Archive for October 12th, 2007

Stonehenge Old SmokeyI had a very nice pub round with Chris in London a few weeks ago (no, it was not a crawl!), and as we popped into various establishments on the Hammersmith riverside we discussed various aspects of pub quality.

There is a fair number of pubs in this area. Some cater for the local community, being tucked away in side streets. Some are on the bustling High Street, others are by the Thames, being extremely busy on sunny weekends and reverting to being more of local watering holes on a dark September evening.

I stayed at a hotel in King’s Street, that conveniently had a large Wetherspoon’s pub in the same building. This was splendid for good value family meals – two hot dishes of a decent quality for about £ 6.50 is great. They also had five hand pumps of rotating guest ales, which were in splendid condition. These beers were changing day by day, in the five days I was there, I tried about a dozen beers, including the Old Smokey in the photo, some of them even rarities at ratebeer.

But it was not a particularly nice place. The low prices of booze and food attract all sorts of clientele. It was all right to to take my family eating in the dining area before eight in the evening, but after that it was better to leave the place to the serious drinkers. That was, however, not my main objection. A pub is , at the end of the day, a place for drinking and not for bringing up children. The problem was more the total lack of atmosphere. The quasi-Swedish pine furniture and large glass windows did not add much enjoyment, neither did the dim lightning which made it hard to read a newspaper. It was like a fast food restaurant where you come in to have your nourishment but where the chairs are uncomfortable enough to make you leave as soon as you can afterwards.

For those whom life had left stranded near Ravenscourt Park, W6, it was probably more important to get a pint almost a pound cheaper than in the pub down the road. For me it was a place to have half pints to sample new beers on my way to and fro.

There are Fuller’s and Young’s pubs in the area which are much nicer, but they seem to have lost something as well. The seasonal beers are usually not to be found, usually you only find two cask ales on – plus a fridge full of cider. Why are there no flagship pubs in the Young’s and Fullers estates that pride themselves in offering the full range of beers – on cask and in bottles? I have never seen the Fuller’s Vintage Ales in any of their pubs for example. There is no use in whimpering about loss of trade to the supermarkets if you don’t even sell your own beers. Young’s had a nice concept last year where you could pick and mix four of their bottled beers for £ 6, but that was probably just to clear the warehouses of the old range of Young’s beers. 

We ended up at the Black Lion, where they had cask ales from several breweries. No rarities, just well kept beers. The barman gave us a  welcome like long lost friends, and we were happy to have another pint when he called for last orders.

At that point in time, this pub had a coziness that made it the perfect place to be. Well worn, but not worn out, furniture. A very decent pint of London Pride. Noddy Holder singing in the background – but not intrusive at all. I’m sure there is a fireplace for the winter and a Sunday roast, too.  The perfect pub? Maybe not. But on that evening it did just fine.

Read Full Post »