Taylor’s Independent Testing Service made its annual trip to the mystic lands between SE15 and SE12 yesterday, the Super Off-Peak rates winning against the deterrent of Storm Katie. Luckily kick-off at the New Den was put back too, those Burton fans are scary.
I will admit to still getting my Peckhams, Deptfords and Catfords a bit mixed, even after yesterday. I have the same problem with Wigan’s satellite towns, and for similar reasons (similar looking high streets and Beer Guide pubs).
Where Atherton and Tyldesley have a decent Holts or Allgates pub, South-East London suburbs have an Antic and a Spoons in the GBG, if they’re lucky. I remember some very basic Courage pubs around New Cross that look very sad now.
Walking round these places each year helps you get a feel for things like creeping gentrification (more noticeable in the pubs than high streets), the state of civic pride (not too bad), and the impact of Council cuts on cultural facilities (catastrophic).
I started in Peckham at Beer Rebellion, a micro-sized showcase for Late Knights, with a touch of Bermondsey Beer Mile about it, with visible cellars and trestle tables.
I liked this a lot. It’s cheerful, cosy, with a scary beer range. Very “new Berlin” in style, and only let down by an average pale brew in a handle jug, but I could have chosen a better glass if I’d got my act together.
Deptford itself still lacks a monument to Difford and Tilbrook, unless the oddity above is somehow connected, but does have a fair few Victorian gems, including the Royal Albert and Dog & Bell, which I must get round to visiting again. Greenwich just doesn’t appeal for a day trip like it used to though.
The Job Centre is the now familiar conversion of a much-loved facility into a half-finished looking pub by Antic, and very attractive it is too, if a bit open. I had a Beatnik by local Gipsy Hill, again in a Watney’s style mug, but hard to fault (NBSS 3.5).
Some very attractive streets led to St Johns railway station and then to Lee, whose Beer Guide pub seemed to be in a different city as I walked through sleet towards Baring Hall. Lewisham has many strengths; Lee isn’t one of them.
I’m not saying they’re the new Ember, but Antic pubs are a bit predictable – shabby chic, sofas, peeling paint, pale ales etc. Decent beer, decent glass, proper seats though. Looking at WhatPub now I see the building Antic took on was fire damaged, though that look seems to have been integrated into their design ethos well.
Catford’s Constitutional Club was the one I was looking forward to most, with an interesting Beer Guide ride before rescue by Antic. My mum would think it looks like a squat, my sister would say it has a lived-in character. It reminded me of Walthamstow’s Bell, full of children and dogs, I say no more. The Volden Pale was very good (NBSS 3.5).
So four average/good pale beers in four modern London suburb pubs, and busy enough on a public holiday without really convincing me this beer revolution has much legs round here. Real ale still the minority purchase compared to the average Manchester pub. Much better temperature control than north of the Thames, which is a plus.
Again, four beers I’d never heard of before and will probably never again (though Late Knights impressed in Brighton).
Most people would think these pubs had a lot of character, even if they didn’t like the scruffy feel, and I enjoyed them enough. I do, however, find a narrowness of clientele that is little to do with the smoking ban, and it’s the main problem I have with London pubs in general. Clearly I’m part of that problem. Visit the Vine in West Brom if you want to a pub which reflects it’s community.