The Packhorse & Talbot (Turnham Green): ½ Sharps Doom Bar, ½ Landlord £2.86
The Tabard (Turnham Green): ½ Autumn Dawn, ½ London Pride £2.80
This is where we committed our first major mistake of the tour.
Maybe we misread our notes, mis-remembered our discussions, or more likely I just didn’t listen to Keith and had a rush of blood to the head. Anyway off we charged, turning left out of the station and striding purposefully towards Chiswick High Road, as I confidently offered “I remember a place just along here!”
And so it was we hit the Packhorse and Talbot, a big old Spirit Pub Co place about 500 yards from the station where a bright and charming Aussie (they do exist) called Laura served us with a smile. Big managed pubs like this are always of a similar style – standard food menu, good range of ales (of varying quality, although this one did have the “Cask Marque” accreditation), lots of non authentic wood panelling, and the type of carpet that exists nowhere other than in these pubs, or interior designers nightmares. The only extra point to note on this place was that Keith noticed it had a lot of CCTV.
“What?” I said
“There, there, there, there, there, and over there” responded Keith, with the confidence of a man who knows this sort of stuff, and he wasn’t kidding – there must have been the best part of twenty cameras around the room.
As we strolled contentedly back towards the station, we had a quick look at the notes to see where we were off to next, when Keith pointed out (probably for the second time) that the research pointed towards a place called the Tabard which was supposed to be very close to the tube. Curious, we wandered just past the station entrance and promptly discovered a very pleasant pub no more that 30 yards away. Oops.
Since it was clearly the closest pub to Turnham Green, we had to follow the rules and gird our loins for an extra beer, and thank god we did because it was a cracking boozer with alternate Jazz and Blues bands on a Sunday, a great range of beer (O’Kells Autumn Dawn was a great drop), and a little independent Theatre upstairs. We were served by Lowri, from Usk in South Wales – which pleased Keith no end, firstly to be served by a fellow Celt, and then secondly when we found out that she was born in London, but spoke Welsh as a first language. Surely a unique combination. We also met Dave the Assistant Manager – a lovely enthusiastic bloke who demonstrated the power of the pen and pad – he took one look at my writing implements, and spent 5 minutes telling us about how clean he kept the cellar before tentatively enquiring, “I’m not going to lose my job next week am I?” Bless.
The Old Packhorse, (Chiswick Park): 2 x ½ Red Fox £3.10
A quick jaunt back Westwards to Chiswick Park, and another station where our research let us down – we thought we were looking for a mysterious place called the Bollo Bar, but this Fullers pub was blatantly the closest to the station. It couldn’t have been more ordinary if it tried. It’s a big old boozer style place with two big TVs (one showing some racing, one showing Soccer Saturday). Another site with Cask Marque, which made the very flat Red Fox Bitter we were served all the more disappointing. Still, they did have a Thai restaurant upstairs, and best of all, an Elvis impersonator Bonfire Night Extravaganza on offer!
NB for those that live in St Albans, to give you an idea of the style/quality of the place, we decided it was like “The Garibaldi in Chiswick” (as in the Garibaldi now, rather than 5 years ago when it was good).
Time to move on.
The Raven, (Stamford Brook): 1 bottle Red Stripe, ½ McMullens AK, £5.05
Ah, the Raven. The first of what we hope will be lots of hidden gems that we discover on this marathon.
Incidentally I am tempted to tot up the number of truly independent bars we discover and compare it to the number of JD Wetherspoons we end up in. I suspect we will be disappointed.
This place is fab. We walked through the door to be serenaded by the sound of some vintage Johnny Cash. The first thing you see is a scruffy-in-a-cool-way room with a fairy-lit stuffed raven at the end of the bar. “Quirky” doesn’t do it justice.
Eleanor served us with effortless disdain as we studied the food menu – which, I have to say, looked fantastic. I also have to say that given our eventual dinner today, to which I will come later, I really wish we had stopped for a bite (I have since heard from a colleague that the food is indeed as good as the menu suggests). Unfortunately, due to our late start we had no time to lose.
An excellent little courtyard out the back entices you to sit down and waste a few hours – you’ve probably guessed by now, this one is a definite recommendation, and it was with regret that we sidled out the door barely fifteen minutes after we arrived.
Ruby Grand (Ravenscourt Park): 2 x ½ London Pride £3.00 (plus several shots!)
Joel is a very dangerous man.
I don’t know him well, but for me and Keith, half an hour in his company is all it took to realise this fact.
Ruby Grand is a big corner pub that has been taken over by the Ruby Group and given a thorough make over into a relaxed cocktail venue. They do still have one real ale on, too, and as we sat at the bar nursing our halves of London Pride and writing notes, we noticed a group of young ladies buying a round of shooters before bouncing off into the early evening sunset.
“Was that the start of a big night out, or the end of a long shopping day?” I asked.
“Do you want to know what they were drinking?” said Joel (although of course we didn’t know that was his name for another ten seconds), “Those ladies were indulging in Joel’s Fantasy.”
What followed was twenty minutes that jeopardised the rest of the day for us (in terms of finishing in an upright position anyway), as Joel showed us the cocktail he had invented, along with two other signature drinks, and made us drink them all – despite us having explained our mission to him, and tried to reinforce that the nature of a “pub crawl” meant that you had to keep moving on…..
Still it was very public spirited of him, and although I can’t remember the exact cocktails, they definitely involved, among other things, passion fruit liqueur, tequila, vodka, wedges of orange, and Wray and Nephew Overproof rum.
In fact, if you are a fan of cocktails, get down there and try the Ruby Royale – Stoly, Chambord, raspberry puree and fizz –because it is really, really good (remember this is coming from two grumpy, old school ale drinkers!).
We duly thanked him for his kindness and made good our escape before any more damage was done – we had a quest to pursue….