as we were presented with a local man (complete with local intimidating dog that spent the whole time staring at and unnerving Tindall as he sipped his pint) jokingly throwing an empty crisp wrapper at the barmaid, whilst at the same time a posh City worker could be heard approaching the bar and uttering ‘marvellous, great timing’ to his other upper class pals. 

It was certainly a fairly relaxed venue, which we initially marked down somewhat for facilities (it is a little grubby) until we left the pub and noticed that in all there are 3 separate bars that make up The George.  There is the main pub area where we sat where you can enjoy a pint and watch the football, or for the quieter drinker there is an option to wander on through to ‘Ma Bakers Bar’, a room that a sign confusingly but thankfully incorrectly shows that you can only get to by walking through the Women’s toilets.  And additional to both of these there is a third bar, complete with a conservatory and beer garden and an ideal place to sit and order food. 

The George Ratings

Facilities – 4

Atmosphere – 2.5

Cost – 2.5 – Seemed pricey but we’d switched to Guinness for the evening due to Tindall’s recent outing to Dublin and his new found love for the black stuff.  (He really has taken a shine to it, returning home last week in a Guinness T-shirt, and also hoarding a Guinness paperweight and Guinness keyring and Guinness shot glass.  He is also now the proud owner of a certificate detailing his ability to pour the perfect pint – of Guinness, naturally).

Entertainment – 3.5

Selection – 3

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.1/5

We ended up in The Spinnaker next, wandering off course slightly and over to South Quay (not a deliberate ploy, we got lost whilst trying to seek out any other hidden pubs in the area).  Although glorious in setting (the main drinking area backs onto the Quay), The Spinnaker is essentially a Wetherspoon in terms of style.  Slow service, a sticky bar and a lack of atmosphere really makes the pub difficult to recommend.  One real plus point though is the fact that it opens at 8.30am – ideal for alcoholics and those that fancy a huge breakfast before work. 

The Spinnaker Ratings

Facilities – 3.5

Atmosphere – 2

Cost – 3

Entertainment – 2.5

Selection – 3.5

OVERALL AVERAGE – 2.9/5

We didn’t hang around at South Quay for any longer than necessary and quickly headed back to Crossharbour to enter our third and final place of the night.  Called ‘Pepper Saint Ontiod’ this bar was a delightful place to drink.  Spread over two floors it would appeal to a range of people.  The ground floor is more relaxed, with books and board games and a decent menu for those seeking an evening meal.  But upstairs is where we headed and made ourselves comfortable watching the football in front of the big screen where we sat and relaxed for the rest of the evening.  We were pleased with ourselves for finally making a bit more progress as Crossharbour is now complete although displeasing for me as our inactivity gives me very little else to write about.

Pepper Saint Ontiod Ratings

Facilities – 4

Atmosphere – 3

Cost – 3

Entertainment – 3.5

Selection – 3.5

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.5/5

Island Gardens and Mudchute


Island Gardens and Mudchute (20/03/12)

Less than a week after wrapping up two more stations, we set out to complete both Island Gardens and Mudchute in one evening.  However, due to sheer incompetence and laziness on my part I’ve neglected to update the blog for over a month - it being late April as I write this - resulting in me forgetting many of the details about the night.  Fortunately though we did record the ratings of each pub we visited and it did result in the conclusion of two more stations. 

Four places were visited that evening, three of which belonged to Island Gardens, and the other being the one solitary pub that would have the weight of a whole DLR station resting upon its shoulders.

The four pubs were as follows
Great Eastern – A pub/hotel with an open planned bar and a relaxed atmosphere

Ratings

Facilities – 3 – looked as though it had recently been refurbished, but the budget seemingly didn’t stretch to include improving the toilets.  Strangely, seemed to have opted to install many wobbly tables as well.

Atmosphere – 3 – Friendly barstaff who whistle as they pour you a pint (although admittedly this may have been a one off), mixture of guests and regular drinkers

Cost – 4 – Cannot argue with £6 for two pints!

Entertainment – 3.5 – Came with a TV for viewing football, a jukebox and a weekly quiz night. 

Selection – 2.5 – Disappointing.  ‘Pre-wrapped wraps’ is all that was on offer from a counter at the bar

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.2/5

The Ferry House – A splendid little pub; warm, cosy and with a local feel to it

Ratings

Facilities – 3.5 – Completely wooden interior, definitely the pub with the most nooks and crannies on show so far

Atmosphere – 3.5 – Friendly quiet chatter from the locals, friendly barstaff

Cost – 4.5 – Just £5 for 2 pints!

Entertainment – 4 – Came with a separate games room with old fashioned pub games and a Bar Billiards Table that we pretended to know how to use but instead made up our own rules

Selection – 1.5

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.4/5

Lord Nelson – A sign outside offers the punter a ‘Warm Welcome’, but turns out you have to pay for it.  Cold inside, and an outdoor heater that charges you 20p for every 5 minutes of use

Ratings

Facilities – 3

Atmosphere – 1.5 – The barmaid pulled off the incredible feat of being able to serve me without actually 
communicating with any words.  Some furniture seemed out of place and had seemingly been borrowed from an American Diner.

Cost – 3.5

Entertainment – 3 – Came with a pool table with not enough room to play around it, but there was an organised weekly pool tournament on offer, of which the Eggles are the current champions.  Many minutes were pondered over whether they were a married couple or siblings.  One of our better conversations that one.

Selection – 3.5

OVERALL AVERAGE – 2.9/5

The Ship – Mudchute’s only pub.  Situated on the periphery of our radius, it actually makes sense to visit it from Island Gardens.  Just so you know.

Ratings

Facilities – 3 – All pretty standard save for a cubicle in the mens that was so cramped you almost had to stand on the toilet itself in order to close the door behind you.  Would probably win the ‘Toilet you are most likely to get trapped in on the DLR’ award if there ever was such a prize.

Atmosphere – 3.5 – Friendly barman although he did seem to be trying a little too hard.  Asked if we wanted food and continued trying to sell it to us even after we’d politely declined.  He did however take the time to recommend other pubs in the area.

Cost – 3.5

Entertainment – 2.5 – Just one TV – and West Ham were on it.  Live music on weekends

Selection – 3.5 – A fairly decent ‘less is more’ menu and a range of beers on offer.

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.4/5

Island Gardens is a quiet area, aside from the 3 pubs there are a couple of restaurants, one of which that had been converted from an old fire station.  On the downside, there is no longer a fire station!  There is very little else in close proximity to the DLR although there is easy access to Cutty Sark and Greenwich via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel that runs beneath the Thames.

Area – 2.5/5

ISLAND GARDENS OVERALL RATING – 5.7/10
Mudchute is extremely quiet, primarily residential with only one pub, but here is a picture of a nice sunset to prove how picturesque the area can be.

Area – 1/5
LEWISHAM OVERALL RATING – 4.1/10

Friday, 6 April 2012


COMPLETING GREENWICH AND CUTTY SARK (14/03/12)

We set out last Wednesday confident of wrapping up both Cutty Sark and Greenwich as we only had four more pubs to visit in these regions; 2 in Cutty Sark, 1 in Greenwich and due to their close proximity, 1 that fits into the radius of both stations.  This particular pub was The Auctioneer, and was actually the last pub of the evening.  We imagined before we even set out that we’d have plenty of time to get to each venue before closing, but due to us becoming engrossed in the Chelsea v Napoli game (4-1 AET, cracking game) by the time we approached our last destination we were only minutes away from the last bell being rung.  I say bell, but in fact it was just the sound of the barmaid screaming ‘can you start drinking up now please’ at frequent intervals. 

We began the evening though at the Lord Hood, a pub that will definitely contribute to an overall drop in ratings for Cutty Sark.  As we entered we were greeted by the sight of a noisy rabble of all ages bunched around the table nearest to us, and two bald men sitting at the bar not talking to each other.  The bar itself was placed in the middle of the room, with a food counter that looked as though it hadn’t been used in months (in fact the only visible way to us that you could attempt to avert your hunger here was in one of those jars where you put in 20p and twist the handle to receive 5 or 6 probably stale nuts that had been there for months without being changed) to the right of it and seating to the left.  The room looked quite rundown, and was cold in terms of both atmosphere and temperature.  The pub also came complete with one television, strategically placed in such a position on the wall that you cannot actually get a clear view of it if you choose to sit at any of the tables on offer.  Such was the negativity we felt here, that we even began to argue amongst ourselves over whether or not a particular picture mounted on the wall was any good or not (it wasn’t). 

Things became worse with the toilets.  Aside from generally being in quite a poor condition overall, the door to the cubicle was also so poorly mounted that it didn’t come anywhere near to matching the frame that it was attached to, and whilst in there I was greeted by a wandering women looking for the exit but instead finding herself interrupting my wee.  Redeeming features?  Well, it had a piano.  Glancing around to see if it were possible that anybody here could play it, we decided this to be unlikely as we overhead one guy excitedly telling his mate he’d probably only be about 19 years old now if he had been born on the 29th February.  Tindall took exception to this and wanted to explain to the middle aged fool that if that were the case then he’d have to actually be almost 80 by now, so it was at this point that we made the decision to leave and move on.

Lord Hood Ratings
Facilities – 2
Atmosphere – 2
Cost – 3.5
Entertainment – 3
Selection – 1.5
OVERALL AVERAGE – 2.4/5

Our second pub of the evening was to be The Rose and Crown.  When we first entered, the pub was almost empty save for an old couple at the bar and another chap minding his own business in the far corner.  This didn’t stop the barman (a lovely German fellow who really grew on us as the evening progressed) from taking an eternity to serve us.  As we waited to order we couldn’t help but feel a little conscious of the ‘scowly chef’ who just stood at the doorway of his kitchen with his arms folded, looking like he hadn’t cooked anything in days.  First impressions then were not great.  However, things soon picked up as the German guy eventually got around to offering us drinks, pouring them slowly in a delightfully German way (he left a head on the pint so large that there was little room for much drinkable liquid in the glass below it), before charging us ‘7 and a half pounds please’ and returning us with ‘2 and a half pounds change thank you’.  A generally likeable chap whose bar skills were about as good as his English, but the attention he devoted to each customer was thoroughly commendable.  Indeed he proved this just moments later by spotting our determination to watch the Chelsea game and kindly offering to increase the volume of the TV for us.  On the flip side this did now mean we would be forced to listen to the skewed views and irritating voice of Andy Townsend for the remainder of the game.

Before long the pub began to fill out as a mixture of students and older people arrived, seeking sanctuary from the cold outside.  They were joined by a male and a female who sat at the table next to us and quickly became the sole attention of our night.  It was evident from watching these two that a) she had envisaged there being another person with them for the evening, b) he really wanted to sleep with her, and c) she was never going to sleep with him.  She was an attractive German girl who clearly felt it rude to just leave when he announced that he was sorry that his friend couldn’t make it that evening, and he was an annoying English guy that was punching above his weight but was determined not to go down without a fight.  He lost the first round though as she opted to pluck for a pint of water as her beverage of choice after he had himself ordered a beer.  Clearly, she didn’t intend on hanging around for long.  It could be argued that it was perhaps a little rude for us to eavesdrop on this man’s attempts to ‘woo’ a lady, but seeing as his approach was to keep shouting idiotic comments in a high pitched voice in our direction, I feel that that gives me the license to talk about him.  His main technique to impress was to frequently drop into conversation all of the things he had achieved so far, he spent a long time for example telling her how he had once run a marathon, ending his story with ‘and that was when I was 24’.  Perhaps he was taking her through the timeline of his life so far.  On the regular occasions that he would run out of things to say he’d just revert to looking up at the TV screen and trying to explain to the girl about the game in hand, despite him clearly not knowing all that much about football himself.  ‘I once went to the Chelsea stadium’ he proudly claimed at one point, the mere fact he neglected to mention the name of the stadium, confirming once and for all that he really didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.  It got worse though, as conversation between the two stuttered further and she was clearly failing to become drunk on her glass of water (and therefore less aware of the drivel he was talking), he inexplicably resorted to just making random comments about things he could see.  ‘Flags are boring’ was one of my personal favourites.  Now I’m not an expert with women but I do know never to bring up the excitability of flags as a way to impress.  Inevitably, she soon drew the evening to a close, and the pair of them walked off with him no doubt thinking he was making more impressive comments to her about himself when to her all he was really saying was ‘I’m a massive wanker’ over and over again.

This amusing episode didn’t detract from the fact that we had a pub to rate.  And despite as I previously mentioned there being an indifferent start, our opinions of The Rose and Crown quickly changed.  The facilities were of an extremely high standard, one of the cleanest pubs we’ve come across so far.  The selection on offer actually proved to be fantastic as well with a huge but affordable menu on offer, and despite his looks, ‘scowly chef’ was pulling out all the stops, serving food late into the evening as the pub became busier and busier.  We would have liked to have hung around for longer but by the time the Chelsea game eventually came to a close we had left ourselves less than an hour to visit the last two pubs.  So we left, and headed the short walk to The Morden Arms.

The Rose and Crown Ratings
Facilities – 4.5
Atmosphere – 4
Cost – 2 (at ‘7 and a half’) it was a bit pricey
Entertainment – 2
Selection – 4.5
OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.4/5

The Morden Arms (and NOT the Modern Arms as I had mistakenly presumed) was a pleasant pub with a local feel to it.  Not the guarded local feel that accompanied Lord Hood, but instead a sense of everyone knowing each other and not judging each other for who they are kind of feel.  Quirky little signs such as ‘where the customer is always wrong’ occupied the walls.  This was a place that didn’t take itself too seriously.  Arriving late it was fairly quiet, but we were still welcomed by the local drunk who made some sort of incomprehensible comment to us (probably something along the lines of ‘you don’t have to be crazy to drink here… but it helps!) before announcing to everyone present that he was now leaving and staggered off into the night.  After ordering a pint we took a seat on one of the comfier looking than they actually were sofas and took in our surroundings whilst trying to come up with some intellectual way of describing this pub.  This proved frustratingly difficult though, so we eventually settled on it being ‘a bit different’ to any other pub we’ve been to.  Sure, this is a very basic analogy, but one we felt most closely described what we could see.  How else would you describe an open planned pub with dark red walls, two fireplaces with bookshelves over the top of them, countless amounts of mis-matching tables and chairs, two dogs (one of which may well have been a guest for the evening and was busy licking a customer’s face, and the other that spent the whole time that we were there continually doing laps of the floor), an internet portal, huge speakers in one corner to be accompanied by live acoustic bands most evenings and one overly large and uncharacteristic vase of flowers sitting atop one of the tables?  Exactly… it was all just a bit different, but this was no bad thing, The Morden Arms had a weird charm to it.

Morden Arms Ratings
Facilities – 4
Atmosphere – 3.5
Cost – 3.5
Entertainment – 3
Selection – 1.5
OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.1/5

As stated earlier, we ended proceedings at The Auctioneer, the pub with the screaming barmaid.  We didn’t particularly enjoy our time here, but then it really only served as a stop off point for us, time only to quickly gulp down one more beer before heading home for the night.  Perhaps if we were a few years younger we’d appreciate this venue more, for The Auctioneer is primarily a student pub.  It comes complete with a pool table, overly loud music, a sticky floor and gives you the opportunity to ‘like’ us on Facebook.  It seemed we picked a good week to visit this pub as it will now be closing for the rest of the month for a refurb.  Quite ingeniously we decided, they were planning to auction off (very apt for a pub of this name) everything before replacing it with new furniture.  So if you’re on the lookout for a wobbly, beer and sweat soaked bar stool, The Auctioneer is the place to come!

The Auctioneer Ratings
Facilities – 2
Atmosphere – 2.5
Cost – 4
Entertainment – 4
Selection – 3.5
OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.2/5












Sunday, 11 March 2012




GREENWICH (08/03/12)

Our main focus this evening was to work our way through some of the pubs in Greenwich.  Beforehand though we headed back into Deptford Bridge to try and finish this station.  At this point of the challenge we have stuck closely to areas within walking distance of our flat and the plan here was to nip into the Star and Garter, each down a terrifying pint and then scurry on up the hill and hide out in any number of small village-like pubs that we’d be sure to find in the Greenwich Zone.  We’d decided that the Carlton Bar (the only other pub in the area on our list that we’d yet to visit) was in fact more of a restaurant than a drinking establishment, so ticking off this last venue would mean the completion of our third DLR stop.  We approached our target from the opposite direction on this occasion (Tindall had led us on a wild goose chase in search of another pub that we had missed first time around, only for it to turn out to be a pest control shop) and in doing so discovered a fantastic looking pub called the Royal Albert.  Here, drinkers relaxed both inside and out, sipping their drinks in what looked to be a warm and welcoming atmosphere.  With dismay we discovered this tranquil setting was situated just outside of our circle, so begrudgingly we trudged on and prepared to enter our intended target.  However, as we approached we could see the front of the pub was closed.  There were signs informing us that the back bar was open so we edged our way around the side of the building and could see light beyond the windows to indicate that this seemed to be the case.  Pushing to enter, the door jammed in the top of the frame.  Undeterred (it’s the kind of pub you’d expect a door to jam) I kept pushing, trying to force it open when a scruffy man suddenly appeared, muttered that the pub was closed due to them ‘decorating’, and slammed the door shut.  He didn’t much look like a decorator, he looked more like a shifty man with a beard to us, but who were we to argue.  Frustratingly then, this last pub remains elusive, meaning yet another trip back will be required.

We put our minor setback to the back of our minds and headed towards Greenwich.  (We’ve actually completed two of the pubs in this area already.  A few weeks ago Tindall’s brother Dave came and joined us for a small pub crawl where we took in four pubs, two in Greenwich and two in the Cutty Sark region.   On that particular evening we were able to first tick off Belushi’s – a pub situated beneath a hostel – and The Mitre (the first pub on our tour to feature at more than one station as it is within range of both Greenwich and Cutty Sark) and then heading onto The Gypsy Moth and The Gate Clock.  This latter pub being a Wetherspoons, will sadly most probably bring down the average rating for the area.   Fear not though, adding another Tindall to our ranks only served to enhance our rating skills, indeed facilities at each of our pubs were far more closely scrutinised than usual by Dave, who needed to use them more regularly than your average man would due to suffering from the side effects of winning a closely contested and nail biting pancake eating competition 11-8 the evening before.  It does beg the question why you’d keep devouring yet more pancakes when your rival has clearly long since given up, but ultimately that is neither here nor there and not a concern of this blog, so let us get back to focusing on the pub challenge in hand).
Our first stop then was at The North Pole.  This bar has an excellent reputation as being an alternative place to hang out on a weekend evening.  A shame then that we arrived fairly early on a Thursday night, long before many other revellers would choose to appear.  Because of this we didn’t really get a real sense of the atmosphere to be had there.  Further disappointment was immediately thrust upon us as we discovered that there was no beer whatsoever on tap.  The barmaid did very politely explain that this was due to a new selection of beers being added ready for the weekend, but it was still a let-down to find them carrying out this task at such a time.  Otherwise, selection was plentiful.  Being a bar you could order beers, cocktails, champagne (ranging from the ‘ridiculously cheap and most likely poor tasting’, to ‘overly expensive but some fool will still pay for it’ option), and the food menu was also delightfully varied.  The real treat came with the discovery of a ‘Shisha Lounge’ situated outside in an immaculate garden area.  With a restaurant situated upstairs, and a club (The South Pole) below, The North Pole has something for everyone.

The North Pole Ratings

Facilities – 4.5
Atmosphere – 3
Cost – 2.5

Entertainment – 4

Selection – 4 (would have been a perfect 5 were it not for the beer situation)

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.6/5

The rest of our evening would involve brief visits to a number of quiet, village pubs.  Hidden away from the main road and escaping the clutches of tourists these pubs were great for the local who wanted some quiet respite from daily life.  This couldn’t have been more apt than with our next pub – Asburnham Arms.  Even we were surprised to stumble across it, as it was discreetly tucked away along a residential street.  We entered to the sound of quiet, sophisticated chatter from the customers inside.  Sitting at the bar we were able to eavesdrop on conversations that the barman would have with each regular that entered for the evening.  One guy when asked about his day replied ‘My day?  My day…. is not bad!’  Amazing!  A pub where people are positive.  Here, people don’t have bad days, people don’t make negative comments.  I bet they even like the weather when it rains.  This is my kind of place.  And you know for sure of the type of company you’re in when someone leaves announcing in a posh voice that they ‘better not stay for another, must get back to feed Max’.  Assuming that Max was that man’s pet dog and not a starved child that he’d neglected whilst he’d nipped out to chat about current affairs over a pint of Theakston’s Old Peculiar, then I’m all for it.  Even the board games on offer (yes, they had board games!) were sophisticated.  Games with names such as ‘Compendium’ and ‘Perudo’ were available.  There’d be no ‘Ker-plunk!’ here that’s for sure.  There was also a quiz night on a Tuesday, albeit one in which we felt we’d most probably not even understand the questions let alone the answers.

As we sat there sipping our pints and wishing we could talk with a larger range of vocabulary as well, we were introduced to our first DLR Challenge cat, which took an instant dislike to Tindall as he attempted to befriend it. 

Ashburnham Arms Ratings

Facilities – 5 (our first maximum score)
Atmosphere – 4

Cost – 3
Entertainment – 2.5

Selection – 4.5 (excellent food menu of which they were still serving from when we left at 9.30pm)

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.8/5

Mindful of the time and with a cluster of pubs to try and get to, we ventured quickly on.  Our next three pubs were situated on the same road, in fact two of them are placed next door to each other.  First up was The Prince of Greenwich.  On entering it was clear that this was another gay pub.  I should’ve picked up on that notion as a man apologised for blocking the door on the way in by saying ‘ooh, sorry darling’ to Tindall.  Inside seemed to be a pleasant atmosphere, but there were instant teething problems.  Rob’s requested pint of Aspall appeared instead in the form of an Amstel, and my Becks Vier tasted off (although in true British style I didn’t want to offend anybody so kept quiet and struggled through for half a pint until I eventually plucked up the courage to switch drinks).  But once we’d ironed out these issues and found a table that didn’t wobble when you as much as breathed on it, we settled down to enjoy our time there.

The Prince of Greenwich
It was soon time to move on though. Neglecting the offer of ‘Free-doms’ (free condoms for those who are unsure) at the bar, we wandered a few paces to our next pub, The Greenwich Union.  We were in a bit of a hurry by now, time constraints meaning we only had about 20 minutes per pint if we were to tick off the remaining two pubs before close.  So we were not helped by terribly poor service in our penultimate pub of the night, at first there was nobody at all behind the bar, and shortly after there was just a grumpy looking guy who came and stood next to a tip jar (that surely on this performance takes quite a while to fill up).  Still, the pub itself had a positive vibe, filled with a mixture of students (some of which were having some serious relationship issues) and older people (some of whom decided to bring their pet dogs along for a night out with them).  Greenwich Union also comes complete with two beer gardens, a small one at the front and a huge one at the rear.

We just about managed to stumble into our last planned pub for the evening (Richard I), grabbing a pint minutes before the last bell and negotiating yet more small dogs at our feet and a confusing pub layout to eventually find a spot by a huge curved window.  As we sipped our pints and tried to decipher whether or not the lavender on our table was real or not (with a heavy cold I couldn’t smell anything but we concluded that it wasn’t - is this even relevant?  Perhaps there was a lull in conversation between us at this point), our eyes stumbled upon one of the most fantastic food menus ever seen.  Maybe that is an over-exaggeration, but this was most certainly the first pub we’d been in where you could order such delights as a baked cheese soufflĂ© or even a vegetarian higgledy pie.  It certainly makes a pleasant change from Hunters Chicken with curly fries that’s for sure.  Refreshingly too, after the last bell, although we were informed to drink up, there was no real pressure placed upon us to leave which resulted in us being the last customers present, eventually departing long after the weird Geordie guy and the awkward ‘first date that clearly wasn’t going very well’ couple. 

The evening had been a bit rushed, but ultimately a success.  At this point now we only need to visit The Modern Arms and The Auctioneer (the latter of which also encompasses the Cutty Sark region).  And with just one pub left at Deptford Bridge and a maximum of two at Cutty Sark, we can hopefully very shortly tick off three more stations, and must soon look to branch out to locations slightly further afield.

The Prince of Greenwich Ratings

Facilities – 3.5

Atmosphere – 3.5

Cost – 3.5

Entertainment – 2.5

Selection – 3 (not the most varied but the only place so far where you can just order a ‘pint of chips’)

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.2/5

Greenwich Union Ratings

Facilities – 4

Atmosphere – 3

Cost – 3.5

Entertainment – 2

Selection – 4
Two pubs, side by side

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.3/5

Richard I Ratings

Facilities – 3.5

Atmosphere – 3

Cost – 3.5

Entertainment – 2

Selection – 4

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.2/5
From our previous Greenwich visits:

Belushi's Ratings
Facilities - 2.5
Atmosphere – 3
Cost – 4

Entertainment – 4.5
Selection – 4

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.6/5


The Mitre Ratings
Facilities - 4
Atmosphere – 3
Cost – 3

Entertainment – 2.5
Selection – 4.5

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.4/5

Monday, 5 March 2012




DEPTFORD BRIDGE (04/03/12)

After an almost two week break on the DLR Challenge due to conflicting schedules (Tindall – spending time with his girlfriend, going to nice restaurants and weekend trips away; Me – learning how to play computer games again, doing a big shop and having a go at using the hoover), we finally found ourselves sitting at home on a wet and windy Sunday evening with nothing much to do.  So we set out to conquer Deptford Bridge.  I’d researched the area previously and found only 3 pubs so we figured it’d just be a case of popping out for a cheeky pint or 3, jotting down some figures and then heading home nice and early for a cup of tea.  However, prior to leaving I decided to check one more time for any pubs I may have missed, and somehow came up with potentially as many as 13 places of interest.  We knew then that this would be another case of just ticking off a few tonight and leaving the rest for a later date.  The venues on our list then, were as follows;

1)      Live Bar

2)      Star and Garter

Our first pub of the night - The Cranbrook
3)      The Hoy

4)      The Birds Nest

5)      Little Crown

6)      Carlton Wine Bar

7)      Deptford Arms

8)      Bar Sonic

9)      London Greenwich West Hostel

10)   RED

11)   Greenwich Inn

12)   57 Bar

13)   The Cranbrook

As is often the case, once we get out on the road we realise that many of these places are either no longer open, or we decide that some venues do not match our criteria of being a pub or a bar.  Happily, we could immediately cross off a few; Live Bar as it didn’t actually exist, The Hoy as it had long since closed down, The Deptford Arms was no longer a pub, Greenwich Inn was in fact a Premier Inn Hotel and Bar Sonic was nowhere to be found.  This still left us with 6 locations to get through that evening if we could.

We began at The Cranbrook.  Situated on the border of our Deptford Bridge radius it was the first pub we came across as we made our way over by foot from Elverson Road.  At first glance the pub looked closed.  Indeed the doors when pushed were locked.  This didn’t look promising.  But as we edged our way around the side of the building we spotted a back entrance with a guy standing in it.  Asking him if they were open he replied yes and as we entered, warned us to ‘watch out for that one’ referring to the barmaid.  I did indeed watch out for her for the first 5 minutes or so but she just spent the whole time reading a newspaper so I’m not entirely sure what the man was going on about.  It was probably something to do with the fact that he was very drunk, (as was his pool playing partner) that caused him to make this ‘hilarious’ quip as we walked past.  The two drunken Irishmen and the barmaid were the only people in the pub.  By entering the premises Tindall and I had increased the amount of paying customers in The Cranbrook by a staggering 100%! 

The bar itself was situated in the middle of the room and we chose to sit at it on one side so that we could ably survey the facilities.  They were pretty awful in truth.  Firstly there were hardly any seats or tables in the whole pub, and those that were present were looking more than a little worse for wear, as proven by Tindall as the top of his seat came off as we stood up to leave.  The whole pub was rundown save for a half decent pool table in the corner, and it was freezing in there as the barmaid kept opening the door so that she could stand by it and smoke.  She was friendly however, and had the inclination to notice when we were close to the end of our pints, quickly offering us another one.  The atmosphere was terrific only if you want to go to a place with two drunken people shouting and making fun of each other as they miss shot after shot on the pool table.  After drinking up we politely declined another, decided to pass on the opportunity to play on probably the world’s oldest quiz machine and walked out, leaving the two bickering pool players behind us.
The pub we were too scared to enter

Next up was the Star and Garter.  As we approached it though, for the first time on this tour we felt a little intimidated.  There was a huge black guy standing on the door, loud African music was blaring out from within, and managing to sneak a quick peek through the gap in the blinds I quickly became aware that this was a drinking place solely for African people.  I panicked somewhat as we approached the entrance, changed my mind at the last minute and continued on up the road.  This was not good.  We had to enter this pub, it’s in our radius therefore we need to rate it.  We decided it would be best to discuss tactics over a beer, and fortunately enough the ‘Little Crown’ was immediately opposite. 

Little Crown is an Irish Bar.  Another Irish bar.  There certainly seems to be a lot of them in the area.  As if to hammer home how Irish it was, we were greeted with ‘Galway Girl’ being played on the overly loud speakers as we entered.  Still, after our near miss just moments before it was all rather welcoming to find ourselves in more familiar surroundings.  We grabbed our pints for a more than reasonable price and found some empty seats.  The pub was open-planned, with a dartboard and TV screen at one end, and a jukebox that you couldn’t actually get to at the other.  The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly enough but we soon noticed that everybody in there was at least twice our age, and at least twice as drunk as we were.  So we just cowered in the corner sipping our pints and, keeping ourselves to ourselves, discussed tactics about how we were going to go about entering the Star and Garter.  After finishing our drinks we suddenly felt a little more confident.  I announced that we’d just walk straight over there, enter the pub and order a beer.  So up we got, deciding against the apparent tradition here of hugging everyone else in the bar before leaving, (as so many other customers seemed to be doing), left the premises and crossed back over the road.

As we once again approached the Star and Garter, I swear the music had become louder and the people had become more African.  We figured it best to leave this pub for now; we’ll come back on a quiet Saturday afternoon before all the singing begins.

Next up should have been Carlton Wine Bar but this place too looked a little less than desirable and our confidence had been knocked so we walked straight past.  Hoping to bounce back at a more familiar venue we were disappointed to discover that The Deptford Arms had now become a Paddy Power.  So we pushed on and eventually came across 57 Bar (ingeniously named, 57 Bar is a bar that can be found at number 57 on the street it is situated on).  Up until this point we have only rated pubs.  This was to be our first bar so it was perhaps a little unfair to be reviewing it on a cold wet Sunday evening when nobody would be going there.  Bars like this are probably packed on a Friday and Saturday night, but we quickly decided that we wouldn’t much care for the sort of people that go there anyway and felt a little more at ease when rating it.  There were only a handful of other people drinking there as we arrived, including what appeared at first glance to be one of the gangsters of Deptford.  I’m not entirely sure what a gangster looks like, but this guy did look like how I imagined one would look, and he was on the phone telling about how he needed to ‘sort something out’.  It turned out later though that he was merely discussing how he had to get some work done on an extension back home.  Still, even gangsters have chores to do.

Despite not really liking the place, 57 Bar could not be faulted for its facilities.  It was exceptionally clean, had 3 floors for people to go to and listen to bad music, and had two pool tables and even a cloakroom, handy for anybody out there that still wears a cloak.  The toilets were also immaculate, although I did notice a chair in the corner implying that on busier nights there’d be a guy there who would turn the water on for you and hand you not quite enough paper towel to properly dry your hands before making you pay him a pound. 

We drank up and intended on one more stop for the evening – The Birds Nest.  I immediately liked The Birds Nest.  It had real character.  And bats.  The entire ceiling on one side of the pub was covered in paper bats.  Very gothic.  As was the barmaid who poured two pints without smiling but it’s ok as that’s to be expected, it’s all probably just part of her look.  As we sat down at the bar we noticed from the posters on the wall that they have a live band here almost every night of the week.  We were actually a little saddened to discover that we’d just missed ‘Psychoyogi’ who were playing here for Tom’s birthday just the night before.  I bet Tom had a great night, one of his best birthdays ever.  We were rewarded though with a different band that were just jamming, playing around with different tracks and instruments.  It didn’t always sound great, but the energy and enthusiasm put into it by those taking part was infectious.  As we sat there astounded to find out that there are more than 6 types of harmonica even though they do all sound the same, we were beginning to commend the pub for its excellent facilities when Tindall noticed loads of discarded chewing gum that had been stuck to the posts on the bar in various places.  There were also a few Chocolate Santa’s sitting on the counter, it now being March suggesting that this place wasn’t cleaned too often after all.  To top all this, the barmaid disappeared for a full 10 minutes at one point.  Still, these are all minor quibbles, it was a friendly place, had a great selection of beers, and a wide range of live music.  In short The Birds Nest is probably our favourite pub at Deptford Bridge.

The George and Dragon
BONUS PUB – We decided to head home after this but en-route stumbled across The George and Dragon.  The George and Dragon isn’t actually in range of any of our DLR stations so we didn’t need to rate it, but we’d noticed it before and decided to have one last cheeky pint.  The George and Dragon is a gay pub.  We entered halfway through a man performing in drag on stage.  I’ve since made it a personal ambition of mine to never again enter a gay pub in the sole company of another man halfway through a cabaret performance from a man in drag.  We were of course immediately picked on, so scurried off to the right and ducked for cover in a different section of the pub.  As we ordered and sipped our pints we suddenly started to worry.  They say that gay men can spot other gay men through their Gaydar.  What if then, they can also spot frauds?  What if they were to realise that we were not gay?  I do not of course have any problem with homosexuality.  I do however have a problem with being in a homosexual bar when there is a gay man on stage picking on people in the crowd.  Minutes later things got worse.  I needed to use the toilet.  The toilets were on the other side of the pub, on the other side of the large audience of gay men and gay performer.  We were going to have to walk across them all.  Having seen how the guy in drag performed (he made bad jokes, picked on people in the crowd and said ‘cunt’ a lot) we knew our best chance would be to make a dash for it only once he had begun to sing.  That way he wouldn’t be able to stop and pick on us.  So, once he was into full swing on the chorus to his song ‘Wash Your Bollocks’ we made our move.  Relief was short lived though as this seemingly intelligent decision had led us deeper into the pub, further away from the exit.  We finished our pints, trying not to stare at men that were sitting on other men’s laps and made a run for it once the guy had finished a routine about fisting and was well into his next hit entitled ‘Cunt Song’. 

Deptford Bridge has certainly been one of the more interesting stations so far, we need to return at some point to finally get that pint in the Star and Garter, as well as visit Carlton Wine Bar and Red.

The Cranbrook Rating

Facilities – 2
Atmosphere – 2
Cost – 3.5
Entertainment – 3
Selection – 1 (nothing to eat except peanuts)

An ironic street name in Deptford Bridge
OVERALL AVERAGE – 2.3/5

 Little Crown Ratings

Facilities – 2
Atmosphere – 3
Cost – 4

Entertainment – 3

Selection – 1.5

OVERALL AVERAGE – 2.7/5

 Bar 57 Ratings

Facilities – 4.5

Atmosphere – 2
Cost – 3

Entertainment – 3
Selection – 4 (a whole separate bar for cocktails and a decent food menu)

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3.3/5

 The Birds Nest Ratings

Facilities – 2
Atmosphere – 3

Cost – 2.5

Entertainment – 4.5
Selection – 3

OVERALL AVERAGE – 3/5




What was once The Hoy (we think!)