Despite my reservations on this site about the gentrification of London’s pubs, and inconsistent beer quality, I do still love the place.
Weekends are the time to visit, with Travelcards less than half-price and those yummy-mummy Sunday lunches to enjoy. A light drizzle wasn’t stopping me finishing off South-east and South-west London’s Beer Guide entries. I didn’t have a ticket for Her Majesty’s 90th but the chance to see a real Cockerney street party knees-up was too good to miss.
New Beer Guide pubs round here consist of;
- Micropubs (for some years to come I think)
- Wetherspoons (less so recently)
- Antic (who seem to be expanding into ever more marginal locations)
- Basic locals suddenly recognised for years of consistently serving basic beers well
- New brewery showpieces e.g. Late Knights
My first new tick, the Wallington Arms, took me on the epic journey from Victoria to Hackbridge, and showed just how far Antic have stretched their empire of late.
Ten years ago I couldn’t have placed Hackbridge on the map, now I can give a Mum directions to its Grammar school in a suburb of Wallington, a suburb of Croydon, a suburb of etc. etc. Unlike the Italian tourists on the tube, she wasn’t at all impressed at my instructions, framed as “Left at the Duke’s Head, right at the Rose & Crown, neither in the Beer Guide though”.
I must have been to Wallington before, as I recognised the Spoons, but the place is supremely nondescript, and the Conservation area is not The Shambles.
The Wallington Arms is, therefore, an unexpected joy, at least once you get past the brutalist exterior. There is less of the shabby chic look familiar to Antic devotees, but plenty of attractive and traditional touches.
That styling might account for a wider age range than I’ve seen in Walthamstow or Peckham Antics, and a lack of obvious hipsters. The Wetherspoons across the road is shabby rather than chic, and I suspect my Mum would have picked this one for lunch too.
I found it very cosy, helped by staff who offered a choice of glasses, said “Hello” and “Goodbye”, and a lack of overwhelming Sunday lunch smells. The Antic-brewed Volden Pale was both tasty (NBSS 3.5) and relatively cheap at £3.60 a pint.
Across lovely Croydon, The Joiners Arms in South Norwood was a similar triumph for Croydon & Sutton CAMRA, and about as big a contrast as a pub tourist could hope for.
On the walk from the tram I became increasingly convinced I’d been here before on a trip to Selhurst Park (lost 2-1), but it soon became clear that South Norwood is full of pubs like this. None will have the traditional atmosphere and properly chilled Pride (NBSS 3) served up by the wonderful landlady though.
This pub has the same warmth as the Bull in Shooters Hill I visited last month, though perhaps a little less love for Charlton Athletic. The Euros were on but the fish tank was more interesting. All the other punters were in the smoking shelter.
Back to reality for my final South London tick, a tortuous 45 minute journey on the 197 toward Peckham. The bus never made it, a victim of clogged streets near the Redeemed Church of God’s street party on the way to Forest Hill.
I walked the last two miles, with a coffee stop in The Capitol giving me a chance to observe Wetherspoons new staff automation (Kraftwerk) in practice.
The Great Exhibition in posh East Dulwich has a lot going for it. Intriguing architecture, old pub signs, modern art, live jazz, family atmosphere, Sunday lunches, Siren Pale (NBSS 3), toilets labelled M for Mademoiselle, young ladies wearing very visible thongs.
I’ve given you the facts; you can guess what I thought of it.