Saturday, 6 October 2012

Bow Street

Before we begin this week’s documented evidence of debauchery there’s some hot beer news that needs to be reported.

Firstly the wonderful and lovely Melissa Cole dived into the depths of Staffordshire and came back bearing the delightful gift of this very stylish Freedom Brewery mug.
All I had to do was pick it up from the elegant Rake in nearby Borough Market. Seeing as I would drag my burning body across a freshly tarmacked road studded with sharpened lollipop sticks for a beer glass, I was only too happy to comply. So it’s a big thumbs up and thanks to Melissa and I encourage everyone to visit her site. I am soooooooo in love with this woman!
Secondly, last Friday, the 28th of September saw the beginning of Cask Ale Week, the annual celebration of all things Casky and Aley. Best of all it was possible to download a voucher for a free pint and take this at a Cask Marque pub. So last Friday the usual gang all trooped into the Bridge Lounge and ordered 5 pints for the princely price of £0.00 – You do the math! When I say the usual gang, that was sort of true as Charlie and New-Guy Mickey were more than happy to tag along, but we were also joined by Big-J and Peachy for their first smell of the sort of things we get up to.
The other thing that came along with Cask Ale Week was an email from the lovely people at Cask Marque saying that anyone who achieves 12 new scans during Cask Ale Week will receive a special limited T-shirt. Well slap me round the face and call me Betty! That’s speaking my language. By the end of the weekend I was already up to 3 new scans and all week Aussie Pete and I have been venturing for a swift lunchtime visit to gather more scans, which means my total has exploded. Thanks must also be given to Trevor at Cask marque who has faithfully been processing our visits when for one reason or another we didn’t get the scan. So Trevor, this one’s dedicated to you even if you did call me Del Boy!
Anyway, onto this week……………… mentioned in last week’s communiqué we were off to Bow Street and with its proximity to Covent Garden there was a real hoard of willing volunteers who wanted to climb aboard the good ship Monopoly. I’d planned out a visit to 4 pubs that circle Bow Street but I was also very aware that the sights, sounds and attractions of Covent Garden may easily lead us off track and into areas we would need to “save” for other visits. Leicester Square and The Strand leapt to mind (second fright for The Strand!)
A very arty shot of BGC in Bow Street
Alas though, as the time to leave approached people started dropping out of the tour for the most flimsy of reasons! New Guy Mickey was off to the theatre (Drury Lane in fact, i.e. right next door to where we were going to be) The Chief had visitors apparently, Big-J can’t do Fridays only Thursdays and even though Peachy had come to work in his disco shirt he claimed an achilles injury which ruled him out. Even the delectable Mags had gone AWOL! We’d also lost Charlie to a late afternoon meeting but he did reappear in the nick of time and promptly told us about the restaurant he was just in with one of our suppliers, eating weird and wonderful meats (Orang-utan, Armadillo and Kiwi I believe) and drinking absinth from a bottle with a snake inside! He then changed the order of the pubs saying that Sybil and the supplier guy would meet us at the Punch and Judy.
The weather was atrocious and in a constant rain and without a single umbrella between us, a very bedraggled 6 of us (Aussie Pete, Spiky haired Ed, Buddy Rob, No-Nickname Michael & Charlie) made it to the tourist trap that is Covent Garden, but not before I had my Bow Street photo taken for posterity.
The Punch and Judy will be a well known pub to anyone who has visited Covent Garden. It sits at one end of the market building and has the balcony where you can watch the street performers doing their acts below. That’s not to say you still might not find it though as we discovered when we entered the door by the pub sign but found ourselves in Moominland instead.
A very arty shot of BGC about to enter the Punch and Judy
The Punch and Judy is another Taylor Walker run pub and comprises of two bars, one upstairs by the balcony and one in the basement. We tried the upstairs bar initially but the bar was so crowded and again so bloody noisy that we scurried down to the basement bar as quick as flash. I’d also noted that upstairs there wasn’t a single cask beer on sale; it was all bottles and keg. Downstairs there was the huge choice of one single beer, Ginger Bear from the aptly named Beartown Brewery. As I checked the beer in on the Untappd site I commented, “Great Beer, Vile Pub” – why vile I hear you ask? Obviously you don’t go to Covent Garden and expect to find it empty, but I wasn’t prepared for the hordes of tourists and crowds of office workers that had also decided to spend a Friday evening there. So the Punch and Judy obviously doesn’t have to look very hard or do much to attract their drinking footfall so why of earth at one of the most tourist trapping pubs, in the capital of Great Britain are they only selling one British Beer? And not only just one beer, but a very un-regular beer at that, I mean wean the uninitiated in on something standard like London Pride, don’t give them ginger flavoured beer as a start point! As we perched outside, trying our best to escape the crush, I noted a table full of Italians sit down next to us, they all ordered Stella Artois……………how sad that when not in Rome they’d chosen to do what every non-thinking drinker does, and how sad that this pub doesn’t seem to want to invest in promoting and trying to change these closed minds. On a positive note, the barman was good enough to hold the Cask Marque certificate for us to scan from its position behind the bar, but that’s about the only good point I can think of.
We were just finishing the drinks and were planning to make our way to what should have been the first pub on the list, the Lamb and Flag in Rose Street when who should appear but Sybil and the supplier guy. By the looks of it the one absinthe had turned into a vat of absinthe and both of them had been swimming in the stuff. Sybil at least was putting on an act of trying to look sober but the supplier guy was rocking and reeling all over the shop in a quite frightening fashion.
Anyway off we went to Rose Street and needless to say the journey which couldn’t have been more than 200 metres saw us all get split up and lost. I found myself with Buddy Rob trying to use the Cask Finder app to locate the pub when we heard a voice from behind us cry out “Where you going then, are you lost?” It was a shabbily dressed guy with a goatee and a t-shirt that announced him as “Direction Guy “ – “We’re trying to get to Rose Street” I told him. “Oh yeah, the Lamb and Flag” he replied with an amazing sixth sense of what we were going to do when we got there. “Follow me!” he yelled and strode off. “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – there, Rose Street!” he yelled and by George, he was right. I dipped in my pocket and handed him a slack load of change for his troubles. “Another bloody pound” he muttered “I’ve just had one of those” and grumbling he disappeared. It turned out the “other one of those” he’d got was from Charlie who’d also taken advantage of Direction Guy’s services just moments before hand.
As we also slowly gathered together again we realised we’d lost two soldiers in action. No-Nickname Michael had sloped off perhaps trying to avoid what was looking like a soon to be messy evening and Sybil had also ran off for the hills. The supplier guy was still there, physically at least but perhaps not in spirit. He’d also gained a Chairman Mao type peaked cap which was explained by Charlie who told us he’d taken a rough tumble on the way to the pub and had cut his head open!
The pub, and a lovely traditional boozer at that, was another superb Fuller’s place and Buddy Rob had secured me a pint of Red Fox and himself a bottle of proper Budvar Budweiser (“Wow, Rob, back onto the proper Bud?” asked Charlie “Are you enjoying it?” – “No” was the answer) before fleeing the crowded bar and leaving Spiky haired Ed to get the rest of the round.
A very suprised looking Charlie. Note Buddy Rob's proper Bud in hand.
Still raining all the people who would normally be stood outside had come inside leaving us crouching beneath the last corner of the outside awning. There wasn’t a chance of getting the scan in such a melee although I did manage to ask a barman about “Cask Marque, mate, you know the thing for your beers!” but from his reaction I could have just asked him if he wanted to go for a rumba in the cellar. So Aussie Pete made me pose in the rain for a photo to prove to Trevor that we did visit and add the scan from Cask Marque HQ.
Look Trevor, we were there honest!
It was at this point that we lost the supplier guy…………..last seen weaving down towards Charring Cross. I wonder if he made it home?
The next pub on the list was The White Lion in Floral Street, so it was back through the rain soaked streets of Covent Garden and the welcoming lights of this Nicholsons Pub. It was certainly a very smart place and the pint of Brain’s Jack Black Oatmeal Stout was superb although the barmaid, who must have only just started working there, trying to pass it off with the biggest head I’ve ever seen on a pint. Luckily there was a colleague on hand to help out and thinking that this guy might know a thing or two about beers Aussie Pete asked where the certificate was. Again we were met with blank looks as if we were talking Chinese. He asked the manager for us whose reaction was unexpected to say the least. He whirled around looking as if we’d just taken a dump on his floor and demanded to know how long we were going to be in the pub. Eh, what on earth has that got to do with it? He then said it was in the office and he’d go and get it in a minute but his whole attitude was one of real irritation that a customer had asked for something. He then went to the end of the bar and proceeded to have a conversation with a couple of guys completely ignoring us. When I approached again to remind him, he disappeared and was instantly “too busy” to help. I can only say what an absolutely disappointing way to treat paying customers and this little rubbish Phil Mitchell lookalike should really think about how he wants to be thought of. The word I have at the moment is “belligerent” and I’ll be telling the folks at Nicholsons exactly that.
Spiky haired Ed and BGC wonder why the White Lion bothers with Cask Marque
So with another non-scan (Oh Trevor……..?) and Charlie scarpering complete with new brolly to the cinema, it was just the four of use who crossed over into Drury Lane and into the Prince of Wales. This is another Taylor Walker pub and was actually quite quiet for its location and Taylor Walkers fondness for blaring music. They also had a much better beer range…….take note Mr Punch and Mrs Judy. I ordered a pint of Twaites Crafty Devil and asked the barmaid if she knew where the certificate was.
Now do you know that character from Family Guy, Consuela  the Latino maid who always answers “no” in the most lackadaisical fashion? Well it was like having a conversation with her! We finally established that the certificate was in the office because there was something wrong with it but there was no way she was going to get it for us.
“Oh, come on, we only need it for the scan”
“Please, we’d be really chuffed.”
“But we’re on a mission and Aussie Pete needs it for his T-Shirt”
And on and on it went like this. Aussie Pete then asked the manageress herself who told a slightly different story in that it was in the office but it would take at least two days to find it. Why aren’t these places proud of these awards? If I was running one, I’d have it framed and up where everyone could see, if fact I’d direct them to it even if they weren’t scanning.
So I’m afraid Trevor, for the third time tonight, it’s over to you……………”
Aussie Pete was now desperate for this final Cask Ale Week scan so although we’d done all the four planned pubs, we decided to make our way further east to Great Queen Street and the fantastically named HerculesPillars. Waiting inside as if he knew we were coming was a huge smiling barman who seemed delighted to serve us. Aussie Pete almost yelped with excitement as he saw the certificate (framed and where everyone could see) behind the bar. The barman jokingly tried to prise it off the wall but it was fixed firmly there, but he was only too happy to take phones from Aussie Pete, Spiky haired Ed and myself to get the scans. One pint of absolutely delectable Sambrook’sPowerhouse Porter later and I was falling in love with this place. Aussie Pete was starving by now and suggested we eat, I was only too happy to comply and we took the barman’s (who we now knew as Joseph) advice and plumped for a very non-paleo spaghetti carbonara.
Aussie Pete scores the beer 72?
I then noted that the Young’s Bitter (I think?) had run out so what did the pub do? They placed a little sign on the tap which read that it needed changing and that there would be a light delay whilst the lines were cleaned……………I mean how much better could this place get? Well to answer that, all it took was a pint of Truman’s Swallow and Swift served in a traditional pint jug. We then played a game of “guess the nationality” with the barmaids, who thankfully seemed happy enough to play along with us 4 slurring idiots before I rounded off the visit by treating everyone to a bottle of Orval, explaining to Spiky haired Ed how each and every grain was blessed by monks (shhh, don’t tell him otherwise. It would be like telling a 5 year old Father Xmas doesn’t exist).
BGC and Aussie Pete toast Joseph. Joseph gives the tour the thumbs up!
Aussie Pete had let slip to our new best friend Joseph that I was blogging about our visits and he pressed upon me his business card, wanting to know where he could find the blog. Well I’m afraid Joseph that no sooner had we left the pub but I lost the card. I don’t know where it went, but all I know is by the time we reached the nearby Shakespeares Head I’d lost it. I hope the mail I sent you does reach you and all I can say is we truly enjoyed the visit and promise to be back at some point. Maybe to present you with a best pub on the Monopoly Tour award because anywhere else we go will have to do a heck of a lot of work to beat your performance tonight!
So as previously mentioned we staggered in the style of four supplier guys over to the Shakespeares Head which we nearly missed as the frontage was covered in scaffolding. This was a large open plan Weatherspoons but the certificate was easily found and the pint of the self-brewed EdwinTaylor’s Extra Stout was on the mark as well. I’m not sure how it all happened but the final thing I remember was grabbing hold of some poor innocent young Korean chap and forcing him to do the Gangnam Style dance with me. For an even more unfathomable reason he seemed only to happy to join in, although this could have simply been fear of course in case this crowd of mad crazy middle aged oldies (not you Ed) turned really deranged.
You will dance when ordered to! Note Cask Marque certificate in back ground!
But that said it was probably a very apt way to end what has to be the most mad crazy visit of the tour so far. Cheers to all those lovely people who made it so memorable! Now where’s Trevor’s email address…………………….
I have no idea who took this for us.
Number of Cask Marque Pubs visited = 87
Got a Cask Marque Certificate? = Then put it up!
Got an attitude problem with your customers? = Then go and do a non-customer facing job. Shepherd perhaps?
Next Stop = Community Chest #2

No comments:

Post a Comment