Posts Tagged With: After-work drinks

After-work Pubs: Part 1

More fun at More London

Nearest Station: London Bridge

Elephant-tastic

Elephant-tastic

Everyone enjoys a cheeky pint or a flirty glass of wine after work, no? You know how it is: you get a group of you from work, you head down to your usual post-work watering hole (“the meeting room downstairs”, as my current company calls it), and you all have a natter and a couple of drinks and then head on your merry ways – unless, of course, it’s a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday night, or any other night of the working week, and things escalate and get messy, and you end up partying hard. Andrew WK HARD.

Thing is, that pub or wine bar you always head to every time someone proposes a drink? Unless you happen to work somewhere really cool and trendy, you would probably never, ever frequent your local watering hole in any other circumstances, because either a) it’s crap b) it’s where your colleagues/directors hang out c) it’s always crowded or d) it’s bloody pricey. No matter how much you avoid it otherwise, inevitably, you always find yourself there, putting up with it until that time when it’s safe to resume your life elsewhere.

BUT: what if you had a choice? What if you were able to propose another location, just to “mix things up a bit”, to “bring something new to the table”, to find somewhere else just that bit less odious etc. etc.? Well, this new series of reviews is just for you. It does not profess to be comprehensive – it is purely based on where I’ve had the chance to go to for my after-work drinks during my potted career around London. It does not profess to offer magical places of alcoholic delight – some locations are just lacking  in good choices, but we just have to shut up and put up with what we have.

So, first off, we’re going to that God-forsaken No Man’s Land: south of the river (I jest, but only because I’m a south Londoner now). More specifically, I’m talking about that stretch between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, including the More London development.

Now, my office and team were pretty small, so I did not necessarily drink with my colleagues as such, but I still arranged to meet with friends and my girlfriend at the time at some of the local establishments for a refreshing, winding down/pumping up drink. Here are some of the places I used to hit up:

Horniman at Hays

Hays Galleria, SE1 2HD, 020 7407 1991, http://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/thehornimanathayslondonbridge/

Dark woods, chandeliers and ales. Sourced from Horniman at Hays website

Dark woods, chandeliers and ales. Sourced from Horniman at Hays website

This Nicholson’s pub has quite a few great things going for it: riverside location with a sizeable terrace, a rather large and characterful interior, an excellent and ever-changing range of guest ales and, previously, not bad prices. It’s great for sipping a pint of ale by the river, watching the sun set over the City, and having a natter with friends. The food’s pretty decent too, if you’re looking for something British and hearty.

Unfortunately, all of these positives do mean that the place can get horrifically busy in the immediate post-work crush. As in, elbows-out-sorry-don’t-mind-me-as-I-slip-and-slide-my-way-across-your-chest/back-and-inadvertently-fondle-you-with-my-beverage busy. Service does tend to be brisk at the bar though, seeing as they’re mainly pouring pints or glasses of wine, meaning you never have to wait too long.

On the flipside, the crowd does mean that it can be quite a lively place, good enough for getting you buzzing again after a hard day at the office. This is especially true in summer, when the crowds can comfortably spill out to the riverside and enjoy the fresh air.

Typical riverside views from the Horniman at Hays

Typical riverside views from the Horniman at Hays

I do miss being able to go to this pub more frequently. I am just about due a free pint from their discontinued loyalty card scheme – maybe I should see if I can go claim it.

VERDICT – A good place. Decent pub in a great setting. Sort yourself out with a pint of one of their guest ales, grab a table outside and enjoy the view over the Thames. Just bear in mind that everyone else is probably thinking the same thing.

The Mudlark

Montague Close, SE1 9DA, 020 7403 7364, http://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/themudlarklondonbridge/

Traditional beers on offer, as the ceiling goes. Ha! Sourced from Mudlark website

Traditional beers on offer, as the ceiling goes. Ha! Sourced from Mudlark website

A mudlark is someone who goes scavenging in river mud for any items of value – which, if you strike lucky, can be quite lucrative sometimes – but you certainly won’t find any in this pub, especially not of the traditional type. It’d be a bit smelly if you did get them coming in, so it’s no big loss.

What you get instead is another Nicholson’s pub with lots of character (imparted by heavy wooden beams and pillars supporting a white-washed brick ceiling) and a decent range of guest ales. Nicholson’s seem to do pretty well on guest ales and on ensuring their pubs look like they have lots of tradition and history behind them which, as far as pubs go, is quite a good thing. You expect a pub to have some history and character, otherwise what’s the point? Especially in an area as historic as Southwark, you want something that’s reflective of the surroundings.

But enough on that. What’s it like to drink at the Mudlark? I’ve always managed to find space to sit down, no matter how busy it got – either in the rather cosy interior or in the equally cosy courtyard outside. Cosy it may have been, but it’s not cheek-by-jowl cosy, so you can still have those intimate conversations. However, it can get a bit loud inside, but not deafeningly so, allowing for you to sit/stand around with colleagues in awkward silence not because you can’t hear them but because you don’t have anything in common with them.

So what I quite enjoyed doing with friends was coming here, having a pint and then following it up with a pie. The pies at the Mudlark are pretty decent and substantial for what they are, and will give you that wonderful warming feeling that is vital for survival in these cold winter months.

Pies, pies and more pies

Pies, pies and more pies

I still pop here if I am meeting with a friend in the London Bridge area – as it’s just around the corner from the station, it’s a perfect meeting spot before heading on home to New Cross.

VERDICT – A good place. Another characterful pub set in decent environs, with a good selection of ales and food that does satisfy. Despite its small size, there always seems to be enough space to squeeze a group in, which just adds to the busy and buzzing atmosphere. And as a stopping point before the rest of the evening, it’s perfect – down your pint, and away you go through London Bridge station.

 

The Shipwrights Arms

88 Tooley Street, SE1 2TF, 020 7378 1486, http://www.shipwrightsarms.co.uk/

Just so you know what it looks like from the outside. Sourced from The Shipwrights Arms website

Just so you know what it looks like from the outside. Sourced from The Shipwrights Arms website

Now this is a pub I did not frequent as often as the Horniman or the Mudlark, even though it was closer to the office.

According to their website, the pub was built in 1884 and still maintains its original tiled murals (ahh see, there we go – the history). Another feature which they’re quite proud of, and which does distinguish it from other bars and pubs in the area, is the high-ceilinged, cavernous space inside, within which the island bar in the middle seems rather dwarfed. It makes it feel rather roomier than it actually is – the place does get busy, presumably from the More London crowd situated just across the road.

The only times I’ve been have been during summer, so standing outside on the pavement in the sunshine has been pretty alright and certainly much more preferable to staying indoors.

So what is it about the Shipwrights Arms that meant I did not go there that frequently? There was no real particular reason, but perhaps there was a first impression that was formed in a very superficial fashion: the clientele there seems to be very male-dominated. Speaking as someone who has worked in the City and now Canary Wharf, to criticise a place for being male-dominated now sounds a bit rich of me… but I guess I like places that seem to offer a wide appeal, not that there’s anything particularly about The Shipwrights Arms itself that necessarily disadvantages itself in that manner any more than the other places. And certainly, the crowd doesn’t seem intimidating whatsoever. It’s just a, you know, standard pub.

Ah well. If you do find yourself at The Shipwrights Arms, you’re not doing too badly. There are far, far worse places to find yourself for a cheeky pint after work.

VERDICT – An okay experience. It’s a standard pub that has some distinctive features. It never struck me as being the most attractive and appealing place to go to, but that hasn’t stopped me from popping in there every now and then. And that’s probably what it’s good for – an occasional change from the usual watering hole. Certainly doesn’t do any harm.

Currently listening to: Andrew WK – Party Hard

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Two Stones, One Dog: The Dogfather at The Sun & 13 Cantons

Copyright of The Dogfather. Sourced from The Dogfather website

Cuisine: Hot Dogs

Address: Usually North Cross Road Market; two-week residency at The Sun & 13 Cantons, 21 Great Pulteney Street, W1F 9NG (NOW FINISHED)

Area: The Sun & 13 Cantons – Soho

Nearest Station: The Sun & 13 Cantons – Oxford Circus/Piccadilly Circus

Tel.: The Sun & 13 Cantons – 020 7734 0934

Website: http://www.dogfatherdiner.com/, http://www.sunand13cantons.co.uk/

Pricing: The Dogfather – Medium, The Sun & 13 Cantons – Cheap-Medium

Good For: The Dogfather – Lunchtime fix, Filling meal, Interesting toppings. The Sun & 13 Cantons – Loitering over drinks, Friendly conversation, Victorian setting, Natter with mates, After-work drinks

Some time ago, in the not-so distant past but still beyond the mists of memory, I’d heard tales of a brilliant hot dog dispenser going by the name of the Dogfather, who based himself in the relatively unknown – to me, at least – market of North Cross Road. Not being a Londoner at the time, the thought of making a trip into deepest and darkest South London was a bit daunting for me. Now, as a South Londoner, the thought of making a trip into deepest and darkest Dulwich is still just a bit daunting for me. So, when the Egg Boss tweeted that his good friend, the Dogfather, was just about to set up shop for a couple weeks’ residency in November 2012 at the curiously-named Sun and 13 Cantons pub in not so deep and not so dark Soho, I realised that this was my shot for glory.

It was therefore very fortunate that I’d chosen the first Tuesday of the Dogfather’s pop-up to be suit-shopping day on Oxford Street with mia madre. Keen to get more freebies out of her (what a son I am), I suggested that maybe we re-visit her childhood memories of eating copious amounts of hot dogs back in the Philippines by, well, eating hot dogs in Soho.

Now I’d never heard of the Sun and 13 Cantons pub before, but I think that they now have a new customer – thanks going to the Dogfather for getting me through the door. It feels like a typical London inner-city pub, what with the big windows, wooden flooring and high tables and chairs in the main bar. But it’s the addition of a ‘dining area’ of sorts at the back with lots of mirrors and marble-top tables makes this place stand out a bit in my mind. Not only does lots of places to sit = good place for a natter with friends, but I like the Victorian vibe this room really gives off. Should I mention the decent range of beers and the cute bar girls who are happy to chat? Think before I speak? Oh, too late…

The haute dogs on offer

Mia madre chose the Dogfather (chorizo clices [sic], grilled onions, melted mozzarella, roasted red pepper marinara, chopped jalapenos, grated parmesan and a beef dog). I wanted the Slum Dog of which I’d read much about on the internet, but as it was not available that day I settled for the Snoop Dog (streaky bacon, BBQ sauce, cheddar slices, grilled onion, cream corn mayo, green onions, chopped jalapenos and a beef dog). It took some time for them to arrive, even though we were one of the few dining groups there. And when the dogs did arrive, the accompanying fries were just warm and unremarkable. I attributed these timing issues to the teething problems of settling into a new residency i.e. still getting used to a different kitchen/staff etc. (things that a residency is valuable for teaching) but we were still a bit disappointed.

Mr Snoop Dog and his friends the Fries Gang

Now as for the dogs… curiously enough, mia madre declined to offer me a bite of hers, which suggests that she enjoyed it enough to not want to share (more on that later). I similarly enjoyed my Snoop Dog, as all the flavours melded together pretty well, demonstrating excellent teamwork and maximising of strengths. However, the melding also helped to hide the fact that some of the individual components were not quite there in terms of quality: the streaky bacon was the right level of saltiness but not crispiness (my ex was adamant that the only reason streaky bacon existed was to be fried into crispy crunchiness); the cream corn mayo was, in my opinion, rather lightly applied, and by itself did not distinguish itself from any other mayo I’ve had; the bun did the job adequately if not spectacularly; but most importantly, the beef dog in isolation was… okay.

Snoop Dog lookin’ right at ya

By no means was it bad (I can think of many, many worse examples… don’t make me go there), but in the face of competition from the likes of the Big Apple Hot Dogs, I just felt that the beef dog just didn’t really hold its ground. There was just something lacking, a particular spark that would motivate me to make the trek to the Dogfather’s spiritual home in North Cross Road. I would happily have the Snoop Dog again if it were given to me on a plate/camping tray/plank of wood, but if you just handed me the beef dog by itself… oh, I’d still eat it.

Mia madre, after some reflection, came to a similar conclusion, and as an out-of-towner she is even less likely to want to make it over to Dulwich. Which is a bit of a shame, as I wouldn’t mind having her along as a companion for when I try to hunt down the renowned Slum Dog, and see if the Dogfather is really in his prime on his home turf.

VERDICT for The Sun & 13 Cantons – A good place.

VERDICT for The Dogfather – An okay experience.

I enjoyed my lunchtime in the Sun and 13 Cantons, and if I am in the area again I will readily go back there for a drink. As for my first experience of the Dogfather? I did enjoy it, but the hype I’d read about it had given me extremely high expectations which were unfortunately not met; whilst some of it may be down to the teething problems of setting up a residency (but hey, these things are not just great business opportunities but also valuable learning experiences), at the same time the individual ingredients in the Snoop Dog did not wow me. Still, the man has built up enough of a positive reputation, so he must be doing something right. Maybe one of these weekends, when I have the time, I will get down to North Cross Road to dine on the Dogfather’s own terms, on his own turf.

Currently listening to: La Ruda Salska – Du rififi chez les branques

Categories: Hot Dogs, Pub | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments