Day 6 cntd (April 4th 2009)
The Riverside (Vauxhall) ½ Bombardier, 2 x ½ Youngs Bitter £4.81
We would have moved on to Vauxhall considerably quicker, of course, had I not lost my first Travelcard of the day at this point (yes I did say “first”, which is a joyous hint of more inept hilarity to come). I wouldn’t have minded, but I had to then suffer the indignity of my brother going into “Teacher Mode” on the street outside the station – where he made me check all my pockets again, systematically, and under his watchful eye, before taking my bag off me and searching that too. But, alas, it really was gone, so I had no choice but to stump up for another one before we could finally travel the requisite one stop to the next pub. Idiot.
Well, the research here had pointed to The Royal Vauxhall Tavern – a very famous gay pub just around the corner. Unfortunately when we got there, it was immediately clear that the pub only opened in the evenings, and so a rethink was required. There is actually an entrance on the North side of the station which brings you out under the shadow of the giant green-windowed St Georges Wharf apartment buildings, and in the middle of this complex you will find a newish Youngs pub called The Riverside, situated, appropriately, on the riverside.
You meander through the large terrace outside to find the entrance hidden amongst the full length windows that make up pretty much two sides of the pub. Its all fairly new furniture in an open plan design, but manages not to look too “chainey”. It is perhaps lacking something – buzz, atmosphere, or maybe soul – but that may be just because it is a new build in a new build apartment complex. The food menu looked good, if fairly standard pub stuff, and the staff were thoroughly polite. We took our ales (very good condition – but then you’d expect that from a place like this), and wandered out on to the terrace to take in the majesty of our Capital’s great river. Although, it was low tide, so it was a bit muddy and scruffy around the edges. However, with the sun shining and a view to The Big Wheel in one direction (alright then the London Eye, if we must be accurate), and Battersea Power Station in the other, it has to be said that there are many, many worse places in the world to find yourself on a Saturday afternoon with a beer in your hand. Three pubs in, and two have offered us the chance to drink in the sunshine! Not a bad start at all.
The Gallery (Pimlico) ½ Bombardier, 2 x ½ Harveys Bitter £4.80
A brief absence of Al Fresco drinking here though, as we came out of Pimlico station and immediately saw The Gallery over the road. It is a relatively small Spirit (managed pub group) venue, with pretty much no room outside at all bar a token table and chair effort for the smokers. Bijou and compact, but not at all unpleasant, it had three real ales on (the two that we tried were in pretty good condition), and even Peroni on draught, which made a nice change from just the usual mainstream brands you find in places like this.
It seems to have been around for a while too. Apparently it was built in 1840 (it looked like it still had the original carpet), by a chap called Thomas Cubitt aka “The Man Who Built Pimlico”. He was a true master builder who spent alot of time around this end of town during the mid-nineteenth century. He even built part of Buckingham Palace. Good form sir.
Most things in The Gallery would be described as typical of a traditional British pub. Plenty of wood, a couple of fruit machines, slightly battered looking bar stools and so on. The picture was completed by a simple but decent looking food menu full of standard pub fare. “A good, honest pub” said our guest, and he wasn’t wrong.
The Duke of York (St John’s Wood) 1 bt Corona, ½ Strongbow, ½ Leffe £7.50
Fast forward a couple of stops and a quick change of trains, and we found ourselves on the Jubilee line, where our first port of call was St John’s Wood. Here we found a lovely pub called The Duke of York, which had just enough room outside for us to continue soaking up the rays as we nursed our beers. Marvellous.
It’s a quirky place (almost “Gastro”) that has clearly had a bit of modernization away from the traditional pub image, but has clearly benefitted from this. The lack of Real ale was forgivable due to the fact that the staff were delightful, the food looked and smelled wonderful, and the all round ambience was most pleasant.
We sat at our outside table and watched the populace of St John’s Wood go by, noticing the high proportion of convertible cars on the street and the even higher proportion of ladies wandering by with immaculate hair, expensive handbags and huge sunglasses. Perhaps we should have expected this though. The fact that the pub toilets had L’Occitane perfumed handwash and hand lotion in them should have been a clue. We could quite happily have sat there for a very long time, but I fear that in the long term it just would have made us twisted and bitter at the wealthy and smug lifestyles we could see on display all around us.
As we made our way back to the tube, we remembered that today was in fact Grand National day, and that in the interests of journalism, we really should have a little bet. Having spotted a Ladbrokes just around the corner we wandered in and inexpertly chose some horses (method: stare at the newspapers on the wall and pretend to be intently studying the form, before either sticking a pin in, or just asking the bloke in the corner of the bookies who looks like he’s part of the furniture). Now we just needed to plan our next couple of stations so that we could be in a bar with a TV whilst the race was on.
Two more mistakes on my part at this point. Firstly, I neglected to check my phone for messages and therefore missed the call from my dear wife asking me to put a bet on for her (definite consequences there). Secondly, and even more brilliantly, I discovered that I had lost my second Travelcard. That’s right, another one. Even Gareth didn’t bother giving me “Teacher mode” this time, since he and Keith were too busy doubling up with laughter.
I have since found that the new jeans I was wearing that day seem to be designed to gently expel stuff from the back pockets without you noticing, but that is a fairly crap excuse, and would have been scant comfort to me as I queued yet again at another ticket counter. Still an idiot, then.