Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Liverpool Street Station

So, it's been some time my old friend, constant reader. I'm sure you'll excuse me though after the delays caused by my near death experience and public holiday to celebrate the Great King Rabbit, but it's time to get things back on track and where better to do it than a place full of tracks, Liverpool Street Station.

Actually thinking about it, I can think of 101 much better places to do it as I've done a little bit of drinking around this area already and to be perfectly frank, it's a bit of a dump. I know mainline train stations have their work cut out to be attractive places to go to for any other  purpose that catching a train but compared some of the others on the board (the new Kings Cross is lovely and Marylebone has much in the way of charm) Liverpool Street is definitely on the dumpier side of nice.
 
Liverpool Street Station and a rare picture of Spikey Haired Ed

But the one thing it does have going for it is that it's another square just a 10 minute stroll away from our office location. I did then foolishly suppose that we would have a good turn out for this square, especially as it's the last one anywhere near where we all work. But alas concrete promises of attendance petered away as the week went on and by the night of the tour I couldn't get a volunteer to buy me a J├Ągermeister for love nor money. So it was a rather depleted crowd of five regulars, Spikey Haired Ed, Charlie, Buddy Rob and Sybil who made up the numbers but on the plus side we were joined by Niresh (who we hadn’t seen since Vine Street) and the lovely Chrissie whose only previous appearance had been to crank the handle of the random pub generator when we did Chance Number 2. Buddy Rob had also managed to get in touch with an old work colleague, Stretch Arm-Max who was hoping to make an appearing sometime during the night. So actually, on reflection perhaps a tour of 8 wasn’t such a bad turn out after all. 

So anyway, the stroll to Liverpool Street was easy enough, especially as it was quite a balmy evening compared to much of the awful weather we've been having and the first pub was easily located as it's right by the main entrance, a huge Wetherspoons emporium called The Hamilton Hall. And for those who can’t get enough of the boring pub facts this place was named after Lord Claud Hamilton, chairman of the Great Eastern Railway Company (1893-1923). The building itself it actually quite decorative with an impressive ornamental ceiling adorned with cherubs and the like, unfortunately Wetherspoons seem to have done all they can to make the place as unattractive as possible by fitting a horrible wooden bar and inviting as many horrible Wetherspoons clientele as possible. Ok, I know they can't be blamed for the latter point but the cheaper beer does seem to attract a less salubrious crowd. The other distraction was a set of scaffolding in the pub which didn't seem to be serving any other purpose than holding up the bunting for the Wetherspoons beer festival. 
 
A crowded Hamilton Hall - Note pathetic awning

Anyway, architectural criticisms apart, Ed was forced into being kitty monitor for the night and bravely forced his way to the crowded bar to get the first round in. Only Charlie was joining me on the ales (lots of pints of lager and a cranberry juice for Chrissie) and I spotted a very interesting looking beer called Ionian Coffee Porter by the Corfu Beer brewery - unfortunately though when it came to pour it the barmaid only managed to squeeze one pint out of the barrel meaning either Charlie or I would have to make do with the next pump along. (Sorry can't remember what this was.) But seeing as Charlie hadn’t expressed a preference he got the alternative! We then retired outside just in time to witness the end of the balmy evening as the heavens opened and we had to crouch for shelter under the world's most pathetic awning.  

The Coffee Porter seemed ok at first, but I don't know whether it was the "last in the barrel" syndrome or just the fact I seem to have lost my beer appetite but the pint soon became heavy and claggy and became a real struggle to get down. I had a sip of Charlie's beer which was much sharper and more refreshing so perhaps the joke was on me for insisting I had the porter as I gamely forged onwards. 

The scan for the Hamilton Hall was one I had already got on a previous visit but it was good to see the certificate hanging available for Ed and Charlie, who in the absence of Aussie Pete were the only two scanners out tonight. 
 
Merchant of Bishopsgate

The next pub was also in the station itself, the recently refurbished Merchant of Bishopsgate, a very smart looking place on the lower concourse which markets itself as a Free House. This also had an easily spotted certificate hanging just inside the door and apart from having to ask the young lady guarding her wheelie suitcase to move so I could scan, it was another capture safely in the bag.  
 
The most boring pumps in the world.

You can't fault the decor in the Merchant of Bishopsgate but it's very much a question of style over substance. A more detailed investigation of the ales of offer showed the most ubiquitous brews available in the UK at the moment, London Pride, Greene King IPA, Doombar, Wadworth 6X and Old Speckled Hen, hardly ones you spot and say "oooo haven't had that in ages!" Luckily there was a more interesting alternative in Bohemian Dark by the Meantime Brewing Company, Charlie also went with the Meantime option choosing a pint of London Pale Ale whilst I think the others all had pints of Heineken mixed with a Carlsberg tops, apart from Chrissie who was making sure her prostrate was getting a good workout with the Cranberry juice. Still not trusting my beer mojo had returned I opted for a half pint of the Bohemian Dark and in the end was very glad I did. I don't know whether it's still a hangover from my recent illness or perhaps I've undergone one of those life changing experiences like RichardHammond where after his accident he now has to eat Spinach with every meal (or something like that......) but the beer just wasn't tasting at all tonight and to my shame I couldn't even complete the half pint.
 
The view of the Railway Tavern from the station. No pigeons cos it's raining.

The aptly named Railway Tavern was the next stop, just a quick sprint up the escalator and out the station by the world's scruffiest McDonalds where you're positively encouraged to kick a pigeon on the way. Again this was another pub which I'd already scanned so with Charlie having made an exit after the second pub, it was only Ed who needed to avail himself of the certificate hanging on the wall. The Railway is a Greene King pub but I singularly failed to notice the beers on offer as I capitulated entirely and ordered a diet coke.  

Apart from the crowds and the big screens showing the Masters Golf the Railway Tavern actually isn't that bad a place. For the spotters amongst you, you might like to visit to see the various ex-train company coats of arms adorning the bar and reminisce about the golden age of the railways. Whether the golden age was actually that golden I have no idea, but I'll say this, the coats of arms of the Belfast andCounty Down Railway Company for example beats First Great Westerns shitty logo any day of the week - and I bet they paid a considerable amount less than FGW did! 
Crests of the former railway companies

It was well and truly exit time then as Chrissie, Sybil and Niresh all made tracks for home, leaving just Rob, Ed, Max and I to cross the road to the Lord Aberconway, a Nicholson's pub which had not one but two Cask Marque certificates on offer. What a shame I wasn't drinking still as this was the choice pub of the evening, a lovely multi-level place; it had a spiral staircase and lots of little booths and cubby holes dotted all over. Again I can't comment on the beer selection as it was the demon diet coke that was my tipple once again but at least I got what I wanted as Ed's none specific ordering of a bottle of Budweiser had resulted in Rob being presented with a bottle of Budvar, something as we know from Bow Street doesn't tickle his fancy. 
 
The Lord Aberconway - Buddy Rob leads the way.

At least I wasn't having any trouble drinking the coke, a check of the watch showed that I should easily be able to make my 22:00 train from Reading station so I left the guys to it, made my excuses and left thinking in my present frame of mind, an early night might be best for all concerned.  

The best laid plans of mice and men though are of course scuppered by broken down trains. I made it to Reading in plenty of time for the 22:00 service but the wonderful company that is First Great Western decided to cancel it when it became stuck behind a broken down train. To cut a very long, very cold and very boring hour and a bit wait on the platform, we were eventually shipped home by bus, with me getting in at 1/4 past midnight - not quite the early night I had envisaged! 

Now I hope you, my faithful constant reader (yep, not optimistic enough to suppose I have constant readers) have felt through my writings that I'm a nice and fair minded chap. If you haven't felt this then you must be reading it wrong, but let me assure you that I am. First Great Western however are slowly but surely, with each delay and cancellation turning me into the sort of person I would avoid in a broken down lift situation, making me a curmudgeon vying for the undisputed world moaning cruiser weight crown. This latest highlight in my commuting relationship with them called for a strongly worded letter much in the style of "Annoyed from Tunbridge Wells" so here it is. 

Petty, point scoring and all rather pathetic, I'll accept all those criticisms as they are no doubt very true but all I can say in mitigation is that they were asking for it and no doubt next week I'll be doing it again! 

Never happens when I'm drunk though..........interesting.......
 
Number of Cask Marque Pubs visited  = 186
 
So BGC, is it the wagon for you? = I don't think so. I may have had a dodgy week but can break the habit of a lifetime just on that.
 
And did Ed drink lager all night? = Oh I don't know, probably not and he'll probably have another go at me for suggesting that he did.
 
Next Stop = Chance #3

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