Day 10 cntd (8th August 2009)
Tom and Jerry’s (West Ham) 3 x Jack Daniel’s £15.00
Now this was truly weird. It being West Ham, we had naturally assumed that there were any number of East London Boozers in the immediate vicinity of the station, but the research told us that we would probably have to walk a couple of hundred yards up the road to get to the Spread Eagle. What we found, however, was not the Spread Eagle at all, but a Nigerian wine bar and restaurant with the classic pub/diner name of Tom and Jerry’s.
It was fairly heaving too, in fact the atmosphere was great, with some serious party tunes in the background, lots of people clearly having a good time, and a large buffet set up on one side of the room – I have to say that the smells coming from the buffet trays were truly wonderful. We had a minor debate about whether it was actually a valid bar in terms of the quest, but Keith immediately pointed out that there were indeed bar stools set up and therefore Tom and Jerry’s qualified status was assured.
Now for the even more random bit. No beer of any kind, just an array of spirits on offer, but no spirits seemingly available by the measure – when you have six bottles of Gordon’s behind the bar of varying sizes (from quarter bottle through to 1.5 litre), it does seem a little bit churlish to refuse to open just one to pour three Gin and Tonics. When we asked what was on offer, we were told that we could have shots of Jack Daniel’s. Hardly in keeping with our English drink quest, but beggars can’t be choosers can they?
Although, looking back, given that we were charged £15 for three 35 ml measures of JD, we probably should have just plumped for the half bottle of Gin which we could have bought for £20. Makes much more economic sense.
The Old Duke of Cambridge (Bromley-By-Bow) 3 x ½ Spitfire, ½ Stella £5.70
The Duke of Wellington (Bromley-By-Bow) 1 bt Stella, 2 x ½ Strongbow, ½ Fosters £5.70
We moved on to Bromley by Bow, with the knowledge that we had an impending visit from another TOMB regular – our Scottish correspondent Liam was on his way. We told him we would meet him at The Old Duke of Cambridge, which our increasingly unreliable research was telling us was the closest pub to the station.
We set about finding the station ourselves, turning off the main road by what looked like a derelict warehouse, and moved towards a housing estate where we could clearly see the vision that was The Old Duke sitting just beyond the tangled maze of a kid’s playground. We took the safe option and circumnavigated rather than risking a nasty fall from the climbing bars.
As we walked in, we immediately realised that this was the perfect pub for any serious drinker with kids (we actually had our friend Mr Adam Stock in mind if we are honest) – because you can live in a house no more than twenty yards away, the beer is good, you can have salt of the earth type conversations with the other locals, plus you can sit in the bar, and by simply turning your head slightly you can keep watch over your kids who are playing on the climbing frame in the park. You almost never need leave your beer unattended.
The Old Duke wasn’t hugely busy whilst we were there, but we were joined temporarily by the landlady Millie, who was very funny and hugely entertaining all round, posed happily for a photo with us, and wasn’t even fazed when she saw Liam striding purposefully towards the bar in – gasp – a pair of shorts. She also kindly informed us that although she was happy to have our custom, there was no way this was the closest pub to the station, and hadn’t we seen the Duke of Wellington up on the corner?
Yep, that’s right. That strange and derelict building we had seen earlier was actually a pub, and as we looked behind the tree branches and above the broken window on the way back we could just about read the old sign that read “Duke of Wellington”. We girded our collective loins and went in.
It was only slightly less derelict inside, and by far the best thing about it was the soundtrack, which was a steady stream of Blur that someone had decided to put on. Apart from that, all the features ranged from the slightly unpleasant to the completely random: an odd smelling, sticky carpet covered half the room; there was a small table near the front with a strange selection of books positioned on it, presumably so the locals can come in and spend a quiet hour with a pint and a ten year old Patricia Cornwall novel; unnecessarily high urinals that mean that the shorter gentlemen among us would surely have to stand right back and aim in a high arc; Spurs and Celtic flags adorning the walls (surely dangerous in this part of town?); and most spectacularly of all, a motorbike parked on the dance floor in front of the small stage. Brilliant.
The Little Driver (Bow Road) 3 x Harvey’s Bitter, 1 x bt Bulmer’s £8.90
Time was marching on, and so must we. It always throws a spanner in to the works making a mistake and therefore doubling up on pubs at one station, so it was relief to find that The Little Driver would have been incredibly difficult to miss, even for us.
This was a Victorian type Station pub that had clearly been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and the result was actually not too bad. It had been given a fresh lick of paint, and it looked like the bar had been opened out and smartened up into something, if not actually gastropub, then definitely teetering on the cusp of serving jus instead of gravy. They had a couple of ales on, and the Harvey’s was nice and fresh, and the round would probably have been fairly cheap, but for the inclusion of a Bulmer’s – although to be fair to Liam, he was playing catch up.
There were chandeliers around the room and a big central bar, but the jewel in the crown for this place is probably the beer garden out back – large, nicely set out and welcoming. Alas, our time here was already done though, and we moved on towards the final stages of our day out, passing ex-locals outside the pub as we went, muttering under their breath about when this was a proper pub, where they could relax in comfortable, grubby surroundings and indulge in their favourite pastimes – “ten pints and a fight: a great British night!”. How times have changed in East London.