Wednesday, February 16, 2011

London Pride

TIW favourite The Harp has been voted CAMRA's pub of the year - the first time ever for a London pub.

Is it the best pub in Britain? It's all highly subjective of course, but The Harp is certainly in my personal top five, and is easily my favourite London boozer. It's been my default Zone 1 destination for years. The Harp just gets it all right. Always busy, but never too busy to get you served quickly and with a smile. Genuine, unforced character and seven or eight ales and real ciders - It's where I first fell in love with Dark Star's Hophead*. No music, no idiots and I've never once had a bad pint. Proper, Northern-style friendliness, too. The Harp is one of the few places in London where you can strike up a conversation with a total stranger without them secretly dialling 999.

*pictured here on one of the rare occasions we've managed to bag one of the window seats.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Art Is For Lovers


Leytonstone. A flower shop. It's St Valentine's day.

Geezer: "Aar much are these 'ere roses?"

Florist: "Four pounds per stem, sir. It will be very nicely wrapped."

Geezer: "Four quid!? It better be wrapped in a bleedin' Picasso for four bleedin' quid."

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Flat Earth

The 300-odd acres of sandy grasslands and mature trees that make up Wanstead Flats are seen as a bit of a sacred site in our part of town. It's where you walk your dogs, play footy, ride horses, fly your remote control 'plane, go to the circus, lounge in the sun, watch fireworks, bareknuckle box and (sometimes) poison the wildlife. Leytonstone locals hate the idea of any development, no matter how small (or 'temporary' like the mooted Olympics police HQ), encroaching on the flats. It took me by surprise, then, to find this spanky new cyclepath on my way home one evening. I can only think this was allowed because it was previously a muddy 'desire line' worn into the turf as a shortcut from Francis road to the boho crescent of Bushwood, which leads ultimately to the North Star (the boozer, not the celestial feature. It's not that long a road).

This being a Waltham Forest Council project, It's beautifully flat and smooth until it stops at Francis road, suddenly terminating in a compacted earth berm - what BMXers used to call a 'whoop-de-doo'. Oh well. It's hardly the start of a Copenhagenized E11 but it'll make getting back from the pub a bit easier.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Devon Knows

Just realised - I forgot to mention that after years of searching, I've finally found a decent pub in Barnstaple. It's the Rolle Quay Inn, a two-minute walk from the northern end of the High Street. It's much bigger than it looks from the outside, and a bit chintzy on the inside - but none the worse for that. We had a couple of first class pints of Proper Job (it's a St Austell house), served up by a friendly and knowledgeable barman, and enjoyed them while we sat defrosting by the pub's fragrant woodburner. It was light years from the usual Barno boozers with their knots of shivering rollup smokers, karaoke, pints of vinegar and two-for-one WKD promotions.



(Didn't have my camera with me when we went to the Rolle Quay - these pics were taken on Westward Ho! beach a day or two earlier)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

From The Lions Mouth


Bad Leytonstone news and good Leytonstone news.

The good news. Lots of action at the Red Lion (which is now on Twitter) - and should be open by the end of march. Here's the latest release from owners Antic:

"I’m sure you have noticed our lovely builders getting stuck in at the Red Lion, work really is moving along and we are revealing more and more of the lovely old building all the time. Yesterday saw two false ceilings being removed from the bar area to really open the room up and the old kitchen being knocked out to make way for a brand spanking new one.
The pub now has it’s own Twitter account if you would like to be kept bang up to date with goings on: Theredlion_e11. A Facebook group is soon to follow.
I am also pleased to let you know that The Red Lion will be taking part in this years Leytonstone Festival. We will of course be looking for artists, groups, clubs or acts to appear during the Festival so anyone interested should either drop me a line or wait for the pub to open and pop in and have a chat.
Finally we are vey pleased to announce that we have appointed Mark Sprules the new General Manager  of the pub. Mark is currently the General Manager at  another of our pubs, Westow House in Crystal Palace and although he is sorry to be leaving the area,  is very much looking forward to the new challenge the Red Lion will bring. I am sure we can count on you all to make him feel very welcome when he takes up his new role in March. "

And the bad news? "Troubled" High Road landmark pub Lincoln's has had it. It's been bought by a housing association who want to demolish the place and shoehorn seventeen flats onto the site. When completed, this will give E11 the same population density as Hong Kong. Probably.

I haven't any suitable pictures, so I hope a Bavarian dog wearing sunglasses is OK.