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.