As I come towards the end of this years new Beer Guide entries for “Greater” London, I’m starting to get full value out my Travelcard by crossing the dangerous border into Surrey when I can.
On Tuesday that meant the train to the furthest extremity of Zone 6 at Hampton Court, crossing the road to East Molesey. Three new contrasting pubs here within ten minutes of each other, which is a result when you’ve done 80% of the GBG and it’s largely an accumulation of singles from now on.
The Mute Swan faces the Palace, and turns out to be a surprisingly pubby Brunning & Price outlet. It’s also very empty, the pleasing upstairs restaurant particularly so.
I can only think that the Palace and Maze aren’t as big a draw as I thought, particularly in sleet. I’m no fan of history, but rate Hampton Court very highly. My then ten year old son was genuinely terrified of the Henry VIII actor (I hope it was an actor), always a thrill for every parent.
An only slightly reduced beer range made choosing a half the usual problem in a B&P. The Triple fff Moondance was pleasantly flat (NBSS 3) though I could tell the pleasant barmaid hadn’t pulled much cask through that day. Not a bad advert for the English dining pub.
Even more pleasant as it has two pubs opposite each other in the Beer Guide. Keeping the theme of surprising branches of pub chains, the basic looking Albion is a surprise Ember Inn that we visited a year or so ago. It was very pubby but chaotic; the food we ordered never actually came which is very un-Ember like.
The Prince of Wales is rather more professional, and much more West London in style with an emphasis on food in modernised surroundings. I didn’t like it, but that may be because the Old Dairy had a weird straw taste that a beer peasant like me can’t describe.
Much more my style, and coincidentally (!) with an average age 20 years higher than the PoW, was the lopsided Bell. Literally lopsided, if not quite Crooked House Himley wobbly. This is what I expect from the London/Surrey borders; tradesmen discussing glass cutting, boyfriend/girlfriend arguments, Fosters and Courage Best. And a decent cheap house beer from Twickenham (NBSS 3), even though it’s another Greene King pub.
I’ve been to similarly good boozers over the Thames in Hampton. There is, though, a fine dividing line between pubs like this where people sit and chat, and the monstrosities where they all collect at the bar.
I actually quite rate Surrey as a county. Quite apart from the Surrey Hills, there’s some really attractive parkland inside the M25 south of Croydon, and along the Hog’s Back. If I could find a decent pint of Surrey Hills it would rate even higher.