There’s a good article waiting to be written on Harlow New Town’s estate pubs, but it’s not this one. Today I write about a “recommended pub” in Old Harlow, which I’d always thought was Churchgate Street, as that’s where the old pubs live.
Let’s be honest. I don’t have a lot to say for Harlow, which isn’t like me at all. The Princess Alex Hospital was one of my favourites in my old NHS patch, the King Du noodle bar near the Spoons is a classic, and I always stop at the McDonalds at Junction 7 on the M11 to see the spectacle of late night Essex car wheel screeching at its finest.
Interestingly, the OS extract places McDonalds on the site of 13th century Latton Priory, which explains the quality of the chicken selects.
The only central Harlow pub to grace the Guide over many years was (of course) the Spoons, a lively affair to match the one in Hemel for 9am fun.
Old Harlow is a more sedate affair.
With a lovely mix of housing styles, it’s one of the most attractive little villages I’ve seen in Essex, until you reach a frankly grim modern shopping arcade, clearly developed to the same standard as the New Town.
The High Street only perks up towards the parish church, at which point you get a miniature version of Bishops Stortford.
With no-one in it. Cafes, charity shops, newsagents; all empty at 4pm.
Not so the pubs.
The Marquis looked lively, the keg Chequers edgy, the Crown just right. I’m sure that Stevenage Old Town has identical pubs.
Outside the Crown, hidden beneath the prize-winning floral displays, it says Beer House. I imagine this is something like “Local Hero”, but with less complicated commercial terms.
So you get the standard GK range perked up by some specials that aren’t from Cottage or Buntingford, from which I choose IPA, continuing my theme for the year.
A very decent, cool and smooth IPA (NBSS 3+), and a soundtrack of cheesy disco (“Can’t fight the moonlight“) played for the benefit of tradesmen and retired gentlefolk like myself.
As is the the norm in Essex, the barmaid knew all the customers by name (they were all called Terry), and engaged in some timeless banter about new coinage.
At 4.10 a chap came in, bought his IPA, and tried to guess which guest beer his mate Terry would want. The excellent barmaid gave an expert summary of the options, before concluding that since they all cost £3.40, Terry could choose when he got here.
That’s what is great about Essex, they’re so easy-going and sensible. You wouldn’t see commonsense like that in Maidenhead.
I wandered from room to room, taking in a Dickensian gem of a building that backed onto an alley behind the church. One room made great show of some recently discovered 17th century wallpaper, in as unassuming a way imaginable.
It’s just a timeless Essex boozer, in a Essex village decimated by the New Town, and the hipster stylings of the barbers aren’t going to change that any time soon.