Day 5 cntd (Jan 17th 2009)
Establishment (Parsons Green) 1 x bt Peroni, 1 x bt Old Peculiar £7.80
Parsons Green is a serious Mecca for proper beer fans, mainly because this is where you will find The White Horse – which has consistently been, one of the best pubs in the country for both cask ale and interesting bottled beer. It was clearly not destined to be for these two hop happy travellers today though, since The White Horse isn’t even the second closest pub to Parsons Green station.
There is a small champagne bar called Amuse Bouche about 100 yards from the station entrance, but even closer than that – right opposite in fact – is The Establishment. It’s actually a very nice bar/restaurant type of place, but the decor is pure 70’s. Brown leather seems to be everywhere, and there is some fantastic wallpaper on one side of the room that is straight out of Del Trotters’ flat. In fact, Keith was convinced he had the exact same wallpaper in his bedroom many years ago: “And it was cool, even back then” he claimed. The look was completed with some trendy looking light fixtures and a few black and white canvas prints of iconic movie stars dotted around the walls.
The Establishment has a good looking food menu and a fairly extensive cocktail list. No chance of draught in such a place of course, but when my compadre spotted Old Peculiar on the beer list he couldn’t resist indulging, and I certainly wasn’t going to argue. It was still Baltic outside, so we opted not to sup our beers in the small courtyard garden at the back, and instead took our places at a high table near the bar. At this point I discovered that I clearly needed training in the use of a Dictaphone, because I had evidently just been pressing Play rather than Play/Record, and so utterly failed to record what were – presumably – priceless pearls of wisdom regarding the drinking venues we had frequented so far today. It’s a miracle we’ve got any notes at all to be honest.
We had a chat with the barman, who was a Kiwi called Marcus, who was most intrigued to hear about our quest, and even positively excited to hear that we had done the Circle Line challenge before Christmas. Apparently all the antipodeans who go out and do it actually carry their drinks with them between pubs to save time. Sounds a bit soft if you ask me.
I nipped off to the loo before we left, and discovered a stylised Little Boys Room in keeping with the feel of the pub as a whole. They had some of those interesting (I almost said “cool” – but seriously, how cool can a toilet be?) chrome urinals jutting out of the wall. One of them was actually out of order, and the management had put a little sign on it saying “We apologize for the inconvenience”. Some super intelligent wag had written above this with Oscar Wilde levels of wit: “Piss Off Ugly”. Nice.
The Eight Bells (Putney Bridge) 2 x ½ Hogsback T.E.A. £3.00
We arrived at Putney Bridge just as the sun came out – and no matter what time of the year it is, when the sun is shining on the River Thames it is a pretty special thing. In fact, 15-20 degrees warmer and it would have been perfect. We wandered around the corner to The Eight Bells to bask in the genial blue glow of slightly tipsy Chelsea fans.
This place is indeed Chelsea-tastic – at least it was on this particular match day. In spite of this (sorry, this is from a Liverpool fan), it really is a cracking boozer. Slightly old school in style, a horseshoe bar in the middle, with various pub type ornaments on the shelves around the walls. The bar staff were hugely cheerful and charming, resplendent in Chelsea t-shirts, and the unmistakeable smell of proper, traditional pub grub wafted tantalisingly across the room. Roast dinners, chicken and chips, ham, egg and chips plus various other winter comfort foods were being served to the punters, fortifying them against the cold (along with the beer no doubt), before the gentle stagger up to Stamford Bridge for the match.
“Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea.” Said our notes, and they weren’t wrong. Possibly our favourite sight of the day was to be found in the corner of the Eight Bells. A table of six had settled in for pre-match lunch. Three of them were typical football blokes in jeans and Chelsea shirts, two of them were very well coiffured football ladies, also in Chelsea shirts. The sixth member of the party was a Chelsea Pensioner – sat there, upright and proud in full red-tunic regalia complete with several shiny medals. He was drinking beer out of a tankard and clearly having a whale of a time. I bet he was the first one starting the chants on the terraces later.
There were only two ales on – London Pride and Hogsback T.E.A. (Traditional English Ale) – we went for the latter and found it to be a very pleasant drop. As we prepared to leave, we saw the plaque on the wall offering guidance on behaviour in the pub – “House Rules: Rule No1. The Bartender is always right. Rule No.2 If Bartender is wrong, see Rule No1.” Fair enough really.
The Prince of Wales (East Putney) ½ Red Stripe, ½ London Pride £3.35
Putney Station Bar (East Putney) 1 x Gin and Tonic, ½ Guinness £4.70
Right then, as previously indicated, the sun was shining on the river which makes everything alright, and so despite the continuing cold snap, we took a walk across Putney Bridge itself to take in the London air (our rules clearly state that we must enter OR leave every station but walking between two is fine). Of course, by the time I realised that “Er, sorry, it’s not down this one, it’s the next road along, it runs parallel to this one, er, yeah ok, it is an extra third of a mile” – we were in danger of getting frostbite, and so were almost pathetically grateful when the Prince of Wales came into view. It was obviously the closest pub to the station, because a) our infallible research said so, and b) a cursory glance up the street towards the Underground sign revealed nothing that looked like a licensed premises – which of course led us to make our traditional, minimum-once-a-day cock up of getting the wrong pub.
Still, there was nothing wrong with The Prince of Wales – a short stroll past the outside area (full of furiously smoking Chelsea fans) takes you through the corner door and into a cosy pub whose main distinguishing feature was that there were literally hundreds of ornate tankards hanging off hooks across seemingly every inch of wall space.
We had to ask why, of course, and the Barman very matter-of-factly told us that they were for the regulars. He may have been taking the piss of course because that would be a lot of regulars for one thing, and for another there were about 30 people in the pub, precisely none of whom were supping from a tankard. Still, the food looked good – crab on toast and chicken livers, which seems perfect for the Chelsea Set.
We contentedly took ourselves off towards the station to continue on our way, only to be confronted by the fact that there is blatantly a bar right by the entrance – which of course we would have seen instantly had we not gone for our stroll across the river and gone by train instead. Oh, the devastating irony.
In we wandered, into a strange sort of American Diner/Coffee Shop/Bar hybrid. Instant brownie points were earned for showing Heineken Cup Rugby on the TVs rather than racing or football news, and then lost straight away when we discovered that they had no English beer at all. Manuela served us with a smile – possibly because yet again we were the only people in there without Chelsea shirts on. It was actually a surprisingly big place too – according to our notes there was “some sort of upstairs bar, another downstairs bit, and a bit of a terrace out the back”. Exhaustive journalism at its best.
The temptation to stop and watch some more Rugby was there, but of course yet another wrong turn had put us behind time again. Drink up, wrap up and hit the road. Or tracks. Or whatever, let’s just go shall we?