Day 9 cntd (18th July 2009)
The Gregorian (Bermondsey) 2 x ½ Courage Best £2.90
Having emerged from the Albion unscathed, we decided that we couldn’t face the slog back to the soulless hell of Canada Water station, and so a brisk stroll towards Bermondsey was in order. We began comically counting the number of steps from each pub we passed just in case we needed to measure it out, only to find that despite being the other side of the station itself, The Gregorian was definitely closest by some distance.
We weren’t expecting anything outstanding in this part of town, in fact we were just hoping to find pubs that we had a reasonable chance of leaving alive. In this respect we struck it lucky with the Gregorian. It was fairly unremarkable in most aspects, but more importantly was a relatively safe pit stop for us – large, non-descript and non-threatening. It had a big central bar, surrounded by another wildly experimental patterned pub carpet, plus an outside smoking/drinking area that was actually quite welcoming. They also had the usual Sky Sports centred TVs around the room and a Pool Table in one corner of the room. Another corner held the freshly set up rigging for what was clearly going to be a rocking disco later on. Apparently they are well into live music too, and a sign proclaimed that “Born At The End” were playing next week.
Completing the picture were the usual mainstream lagers were ranged along the bar, and unfortunately only two of the four hand pumps had ales on. Probably the most interesting thing about the whole pub, however, was the specials board which was offering “Haggis and Cranberry Meatloaf with Chips and Gravy – £4.30”. Highly unexpected, and God knows it could have been awful, but at least it was interesting.
Number 1 Bar (London Bridge) 1 x bt Corona, 1 x bt Courage Light Ale £6.00
The Old Kings Head (London Bridge) 2 x ½ Bombardier £3.00
It seems to have been a long time since one of our usual cock-ups involving marching into the wrong pub, so it almost felt good to get it wrong at London Bridge.
Firstly we were grateful that we wouldn’t be drinking at the grotty station pub due to the fact that renovations in the station itself meant that the bar had recently been, rather helpfully, knocked down. There seemed to be a number of other options open to us, so we decided that we’d better just see what was closest to the entrance we came out on. We ended up on Tooley Street, which meant that we were drawn to the slightly dubious looking doorway across the road leading to the Number 1 bar.
Up the stairs we went, pausing only to grab a free donut sample from the cafe next door. We emerged into a very basic American Pool Bar which can’t be very old, but still managed to look slightly down-at-heel. They had four huge American style tables (£8.00 per hour, since you asked), plus one traditional English pub table (£1 per frame) which frankly looked a bit sad next to its transatlantic cousins.
Still the service was good and the staff pleasant, although this might be the only Pool Bar in the world where you’ll find a traditional bottled Light Ale on the drinks list. Unfortunately the food menu looked as though it had been put together in all of twenty minutes both in terms of the dishes available, and the menu cards themselves. One final surprise that Number 1 had to offer was a secret downstairs bar that I accidently discovered when I was searching for the loo. Alas, I couldn’t investigate further since it was decidedly closed, and obviously being kept for the late night crowd.
We moved on, intending to stroll gently up the road to Borough and our next destination, and it was at this point that we realised that we might have got the wrong site. Sitting in a small alley just alongside the Borough High Street entrance to London bridge was a lively looking boozer called The Old Kings Head. It was far too close for comfort in calculating the distances, so we bravely accepted that we’d better go in, just to make sure.
And thank God we did, because this Pub was a little cracker. It was heavingly busy (although it only needed about 15 people in the bar to achieve this effect – it was that small). They had no less than four TVs in this tiny oasis, and brilliantly one of these was facing the alley outside so that smokers or indeed passers-by could still get a look at the cricket. They had Bombardier, Butcombe and London Pride on (the beers we had were in excellent nick), and thankfully the chap who served us didn’t live up to the legend on the sign behind the bar which cheerfully stated “Warning – The Bartender is a Mean Old Bastard”. There are several good pubs in the Borough Market area, and thankfully this is one of them. It wouldn’t have been right having just the Number 1 Bar as our memory of the area, and quite frankly it broke up the walk nicely.
The Trinity (Borough) ½ Stowford Press, 2 x ½ St Edmunds Ale £4.75
Does the pub name and station look familiar? What about this:
“It’s a Greene King owned site, with the usual selection of ales (at least there were ales on). A nice open plan bar with lots of wood and a variety of seating ranging from the very casual out front, to simple dining arrangements towards the back of the room. For us, however, there was only one focal point – the wallpaper to the rear of the bar which was a spectacular flowered affair which by all rights should have been unforgettable.”
Seriously, how could we have forgotten that we had been to The Trinity before? Especially considering the wallpaper. Looking back at my notes, I had even written “I’ve been here before – can’t remember when!” Muppet. Perhaps we were just excited about the fact that we had just received a call from another friend, Sian, who was coming to meet us for a “couple of pubs” (she stayed with us till the end of the day). Perhaps it really was the biting winds and freezing temperatures during our last visit in January. Not a problem this time of course, with it being a balmy summers evening all the folding front glass doors were open. Aah, maybe that was it – the frontage must have looked very different when the windows were all closed.
Happily ensconced and blissfully unaware of our previous form in the Trinity, we sat down at the bar with some St Edmunds Ale (not amazing, but certainly well kept) and welcomed Sian to the tour (with grateful smiles, since she got the round in). It was a nicely laid out bar with a decent looking menu, the aforementioned wallpaper, and a slightly ridiculous Sudoku Box/Celebrity Squares Grid (delete according to age) on the wall, which contained lots of fairy lights and the letters C.A.R.P.E. D.I.E.M. spelt out in the boxes. The message is clear – Seize the day, see your friends in the pub and drink more beer. Or just watch Dead Poet’s Society on DVD.