Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Fenchurch Street Station

“It’s Christmas time and there really is no need to feel afraid.” Well, speaking personally Paul, if I was to ever wake up and find you whispering those words into my ears I’d bloody well shit myself……..but that unlikely scenario aside, that introduction is just meant to inform readers (still hopeful that I can use that noun in the plural) that this will be the last posting before we stuff our faces with turkey whilst wearing paper hats.

Again in an amazing piece of planning, the square on this festive week is Fenchurch Street station, which if you’ve noted that Vine Street was the nearest square to our offices then you’ll know that this is the second nearest square. An ideal opportunity to rally the troops and force all the previous excuse-mongers and tour-dodgers out on the street.
Fenchurch Street Station - One of the prettier London Stations.
In reality what happened was illness claimed Aussie Pete, early Xmas holidays claimed Buddy Rob and most of the other fair-weather tourists cried off for one reason or another. Still, we had the welcome return of No-Nickname Michael after his dry month of November had ended, New Guy Micky had come back from the wilderness of working from home and tour regulars Charlie and Spiky Haired Ed can always be relied on. We also had the surprising appearance of Big-J, who apart from a fleeting appearance during Cask Ale week in a non-tour venue had avoid the tour so far, quoting excuses ranging from guitar practice, family taxi duties, bicycle repairs, filing claims against other road users and writing the 10th volume of M&S memoirs (I understand the working title is “Mark, Spencer and I”).
Talking about Spiky Haired Ed (well sort of) I haven’t heard anything back from Debbie and her cut and keep Spiky  Haired Ed but in other blog news I did stumble across another pub review blog site thanks to a tweet from Beery Nate – It would seem that the mysterious Pubman79 has visited several pubs that we’ve also took in as part of the tour and it’s interesting to see his opinions compared to mine. But imagine my surprise when on his review of The Blue Posts (we did this for Pall Mall) the cheeky beggar had gone and used my photo! Not that I’m particularly bothered and if someone else has decided that my awful quality snaps are good enough to borrow then I’ll take it as a compliment!  
No-nickname Michael and a blurry New Guy Micky do their Flanagan and Allen impression - "Underneath the arches....." - Just ask your gran.

Anyway, onto the tour. Much in the same way as when we did Vine Street, it was but a short stroll past Tower Hill tube station and into Crutched Friars and the first pub, Cheshire Cheese. I promised this one when we visited a similarly named pub during Strand, not that I’ve found out in the meantime why this seems to be an not uncommon pub name whereas there doesn’t seem to be anywhere called The Wensleydale. This Cheshire Cheese is tucked beneath the arches that the tracks from Fenchurch Street Station run from and is owned by the Stonegate pub company, who I have to admit I’ve never heard of before (we have previously visited one of their pubs, The Earl of Camden) but they’re the company behind chains like Yate’s and Slug and Lettuce. The Cheshire Cheese is part of their “Great Traditional Pubs” brand and the pub is certainly traditional in the sense that it has a bit of an eighties feel about it. Dark red wallpaper (flocked?), patterned carpets and large hanging chandeliers. The beer range was a bit limited, nice to see 5 handpumps but all had fairly regular ales on, Pedigree, Hobgoblin, London Pride etc. I plumped for Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire with Big-J and Charlie following my lead whilst the other three went for Krombacher – which came in very nice branded and fluted glasses.
It looked more 80's in real life
Even though it was only a Tuesday I think a lot of workers had decided to celebrate the lead up to Xmas as the place was quite full with a raucous crowd, which wasn’t helped by the loud music being unnecessarily pumped over it all. We also had several big screen TVs playing footie repeats (at least the sound was off) which no-one was watching.
On the plus side the Cask Marque certificate was easily found, pinned on the wall just above the sink behind the bar, but accessible to lean over and scan. One drink saw us through though and we made our way further along Crutched Friars to the aptly named Crutched Friar. But before we discuss this pub, let’s have a quick history lesson. The name Crutched Friars comes from a religious order so named because of the staff the monks carried. There will be a test on this later………………. 

The Crutched Friar (the pub) is another from the Stonegate stable but this time from their Classic Inn brand. It certainly has a more up to date feel than the Cheshire Cheese and seemed to attract a plethora of “suits” as again the pub was heaving. I seemed to wait an age to get served but to their credit there were hundreds of barmaids and as soon as I was actually being served they all seemed to want to ask what I wanted. The one that did serve me failed to get three pints from the barrel of Black Sheep Bitter so Big-J and No-nickname Michael actually got pints of Cocker Hoop (they didn’t know this on the night) but the other three got their desires of Meantime Pale Ale, Cobra and Grolsh (no prizes for matching the beer to the drinker) 
BGC and Big-J - I am the crutch to his friar.

Again to Stonegate’s credit the certificate was hanging nicely available on the wall but as I was scanning I noted that there was a duplicate certificate opposite it. It turns out one certificate was running out at the end of December and the one for next year was already hanging up. Charlie tried to scan them both but Cask Finder is wise to this trick! 

Again it was a rather hurried drink and another hurry along the street, turning right into New London Street and the Windor, which ducks beneath Fenchurch Street Station itself. Amazingly again this was another Stonegate pub (they must save on delivery costs to these three) but we were back to the Great Traditional Pub brand now. It’s a compact little place not helped by the fact that half the pub was cordoned off for a poker evening. Unfortunately the framed and hung certificate was in the cordoned off area but that didn’t stop Ed and me sneaking in for a sneaky scan.
At the Windsor, not! Geddit, Windsor Knot.....Oh please yourselves

It was another different ale for the ale drinkers, this time being Adnams’s festive offering of Shingle Shells although No-nickname Michael and New Guy Micky went for a different Admans offering of Ghost Ship.  

We started to take casualties on the night now. Charlie had to leave for a family gathering whilst New Guy Micky had to scoot off to the late night Marks and Spencer to buy a dinner jacket for this Thursday’s Xmas Party. No-nickname Michael was getting a taste for the demon sauce again and persuaded us to take in one more pub. Just around the corner from the station is the Shepherd Neame pub of the East India Arms – the last remnants of the East India Company whose offices used to stand in the area. 
If Ed had taken the photo properly you might have been able to read the history here.

After the crush of the other pubs we elected to stand outside keeping ourselves warm with pints of Late Red (Oranjeboom for Ed and diet coke for Big-J)  and after the rather identikit fittings of the first three pubs the unique and charming character of the East India Arms was quite lovely. On return from the toilets I asked the barman what the interesting looking bottles in the fridge were. The answer was a 5% Double Stout, a 7% Christmas Ale and a 9% IPA. I volunteered to start No-nickname Michael and myself off on the Double Stout whilst Ed changed to Asahi. Big-J knowing that a wobbly bike ride home was still to come sensibly stuck to the coke.  

The Double Stout was gorgeous and when asking for the Christmas Ale I even got the choice as to whether I wanted a chilled one or a room temperature one. I went for room temperature which was a good idea initially but as the pint went on it did get quite heavy and claggy.  

Although I would have been most interested to see what the IPA tasted like, I think at 9% it would have landed me in the same position as the previous square so good sense won over and I decided it was time to leave – a short stagger down Fenchurch Street to Aldgate Station and a journey round to Paddington muttering to myself on the tube. At least this way you always get a seat. 

The final funny to report is when ordering some sustenance from the buffet car on the train I asked for “something with bacon” – The host turned a puzzled look on me and replied “something with pain killers?” – Well she did have a point! 

Number of Cask Marque Pubs visited  = 133 – I do declare the first visit where every pub had the certificate available!
Why are the Crutched Friars so called? = Please provide your answer in the form of a 200 word essay.
Will there be ale at the office Xmas Party on Thursday? = BGC reckons "no" and that means he'll have to winge and moan, boring the tits off those around him as he decrys how come no-one in Britain seems to respect the British brewing industry.
Next Stop = Leicester Square


  1. If it's any consolation I doubt there will be any ale at the Cask Marque Christmas party in down-town Colchester. Sad sad sad...

  2. Seriously? Is that not rather oxymoron-ish? Or just moron-ish?