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Reviews written by Chris

 Bar Room Bar, Wanstead Review,  Saturday, 08 September 2007

Overall rating
3.1
Pride
2.0
Gluttony
5.0
Sloth
2.0
Greed
4.0
Lust
2.0
Wrath
5.0
Envy
2.0
It’s become increasingly common over the last few years for drinking establishments to offer food. Whether it be to encourage the punters to stay longer, or to appear to be combating binge drinking problems, even many of the small old backstreet boozers in the city now offer a menu of food for a portion of the day. What is rare, however, is for this food to stand on it's own when pitted against primarily eating establishments. Bar Room Bar in Wanstead manages to do just that, though.

Situated on the attractive high street, just a few minutes walk from the tube station, BRB is part of one of the lesser known chains of gastropubs. Unlike most other chains though BRB succeed in cutting down it's menu so they can specialise in one type of food, namely pizza. As the huge banner outside the front of the bar quite blatantly makes apparent, the pizzas here are 2 for the price of 1, all day, every day.

On ordering our pizzas, there was at first a little mix-up over which pizzas they could currently make, and which they didn’t have the required ingredients for. The chef seems very competent though and managed to make several pizzas concurrently. The production of the pizzas could be seen clearly from our table, owing to the open area to the kitchen and oven. This openness helps make one far more content that the place has nothing to hide in regard to their food.

Following a mix-up where by the bar maid gave the wrong pizzas to the wrong people, proclaiming that they were different pizzas altogether, we ate, and it was enjoyable. The thin based pizzas are as well produced, tasty, and filling as in any dedicated pizzeria I'd expect to stumble upon, and at the price of less than eight pounds for two, the food is certainly not an area of BRB that can be sniffed at.

I've used the word “pizza” too many times thus far in this review, so will now quickly move on to the other aspects of the bar. The space is a lot smaller than I’d imagined after visiting other pubs in the chain. The long glass shop-front scattered with outdoor chairs and tables intended for smokers convey the impression that the bar will be spacey once inside. As it stands, the pub doesn't go back much further than it is wide, making it a fat rectangle shape. This space has been used well though, with seating and tables filling the single large open space, and a bar pretty much the length of one of the walls. The internal aesthetics sadly leave a lot to be desired. The place doesn't look bad, it's just not very well-maintained. Besides the large flat screen TVs showing digital sports channels, you’d be forgiven for thinking this place was decorated ten years ago, then left to deteriorate at it's own digression.

The toilets are where this allowed deterioration is most apparent. The gents is small, reminiscent of an old South London local. It looks like they tried to do something with the walls, but just gave up. What makes this crude paint job worse is the graffiti scratched into it, some very racially offensive, but nonetheless left there for x amount of time by the management. I’ve heard reports that the ladies room in BRB is no merrier.

The bar staff first started out friendly, but appeared to dislike the idea of having people in the pub. Our visit was on a Friday night, the place was less than half packed (as in less than half of the tables were seated at), and the two barmaids were complaining among themselves how busy the venue was. I did wonder why the place was so empty at this time of the week, and soon found the probable reason. I discovered that my first choice of drink was currently off. After changing my order, I discovered that my second choice was also off. Not only were the beers badly-stocked, the bar did not currently hold the ingredients to make most of the drinks on it's non-alcoholic cocktails list.

All aside, BRB is not a place you'd spend much time in, more a place that can be used as a budget before-drinking restaurant of sorts. It's just sad that the place can't exceed in other aspects in the same way as it does with it's food.


 The Gun,  Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Overall rating
3.1
Pride
5.0
Gluttony
3.0
Sloth
2.0
Greed
1.0
Lust
2.0
Wrath
5.0
Envy
4.0
The Gun is no-doubt different from any other pub I’ve found hidden away in a residential cul-de-sac. Firstly, the heritage that surrounds it. Without digging too far into the history books, I can tell you that some parts of the current pub are over 200 years old. The Grade II listed building has not only been a drinking haunt for contraband smugglers, but also Lord Nelson, who would arrange secret meetings here with Lady Emma Hamilton.

That’s all in the past now though, what we’re concerned with is the present. Since reopening a few years back following a fire, The Gun’s popularity continues on a steady high, and this could be due to a whole matter of factors. While not exactly the easiest-accessible place for a bar, the riverside location makes it worthwhile. With views over to North Greenwich and the O2 arena, the heated riverfront terrace is well worth drinking in, if you can find a seat. The inside of the building is made up of three main areas, there’s the restaurant area, a smaller bar towards the open terrace, and a lounge leading off that. The walls (mostly covered with guns), and the use of large barrels as tables in the back constantly remind you of where you are.

Building-aesthetics-wise, The Gun certainly can’t be sniffed at, and this is maybe the reason why so many Canary Wharf sophisticates can be found here on any given night of the week, using it as both a place to socialise, and continue with important business matters. Previously I’d been put off drinking in The Gun that often purely due to the quantity of cigar smokers that the place attracts. Gladly, now the smoking ban is in place, all the cigar smoking is confined to outside, though this does now make the front of the pub quite smelly (a smell with obviously seeps into the dining area and front bar).

The drink prices at The Gun aren’t cheap, in fact they’re some of the highest I’ve ever found in London. Their selection of traditional and continental beers and ales will set you back somewhere in the region of a pound more than at most other pubs in the area. This is okay though, as The Gun doesn’t try to be a place you go to get very drunk (the bars around the Canary Wharf complex itself serve that purpose), and still manages to draw in a large crowd without fail on pretty much every night of the week.

The Gun’s current focus seems to be in it’s food. I haven’t had first-hand experience with their menu, but from reports of friends, I’ve heard that most of their dishes are nice, if a little on the small side. One thing that puts me off sampling a meal myself is the price, though. A meal for two will come to somewhere in the region of 60-80. Reports suggest that it is very good food, for a pub, but these prices mimic those you’d pay in top restaurants.

The bar staff are mostly competent, but sometimes head for the nearest/biggest person to serve rather than look around/enquire who’s next, leaving people waiting at the bar for a lot longer than they’d like. Like most bars these days, if you pay by card and intend for a second round, The Gun prefers for it’s punters to leave their card at the bar. Twice now friends of mine have had their card muddled up with that of a fellow Gun-goer on return. I think if the staff insist that the customers’ cards be kept behind the bar, better security measures should be put in place to stop a stranger walking away with it.

I don’t want to end this review on a negative, as my opinions on The Gun are in no way negative. The place is tidy, contains tons of history and atmosphere, has an unmatched river view, clean toilets, and pulls some of the best pints around. If you’re raking it in the city, and don’t mind trotting the extra distance, The Gun really can’t be beaten, and for this reason, it’s popularity will continue to march onwards. If however you’re a big drinker or maybe on a tighter budget, it’s probably best to enjoy one drink here then move on.


 The Gate Clock in Greenwich Review,  Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Overall rating
3.1
Pride
3.0
Gluttony
3.0
Sloth
2.0
Greed
5.0
Lust
2.0
Wrath
3.0
Envy
4.0
Wetherspoons brings a much needed Cheap 'n Cheerful drinking spot to the generally overpriced area of Maritime Greenwich. Situated just outside the entrance of the Docklands Light Railway and just around the corner from the Cutty Sark, it's certainly in a good spot to attract business and attract business it does. The Gate Clock pulls in not only serious drinkers and tourists but also local students and residents of nearby places such as Deptford and Bermondsey. One curious thing about this is that each of these groups have their own separate areas.

The pub is spread over two floors, with a bar on each. The ground floor is almost always segmented into three sections.
-The "lads" and locals around the side entrance and bottom of the stairwell
-The old guys that spend their entire days in here in the middle area and around the downstairs bar (for easy access)
-The tourists, families, and people that have never been to the place before in the “dining” area.
The smaller upstairs area is mostly filled by Students from Greenwich University, with married couples in their midst.
This has been the general setup for a good while now, only recently changing to accommodate the new smoking regulations.

There’s a small semi-sheltered outdoor smoking area along Creek Road, but most of the smoking punters (mainly the downstairs bar clingers) seem to prefer staying inside for their drinking and popping out of the side entrance to huddle around for a quick smoke, often creating an obstacle which I would imagine puts many first-timers off navigating their way in.

The food is okay to Wetherspoons standards and the prices float at the lower end of the Wetherspoons price range. However, there always seem to be mixups of orders and a lack of vital ingredients in the kitchen resulting in the diner being offered their second or third choice rather than what they initially picked from the menu. Furthermore, the Wetherspoons promotions that frequently feature on the pub's windows and toilet walls are often not even available when you ask a member of staff about them.

The male toilets are fine and spacious with cubicles that look suspiciously gas chamberish. I have no first-hand experience on their female counterparts but hear it's not such a pleasant place to be (mainly due to overuse and a lack of space).

At weekends, the pub positively fills up. Without any music, the only sounds to be heard are those of chatter and laughter, giving the pub a kind of school dinner hall atmosphere, albeit a school dinner hall with a busy well-stocked bar. The only previous escape from the crowds would have been the consistently tame (downstairs) no smoking area, but since the new legislation came into place, so that small haven has been assimilated into the throbbing crowds.

Despite the lack of product knowledge that's displayed by the staff and the rudeness of the weekend doormen (which I won’t go into here), this is a Wetherspoons pub and does exactly what it says on the tin. There aren't any places I can think of in the Central Greenwich area that offer such a large range of drinks and food at such reasonable prices, and for that reason alone, it’s worth at least one visit.


 What a Shame!,  Monday, 11 June 2007

Overall rating
2.3
Pride
4.0
Gluttony
1.0
Sloth
1.0
Greed
2.0
Lust
3.0
Wrath
4.0
Envy
1.0
On finding this pub we were all very pleased. It was a very hot spring Sunday and we had been walking by the river for well over an hour. As we crossed the bridge to the pub's large and busy outdoor seating area and then through to the very nice looking building, we expected great things. Sadly, The Anglers lived up to very little of this expectation.

Firstly, the wait at the bar was tiresome to say the least. It was a hot weekend that had followed a hot week. If I were managing a riverside pub, I'd certainly make sure it was well staffed on a predictably sunny Sunday afternoon. The manager of The Anglers obviously doesn't have the same staffing ideas as most. Two staff ran around like crazy while a crowd of maybe a hundred gathered around the bar. I actually caught sight of the manager, standing over at the end of the bar just looking on, not looking phased at all.... obviously he's grown to accept this sort of madness as "normal".

The pub offers quite a variety of continental and speciality beers, but after our almost half hour wait at the bar (somewhat due to the method whereby the barman would only serve the person directly infront of him at his end of the bar) most of us had to settle for our second choice of drink (sadly, my second choice was also off, so I had to go for my third). It wasn’t long into the afternoon but food was also off… This was quite strange, as I saw food still coming out of the kitchen a good forty five minutes later. Presumably being served to hungry punters who’d been waiting over an hour for it.

As I hit on before, the building is nice. Quaint and grand at the same time, it has lots of little areas hidden away inside, and a huge area outside, including an area for parents to dine with children. I obviously expected the toilets to be as well-kept and clean as most of the rest of the building. I was wrong. The flooding in the gents toilets was not pleasant to say the least. Neither was the stench. I almost re-evaluated just how desperate for a release I was when I swung back the loo door into what could only be described as an unnatural disaster site.

All in all, The Anglers is a sad place. Sad as it had so much opportunity but misses it on pretty much every count.


 A Wetherspoons with a difference?,  Monday, 11 June 2007

Overall rating
2.9
Pride
2.0
Gluttony
3.0
Sloth
3.0
Greed
4.0
Lust
2.0
Wrath
4.0
Envy
2.0

Central London contains many Wetherspoons pubs, but among them all, Farringdon's Printworks Lloyd's No1 bar stands out. I've been there many times over many years, and obviously have many good memories of the place, that in one way or other will probably bias this review. I'll try my best to think beyond single memories and experiences in the following paragraphs.

In 2004, The Printworks moved from being a regular Wetherspoons to being a Lloyd's bar. This meant a different menu, and range of drinks. Unlike other Lloyd's No.1 bars at the time, it still offered the same drink prices as a regular Wetherspoons, and deals such as the curry and steak specials. Slowly since then the place has shifted towards the normal Lloyd's prices, though has kept the popular curry club (which is only £3.99).

The Printworks has a rather strange list of opening times, usually opening until 2 on Thursday-Saturday, and until about midnight on other night of the week. I say "usually", as despite advertising drinking until 2 on those three nights, they often close if they feel they're not doing enough business.

A manager of The Printworks once said to me "this is NOT a pub". The company really does try with the venue, but no matter what silly them night they pull, what bad DJ they employ, or what little white lies are fabricated to pull in the crowds, this is a pub through and through. Okay, it's a pub that often plays loud music and has a (very) small dancefloor, but there's no way this could be mistaken for a club or trendy bar.

The staff are mostly from various places in Europe. Pretty much every time I go there, there's somebody new. This new person always seems to be serving me. Fair enough that these people need a bit of training, but it'd be nice if the management could employ some people that they can tell will stay for more than a week or two, as this'd cut down waiting times at the bar (which can get a bit mad on the busy nights).

Food-wise, it's the Wetherspoon's menu. We've had some food come out burnt or still a bit frozen in the past, but everything's what you expect if you've ever eaten in a Wetherspoons, plus the prices really aren't to be sniffed at (£3.99 for a burger and a drink nearish central London) and the waiting times between ordering at the bar and being handed your meal are usually pretty short.

Bar the occasional neglected vomet-filled urinal, the toilets are normally pretty good. Not too smelly and not too dingy. As a whole, the underground Lloyd's bar is a pretty cozy place, with five distinct areas to sit, including a non-smoking area that's spacey, and set aside from the rest of the pub (something a lot of Wetherspoons often lack). The multiple flat screen televisions dotted throughout are a bit wasted on freeview fashion and extreme sport channels, but the bar is big enough and easy enough to reach from most areas of the pub.

If the management set their minds on more long-term employees, and gave up with the theme and "club" nights, they could probably turn it into something good. At the moment it's an alright place to go for a meal and a couple of drinks, but a bit too overly-dynamic and random for anybody to either make it their "local", or hang out there on a regular basis. That said, there's not much to compare it too in the area, and it gets a lot less busy on week nights than the Wetherspoons and Lloyd's Bars in central London.



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