Day 8 (13th June 2009)
So there we were, myself and Keith, feeling confident, 140 Stations in (nearly 150 pubs when you take into account our regular mistakes), and moving on to the “back nine” in our stupendously large round of pub golf. What we needed now was further input from a couple of sane and sensible friends, who could come out with us and make sure that the second half got off to a good, steady start.
Instead, we were joined by Mrs Elizabeth West, who is obviously mad as a hatter – the evidence being that she married me – and our good friend Rhino, who is as nice a bloke as you could possibly wish to meet. He also makes Robin Williams look shy, retiring, and just a little bit dull. And yes, you heard right, he is called Rhino – everybody knows him this way, and the real reason behind the nickname is lost in the mists of time. Seriously, I’d known him for six years before I found out what his real name was, and that was only because I accidentally saw one of his business cards.
With our determined yet slightly eccentric entourage in tow, we set off to tackle the top end of the Bakerloo line. We picked a marginally easier route for the marathon today, since there was a very important factor to take into consideration – Rugby. Not just any rugby of course, but the continuation of the 2009 Lions Tour to South Africa that we had already spent plenty of time speculating about on previous days out. Keith had even gone to the extent of researching specifically which sites might be showing the game today and then calling them to confirm. This way, my wise friend reasoned, we could take a “pit stop” from the relentless pace of the day, and chill out in front of 80 minutes of sublime, champagne rugby.
But that was all to come later. In the meantime, the sun was out, the scent of summer was in the air, mixing beautifully with the aroma of London diesel fumes, and the sound of birdsong was in our ears, along with the distant rumble of planes going in and out of Heathrow. A perfect day to spend underground.
Barrett’s (Harrow and Wealdstone) ½ Strongbow, ½ Heineken, 1 x bt Corona, 1 x Bloody Mary £10.00
We began today’s stage at Harrow and Wealdstone, and started in familiar fashion, as a very short walk brought us to Barrett’s, a traditional Irish Bar no more than 100 yards from the station.
“Let me know if you find one closer” said the barman matter-of-factly as we explained our mission. Barrett’s seems to be the home of the Harrow Hurling Club, and indeed there are tributes to various Gaelic sports all around the pub – including stained glass windows at the front with representations of Hurling and Gaelic football on them. Other than that, it was standard issue stuff all round: No real ales on, dartboard on one wall, small disco booth/stage for Ceilidh band in the front corner. Given the general decor of the bar, it has to be said that my wife fit in pretty well with the bright green coat she was wearing. We also managed to get a bit of early rugby action, as the two TV screens they had were showing Australia pounding the hell out of a beleaguered looking Italian XV.
We sipped our drinks gently as we watched the slaughter before preparing to move on – Keith nobly doing the home brewed option with the Strongbow, me going all continental with my Heineken, Rhino getting some early vitamin C from the lime in his Corona, and Liz drinking a Bloody Mary so rich in Tabasco and Worcester Sauce it looked more like Mulligatawny Soup. Seriously, I was standing five feet away and my eyes were stinging.
Traveller’s Rest (Kenton) 3 x ½ London Pride, 1 x bt Corona £7.09
There are many chains of pub and pub restaurant that we knew we would encounter on this trip, but The Traveller’s Rest was our first official Beefeater – a restaurant chain with a long history and reputation that is right up there with Harvesters at the top of the pile. It’s the kind of place I used to go as a boy for a Scampi and Chips with my family – and other than the carpets it seems that not an awful lot has changed.
This place is huge. A great big building just over the bridge from Kenton Station, with a large garden area at the front. The interior is just as big as the outside promises, with expansive seating areas, raised levels, and a function room to one side. The menu is exactly as you would expect – all standard pub grub fare, and reasonably cheap too. The other new-ish touch that we universally hated was the fact that these places now have Costa Coffee stations at one end of the bar. Perhaps it is meant to inspire confidence in punters – here is a trustworthy brand of coffee for you – but to me and my learned colleagues it just seems like a soulless corporate tie in (Beefeater and Costa are both owned by Whitbread). One of the reasons I go to pubs is precisely because they aren’t the ten-a-penny chains of Nerbucks or Cafe Staro, and I would really appreciate it if large companies would stop in their continuous efforts to make every single beverage based outlet you visit anywhere in the country exactly the bloody same.
Anyway, impassioned ranting aside, we agreed that this place probably offers decent value for money, if not excitement and inspiration. We were slightly disappointed with the ale situation in a pub this size – just two handpumps, and only one of them on. The beer was ok but not great – just cold enough to mask any real flavour, and the fact that it had been on a couple of days too long. Perhaps Rhino was being wise when he stuck to the Corona – or maybe he was just on a mission to make sure he got through his fruit five-a-day at an early stage.