Monday, 13 October 2014

A Brief Interlude in London

I had a brief interlude in London last Thursday. I was in town for a trade show; the Dental Showcase to be precise. The event, which took place at London’s Excel, is designed, as its name suggests, to showcase all that is best in dentistry. The dental manufacturing company I work for hasn’t exhibited at Showcase for a number of years now, as we are concentrating our efforts on the export market. We will however, have a stand at the grand-daddy of all dental exhibitions. IDS (International Dental Show), which takes place every two years in Cologne, dwarfs Dental Showcase by a large factor, and for this reason the latter did seem rather tame. There were a large number of stands there from accountancy firms, finance houses, insurance companies and other lenders, which shows the general direction the field of dentistry is heading in, and the increasing corporate nature of the industry as a whole.
After acquiring sufficient free samples of toothpaste and mouthwash, I was done with the show by about two thirty. I had obtained a ticket for my son Matthew, who for curiosity’s sake not only fancied a look around the show, but also a late afternoon/early evening in London, so after leaving Excel we took the DLR along to Stratford. We had a look around the impressive and rather upmarket Westfield Shopping Centre where, more by luck than judgement, we chanced upon Tap East.

Tap East, Stratford
Tucked away in a far corner of "The Great Eastern Market" section of the centre, just along from Waitrose, this contemporary brew-pub has been trading for a number of years. I had read good reports about the place, so we popped in for a look. Being mid-afternoon on a Thursday, the place was fairly quiet, although there were still a few groups of people enjoying a drink.

The bar was adorned by two banks of three hand pumps; one at either end. In the middle was a bank of keg taps. To one side, behind a glass screen, was the brew-kit. Three of Tap East’s regular beers were on the left hand set of pulls, with a couple of guests on the right hand set. I went for the 3.0% Tonic Ale, a well-hopped, session pale ale. Matthew went for the 4.5% Frontier Lager from Fullers. We only stayed for the one, but I have to say Tap East is a very pleasant place, with helpful and knowledgeable staff behind the bar. I will certainly pop in, next time I’m in that part of East London.

We headed for Camden Town next, in order to visit the Brew Dog pub which is a short walk down from the tube station. This was our first visit to a Brew Dog establishment, and we probably hit it at just the right time; late afternoon, before it started to fill up with people on their way home from work or students calling in for a pint following afternoon lectures.

Brew Dog, Camden Town
The pub itself is an attractive, late Victorian building, standing on a street corner like so many pubs from that era. The outside has been painted black, giving the pub a very contemporary look, and this them extends to the inside. We sat looking towards the bar on some raised benches, towards the rear of the pub. Being “Brew Dog Virgins” we were a little unsure what to go for, but a booklet, handily placed on most of the tables pointed us in the right direction. Avoiding some of the more extreme, super-strength bottles we opted for a couple from the draught selection; This. Is. Lager. for Matthew, and Brixton Porter for me.

The former is Brew Dog’s newly launched lager, which describes itself as a "21st Century Pilsner". At 4.7% abv, and with a hop-bitterness of 40 IBU, This. Is. Lager. Is brewed from a grist consisting of Pilsner, Munich and Caramalts, and is bittered with a mix of Hallertauer Hersbrucker, Saaz and Columbus hops. The beer is then cold-conditioned for five weeks resulting in a stunning lager which is a pleasure to drink. Brixton Chocolate Porter is a 5.0% beer, with notes of chocolate, coffee and autumn berries. The company claim that “This is how a porter would taste if it were invented in the London of today.”

It was certainly very good, but rather than have another I decided to try something else from the draught list. Punk IPA at 5.6% hit the spot. I’ve enjoyed this beer in bottled form, but this was the first time I’ve tried it on draught. Matt stuck with the lager; he’s a lot less adventurous than me!

Interior,  Brew Dog
Things I liked about Brew Dog included the contemporary layout, the information leaflets and the wide choice of beers, which included quite a few guests. Most of all though, the helpful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff who really seemed to know their beers, really stood out. Compare this to the average Pub Co operation with the bored and totally indifferent spotty yoof behind the bar, who is more interested in flicking through the TV channels or texting his or her mates, than actually engaging with the customer! BTW, that last comment is not directed at young people in a negative way, as all the staff at Brew Dog were around the same age as Matthew. It just shows the difference which adequate training and investment in your staff can make!

After leaving Brew Dog we headed back into Central London in search of something to eat. Thursday evening is Curry Night at Wetherspoons, so a ruby seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately we couldn’t get near to the JDW outlet in Leicester Square, as much of the area was cordoned off for some red-carpet film premiere, (I can’t tell you which luvvy this was in honour of and besides, I couldn’t care less anyway). Instead we made our way to the Lord Moon of the Mall, just along from Trafalgar Square.

Despite the size of this pub it always seems packed to the gunwales, but this time we were fortunate and managed to find an empty table. I went for the 4.5% Citra Session India Pale Ale, brewed at Bank’s Brewery by Chuck Silva (whoever he might be?), as part of the "Wetherspoons American Craft Brewers’ Showcase". I won’t say what Matthew had, but I’m sure our old friend Cooking Lager would be proud of him.

The Thursday night curries at JDW come with a drink, but the draught offerings were not to my liking. Some outlets allow customers to choose one of the guest ales instead, but I’m certain this is not official company policy so, rather than pushing my luck, I went for one of the cans from Sixpoint Brewing. The Bengali Tiger that I asked for was out of stock (none left in the fridge), but the 5.4% The Crisp went down well with my Chicken Tikka Masala. Matthew had another big-brand, international lager!

After that it was a short walk along to Charing Cross and the train home followed by a relatively early night, ready for work the next day.


Martin, Cambridge said...

Good to hear such a positive report about 3 pubs I've also had good service and beer in, but whose chains (in case of the last 2) don't always get a fair press. The Lord Moon to my mind offers a real example of quality real ale to many tourists (and escapee civil servants).

I wouldn't worry about your son drinking lager; at least he's happy to go to pubs with you !

BryanB said...

Sorry I missed you in town. Another JDW worth a look, and where on past experience there's a fair chance to find both a table and good ale, is the Penderel's Oak on Holborn. The Shakespeare's Head round the corner on Kingsway usually has a wider range of ale, but is far busier.

Paul Bailey said...

Yes Martin, all three pubs scored highly on beer range, quality and service, and I will certainly be visiting them again in the future. The strange thing about my son is he has enjoyed good beer on visits to Germany and the Czech Republic, yet he sticks with big name lager brands back home!

BryanB, sorry too that I missed you. I will try and give advanced notice, next time I am planning to be in London, so we can meet up for a pint or two, and I can hand over that bottle of Guinness Night Porter!

I have been in Penderel’s Oak on a couple of occasion’s times. Both visits were mid-afternoon on a Saturday, when the pub seemed almost worryingly quiet. I imagine though, that it is much busier during the week.