Archive for the ‘Pubs’ Category

Save The Swan

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Good heavens. Philip was, just two days ago,wishing there was an ‘emergency heritage button’ he could press to stop developers from demolishing the beautiful Swan pub in West Greenwich.

Well, good for him. He has decided that if something doesn’t exist, it needs to be invented. He and some pals have been tinkering in the shed and have come up with a prototype and he needs us to help road test it.

SAVE THE SWAN has been set up as a plucky pressure group with just days to get a review on this building.

Amazingly, Philip tells me the council are currently in the process of reviewing the “plans to demolish” and need to make a decision this week.

There is no time to waste. If you agree that Greenwich would be better off saving this beautiful building and developing around it instead, please write to object to the plans to demolish, by contacting the council’s development controller:

Explain that you object to application ref 14/0919/SD and oppose demolition because of the building’s architectural heritage.

You should provide your address so they can see you are a local. If you’re not local, please still write – beauty for visitors is important too.

Save The Swan

This is urgent stuff – so if you’re thinking about writing, please do it asap. It’s a slim chance, but it’s a chance to do something to keep Greenwich beautiful.

I wish Philip and his heritage-loving chums the very best of British.

While we’re about it, Philip and I have been discussing the fate of the Thames Pub in Norway St. I often mention it as I truly believe it could be Greenwich’s answer to the Dog & Bell. But it’s currently disintegrating into the ground while the new developments shoot up around it and we’re a bit worried.

It would be good not to have to do an emergency campaign on that one too. Anyone got any news about it? Does it need its own little band of watchful guardians?

The Sail Loft

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Never heard of this pub? That’s because it’s not built yet. Phantom Brewer Rod tells me that it will be in New Capital Quay, operated by Fullers and opening early 2015 with the usual riverside terraces and views.

Let’s hope it has a more illustrious future than the doomed restaurant in Wood Wharf, opened to a (very) small fanfare, almost immediately turned into a noisy nightclub and now full of what looks like abandoned gym equipment; or the INC-owned shell in the new development between the power station and the Cutty Sark pub, which never opened at all and was full of abandoned chairs last I looked.

Fullers, I am told (as a non-beer drinker – sorry, Rod) is a decent brew, and there will certainly be enough residents up that end soon. It might even chivvy up the footbridge and force the opening-up of the currently-non-existant Thames Path – one of the (many) presumed reasons for the brief life of the Wood Wharf establishment.

Personally I’d like to see the refurbishment of the currently-closed Thames Pub

which although not with those riverside views that are making Fullers build new, would make a marvellous Greenwich answer to the Dog & Bell.

The other place that really needs (or will need, since we are to lose the businesses and get yet more housing up there anyway) is the Peninsula. My favourite venue for this is still Enderby House – an historic house for Greenwich, but in terrible shape

It fits the riverside setting publicans crave, would be a use for a building nobody wants to lose but can’t think of anything to do with and would add something other than relentless steel and glass towerblocks.

Personally I’d keep the businesses – it’s the last little hurrah of London’s industrial past and I love the urban wildness of that bit of Thames path pretty much more than any other part of it, but if we have to have the glass and steel, a rejuvenated Enderby House wouldn’t be too much to ask would it?

The Fox and Hounds Union…

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Photo: Alex Brooks

This post started with a question from Alex, who passed the Greenwich Union as it was having a refurb, revealing the Charrington’s sign below. It made him wonder how long ago that was, and what the pub was before it was the Union.

I confess I’m a lazy Phantom. Why bother reinventing the wheel when there’s a Phantophile on brew-tap who knows all about these things? I did what any self-respecting idle Phantom would do – I contacted Phantom brewmaster Rod. And since there was such a fine reaction to Raymond’s glorious Wood Wharf memories, I decided to be even lazier and give this to you straight from the Rod’s mouth…

My recollection of the Union (and precursors) dates back only to the late 70′s, when I first came to Greenwich.

Earlier history is hard to find, but this link gives a little bit

When I first darkened the doors, the pub was called the Fox and Hounds, and still had some Charringtons’ signage, although I’m fairly sure it was a free house by then. It was run by an Irish couple, as a proper local pub – good atmosphere, proper Sunday roasts, days out at the races, etc etc. There was folk music from time to time. All seemed well.

However, one day the pub stayed locked and remained that way for a long time. The Royal Hill rumour was that the Irish couple had, literally, done a moonlight flit. Dark stories of huge gambling debts circulated…

After, I don’t know exactly, a year or so, serious work began on the old Fox. Lots of skips full of wood and rubble got filled and taken away. Work would be erratic – activity stopping and starting seemingly at random (although money presumably had something to do with it, as ever…..).

Eventually, after being closed for, I would think, at least 18 months, it re-opened as the Observatory. On the opening launch night, le tout de Greenwich was there to see what it was like.
Unfortunately that was the busiest night the Observatory ever had, as most of the people who came to have a look didn’t much like what they saw…

Some of what had been done was good – the current conservatory replaced the never-very-pristine Gents bog. Fine, but some of the other improvements were less successful. The stone floor, which still remains was (arguably) better that the previous patterned carpet.

The building is (still) an inherently cold one, and painting the walls a frigid dove/oyster grey exacerbated this badly. The heavy, carved teak furniture would perhaps have looked better in a Thai restaurant. The 18th Century engraving of the Thames, which bizarrely didn’t feature any of the Greenwich riverfront, didn’t really go with anything else. Certainly not the furniture.

One beautiful Summer Saturday afternoon, when the Richard I was chocker, my wife and I had an admittedly very nice lunch in the Observatory. We had the place entirely to ourselves, and ate to the strains of a James Last-type orchestral recording of arrangements of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Greatest Hits. Not cool.

The Observatory closed within a year, if memory serves and Meantime snapped it up. It re-opened about a week later, and I walked in the first day, to find *no* big brand beers at all – just Meantime. Some proper German-styles, a Wheat beer, a Raspberry beer etc etc.

I liked it so much I joined the company.


So  there you have it, Alex. All the news on the Fox & Hounds that’s fit to print. Rather less exciting news, however, for its next door neighbour. I understand the Tolly’s having a ‘refurb’ and from what I’ve been hearing it’s of the most ghastly kind imaginable.

Honestly – don’t the owners get why people go to the Richard I? It’s precisely for all the things they’re about to obliterate. Sigh.

The Crown

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

After yesterday’s rather gloomy post about the state of Greenwich’s watering holes I thought I’d mention something that, at least at the moment, looks quite positive.

Chris and I have been discussing The Crown in Traf Road. Now I’ve always liked the Crown as a building. It’s a neat, ‘proper’ pub, very traditional in design and with huge amounts of potential.

I have to say, though, that for me, ‘potential’ was always the word. On the few occasions I went inside for a drink the locals looked at me as though I had grown a second tricorn and I was made to feel – well – frankly rather unwelcome.

But I liked the place – not least for the images conjured in my mind by Iris Bryce in Remember Greenwich who, being brought up a stone’s throw from the pub found a job there as a very young, impressionable girl and was taken under the glamorous landlady’s wing – a woman who conjures images of a 1940s Bet Lynch, in satins and silks, and who had done out her own quarters in the upstairs of the pub as what she probably imagined as a Hollywood stage, but which sounds more like a particularly splendid tart’s parlour. Iris was goggle-eyed at this room, all swags and tassels; it appears to have been quite instrumental in Iris’s beginning to yearn for something ‘more’.

So- it’s been taken over by Inn Public, the people who run the Duke in Deptford, the Dartmouth Arms in Forest Hill and the Dolphin in Sydenham, thus ending their South East London takeover of pubs beginning with the letter D.

Okay – it’s a chain. A local chain, which isn’t always good (witness the previous post about Greenwich Inc.) but better than some massive behemoth like Wetherspoons or, heaven forbid, Punch. They apparently like original features, so hopefully any kit-out will be sympathetic, and hey – it’s better than being turned into flats like so many down Traf Road/ Woolwich Road – only a year or so ago we lost The Old Friends – admittedly the worst pub in the area, but one that would have definitely benefitted from a decent chain takeover rather than demolition.

I’m told they’re opening on the 1st Feb. I shall visit with interest. I’m hoping that it will continue the gradual rebirth of this little stretch of Traf Road – the Greengrocer’s next door, which was always a little tentative, is now run by the guys who run Apple and Pear at the Standard, La Salumeria has had a revamp and I just love Fay’s, the tiny caff opposite run by the sweet French guy whose name I haven’t caught yet, but who turns a simple sandwich into a work of art.

It’s small stuff, of course. But everything needs to start somewhere. Looking at old photos of Traf Road, it’s been a vibrant, local hub – and within living memory too. I was talking to a guy in Romford Market the other day whose dad used to have a fabric shop in the road – which did good business until the 70s/80s.

Perhaps it can happen again. I hope so.

I just realised I don’t have any photos of the Crown – so for the Nth day succession, no images. Soz…

Health & Safety Gone Maaaaad

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Paul says:

According to The Greenwich Society newsletter The Cutty Sark Tavern are seeking planning permission for a safety rail for their famous and fabulous wall where people like to sit dangling their legs over the river, while supping pints and watching the world go by.

Surely this is one of the worst mistakes a Greenwich pub could ever make? Isn’t the point of this pub that you can sit on that wall?

Other changes in the pub have been positive, well refurbished, with a good new menu, and feature evenings (even though we miss the uncomfortable barrel chairs!).

The Phantom agrees. Whatever happened to the concept of personal responsibility? If you’re old enough to hold a pint in your hand, you’re old enough to take care. If you’re responsible enough to have a small child with you it’s up to YOU to make sure said small child doesn’t fall in the water. It’s not someone else’s problem. Sea and river walls have been around for centuries – yes, they can be hazardous but it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of humans to just use a bit of common sense and not take stupid risks.

I guess the pub doesn’t want to be sued if some idiot falls in. But if I recall there’s already a notice whereby they take no responsibility for stolen items etc. I don’t see it’s their problem if someone across the road from them does something stupid. I guess they could put up another ‘at your own risk…’ type notice though I seem to remember there’s also already a ‘danger’ sign. Stating the bloomin’ obvious, of course, but frankly enough as far as I’m concerned.

IMHO a safety rail is totally unnecessary. We shouldn’t be whinging to others the second we do something silly and Bad Stuff happens. It ISN’T always someone else’s fault. This wall isn’t intrinsically dangerous if it’s treated with respect. We shouldn’t be turning our riverfront into a fortress.

If you agree, do email the new managers Andy and Monse at and let them know what you think. If you don’t, tell me here ;-)

Grubless Pub Food

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

I’d been hearing rumours for some time, then had it confirmed that Youngs have taken over the Cutty Sark Pub.

Now, I’ve always been quite fond of the Cutty Sark – it’s a fabulous place to sit outside on a summer’s afternoon and watch the water-world go by, a cosy place to snuggle in the winter when the weather’s like, well, like the sort we’ve got at the moment. And I like the food – big plates of, how shall we put this, unpretentious pub grub.

I’m also curious to know what the new look is like, not least because I like the old look – the giant mis-matched tables upstairs, the giant half-barrels downstairs that, although not particularly authentic – I doubt it’s something Hilary Peters would remember from the 60s – feels right.

I know that they’ve been doing some refurbishing, but I haven’t been yet so I don’t know what, if anything, they’ve done to the place.

But I’m rather disturbed by an email I got yesterday from John. He, like myself, likes the place “for various reasons – great view from the first floor, decent selection of drinks, good food, friendly staff, even friendlier customers, and they welcome pooches of all varieties.”

He and ‘His Nibs’ (can’t work out if His Nibs is a partner or the dog…) went on Sunday with a couple of friends, hoping to get a nice Sunday Roast but discovered that Youngs have installed some new ‘systems.’

They now only serve food in what is known as the ‘first floor restaurant.’ To bag a table on Sunday you have make a reservation in advance – and they don’t welcome dogs upstairs.

No dogs in a restaurant? Fair enough, seems like a pretty easy fix – John and Co. could just have the food on the ground floor. They didn’t need anything fancy. “Can’t we just order some pub food downstairs?” he asked.

“Sorry, we can’t do that – we don’t do pub food anymore, only nice restaurant food” – replied the poor girl left to fend off the upset customers.

Not wishing to tie up poor old Nibs (or the dog) outside, John was unable to discover whether this is indeed, true and the new posh food is indeed, nice.

I guess the Pelton Arms, Plume of Feathers and Vanbrugh will be seeing even more droves if there’s only smart dining (with, I assume, matching prices) allowed at the Cutty Sark.

But I haven’t been there myself yet. I still don’t know if they still have the lovely old mistmatched tables and chairs, half-barrels or sightly cranky woodwork. I don’t know whether you really do need to book a table for the nice restaurant food or whether it is actually nice.

Anyone else been since the take over? I could do with some opinions here.

More Moore / Less Sark

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Two unrelated bits of gossip.

Sev tells me Henry Moore’s Knife Edge is being replaced on its plinth in Greenwich Park. I’m delighted about this – after all, it’s the position Moore himself chose for the sculpture and the fact that the gates are locked at night, the park’s patrolled during the day and the thing weighs so goddam much it’s hardly going to be a top target for thieves. Unlike, of course, the unique and very precious Incredible Dyslexic Manhole Cover

And the Cutty Sark pub is closing for a couple of months, reopening at Christmas. I believe some sort of giant extension is happening out the back.

Just thought you’d like to know.

The Prince of Greenwich

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

It’s the post that gets the most comments on this blog, bar none, (127 so far…) though I’ll wager that 99% of them are not from regular readers. People either adore or detest the Prince of Greenwich (formerly, of course, The Prince Albert) and they come here specifically to praise it to the hilt or to verbally send it to the depths of hell, never to return to post anywhere else on the site. And those comments keep on coming – people must actually look it up in the archives (a feat not easily achieved these days) specially to add their golden/venomous praises/curses to the list. (BTW for the people who think I delete messages I ‘don’t like’, you really are new – if you’re posting for the first time, thanks to an anti-spam device, I have to moderate all first-time users. If I’m away then I sometimes don’t see comments for a few days, thus the delay in them going live. For the record the only messages I actively ‘delete’ are ad-hominen, actively racist or homophobic attacks.)

I find it curious that such a place can instill such passion, and I know, a review is well overdue, but when I’m going in with such a barrelful of other people’s opinions it gets more and more intimidating a task to take on. So it ended an on-impulse thing – we were on our way to try out the new chef at the Hill, but on the spur of the moment dived into the Prince instead. 

One thing I will say for them – they listened to public opinion on the way the place looked from the outside – one look at the first sign they made (on the old post)  and my blood boils again – but they listened to what locals had to say and the sign they have now is perfectly acceptable – smart, even. Frankly I still think the name sucks, but names come and go – Frog & Radiator, anyone (happily reinstated as the Ship & Billet nowadays) – and the sign to me, looks pretty good given it was going to be changed. 

Inside, too, I confess to rather liking the decor.  90s-style gastro-pub-cosy,  mismatched tables, a very grand mirror, old books, good lighting, tasteful paint-job – you get the picture. It was a pleasant place to walk into and the seats by the fireplace seemed particularly welcoming. We didn’t get to sit there, because there were people already installed, but the rest of the pub was empty. Through the evening, a trickle of people came and went, but it never really got what you might call ‘busy.’ The bar guy was friendly, but not chatty, which is the way I like it.

There are a couple of beers on tap (don’t ask me to remember what they are, you know me…) which seems enough – there’s no point in trying to compete – beer fanatics will always go to the Union. The wine list was good – pricey – but it’s rare impossible to find cheap wine that tastes any good. I’d rather have one glass of something decent than slurp vatfuls of cheap vinegar. My glass(es, ahem) were very good indeed and I’m told the beer, drunk by the rest of the party, was fine. 

The menu isn’t extensive – which in my book is a good thing. If they’re not expecting many people, there’s no point in providing masses of choice – much like the drink I’d rather have a smallish choice of good stuff. It has the usual pub suspects; we chose a combination of burgers, salads and lasagnes. Given the tiny amount of people in the pub the food took a looooong while to arrive, but when it did it was, again, perfectly acceptable – neither brilliant nor terrible. The burgers were home made, the lasagnes tasted pretty okay, the salad was fresh. We ate it and it was nice. 

And I suspect that that is the issue this place has to deal with. It’s nice. It’s enjoyable. It’s good looking. It’s friendly. The food is perfectly good. It’s doing all the right things – sausages from Drings, for example.  But it doesn’t have a ‘personality’ in a street that already has several ‘personality’ pubs. The Union for the beer freaks. The Tolly for the regulars. The Hill for the foodies (though watch this space for a review of the new chef, as soon as I make it that little bit further up the road.) The Prince has nice beer, but it’s not the Union. it has good (very good) surroundings, but it’s not the Richard I. It has okay food, but not the signature dishes the Hill has/had (depending on what it’s like now.)

If it was anywhere else, this place would be a godsend. In East Greenwich we’d be putting out the bunting for a it – we have the Vanbrugh, the Plume and the Pelton, but anything further east just gets a bit scary, pub-wise. 

I think it needs to bed-down a bit. Find itself a niche, rather than trying to be all things to all Greenwichians. I can’t see the codgers coming back (I am assuming they’ve decamped to the Morden Arms?) but maybe the Prince shouldn’t be aiming that way. I would love to see the owners coming up with a new angle, a way to create their own personality, to entice people who don’t currently go to any of the Royal Hill pubs  - a new clientele.

How to do that? Ah – if I knew that I’d be a publican myself.

If you think you know the answer, Mike has just told me it’s for sale

The Thames Pub

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Jenny has a curious but cool address – the old Thames Pub in Norway St. The poor old place has been dead for some time now, but I’m encouraged to hear that its owners don’t seem to have plans to demolish just at the moment. She says:

“We’re guardians for a company called Camelot which puts tenants into empty buildings to protect them from squatters. I’m rather fond of the place, and would like to find out more about it. I learnt from a taxi driver that it used to be inhabited by squatters, the last one being a prostitute who used to work the bridge over the creek… As for its earlier history, or even its age, though, I have no idea.”

I’ve discovered in my albeit paltry searches over the years that pubs are one of the hardest types of building to find anything out about. However historic they may be, they’ve always been working buildings; no one’s really had time to write histories of them. I’ve been reduced to tears on all sorts of Greenwich pubs, trying to find anything more than basics about them – and a pub called something like The Thames is a particular pig to google as you just get lists of pubs in Greenwich that are on the river.

I can’t even try to look at its old name (as engraved on the outside) The Rose & Crown – all searches are superimposed by the Rose & Crown we still have on the corner of Nevada and Stockwell Streets.

My guess, looking at it, is that it’s mid to late Victorian which would make it date back to when that particular area was very dodgy indeed. The appropriately-named ‘Dark Entry’ was exactly that – a long, dangerous conduit between two dockyards with high brick walls either side. There were any number of pubs to keep the dockers refreshed, and although there are a lot of excellent pictures of these in Julian Watson/Kit Gregory’s In the Meantime, including some marvellously murky photos of alleys like Dark Entry and Brewhouse Lane (the closest we have these days is the much-cleaned up Turnpin Lane) there’s nothing of the Thames.

I have great hopes for the pub though. When the development has finished, hopefully there will be enough people to make reopening it viable. It’s a nice-looking boozer, all it needs is a bit of TLC and a sympathetic guvnor. We could even get a Greenwich-side-of-the-creek Dog & Bell…

The Auctioneer

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Greenwich High Road, SE10

Now here’s a puzzle – a pub of a confusingly schizophrenic nature which shouldn’t work, but somehow is actually quite a pleasant experience as long as you’re not there primarily for the drink…

I avoided it for years – it just looked ghastly – the long-line display of red wheelie bins stretching the entire length of the front was enough in itself to put me off. I confess I haven’t seen quite so many bins lining the pavement for a while – maybe they’ve found somewhere else to stash them or they’ve cut down on the trash.

The inside looks like the result of a relatively recent refit, judging from the style. It’s a curious mix – as though the management and designers couldn’t agree on who their core clientele were.

Plush curtains in mid-brown crushed velvet soften the windows and swag nicely against the squashy sofas at the front. They’re echoed in a frankly kitsch manner as frilly rococo valences surrounding the air-con units – and I will admit it’s a lot less harsh than it must have been before the refit.

It really looks as though it was trying to restyle itself as a gastro pub – with low lighting, using glamorous, mismatched chintz pendants and simple wooden tables – just without the gastro. Or indeed the pub.

They’re up-front about it. There’s only one beer on tap – Tetleys – and, my first visit being before the sun was over the yard arm, I was warned that the coffee was ‘crap.’ The barmaid suggested I had a latte instead. “It comes out better…”

What they do do well, though, is cheap food. There’s a wide menu of average fare at very good prices. They’re proud of their burgers and there there’s a good range of other stuff too. It comes out as cheap and filling. You can do a hell of a lot worse in Greenwich town centre – a place that seems to specialise in cheap crud for tourists, this is edible, hearty and cheerfully served.

Where it becomes schizophrenic though, is on the walls, each one plastered with TV screens showing whatever sport is available. On Saturday afternoons, there’s even a giant drop-down version, though when I went back on a non-match day, it had been furled up and the atmosphere felt a lot more cosy.

The regulars seem to tolerate the funky decor more than enjoy it, playing pool and watching TV around the jazzy armchairs, and sidling in and out from the very narrow door for a fag. But on the three or four times I’ve been in there, the atmosphere has been cheery and relaxed; a young clientele, who seem to have realised that this is a lot better than St Christophers (recently re-furbed to indifferent result as ‘Belluci’s.’)

Upstairs has the potential to be quite a find, though it doesn’t seem to have been discovered as yet. It’s much the same as downstairs, but the pouffe seats – and the lights – are much lower.

There’s a bar up there and what looks remarkably like a tiny stage – do they have comedy or music nights? I’ll wager they intended to, even if they’ve never happened. If any of you are thinking of putting on such a night, it would make a very good venue.

This is never going to replace the Feathers, Union or Vanbrugh (or even the Mitre, which I’ve been enjoying recently, despite the omnipresent TV screens.) But it’s an enjoyable place to meet local friends before going on somewhere and the food is cheap.