Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Water Works

Do you ever get that feeling that no matter how much effort you put into things for other people you'd have better spent your time smashing your noggin against a cast iron blacksmith's anvil? Well that's how I feel after trying for what feels like a hell of a lot  more than two weeks in trying to organise an outing to the Water Works.
My original plan was very simple, Google "London Water Works" and see what was brought up. The solution was also very simple. Around the southern end of London Bridge was the location of the London Bridge Water Works which used to sanitise the water for the people of that area. So, as Alexander would say, simples, find a couple of pubs in that environ and away we go.
Looking up Montague Close to Tooley Street - As far as I can make out, the location of the London Bridge Water Works
But oh no, my misguided efforts at bringing the tour to the great unwashed had backfired as there were demands for more and more spectacular evening entertainments. You'd have though that a night out at the comedy pub would be enough for this choosy crew, but oh no, I was challenged to up the ante and bring on something more.
I thought I'd solved this thorny issue by managing to locate a night club cum jazz club cum cabaret bar called the "Cellar Door" just off Strand in Aldwych. This rather unique emporium has been built in a disused gent's lavatory and working very laterally with the words "water works" I thought that this would be acceptable suggestion for the evening out. At first it all looked rather hopeful, especially as the female contingent of the tour actually seemed quite enthusiastic about an evening out that would comprise of something more than old man's pubs. However as the realisation that an evening at the Cellar Door would going to prove a bit pricey (after 21:00 there's a 20% service charge on all drinks!) the enthusiasms started to wane. I'll give you an example.......... 
I mailed everyone, laying out the details of the Cellar Door, including links to their site, the menu and details of the cabaret. I even phoned the place to ascertain whether we needed to buy advance tickets and what time we should turn up to guarantee entry. And just how many responses did I get back? Well, I'll tell you........1! Yep, that's it, 1 single measly reply. Well actually I got back two replies, but that was only because I emailed Nicolas in Argentina by mistake, but at least he got back to me! (He couldn't make it unfortunately.) 
So whilst I thank Gemma for having the decency to reply, (even if it was a refusal to attend), it looked like the Cellar Door was a no-go. Falling back to plan B (and I'll be truthful to admit that it was Bumble Bee who put me onto this) the idea of going to a place called Club Aquarium on Old Street was muted around. I checked out the website and found that whilst it was true that it did have a fully functioning swimming pool in the club (the only one in the UK apparently!) but boy did it look a dodgy old place. The sort of place I used to go in 30 odd years ago and hate every minute of the experience, I'd be buggered if I was going to organise a tour there!
So to cut a long story short, and yes I know I haven't cut anything short, it was now two weeks on from the last tour and we still hadn't got anything organised for Water Works. 
So talk about the last port in a storm, the very original tour regular and everyone's favourite chiselled jawed lothario, Spikey Haired Ed suggested that just we two go to the original pubs on a non-favoured tour night and get it over and done with. Well, do you know what, after a heavy day of a single 7 hour meeting it seemed like the perfect thing to do. So rolling back the months, this blog's very own odd couple walked the pleasant 1/2 mile from Tower Bridge to London Bridge and took in three Cask Marque pubs. 
The fantastic figurehead outside the Shipwrights Arms
The first was The Shipwrights Arms on Tooley Street, which although quite inconspicuous has quite a history being built back in 1884 by the famous pub builders Treacher and Fisher. It's certainly kept its rather old fashioned charm being of classic island bar layout with some fantastic tiled detailing around the walls. The layout was so familiar in fact I wondered if I'd been in the pub already before I realised that the pub I was getting it mixed up with was the Bridge Lounge which is further south along Tooley Street where I'd taken the team to spend their free Cask Ale Week vouchers. But seriously, check it out, the layouts are almost identical. 
Inside the Shipwrights
Anyway pints of Caledonian Flying Scotsman and Sagres were ordered by the gruesome twosome and we retired to a little table by the door to discuss all that was wrong with the world and in the process gained the scan of the Cask Marque certificate which was pinned to the wall. 
Wall tiles inside the Shipwrights
Moving on further west along Tooley Street, avoiding all the road works which seem only designed to put your life at risk, we came to London Bridge and the sizable Fuller's emporium The Barrowboy and Banker which is perched right at the south end of the bridge. It's an impressive looking place, and like all of the Fuller's estate, full of shiny brass and gleaming wood. Unfortunately it was also full of people, many of whom seemed to be slightly worse for wear. The queue for the bar was two deep and although I can't complain that I waited an age for our pints of Chiswick bitter and Honey Dew (again no prizes for guessing who was drinking what) it was not what I call a comfortable pub experience. We moved back around the bar, trying to spot the certificate as we avoided the flying elbows of the crowd seemingly intent on trying to spill as much of your drink as possible, but drew a disappointing blank as it wasn’t visible to any degree. A quick side note here is that Aussie Pete and I had previously visited this pub on a balmy summer's day long before the Monopoly Tour had ever been thought of and we asked about the certificate on that occasion as well. I seem to remember the response from the bar staff was something along the lines of "oh, it's in the post" or "we're waiting for the new one" - well the proof in the pudding seems to be that they're still waiting! 
Barrowboy & Banker - Postman is just round the corner.
Scrambling down the stair at the side of the bridge into Montague Close we came across the final pub of the evening, the Mudlark. Named for the impoverished children who used to scavenge for scraps amongst the muddy banks of the Thames I was, for some reason, not holding up much hope for this place. Don't quite know why but it turned out to be one of those surprisingly delightful places that confound your presuppositions.
The Mudlark
Firstly it was at exactly the right sort of busyness. All the tables were full, there was a hubbub of conversation but there was no queue for the bar and no masses of standing people spoiling the view and getting in my way. Secondly, I've noted that the Nicholson's bars can (hence I say "can", not "always") seem to have a limited range of beers with the same old favourites appearing again and again. Well perhaps I was visiting on the beginning of a new rotation but there was a nice selection here with a couple of new ones on me (Trawlerboys Best Bitter & Sambooks Junction ) sitting alongside the more regulars (Adnams Lighthouse & Jaipur) and the permanents (Nicholson's Pale Ale & London Pride) - I ordered a pint of Trawlerboys from Green Jack brewery whilst Ed went for a Blue Moon. What was nice here was that the two barmen on duty split the tasks, one pouring the ale whilst the other got on with the Blue Moon, which made for quicker service and avoided that feeling you get where you feeling like you're putting the bar staff out by just being there.
The range of beers at the Mudlark.
Ed also rang back the memory bells by unceremoniously dumping his segment of orange out of his Blue Moon - ah that's right, you don't mix food and drink do you Ed! Memories of The Doggets Coat and Badge! Oh how the time flies. 
And unfortunately "time flies" was the black cloaked grim reaper on our evening out. I think we both could have stayed for 2 or 3 more, certainly I wasn't getting bored with Ed getting absolutely everything off his small sunken pigeon chest but alas the train was calling and whilst it was nice to be back out on a less regular tour night, the looming spectre of getting up in the morning was ever present. But still it was a nice way to get the tour back on track. It finally put the bloody water Works to bed and means we can get back on track with the streets again.  
Yeah, that’ll teach them to get all lardy-da with my tour! 
Number of Cask Marque Pubs visited  = 153
Learn anything new about Ed? = No, but learnt some stuff I really didn’t need to know.
And who’s top of the accompaniment leader board now BGC? = Well, wouldn’t you like to know!
Next Stop =Piccadilly

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