The Dial Arch
It’s been ‘opening soon’ for so bloomin’ long that I had frankly given up on ever seeing the Dial Arch open. I used to go past the lovely old building (a mews, perhaps?) on that fantastic ‘village green’ at the old Woolwich Arsenal, and think ‘this could be really good’ but with the financial climate as dodgy as it is just now, I didn’t expect to see it open this year.
But open it has – and thanks to Ken for telling me about it. I’ve now been three times - once just for an afternoon drink outside, the other times indoors to eat. And I have to say, I’m impressed.
Now, I’m a bit of a fan of ‘scruffy’ Woolwich – I really think that much of the town’s charm is that it is a little tatty round the edges. I particularly like the Friday market, a proper market much like one you’d find in the less fashionable towns of France – minus the fabulous fruit & veg sadly, but the sort of place that sells pots and pans, cheap clothing and bizarre electrical items I’m not sure I’d want to actually plug in to a 240 socket. I also really like the factory shops down the high road that actually have bargains, as opposed to the ghastly Bicester. And for Chinese food, I really rate the Favourite Inn, just behind the DLR station.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have time for the more serene, leafy quiet of the Arsenal across the road, and I think they’ve got the Dial Arch just right. I mean – just look at it.
Inside, the style is corporate bohemian (what Ken describes as “an inevitable mix of wonderful and kitsch”) – bare brick, decorated with things they’ve found around the site and bought-in ephemera, mixed with designer plush – multicoloured velvet chairs and wood/metal tables surrounding a walk-in wine cage one side, which feels quite ‘night time’, squashy leather armchairs and firebowls the other, feeling more ‘daytime-y’ meeting in the middle with a glass atrium where the main bar is. There’s also a semi private room that would be good for birthday parties or Christmas dos. I confess I really like it.
It’s a Youngs pub, but it also sells Meantime. For obvious reasons I can’t comment on the beer; I’m told it’s perfectly acceptable and there certainly seemed to be a whole array of choice on tap. I thought the wine list was better than many.
The food, too, is pleasant, if a little patchy. Not gourmet (though the prices are definitely at the high end of gastro-pub.) The menu is ‘safe’ – modern European plus pizzas and classic pub grub, but sometimes safe is just what you want. The food is not badly cooked and cheerily served (our waiter spent so long joking about how the place wasn’t finished yet – a reference to the walls not being plastered – that he forgot part of our order but he was so keen it was hard to be cross.) The second time I ate, the order was also slightly wrong, but again, swiftly remedied. The pub-grub seems to come out better than the pizzas – I think the ovens need to be hotter; hopefully that will be remedied soon.
One thing I should also add – don’t get the Japanese rice crackers – two quid for what amounts to be a large egg cup of them represents extraordinarily bad value for money.
Of course relatively few people are choosing to eat-in at the moment, preferring to make use of the giant garden parasols, but I disagree with the person I spoke with who said this won’t work in the winter months. I think it will be a lovely place to enjoy a cosy drink in cold days to come.
For the moment though, a cool drink by the Arsenal Football Club commemorary pillar, with its jolly red pelargoniums, looking across at the pock-marked Roman chap under his own canopy on the building opposite, staring down the barrel of an ancient cannon whilst avoiding the Lawn Sprayer of Doom on the grass takes some beating.
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