I recently went on a trip to London with my Mum to do some sight seeing and go to a show. As ever when I go anywhere without my other half I asked for a list of good pubs where I could get a decent beer. Here’s how I got on….
I had a list of three pubs I was going to try and fit into my trip without my Mum realising she was on a mini bar crawl with me! After tiring her out round Covent Garden I suggested we ‘rest’ in one of the pubs on my list. This is where my plan falls down….I am useless at reading maps! My husband can look at a map for five seconds and navigate us around a city he’s never visited before, I on the other hand am map blind. I had pinpointed the locations on Google maps and studied them on the train on the way down but still I find myself standing on the street looking at my phone, trying to step in to the map like Mary Poppins with one of Dick Van Dyke’s street drawings. Eventually I managed to navigate us to The Harp on Chandos Place which unfortunately due to the Friday lunchtime rush was heaving so much to my Mum’s delight I trudged her back in the direction we’d just come from to The Porterhouse.
This was the one from my list that I was looking forward to visiting the most as I’d been to the one in New York (Fraunces Tavern), which was amazing. I remember sitting at a bar with taps as far as the eye could see and being spoilt for choice. Unfortunately my experience at The Porterhouse in London was not as awe-inspiring!
It is lovely outside with a large beer garden to the front so I was optimistic that it’d be as nice inside, however the only way I can think to describe it is tired looking. I appreciate it is in essence an Irish bar but I was expecting more Crafty O’Neills but instead I got Shabby O’Connors.
It was dark and dingy, so much so that coming in from the sun I struggled to see what beer they had. There was a big beer menu of bottles and cans on the bar but as I was trying to look through the eyes of the barman began to bore a hole in my head so I looked up and shouted out the name of the first IPA I saw. I am so used to the beery establishments of the North where the bar staff want to talk to you about what you like and give suggestions that I was taken aback by the abrupt service and it put me off my stride. As anyone who has read my first blog will know I am the least confident craft beer buyer in the world, and regularly make a tit of myself. However on this occasion even under pressure I managed to complete a beer buying transaction without looking like someone trying to eat their own tongue rather then speaking. To top it off on my second visit to the bar I spotted a dusty collection of cans and bottles on top of the bar almost completely hidden from view with a sign saying ‘Want it all – Yes you can!’ Some of the best beers I’ve ever drunk were being so shabbily displayed to my complete horror! There was one of my go to beers Thornbridge – Jaipur, Magic Rock – Highwire Grapefruit and Northern Monk – Eternal, to name but a few. I felt like a child in a charity shop spotting her favourite toys unceremoniously dumped in the bargain bin!
On a positive note the beer was good and the beer garden was perfect for the weather. Halves of Eton Rifles by Windsor & Eton and a Longhorn IPA by Purity Brewing Co went some way to make up for the service.
The last bar on my list was the recently opened Waterloo Tap. Unfortunately between my visit to The Porterhouse and Waterloo Tap was Champagne in the ‘Eye Bar’ and a Champagne flight on the London Eye. Needless to say my map reading skills after this had further diminished and despite the knowledge that the restaurant we were going to (Archdukes) was in one of the railway arches and that Waterloo Tap is also in a railway arch it didn’t occur to me that they were in the same location. So I went on to walk my poor Mum ten minutes in the wrong direction back towards Waterloo Bridge – that’ll teach me to take the name of a bar so literally. After a brief pit stop on a wall we headed off in the right direction with my Mum insisting we take a taxi back to the hotel after our meal.
At first we thought all the bars and eateries under the railway bridge were closed due to the amount of scaffolding but when we got to the other side it was clear this was not the case. There are still some finishing touches required to the outside of Waterloo Tap with a few missing paving stones (not good after so much Champagne!) but inside did not disappoint. I thought it would be dark and cold but with large glass windows and doors on either side of the arch it is light and airy. It was like walking into a warm beery hug after my Porterhouse experience. We got seats at the bar and the bar staff were what I’ve come to expect from real ale/craft beer establishments. The beer list is up on two large TV screens so they can update when the beers change or go off easily. To my drunken amusement they also have any tweets with the bar tagged in scrolling along the top of the screens – so obviously I tweeted them A LOT whilst I was in there!
The first beer I wanted had just gone off so the lady serving me went through the list with me and suggested what I might like to try instead. I did my usual beer ordering trick of not checking the ABV and went for a Citrusinensis Pale Ale by Lagunitas Brewing Co and it was divine….it also tipped me over the beery edge. Whilst standing at the bar with my Bundobust tote over my shoulder a man in a Magic Rock t-shirt came over to tell me how much he loved my bag (and Bundobust). He then went on to tell me that Waterloo Tap are going to be doing a collaboration with Bundobust soon! Since getting in to my beer this is the kind of welcome I have come to appreciate in bars and after the aloof reception I get in The Porterhouse, Waterloo Tap reaffirmed my love of craft beer establishments. Further affirmation came when I had finished my first beer and the lady who had served me came back over to tell me the Hefeweizen Zäpfle by Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus had come back on. I was glad it had as it did not disappoint and is definitely a beer I will seek out again! To my amusement I spent the whole time I drank it trying to explain to my Mum that the beer was not off – it was cloudy because it’s a wheat beer.
Now as a beer-loving lady there are two things that are important to me – taps and toilets (my beer loving Mother in Law will verify this!). I would say the only slight downside of this bar is that there is only one toilet and by the time I got in there it had clearly been well used if you know what I’m saying. That aside I wish I could pick this bar up and bring it back up to Leeds with me! I will be back and you’ll know when I am as no doubt I will be sat at the bar tweeting away and giggling to myself as they scroll up the beer list TV screens.