Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Moulin Brewery

Moulin is not, perhaps, a place name that springs immediately to mind in the context of beer. In fact, this small village in the shadow of Mount Ben Vrackie, near Pitlochry in Perthshire, is home to one of Scotland’s first microbreweries. The Moulin Brewery’s main market for its four beers is the village pub, the Moulin Inn, although they are to be found in other nearby hostelries too and, in bottled form, also further afield. So while Moulin itself may be off the beaten track for some, it would not surprise me if Moulin beers popped up in well stocked off licences in Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

William IV, Leyton

The latest leg on our tour of De Moor's Top 25 London bars takes us to the William IV, on High Road Leyton. After a bracing walk (the pub is a good 20 minutes from the nearest London Underground station), we found the pub to be unassuming and quiet on a Thursday evening. Kitted out like a old-fashioned local, but with an unusually large floor space and a huge bar running the whole length of the building, there were bare tables, mismatched chairs and threadbare carpet. (And a bar billiards table, which we didn't play but the mere sight of took me back to an earlier generation!)

I mention that there was lots of space in the bar both because it was nice to be able to find a quiet corner to drink in, and because despite the quiet evening, the bar seemed to be understaffed. In fact they had to close the kitchen half an hour early (after we asked about the last food orders only 40 minutes before), so sadly we're not able to review the food available (although the menu looked nice).

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Market Porter (Borough)

Last week, right after shopping at Utobeer (review), we went to the nearby pub The Market Porter, another one on our Top 25 list.

The place looks well kept from the outside, but is fairly plain inside, with game machines and all. There's a restaurant upstairs that we didn't visit;  though, judging from the photos on the pub's website, it look considerably nicer than the downstairs area.

I've been here on a weekend market day and the pub's immediate proximity to it makes it a very busy place. This time we went on a week day, just after the market's closing time. The pub was considerably less busy, though the nice sunny evening meant that a lot of people gathered drinking outside. The staff at the bar was probably still set to "busy market day" mode, served us a bit dismissively and insisted on giving us plastic cups even though we had a table inside (got our glasses after some discussion).

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Utobeer (Borough Market)

This evening, on our way to the Market Porter (which RV will post about later), we popped into the Utobeer stall in Borough Market to pick up some bottled beers for a more detailed tasting (which we'll no doubt post here some time). Strangely, this little shop is listed in Des de Moor's book as one of the Top 25 Bars in London: although I've seen pubs with bigger selections (The Cask in Pimlico, for example), and certainly shops with wider and more interesting real ale offerings (Real Ale in Richmond, for one).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mild Month of May

As May is Mild Month, and as I just happened to find myself in the Bree Louise last night (and as I've been enjoying St Peter's Dark Mild in a bottle a lot recently), I decided to spend the evening sampling the various milds they have on offer.

Great Oakley, Welland Valley Mild: my first pint of the evening was this rather thick, dark ale with reddish-brown hints when held up to the light, and a light frothy head, that had a warm, treacly, slightly over-ripe aroma. Dipping in my tongue gave me a taste of sweet, smoky hickory and a little sappiness, then a swill offered more fruity bitterness, and the swallow was coarse and sooty, with a bitter aftertaste of some dark vegetable, maybe kale or ladies fingers. On the whole this was rather more bitter and intense than I expected (or wanted) in a mild, but I'd give it a thumbs up as a fine old porter.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Southampton Arms, Highgate

In the ongoing adventures of the Top 25 London Pubs explorers, our intrepid team trekked north to the Southampton Arms in Highgate. An unassuming venue from the outside (the pub name is almost invisible in faded and flaking paint, the slogan "ALE CIDER MEAT" catching the eye), it's also basic and a little shabby inside. Rickety wooden tables and uncomfortable seats crammed into a small floor space before the bar on the long wall, some space outside which was closed off mid-evening (presumably out of respect for the neighbours), and the "smoking area" on the sidewalk out front which allows fumes into the pub.

The beer selection is great (more on which below). We weren't expecting to eat here, as it's not that sort of pub; if I had any interest in various cold cuts kept beside the bar, I might have been put off by the bartender chopping the meat, handling it with his bare hands and popping occasional morsels into his mouth as he did so. The pub rather proudly announces that they don't take credit cards, they don't have a telephone, and don't make bookings; this is billed as refreshing simplicity, but is really just poor customer service. The bar staff are similarly lackadaisical in attitude—serving locals out of turn and generally paying very little attention (I waited a couple of minutes at the bar at one point while three (count 'em) bar staff chatted among themselves or with regulars and made no attempt to serve anybody). The men's toilets deserve a special mention: situated outside, the privy is ventilated (read "open to the elements and bloody freezing") rather than cleaned.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dog and Bell, Deptford

This week's visit to a de Moor Top 25 Pub brought us to the Dog and Bell on Prince Street in Deptford. Although only a five minute walk from the train station, this pub is squirreled away at the far side of a quiet estate, and it's hard to imagine you'd happen upon it by chance. But what a chance it would be if you did!

On a Thursday night it was quiet in the Dog and Bell, unlike many of the over-hyped pubs in de Moor's list; a cluster of regulars chatting around the bar and a couple of small groups at distant tables. We found a quiet corner and we undisturbed all night. Music was playing unobtrusively, and at one point a football match came on the television, but neither caused us to have to raise our voices.

There were three guest real ales on tap, on which more below, in addition to the LocAle-labelled Fullers taps. The barstaff were polite and helpful; we ordered a bowl of fries which were very good quality for pub grub: cooked in relatively fresh oil, served hot and brought promptly to the table. We didn't try anything from the rather traditional pub menu, but by that evidence it's probably pretty decent. All in all a very pleasant evening; as out of my way as the Dog and Bell is, I'm pretty likely to go there again some time.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ye Olde Mitre, Holborn

Our latest visit to a Top 25 Pub in London took us to Ye Olde Mitre in Holborn: a small pub tucked away just off Hatton Gardens. Despite being relatively hidden it gets pretty rammed after work with suited city workers, although the crowds do tend to thin out as the evenings wear on. One of the ways the staff cope with the potential mayhem at the bar is to provide table service to the upstairs room where we were sitting. Not a bad idea considering the steep staircase which isn't a natural friend to lubricated people carrying a bunch of pints.

But of course we weren't here for the cosy atmosphere, cheese toasties and picked eggs but the beer. We have to admit to letting ourselves down a bit in terms of taking extensive tasting notes but we did enjoy the Fuller's Seafarers and Darkstar Original, not to mention the Adnam's Broadside. One member of our party was more conscientious than the rest of us so I'll hand you over to his notes...

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Crosse Keys - City of London

For our latest visit to a Top 25 Pub in London we went to The Crosse Keys, in the City. This is a Wetherspoon pub and, like some other Wetherspoons in the City, it's in a converted old bank. The Crosse Keys is massive, with tall ceilings, soberly decorated walls, columns and balconies. If you're looking for a "homey" pub, well this is not the place for you. In terms of service and quality of food, it is very similar to most Wetherspoons; not great, but it'll do. Also, lots of space doesn't mean that finding a seat will be easy. 'spoons are generally busy, but this one has a special attraction: an impressive selection of real ale, starting at up to 20 different types early in the evening. We had the chance to try a few.