The Greystoke (North Ealing) ½ Stella, ½ Strongbow, ½ London Pride £4.37
Remember this one? Sadly, we did. The temptation to just not go there was enormous, but no, it was the closest bar to two tube stations, and therefore we needed to visit it twice. We timed it perfectly too, arriving just as England were 10 minutes into their friendly at Wembley, taking on the might of Slovenia. At least this meant that the pub was busier than the last time we had seen it – although bizarrely, it didn’t seem as big as we remembered second time round. Perhaps we had just seen too much in the intervening time.
It had the same “4 for 3” bottle offer that we’d seen lots of times today, and perhaps people should stick to these, because £3.79 for a pint of Stella seems pretty bloody extortionate for a pub of this nature. £2.79 for a London Pride was a bit more like it. They had some meal offers for £2.99, but seriously, how good can the ingredients be at that price?
We decided not to linger, because the football was still dull at this point, and the pub was offering nothing new, other than the vague impression that it had shrunk, or we had grown. There was no sign of the landlord and his cardigan either. Perhaps they were both in the wash.
As we prepared to leave we received a couple of phone calls which could mean only one thing – more guest stars! With luck not one, but two more brave souls would be joining us at the next stop.
The Pleasure Boat (Alperton) ½ Kronenbourg, ½ John Smiths, ½ Strongbow, Pint Guinness, 1 x Glass Red Wine £10.25
The first of our new heroes duly turned up almost immediately after we arrived at Alperton station – Jim Bannerman, patriotic Scot and all round top bloke who had joined us fresh from Twickenham watching Saracens absolutely destroy London Irish 18 – 14 in the opening match of the Premiership season. It was obviously as one sided as the scoreline suggests.
It was only a very short walk to the marvellously named Pleasure Boat on Ealing Road – presumably so named because it backs on to a stretch of the Grand Union Canal. From a distance it didn’t look particularly exciting, but appearances can be deceiving. We needed to board the Boat and find out more.
The first thing that we noticed was that they had a TV in the small front garden area. Interesting stuff, although thankfully it wasn’t quite visible enough for all the passersby to just stop in the street and stare at it. We wandered in to the main deck and gazed around at a slightly shabby interior, with nautical bits and bobs arranged around the bar and the walls with a couple of big screen TVs interspersed (still showing the England friendly at this point). As we ordered our drinks we were immediately joined by our second new crew member, as Phil Cockcroft arrived – a gentleman, raconteur and enthusiast for the finer things in life who wasted no time getting stuck into the red wine.
On the Port side of the bar there was a Pool table for ship mates to entertain themselves with (ok that’s enough of the rubbish boat related terms), but other than that the bar area itself was fairly sparse – except for the back bar which was jauntily decorated with a model lighthouse, a disco ball and an inflatable pint of Guinness. It was slightly unnerving in the Gents toilets though, as the cubicles had saloon doors, which meant that other people could study your ankles if you went number two.
On the plus side they had a garden area outside, alongside the canal, which was fairly pleasant, but the glaring negative was that yet again we had a big traditional looking British pub building, where they just couldn’t be arsed to stock any real ale, and just contented themselves with a bog standard range of tasteless fizzy pop. Time to head for the shore – this Pleasure Boat has clearly run aground (sorry).
The Fusilier (Sudbury Town) 2 x ½ Guinness, 2 x ½ Kronenbourg, ½ Strongbow £8.00
We continued north to Sudbury Town, where it was another sodding mission just to find the pub – it wasn’t the distance this time, it was the fact that we thought we were looking for The Black Lion originally, and also the fact that we had to go round several corners confused us. Plus, we had to be careful – we were now up to a magnificent five people in our group, which pretty much constitutes a gang in this part of town.
When we eventually found it, The Fusilier looked like a very basic 20th Century estate pub, although it does market itself as “the perfect place for any Wembley event” because it has hotel rooms and it is apparently “within walking distance of Wembley Stadium and Wembley Arena”. That is to say that it is just over a mile away and there are only four train/tube stations that are closer. Still, the hotels rooms were being advertised as “from” £35 per night, which can’t be bad.
Again, it wasn’t necessarily a terrible place, but there were certainly no surprises either – a menu that basically consisted of curry or a full English, Sky Sports on the big TVs around the room, pool tables in the corner, the usual carpet situation (rancid), and the offer of a “Disco Weekend”. Marvellous. However, the fact that they had three hand pumps on the bar which looked like they hadn’t been used in years was annoying, and frankly, two and a half pints for eight quid is a bit sobering this far out of town. Perhaps the draught prices were high to try and entice people into purchasing what must have been a job-lot of Foster’s and Carlsberg bottles, which were not only being sold off at £1.30 a pop, but were also being advertised using those really horrendous, crappy little fluorescent cardboard stars that you see in the worst kind of shabby independent supermarket/off license.
Jim immediately endeared himself to the group at this point by buying us some dinner consisting of a selection of nuts to give us a much needed energy boost. And I do mean a selection as well – salted, dry roasted and chilli nuts. A positive myriad of nut options. Well done sir.
The Rising Sun (Sudbury Hill) 2 x bt Corona, ½ Kronenbourg, ½ John Smiths, ½ Guinness £9.50
Ah, it was nice to find a walk that was shorter than expected every once in a while, and so it was with the Rising Sun – a brief stroll from Sudbury Hill, and the second pub in a row to be offering rooms for £35 a night.
It was in fact positioned as “Bar! Indian Restaurant! Bed and Breakfast! In that order!”, as I shouted enthusiastically into the Dictaphone. As soon as we walked inside, myself and Lewis felt like we had hit some sort of time warp – could it be that long ago that we were in a pub in Ealing up the road, being forced to watch Cheryl Cole be all gooey eyed at her contestants on the X Factor? And yet here we were again in the same situation, only with a new batch of talentless Muppets offering themselves up for National ridicule (and by that I mean the entrants on telly, not the people on our pub crawl).
The Indian Restaurant has taken over one whole side of the old pub building, which greatly reduces the size of the bar itself. Further space was taken up with a couple of pool tables, but at least the bar itself had had a bit of modernisation – dark panelling, low sofas and the like.
Immediate criticism came from our man Shirt, who had headed straight for the Gents when we arrived and instantly declared them to be the “worst he had seen today”. Which must have been pretty bad, considering some of the pubs we had been in. Still, he cheered up when someone put a selection of Metal on the jukebox so he could rock out with his air guitar.
Ok that’s enough about the bar, its confession time. Whilst animatedly discussing the X Factor and just how much certain aspects of it disgusted me, it would seem I gesticulated just a little too wildly. In short, I knocked over my Corona. The fact that I recovered quickly and saved two thirds of it was irrelevant; I was subject to an immediate, and fully justified, barrage of abuse from my companions. In discussions with Mr Lewis, we concluded that this was actually the first thing I had spilled all tour (over two hundred pubs so far), but even this knowledge couldn’t drown out the mocking laughter ringing in my ears. Curse my clumsy fat fingers.
Lewis, of course, is yet to spill anything.