Basing my travels around the Beer Guide means that I have to visit some challenging places, including the home of “Rugby”, at least once a year. Last year my visit coincided with some Rugby Sevens tournament, which meant beer in plastic glasses, over-excited middle-class families, and loads of these.
Only the brilliance of the Sussex Arms redeemed Twickers on that occasion. I checked the fixtures this time, and unusually Jan 1 was a virtual sport-free day. It also had the benefit of a super-offpeak train fare.
I started my walk at Kew Gardens, visiting the Tap on the Line, a recent Fuller conversion of part of the station and very attractive it is too.
It reminded me stylistically of the Parcel Yard at King’s Cross, on a much smaller scale. This also meant the beer range was tighter, rarely a bad thing.
On the downside, the pub felt like a crèche (a theme for the day), with the conservatory entirely taken over by families with small children. I like to see children in pubs, but middle-class parents rarely seem able to exercise any control over them when they’re drinking. Seating was a bit fussy too.
On the upside, I’d have been happy to sit in a ball pool in a Wacky Warehouse drinking London Pride as good as this (NBSS 4). Inexplicably, it had a touch of the best Draught Bass about it, which almost made me abandon my plans for Twickenham and walk back to the Express Tavern in Brentford for their famous Bass. I really should have done.
The area around Kew Gardens station is a particularly appealing residential suburb, with a number of cosy looking pubs.
It was a bit of a slog along the A307 through Richmond, in dull drizzle, and the Aleksander looked appealing with it’s outside heaters and green tiling. Inside, reaching the bar through an assault course of designer pushchairs rather took the gloss off; getting to the toilets was even more dispiriting.
Again though, the beer was good (Oakham Citra NBSS 3); but I had to stand in the heated smoking area to enjoy it. With more inclination to stay I might have let curiosity lead me to a pint of this;
and pondered whether the pub shared its name with all of its customers.
There are some attractive streets around St Margarets, and I enjoyed an aimless ramble close to the Thames.
Obviously one thing that sets London apart from the rest of the country is that it has a river, and its riverside pubs are lauded, despite generally being very dull affairs now. The White Swan looked particularly attractive as dusk fell, but I should have been warned by WhatPub’s “foodie pub” description.
Several tables were empty, all with “reserved from 4pm” signs. Taking a seat on the smallest with my £4.20 pint of Portobello (NBSS 2.5) at 3.45, I was subjected to a succession of middle-class stares, and one chap with a hat reading out the time – 3.54, 3.55 etc. Sensing an eviction, I finished my pint in the rain.
The only place that wasn’t full of children was the Spoons, which also had the most polite staff of the day, and the best fire.
Decent enough beer, though not great drinking in West London, but at least that’s the Beer Guide done for another year there.