“Open Until Further Notice”

Day 3 cntd (19th Dec 2008)

The Still and Star (Aldgate) 2 x ½ Young’s Bitter, 1 x ½ London Pride £4.20

Still Open - KL and JW at The Still and Star

Still Open - KL and JW at The Still and Star

It’s not often you approach a pub to be greeted with a sign mysteriously proclaiming “OPEN UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE”.

This, however, was the external chalk board’s proud proclamation as we approached the Still and Star. A tiny little cottage-esque boozer hiding round the back a small parade of shops opposite Aldgate Station – clearly another one of those cracking little city pubs, albeit one with a penchant for weird signage.

We strode boldly through the door like the confident pub-goers we are, only to find that the place was absolutely bloody heaving. I mean, we had just about made it to lunchtime by now, but we certainly didn’t expect it to be quite so full – potentially a serious hazard for such time constrained adventurers as ourselves.

Luckily, I knew just what to do in such a situation – which is to bowl up to the bar with an air of self importance, lean across at least three people, and say “Yes please, love” in my most obnoxiously loud voice.

I am both pleased and sad to say it worked too, because we got served straight away: pleased because it meant we could get on with it, and sad because when I worked in pubs I used to absolutely hate the blatant tossers that did this sort of thing. I should have taken myself outside and had a word.

Anyway, the pub itself was indeed a cracker, with very well kept beer (and a Cask Marque sign proudly displayed), and a brilliant atmosphere. There was also a simple but tempting food menu, and, brilliantly, a small plaque on the wall that lists all the landlords of the pub since 1876. For the record, the current landlady is Dawn, and she solved the mystery of the sign out front, by telling us that the pub is scheduled for knocking down as part of the huge planned Aldgate development, but the date of the demolition keeps getting put back. Apparently it was originally going to be some point in November, then it was going to be Christmas Eve, and then bizarrely, their last day of opening was supposed to be the day that we turned up. However, there was still no resolution or word on any further progress by this point, and so they had decided that might as well stay open until someone tells them otherwise.

As I write I have no idea whether that day has come yet, but it will definitely be a sad loss when it goes. In fact the only criticisms we could think of for the site is that for one thing they seemed to be playing Magic FM into the bar, and also that there was a slight gender imbalance – put it this way: there was a cobweb over the corner of the ladies loo that didn’t seem to have been disturbed for some time. Still, minor gripes aside, a proper British boozer with well kept beer. Good form!

The Lord Aberconway (Liverpool Street) ½ London Pride, ½ Polar Bear, ½ TT Landlord £4.30

And so we cruised into Liverpool Street, confident in – if not overjoyed by – the knowledge that we were off to Hamilton

KL and Pete the Pilot at The Lord Aberconway

KL and Pete the Pilot at The Lord Aberconway

Hall, a giant and ornate Wetherspoons at the end of the main station.

But how wrong we were. The Circle Line actually comes out by an exit opposite the Rail Station, and found ourselves caught on the horns of a dilemma. Hamilton Hall was right out the window, and it was a toss up between The Railway Tavern and the Lord Aberconway.

This shows how tough this challenge had really become at this point – we virtually had to pace out the distance from the station entrance to each of the pubs, before tentatively deciding that the Aberconway was nearer (new addition to the Official Challenge Rules – not having to cross a road can be a deciding factor).

Relieved that this “distance uncertainty” ordeal was finally over, we duly piled into the Aberconway in search of sustenance. This is a Nicholson’s Pub, a chain of about 50 London based pubs owned by one of the industry’s giants, Mitchells and Butlers. Fortunately, these tend to have a bit of a bias towards real ale, so there was a proper choice for us to have a go at. All tasted pretty good, and we took a moment to stop and sup, and reflect on the day so far. We were well into lunchtime by this point, and London was clearly getting into a festive Friday mood – the Aberconway was buzzing and lively and very festive all round. Not necessarily the greatest pub in town, but certainly not the worst – especially for a chain pub. And strangely enough – How come you can wait two and a half days for a Nicholson’s pub, and then two come at once?

Keats @ The Globe (Moorgate) ½ London Pride, ½ Golden Glow, ½ TT Landlord £4.30

Ok, it was a crap joke even if you are sad like me and take an interest in managed pub companies, but anyway, The Globe is indeed another Nicholson’s Pub. Or Keats Bar. Or Keats@ The Globe, or whatever the hell it is officially called. Apparently it actually used to be two separate pubs, which accounts for the split personality/dual names.

It must certainly be confusing for drunks on a Friday night, as it is a big pub that stretches right through from Moorgate to City Road/London Wall ,and it seems to have at least three entrances, all of which are called something different. I went outside to finish my steak pasty and found myself going back into an entirely different pub. I’m pretty sure you could go in with a group of mates, go to the toilet, and then come out and never find them again. Incidentally, the only reason I still had the pasty I had bought at Liverpool Street was because I took my first bite out of it and lost all the skin from the roof of my mouth and all the sensation from my tongue. “Careful, it might be hot”, I was very helpfully told. Better let it cool down for a bit then. It was probably very nice, but I certainly couldn’t tell what it or any of the next three beers actually tasted like.

Anyway, lack of taste buds aside, the beer was again fairly well kept, and interesting too, with Holden’s Golden Glow being a particular winner. A nice touch above the main bar too – they had a “choose the next guest ale” feature, where four possibilities were listed on chalkboards and customers are invited to vote which one they like the sound on – most popular goes on the bar next. All very diplomatic and participation friendly.

I don’t know if Nicholson’s have a competition for the best Christmas decorations, but if they do then bless them, the Keats/Globe boys aren’t going to win. Very assumptive statement to make based on 2 out of fifty outlets, but the fact is, sadly for them they were already in second place.

We supped up and headed for what we desperately hoped was the correct exit.

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