Mean Times

You know – I thought it was just me being out of touch – but I went to The Old Brewery last night for a meal (I’d tried to go to 16″ West but it’s closed in the evenings during the Olympics, which seems mad to me, but hey…) and I was pretty shocked at the prices.

They said they’d changed the menu so that they only do bar food. Okay, I thought, fair enough. Bar food it is. But the prices for their bar food are, frankly, extortionate. NINETEEN POUNDS FIFTY for the fish stew. Fish STEW, that is – not a bit of fish, a stew.

Everything seemed like the sort of prices I’d expect for the fine-dining, white tablecloth incarnation of the Brewery – and even then at the very tippy-top of what I’d be wanting to pay in a restaurant out of the centre of London. But this wasn’t fine dining. This was bar food. I ended up with a goats cheese tart for about twelve quid and still had to get chips as extra – these prices don’t include sides.

I have to say it tasted very nice (unlike the utterly vile ‘afternoon tea’ I had there a month or so ago, so appalling that I took one bite, and actually couldn’t eat it, which is almost unknown for me – I can usually eat anything sweet – I threw a bit of scone for a pigeon, which also took one peck and walked away. A truly terrible, terrible ‘treat.’)

But I digress. Back to last night’s fare. It was enjoyable. All the components of a goat’s cheese tart piled on top of each other, which was novel. (I’m asssuming the chef  is buying a part-work cookery book and will receive the second half of the recipe next week ;-) ) And my pal, who had the ham hock, enjoyed that too. I nicked most of the apple-walnut bits – I said I like sweet stuff. So yes, enjoyable. But was it tugging-on-the-coat-tails-of-thirty-quid-before-you-even-think-of-drinks-worth of enjoyable? Sorry, no.

As I said at the top, I thought it was just me being out of touch – after all, it has been seven weeks and the economy is going down the toilet but then I saw this Twitter comment by Jobeba (@Benb111):

NASTY Olympic-sized profiteering by @MeantimeBrewing@Oldbrewery Huge price increases (last week prices/now): beef burger (£10.75/£14.50 ).. 

and realised that the prices HAVE been hiked for the Olympics.

The Old Brewery need to tread carefully here. I make no secret that I really, really like both the company and the venue – even though I don’t drink beer. I always (with the exception of that abysmal ‘cream tea’) enjoy visiting. I’ve been a fan ever since it opened and I still love the place, especially now that the walls are clothed in jasmine that smells heavenly on a hot July evening. But in cashing-in on the Olympics,  fleecing tourists on a temporary basis, they risk a longer-term alienation from the locals that keep them going in the colder months. They may lower the prices again after the hoo-ha, but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth (though not as bad as that scone… )

Anyone else noticed any brazen price hikes around the town centre (or anywhere else, for that matter)?


44 Comments to “Mean Times”

  1. Dan says:

    And it’s now about £4.50 a pint. No thank you!

  2. Fatty Fatty BumBum says:

    Greenwich businesses have become more focussed on the one-time visitor and are not the repeat customer as they know they can get away with poor service and high pricing. Leicester Square eat your heart out.

  3. I agree, Fatty, but I’d not noticed this in Meantime before – they’ve always been a local company that seemed to give a damn about keeping local custom. This was an unpleasant wake-up call.

  4. Jill says:

    Pretty angry after calling the Greenwich Union (my local) and finding out I could not book a table for lunch next Saturday (for 8 people) due to the Olympics! I was told they have to prioritise this, what ever happened to looking after regulars instead of just cashing in on the Olympics, Is Greenwich losing its soul?

  5. Badger says:

    I ate at Bianco 43 last night : £13.90 for a piece of chicken placed next to a few lettuce leaves – all very enjoyable but very steep for backstreet Italian cafe fare (as opposed to swanky Italian fare).

  6. Dazza says:

    Love this reply to the twitter comments from…..

    @OldBrewery
    unfortunately we have extra costs for night deliveries/security etc. These prices only during the Olympic period.

    So it’s the Olympics own faulty???

  7. Mike says:

    Personally I don’t blame a place like the Old Brewery engaging in a bit of gouging, but maybe a few months ago they could have given locals the opportunity to get a discount card?
    Given how quiet London is at the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few local businesses really struggle over the next few weeks. No one at the NMM today…

  8. biff bifferson says:

    heres what they tweeted me when i asked why the coffee had gone up 20p (which seems moderate now having read this)

    ‘unfortunately we have extra costs for night deliveries/security etc. These prices only during the Olympic period.’

    they can shove it. l’artisan’s stuff is miles better and cheaper

  9. Richard says:

    Next to the tax bills we will be paying to cover the 13 billion quid cost of this nonsense 4 quid on a meal doesnt seem so bad.

  10. Meirion says:

    One local diner has apparently introduced a special menu (of sorts)for our visitors. Waiters are told to sort customers into Locals and Tourists. If they recognise them, or they speak Greenwich English, they’re Locals. If they don’t know them, or they have out-of-town accents, or they’re speaking foreign, they’re Tourists. Waiters are told to put a special mark on the order if they’re Tourists and the kitchen then hands them out-of-date, or second-rate food, on the grounds that they’re not going to come back anyway. The best meals are reserved for Locals because if they have a decent meal they’ll return.

  11. Dear Greenwich Residents,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment about our new menu. We do listen to all of your comments and welcome the feedback and opinions from our local customers. We have changed the menus in our café, restaurant and bar to ensure that we can provide our usual high levels of service during what we perceive will be a very busy period.

    We have spent a lot of time and attention to ensure that this menu fits with the values and ethos of The Old Brewery. Through our beers and food we aim to provide an offer full of choice, taste and flavour, crafted from quality sourced ingredients (often locally) at a fair price.

    We have unfortunately made a mistake with the communication of this new menu to our customers, particularly with reference to existing items such as our home made burger and fish & chips that are still available on the new menu. We failed to make it clear that the new prices offered sides and extras, whilst the original prices were still available without these additional sides. We have rectified this on our menus. Many of the dishes are new and others are premium variations on existing offerings (ie a much bigger lobster and steak).

    We have ‘tweaked’ some prices to reflect the additional costs that we are incurring during this period due to staffing for night time deliveries and security requirements as we are located within the ‘Olympic Last Mile’. At our other venues in Greenwich, The Union pub in Royal Hill and our Visitor Centre on Blackwall Lane we are not increasing prices as we are not experiencing any additional costs. At The Union we are also only taking bookings for locals and regulars.

    We hope that the miscommunication on our part will not damage your opinion of The Old Brewery and Meantime.

    We are a Greenwich business proud to be employing many local people and are always keen to support our community.

    We will be holding a post Olympic celebration for our regular and local customers in September. Details will be posted on our website during August.

    We look forward to seeing you soon

    The Old Brewery team

  12. scared of chives says:

    Meantime can stuff their £4.50 pints….and food. I’ve taken guests there in the past, but never again.

    Already it’s a place you can’t go to for ‘a few pints’ as it’ll cost you the earth. Great marketing people then…

  13. Paul says:

    My last half in the Union – an admittedly beautiful Schönram Dunkel – was £2.75. This for a drink that used to be an already pricey £2.25.

    An espresso macciato in Buenos Aires, on their menu at £1.90, is now £2.50.

    They’re two of my fave places, but I shall be cutting down on my visits. I’ve been to the Union and the Brewery dozens of times for meals – but now they leave a slightly sour taste in the mouth, or perhaps just the wallet. Sadly, the Brewery Staff aren’t as sweet as they used to be, either – sour faces if you ask to swap a wine glass, just cos it has a nice clear lipstick print on it.

    Greenwich is now more expensive than the West End.

  14. Hi Old Brewery guys – thanks for the response – but I confess your explanations are even less clear than your menu last night was. I now have no idea whatsoever what’s included, what’s been hiked up, what’s still on, what is now on that used to be off (or vice-versa) what has side dishes, whether you have to pay extra for them (which I had to last night) or what.

    Also please note Jill’s comment – a regular at the Union who was not allowed to book for 8 people because they were prioritising the Olympics.

    You probably won’t notice the locals’ absence during the games, but you’re really going to have to woo them back afterwards. I love you guys, but you’re going to have to do a bit better by locals – and preferably without fleecing our visitors – we’d like a few of them back at some point. £19.50 for a bowl of stew, however tasty, is TOO MUCH.

  15. scared of chives says:

    @Old Brewery Team

    What does “…are always keen to support our community” actually mean? Cockwaffle.

    You shouldn’t need to put up prices – you (presumably) will get many more customers over the Olympic period that will more than compensate, surely?

    Anyway, reduce your beer prices at the Brewery and I might be able to afford more than just one pint. £4.50 – seriously?

  16. Franklin says:

    Dear The Old Brewery team,

    As SoC says, surely the significantly increased footfall from Olympics visitors is more than sufficient to cover your increased costs due to late deliveries and security? Raising your margins – by four POUNDS on the burger! – is just fleecing the visitors and as the Phantom says, they’ll be gone in a few weeks time and you’re going to be left with a lot of disaffected former locals.

  17. RP says:

    Personally I’m all for local businesses making some good profits this month. From what I’ve seen in East Greenwich, business is quiet. Locals are going in holiday or staying away from central Greenwich while it’s going to be packed with gamers. Yes, it’s a premium price, but it’s a premium product (the beer that is) in a premium location.
    If I were them, I’d be more concerned about comments on the service and quality of their food offering.
    Would you rather have a chain pub in that site that keeps their prices static?

    I’ll be back as soon as it quietens down.

  18. Russ Hughes says:

    My wife and I have been regulars of the Old Brewery since it opened and recommended it to many friends and family. One of the reasons was because it felt so local and more than that independent, in an increasingly branded and corporate world.

    Their actions in this matter have proved us wrong; the letter is nothing more than a carefully worded PR stunt.

    For example…
    “We will be holding a post Olympic celebration for our regular and local customers in September. Details will be posted on our website during August.”

    How much more cynical and calculating can one be? Holding an event for locals to get them back to spend money. Perhaps if it was free food and drink it may make some reparation, but that’s not the point of that statement.

    Thank you Phantom for highlighting this issue. I thought the security at the Olympics would have been better, but it would seem many people are going to get mugged by the Old Brewery during the Olympics.

    There parting salvo “We look forward to seeing you soon” – how about never?

    Disgusted!

  19. Me and my mates used to go quite a bit but stopped going after paying around 15 quid for 3 average pints a couple of months ago. Couldn’t believe that a bog standard 4% ale was a fiver. I expected inflated prices for ‘premium’ wheat beer but not standard stuff. Beer that’s brewed on site or a mile away. I can imagine they are around £6 a pint now.

    That was the end of my visits. Pelton Arms all the way if in Greenwich.

    In terms of other places pushing up prices we stopped off at one pub by the river recently. Can’t remember exactly which one may have been Trafalgar. Yes it’s touristy and we expected very high prices but what was charged was ludicrous. Not sure if that’s an olympic related hike. Another one chalked off future visits.

    As said above, increased visitors should bring more income so covering extra costs. It will be interesting if visitor numbers are less than hoped for. The press have mentioned theatres selling less tickets and other examples but hard to know if that’s just the usual gloom mongering of much of the press. Seen today though that budget hotels that were charging hundreds a night are now selling for much much less. £29 at Premier Inn Tower Bridge and others for example.

  20. Lilyrosa says:

    @oldbrewary

    Why are there no security implications withThe Union when that to is within the last mile Olympic restrictions that you describe?

  21. Gary says:

    Disappointed by the response of the Old Brewery/Meantime here. As others have said above, it doesn’t really make sense. The HUGE level of business is sure to cover any extra costs forced upon the company and the company seems wholly prepared to nark off locals at the expense of the tourist/Olympic dollar.
    I’ve always supported Meantime and think the Brewery is a wonderful place, but with it’s faults. The inside area is way too small in the bar section and the cafe-restaurant is too stuffy by far. But the product was wonderful and the beer divine so I could overlook this.
    But £4.80 a pint when I’ve been in the last month? They were serving beer from an outside section last weekend in a plastic container for £4.80. Seriously, that’s wrong on so many levels. For a company that a. owns it’s own property and b. brews its own beer (ie not beholden to the demands of the giants), that’s shocking.
    And then Meantime have the gall to post here that they KNOW the prices have gone up because quite simply theyve done so simply to rip off the Olympic tourist is quite frankly outrageous.
    I take it that this “celebration” come September will provide us local customers with enough “free” food and drink to cover the exhorbitant overcharges we’re being forced to pay. I will be in the grounds of the ORNC on Friday for the opening ceremony bash, so I look forward to paying £15 (yes, £15!) for three pints!!! God forbid, my wife wants a glass of wine.

  22. Distant D says:

    Perhaps I’m taking the risk of swimming against the tide and posting this viewpoint because I’ve moved away from Greenwich, but here goes.

    If companies are profiteering from the massive influx of tourists… Is that a bad thing for us local residents?

    For a start, how many of us are actually going to set foot outside our door for those two weeks – let alone fight our way to our favourite haunts to battle with visiting tourists at the bar/counter? I’d rather stay away for a couple of weeks and return when a blissful peace falls upon the area and I can reclaim it.

    Furthermore – if my favourite venue can boost its profits by 200% for that two-week period, then isn’t that a good thing? It gives them more money to survive tougher times, some savings to invest back into the property or a revamp, or a damn good holiday and new car. And it puts additional money into the local economy and VAT/duty into the exchequer, which is really in our benefit to try and offset the cost of the whole thing.

    Of course, TOB have failed miserably in their PR for all this. I would rather them simply say: “We’re simplifying the menu and raising prices for the Olympics. Anyone with a Greenwich Card can enjoy a 20% discount on prices during the games, even if we’re not in the scheme, and for the two weeks after each games, we’ll be running a special price main at a fixed price” (which benefits local regulars).

    Of course you have to be careful how to word that, but I’m sure there’s precedent.

    I’d rather see my favourite haunts profit and flourish during this boom time, than stick to principles and wither. But I say that with the reservation that TOB does intend to seek to build a favoured status with locals, and not slowly build prices and margins and turn irrevocably to the dark (tourist) side.

  23. Mike says:

    I’m wondering what a beer and a burger will cost inside the Olympic venues. I suspect that it will be eye-wateringly expensive.

    I find the vitriol being served up to Meantime quite astounding. Vote with your feet and wallets, but having a go at a major local employer smacks of tall poppy syndrome. Maybe they haven’t handled their communication well, but several comments above don’t appear to have read the pr release either.

    I have no stake/tie/link to Meantime but have recently done their brewery tour and I can see why they charge what they do for their beer. It’s not a cheap process and isn’t comparable to the way the majors brew their stuff.

    This is their one chance to get something back from the Games. Why do people begrudge them the opportunity?

  24. Distant D – Hmm – yes – since you’ve moved away from Greenwich, perhaps you won’t be visiting your favourite haunts in the next three weeks but I have every intention of supporting my local eateries and drinkeries – if they don’t rip me off.

  25. Bugs says:

    Am I alone in feeling a little uneasy about the attitude that says our visitors (guests even?)are fair game for a right royal Olympic shake-down?

    And that locals are just collateral damage in this rip off?

    Extra business should be sufficient reward; the rest just smacks of naked greed. Hope they reap what they sow…

  26. Gary says:

    Distant D & Mike:

    While I support local businesses doing well, I think there’s several areas I’d take umbrage with in your posts:
    1. Why should locals NOT go out and enjoy the atmosphere in our local town centre’s when the world’s biggest event comes to town. Locals and tourists are NOT mutually exclusive creatures. I want my daughter to see the circus acts and all the hullabaloo! I’d like to mingle with those who come into and enjoy our town. We’re not all hermits, hermetically sealed in our little worlds.
    2. The fact that the Brewery will have quite astounding business 24/7, 7 days a week for two weeks would surely cover the staff costs and any add-ons that may be incurred. Adding on almost a pound a pint is frankly ludicrous. If they sell 30,000 drinks over two weeks, then that’s £30k just about in the coffers on top of what they already enjoy as profit. Then it’s another £4 price increase for a burger. £4! An increase of about 35%.

    While Meantime is a local business, it’s also a fairly substantial business. This isn’t a company run out of a shed. It’s beers are on sale across the country in hundreds of locations. It’s turnover every year is millions of pounds. And more power to it… BUT, the PR release smacks of being self-serving and patronising. Not just to locals, but also the tourists they’re about to overcharge. Has the cost of a pizza gone up in Pizza Express? Has the Mitre put it’s beer prices up? Has the INC chain put up their prices?

    Signed, an unhappy Meantime customer.

  27. Jill says:

    So after the reply from the Brewery team I called The Union to try again to book for lunch, again I was told no bookings during the Olympics even if are local and a regular! Miss communication somewhere I think? I really wanted to give them another chance after the comment by them as I though management maybe hadn’t communicated this to staff, poor show.

  28. SophieM says:

    Totally agree with the original post and others – we were at the Old Brewery the other night and also experienced the “Saw You Coming” menu. The burgers are a lot more expensive than they were, smaller, have less garnish and the pulled pork’s off. Shame. Also, there appeared to be two versions of the menu in use, one of which included sides (eg mushy peas with the F&C) and one of which didn’t. Staff apparently hadn’t been properly briefed although they were helpful and charming. There wasn’t a single diner in the restaurant part, so I guess it isn’t working too well for them.

  29. Mike says:

    Hi @Gary

    I think the TOB are guilty of bad communication. I really can’t see why what they are doing is so bad (unless of course you are accusing them of lying??). They are treating locals and tourists just the same.
    * £4.80 in a plastic cup -> probably due to you being in the Festival Zone.
    * Meantime aren’t stopping you leave your house. That’s the Olympic Road Network.
    * I doubt they will be open 24/7.
    * I think you over estimate profit margins in the hospitality industry!!!
    * I think you under estimate the costs involved in brewing beer how they do.
    * “And then Meantime have the gall to post here….. …. and drink to cover the exhorbitant overcharges we’re being forced to pay” – Are you taking this too personally I wonder??
    * Maybe Meantime offering to show a little good faith after the Olympics is a cynical marketing ploy, but it sounds like on here they’d be dammed if they didn’t anyway!!

    I’m happy to continue to go there, and the Union, and drink by bottle from ToW, and drink it from the NMM. I might end up paying a few more pounds than I would have otherwise, but life’s too short to get one’s knickers in a twist over the price of beer.
    Or maybe it’s better to go alcohol free, you know, gives one’s liver a rest and all (and that way you can stick it to Meantime and Heineken at the same time!)

  30. Gary says:

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for responding. To answer:

    But isn’t the price of a beer equal to the quality of a. it’s surroundings and b. it’s serving vessel? I agree it’s slightly pedantic, but no pint of beer served in this country should be charged over £4. In my view. I accept there will be exceptions: members bars, the Savoy, etc. But in the Brewery, right here, right now, the cost of a single pint should not be over £4.50. In fact, over £4 is pushing it.
    My comment about 24/7 was a reference to the fact that it’s going to be BUSY whenever they’re open. Sorry, it wasn’t meant to be taken literally.
    The quote you refer to, “the gall”, wasn’t actually from anything I wrote.

    I really like Meantime and drink in their venues all the time. And do so, when I see their product in other establishments. I think the argument here essentially is:

    What is the real cost of a pint of beer and how does that translate to what a punter pays? To me, £4.80 is exhorbitant. And Meantime have admitted that they have hiked their prices for the olympics. That to me is profiteering. If a chain had done that in Greenwich for the summer, there’d be lots of people on here and elsewhere up in arms about it.

    Thanks for the chat.

  31. Gary says:

    Sorry, Mike. The quote was mine but a transcription of my words! Sorry! Olympics about to start! Cheers!!!

  32. Paddy says:

    Just a few words in Meantime’s favour. The sunday night before they closed The Union for redecoration (a couple years back) they offered all beer on tap free until it ran out and free food for the whole night. About 6 months ago they were trying out a new food / beer matching menu at ToB and invited a load of regulars for a soft launch – again, free beer & food for the whole night.

    I think they have ballsed up a bit with the price rises at the ToB and the booking policy for tables at The Union during the Olympics. But I also think they are a great and fairly unique addition to Greenwich and we are very lucky to have them. Imagine if All Bar One or similar had got the ToB venue?? Everyone who posts here would be going mad. And I don’t think you’d notice much difference in the pricing.

    If you don’t want to spend your money on food at ToB, check out some of the street food right next door – probably some of the best in London and hear to stay for the whole summer – then push the boat out and have a pint of some of the best beer available, in the beautiful surroundings of the Old Breweys court yard.

  33. David says:

    Just out of interest, does anyone know how much the Chav restaurants on the pier have put their prices up by?

  34. Liz says:

    Hilariously I’ve just noticed that the Trafalgar Tavern are charging £25 for a breakfast and £40pp for lunch during the Olympics – and that’s for a buffet! http://www.trafalgartavern.co.uk/menus.html

  35. @katereddoor says:

    We have not raised any of our prices and dont intend to. Most of our customers are local and regular. However talk of profiteering is maybe unfair as there is not a huge swell of custom in greenwich, so far, we are taking a massive knock on what would be normal july/august trading. I think that all local businesses with a few exceptions are going to really struggle over the olympics. As lets face it, we have been stitched up, visitors are being hearded away from the market and local places. I hope i am wrong

  36. Annie says:

    Deliveries are certainly very difficult in Greenwich for local places. This does add to costs. The commercial premises on the ‘island’ [all tenants of the GHT] are all experiencing massive downturns in their takings. It seems that this is because there are ‘official’ people standing around the kettling style fencing that blocks entry to the market directing visitors away. It has been reported to me that when one of these ‘officials’ was asked why they were doing this they said that their job was to direct visitors to the “right shops”. Cameron’s idea that local businesses will benefit from the Olympics is the reverse of the truth.

  37. games sceptic says:

    For the record, as someone (above) asked how much the Mitre, for example, has put up its prices, the answer is – a fair bit.
    They are operating an “under the counter” system, whereby recognised regulars are still charged the pre-Games prices.
    My guess is that the gold rush for pubs, restaurants etc, that everyone on here anticipates will probably not really happen because of
    a) the fact that most people will leave the town asap once the events have finished (the “Marathon day” syndrome)
    b) the weather
    c) the fact that nobody who doesn’t have to, will visit Greenwich during the Games because of the perceived transport/security situation.

  38. Heather says:

    I am too struggling with the price hikes of the pubs in Greenwich. None more so than today whilst entering the Admiral Hardy where a pint of adnams costs £4.75 and a Guinness £5.40 i was gob smacked! When ask the bar tender why they were charging so much she rolled her eyes and said yes they had gone up a lot for the olympics! I refused to pay that amount and walked out! Unbelievable! Hope they are not expecting locals back when it’s all over as I won’t be back!

  39. Mike says:

    I didn’t know locals drank at the Admiral Hardy ;-)

  40. Fatty Fatty BumBum says:

    Greenwich is crap these days. Thank God for London on our doorstep as after 6pm Greenwich is dullsville.

    I seriously couldn’t care less if some of these beyond useless ‘bars’ and ‘cafes’ go under as it might make way for some decent places. The first flicker of hope is the pop-up cafe at the station – it looks really cool and is the first glimmer of something promising.

  41. Dave says:

    No price increases at the Ashburnham Arms , pint of Master Brew still only
    £3-25

  42. Hmm. I’m obviously not a well-enough “recognized” regular at the Mitre: I only go in there two or three times a week. £4.00 for a pint of cooking lager – Amstel – yesterday, instead of the usual £3.60, is not on. God alone knows what they’re charging for the Meantime stuff or for Asahi, which are normally £4.40 a pint.

    To be honest I find the differential pricing distastefully underhand, whatever the supposed business justification; I think I might be taking my business elsewhere.

    Ah well, another legacy benefit from the Olympics, eh?

  43. Barbara says:

    I’m thinking of catching a bus up to Greenwich this weekend – where can I eat with my 13 year old that isn’t going to cost me my life’s savings? I’d also like it to be edible! I want to come up & support local shops etc but I don’t want to be ripped off either.

  44. I'm a legal Alien says:

    Stop supporting local businesses that have increased their prices and try a new cafe/ice cream shop/ pub and restaurant.
    There are lots of businesses that are not taking advantage of locals and tourists.