I’d been looking forward to Brentwood for a while, my visit probably not as big a boost to their embryonic tourism industry as TOWIE. I did once watch TOWIE while on holiday under the misapprehension that it was real.
To be honest the big appeal of the ‘Wood was the chance to tick off a tricky pub in Gidea Park on the way back to Liverpool Street. The Ship was closed for a wake, so you’ll have to wait for that joy.
Brentwood almost made up for that disappointment, through a combination of street art (top), beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral, and almshouses.
It’s a town of weatherboarded houses, private estates and country parks, though it suffers from a hideous High Street (but then, so does Durham). Little has changed in the main drag since I came here occasionally after dressing-downs at NHS Regional Headquarters in Highwood Hospital.
O’Neill’s and Slug and Lettuce still dominate the pub scene, and what used to be a decent Hogshead now looked like an exhibition for Greene King’s worst design efforts. The most interesting building on the High Street was the Greggs, on which I make no further comment.
Not much of an independent scene, unless you count the places meeting the beauty requirements of the permanently suntanned residents.
I soon felt the call of the rare Beer Guide newbie, the Spread Eagle, with its promise of Bass on gravity.
No such luck. The pleasant chap behind the bar said he’d replaced it with Pride, which had been flying off the bar. It was pretty good (NBSS 3), though at lunchtime there wasn’t much real ale flying anywhere, more burgers and Bulmers. Behind the bar the pump clips hinted at exotica like Salopian, but as long as the Pride’s drinking well who cares ?
The burger was terrific, enjoyed over a 1982 edition of Eagle I seem to have missed at the time. Where is Dan Dare when you need him ?
I do like wedge-shaped pubs, and though it isn’t quite the Baltic Fleet it did have a pleasantly pubby feel, helped by some tasteful but unobtrusive American and proper seating. The pick of the banter was a long discussion about bookkeeping and the need to distinguish between debtors and creditors. It’s too late Phil, it’s too late.
A few more surprises from history on the way back to the station, at which point I remembered I’d missed out the Rising Sun, probably the town’s best local. 3pm opening would only have meant more disappointment if I’d retraced my steps.