Cheers to 2011, bring on 2012!

The end of every year is not only a time to look back but also to look forward.

We know that 2011 has been a tough year and 2012 looks like being a tricky one too, but it also brings with it a host of opportunities for pubs, from the Olympics & Paralympics in our capital city to the Queen’s Jubilee, from Euro 2012 to a long hot summer!!??

Pubs may not be able to solve Italy’s debt crisis or climate change, but they are the breeding ground for great ideas, community spirit and a good old raising of morale.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our supporters, visitors, publicans, parcel senders and pub reviewers in 2011. We enter 2012 better, faster and more excited than ever. We are committed to trying to help pubs cement their place at the heart of local community. Pubs have never been more important to the fabric of our great nation.

2012 – Bring it on!

Cheers.

Meat Wagon at the Rye

Having missed out on the legendary Meat Wagon when it was at its original home in New Cross I decided I must sample it when I discovered they had set up a kitchen down the road at one of my locals, The Rye on Peckham Rye Common, and find out whether the rumours were true and whether it is the best and meatiest burger around.

The Rye itself had a very relaxed atmosphere and on entering we were greeted by friendly staff at the small bar. The décor was certainly going for the ‘shabby chic’ look with purposeful distressed wallpaper on the walls and rubbed down paint surfaces on the bar and floor. There was a mixture of styles with the table and chairs, which were quite crammed together but this gave it an intimate feel. There is a massive beer garden at the back, had it not been a cold day we would have been out there but the roaring fire inside was more appealing.

I thought I should try a local ale and was instantly attracted to one called the Beaver. The bartender was kind enough to let me sample some and I was sold on it straight away. It definitely had a fruity flavour to it, which is probably why I was a fan. I should probably comment here that I am not an experienced ale drinker just like the occasional dabble. I discovered that this beer was brewed locally in one of their sister pubs The Florence, in Herne Hill. It was described on the pump as ‘fresh, floral, slightly spicy and a little satsumery,’ it was certainly refreshing and was a good accompaniment to wash down the burger.

I was not very adventurous in my choice of burger. I went for the bacon cheeseburger and my boyfriend went for the ‘Dead Hippie,’ which is apparently their take on the ‘Big Mac.’ I have to admit I was a bit feeble in that I ate it with a knife and fork but I wanted to sample every layer together. The meat was thick and tender and cooked perfectly for me being red in the middle. It crumbled and melted in the mouth. The cheese was properly melted to the burger. I did struggle though to taste the bacon. My boyfriend seemed to enjoy his ‘Dead Hippie,’ as it was quickly demolished, although apparently it was not as good as the original ‘Big Mac’ (I hope he was joking).

We ordered chips and coleslaw on the side. The chips were just the way I like them, thin and crispy and were a generous portion, unlike in other Burger joints. The coleslaw was delicious and was crunchy and mustardy.

Overall was definitely one of the best burgers I have had and lived up to the hype. It was all served in a white metal plates with blue rim, which made the experience more primal as burger eating should be, rather than delivered as a gourmet dish. The Rye’s vibe seems to be the perfect location for this food ethic to be housed.

By @immyshephard

 

 

Top five cosy pubs

For me, today was officially the end of the summer. Although we are expecting an ‘Indian summer’ to kick-in at at any moment- it was cold, it was dark and as I am writing this it is pouring.

With the cool Autumn days creeping up on us there is no better place to hide from the weather than a cosy pub. Either with a good book or a bunch of friends, a warm and intimate pub, with log fire crackling in the background, is the perfect escape from the gloomy weather.

Here is our selection of the best cosy pubs.

The Bridge Inn, Devon:

This traditional ale house is tucked away in Topsham, Essex. An absolute must for ale connoisseurs, you can enjoy the ten real ales in the next to a roaring fire. With locally produced food served daily it is the perfect spot to while away a dull day.

 

 

 

 

Fox and Hounds, Oxfordshire:

This converted rural ale house is full of charm with cosy corners to enjoy a game of cards whilst sipping Brakspear tapped straight from the cask. The quirky and rustic restaurant serves farm-reared meat and local fruit and veg., with views out onto the garden. An idyllic spot to relax and unwind.

 

 

 

 

The Durham Ox, York:

Standing proud at the top of the Grand Old Duke of York’s hill, this old pub features thick flagstone walls, worn leather armchairs and big log fires. With three bars and as many menus this is the perfect pub to have a long and leisurely lunch on the most miserable of days.

 

 

 

 

George and Dragon, Kent:

This pub promotes the use of locally sourced produce including a range of beers from local micro breweries. Filled with character, it has all the traditional features; with low beams, huge fireplaces and thick flagstone walls. A lovely setting to enjoy a pint and a good book.

 

 

 

 

The Black Horse, Somerset:

This ex village lock-up is a throw back to past times with a dark, moody interior, scuffs from centuries of drinking  and antique remnants decorating the thick stone walls. The ales take pride of place with six jacketed casks on display. Why not find a comfy spot and try them all?

The Local

Bailey, one half of Boak and Bailey, recounts his quest for the perfect local.

Have you ever lived in a place without a local? Somewhere where there is no pub you feel at home in — nowhere you can go, just for one pint, after dinner on a dreary winter Wednesday, and be greeted with a cheery hello?

When I used to live in South London, my flatmate and I would spend ages trudging about the area trying on different pubs for size, hoping to come across one where we’d actually feel comfortable. Unfortunately, to a greater or lesser extent, they all resembled the Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars.

The nearest pub was just macabre. It had a skeleton made of cigarette ends hanging on the wall (really) and our conversation would frequently be drowned out by Scandinavian coach parties singing along to the resident Hammond organist. (No, I don’t understand why they were there either.)

The next one was so quiet and in such poor repair that we didn’t even realise it was still trading for several months until we happened to notice the door open one day. The windows were fly-blown; the net curtains were nicotine-stained to the colour of antique pine; and it smelled like damp trainers. We managed one pint there.

Finally, there was a pub built into the bottom of a block of flats where the landlord told us that, if we didn’t support Millwall, we should get out while we still could walk. This wasn’t banter: he really was worried about our safety and didn’t want blood on the lino.

Ten years later, I was living in Walthamstow in East London, where I found a proper local. This is London we’re talking about, of course, so no-one was going over the top with the friendliness, but they at least recognised us from one visit to the next. The beer was great and the range kept expanding. Most importantly, there was no post-work grump so severe it couldn’t be cured by a trip there. It was a happy place.
If you’re lucky enough to have a good local, cherish it, and show your love the best way there is: by going there lots and buying plenty of beer.