Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Old Brewery in Greenwich

The latest stop on our tour of the Top 25 Bars in London was the Old Brewery in Greenwich, the flagship brewpub of the Meantime Brewery, just down the road from the brewery itself and with a wide selection of their own ales available. In brewpub tradition there are beer tanks on display in the restaurant section, and copper piping on show everywhere, although I didn't think anything was actually brewed on-site. The range of beers, on cask, keg, or in bottles, is impressive (with a handful of guests, including Adnams and Darkstar), although the prices are a good pound above the London pub average, and the service is truly abysmal. I arrived at the bar with only one other person being served by the single barman, waited patiently, only to have someone arrive beside me just in time to be served out of turn. Okay, shit happens. When this new customer (who at least had the grace to be a bit embarrassed) was finished, the barman just wandered off. I caught his eye, and he turned around with a disdainful, "Everything alright?" (If I hadn't been here to review the bar, I might have left already.)

Set back from the road so you wouldn't find it unless you knew what you were looking for, the pub area has a clean, attractive design, all wood-panelling and polished tables, but it's designed for the look rather than comfort, as this is neither a "local" nor somewhere you'd voluntarily spend a whole evening. We enjoyed a few beers, and then decided to try something from the gastropub menu (which, despite the menus being in the bar, we had to move to the restaurant to be served). At this point the service was, I have to admit, excellent; the restaurant manager came over and discussed our dietary requirements, admitted that the menu was very deficient in this area (bizarrely: "We don't have much vegetarian because this is an English restaurant."), and spoke to the chef to design a meal that suited our needs. So far so very good.

The food was not cheap. My dish was over £12 and when it arrived turned out to be a teacup-sized pile of lentils with about six tiny pieces of carrot and parsnip artfully arranged around it. Period. I had to have another bowl of chips in the bar afterwards just to keep body and soul together. Absolutely ridiculous.

On to the beers. I don't have tasting notes from the rest of the party (maybe they'll add some in the comments), but I had:

Meantime Pale Ale (hand-pulled—they also had this one on hydro-keg): a sharp, fruity-smelling amber ale; hoppy but not harsh on first taste, some citrus notes in there as well, and a well-rounded bready malt finish. I've tasted this before, so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.

Meantime American-style Brown Ale (keg chilled): a very dark ale, correctly identified as American-style, in my opinion. It's sweetly smoky with both coffee and malt in the smell and on the tongue, made more complex by an irony bitterness on the swallow. A good beer, although I usually prefer the slightly warmer English-style darks.

Dark Star Winter Meltdown: there's a touch of toffee in the first taste of this very deep, medium-brown ale, with both malty and fruity overtones.On the swill there's some over-ripe sweetness of slightly spoiled fruit, and it ends with a rich satisfying swallow. A great complement to the better-known Summer Meltdown from the Dark Star stable.

Adnams Southwold Bitter: a soft, malty light brown ale with bread and honey flavours spreading throughout, ending with a rough, bitter and hairy swallow. Pleasant but not inspiring, at least not at the end of the night.

In summary, this bar is a good place to go and sample some of this fine brewery's lesser-known products, but its not a venue for a nice night out. Maybe the Greenwich Union is better, or maybe we'll continue to enjoy Meantime Ales only in bottles for a while yet.

1 comment:

  1. I agree absolutely about the standard of service - apart from the consideration they took over individual dietary needs, which was impressive, the staff members were slow to act and seemed to have little interest in giving their customers a favourable experience of the bar or the restaurant.

    The beers were excellent, but the food was disappointing both in terms of tiny portion sizes and quality (my fish was extremely salty). I would certainly not go back there to eat, and despite the range of very enjoyable beers on offer, I would not be inclined to go there again for a drink.