Archive for the ‘pubs’ Category

Lunch at Butcher and Beast

February 14, 2017

Lunch at Butcher and Beast in Heighington.

Butcher and Beast  is an old pub, built of local stone, located in the village of Heighington.

As you walk in, you are greeted by an open fire, a small bar. The fire welcome on a cold day, only problem, a blast of cold air, every time the front door opens.

The last time I ate here, a year ago, the food was not good. Had it improved?

In the past have gone into a back room, where it was very cold. Today, in the front parlour where it was bright and sunny. The back room was very dark.

Later joined by a friendly dog.

Soup was carrot and coriander, served with a bread roll and butter. Not a great favourite. It was served lukewarm. Not a great start.

Crispy prawns with salad and sweet chili dip were excellent. And served piping hot.

The gammon steak, served with chips and peas and a slice of pineapple was also excellent, though one of the gammon steaks was of a poor quality cut.  The chips were fresh.

For a tiny pub, with a  very tiny bar, a  surprising wide choice of real ales. A Bateman tied pub, therefore most were sourced from Bateman. I chose one which I think was called Taylor’s Landlord.

The barman, did not know how to serve. Very cloudy, but soon settled down laving a beautiful amber colour.

Heighington is a Lincolnshire village of stone cottages, not far from Lincoln. Its only tea shop closed a couple of years ago. The Post Office has also closed. There is now a tiny Post Office counter in the local Spar shop. Also hidden at the back of the Spar shop is the local butcher, one of the best in the country. It is worth a visit, for his Lincolnshire sausages.

Afternoon in Guildford

June 13, 2015

First half of Friday afternoon, was a wild goose chase to find somewhere for lunch.

Options to eat in Guildford, at least somewhere decent, are rapidly vanishing.

Guildford Institute used to be excellent for Friday lunch, but no more as the lady who did the lunches has left.

I popped in Friday, to be accosted and told I had not paid. I was surprised, but, one can forget, and so I apologised and paid.

I left and gave it some thought.

How did the lady know, she was not there last week?

The amount I was told I owed, was not what my lunch cost last week.

And then I remembered, I had paid. The reason I remembered, as I had attempted to pay, as I usually do, where the food was served, but had been rudely told to go round to a hatch where they accept payment.

Something very wrong.

kebabs at The Royal Oak

kebabs at The Royal Oak

I was now on my way to The Royal Oak.

A few weeks back, I had popped in for a drink, and the chef had brought out an excellent kebab, put it on the bar, and suggested help yourself, he wished to know what we thought. It was excellent. So excellent that I popped back another day to try, only to find the pub had closed and changed hands, but the chef was still there.

Today I thought try again. Awful music playing, two sullen women behind the bar. I asked of the kebabs. They looked at each other. No, we don’t do kebabs.

I walked out with the passing comment, I have tried twice, there will not be a third attempt. I did not think to ask was the chef still there.

We are too polite. We accept second best. More people need to walk out.

It was then back to Guildford Institute.

I explained to the lady the situation. I asked what she thought I had had for the sum she claimed I owed. It was eight pounds and something. I then told her what I had had, main course, sweet and a cup of tea, which came to £10-50, more than she said I owed. Thus how could it be I?

And how did I know it came to £10-50? As that is what was on the bill I took to the counter to pay.

Begs the question who the bill was for, the bill it was claimed I had walked out without paying?

She said it was her daughter who made the claim. That I had tried to pay, had the money in my hand, but as I was talking, I walked off without paying.

Bizarre.

Luckily, she accepted something was wrong, and gave me my money back.

I asked could I get something to eat? She said no. They were packing up. Though I was offered a sweet.

But what is worrying this is the second time it has been claimed I had not paid.

The Keystone courtyard covered over graffiti covered wall

The Keystone courtyard covered over graffiti covered wall

It was then down to The Keystone.

The Keystone was an excellent pub, but the landlords fell out amongst themselves, the pub went downhill, and eventually a new landlord took over. A new landlord who has been a disaster. His first act was to lose a good chef.

It used to be pleasant on a sunny afternoon to sit outside in the back courtyard and have their excellent fish cakes. I found the courtyard covered over (now dark and gloomy instead of open and airy), awful music playing (it was bad enough in the pub but at least the courtyard was quiet), and the back wall covered in graffiti (an unbelievable eyesore which the local council should enforce a clean up). I asked for the fish cakes to be told they did not do them any more. It was burgers or nothing. I walked out.

Looking from the church (and there are arms houses further along), the back of The Keystone looks like something out of a Third World shanty slum. is there planning permission for the unsightly structures that have been erected? Jobsworth from the local council need to get out and about a bit more (their office a few minutes walk along the road) and carry out enforcement.

lunch at Thai restaurant

lunch at Thai restaurant

Back up the High Street and late lunch in the Thai restaurant in Jeffries Passage. It was excellent. I should have gone there first.

We are losing many pubs every week. Too often it is greedy pubcos, selling them off for redevelopment. But it also badly run pubs too.

J D Weatherspoon, may be a chain, but their pubs are well run. That is why they are successful. If I go into Harris + Hoole for a coffee, the staff are always great, plus the tea and coffee and cookies are excellent too.

I contrast with the two pubs I visited yesterday. Bar staff who give the impression they are bored and would rather be somewhere else, indeed anywhere than where they were.

The two pubs empty. Harris + Hoole always busy, as it was today. Says it all.

Attitude is one problem. But awful music playing is another.

Both pubs had awful music playing. No, I do not wish to have the bad musical taste of other people imposed upon me.

Again, look to J D Weatherspoon, other than when full of roudy drunks, quiet, no music.

As it was a very warm humid afternoon, iced tea in Harris + Hoole.

The Royal Oak

April 23, 2015
Holy Trinity churchyard

Holy Trinity churchyard

Holy Trinity churchyard

Holy Trinity churchyard

After a visit to the farmers market, a special one for St George’s Day, I decided on a drink in The Royal Oak, hidden behind Holy Trinity.

A Fullers pub, overlooking the graveyard.

London Pride is a classic beer, difficult to beat.

I ordered a half, and settled in the corner.

I was very disappointed to find the old seating had gone, but I learnt the last landlord had taken it with him.

Strange, I needed no password for wifi, and on the Fullers page, welcomed me by name.

kebab

kebab

The chef had tried a new dish and invited me to try it. Kebabs, marinated lamb, on a  skewer with peppers and onions. It was excellent. I would have to be in Greece or Athens for something this good.

A good sign when pubs try to cook quality meals, not hotted up white van chiller food. Whether they will get the custom another matter.

Having had a free meal, I thought only fair to stay and have another half.

Irritating though the background music. When are pubs going to learn, a quiet pub, ability to relax or converse, is far better?

It was a pub for live music, but no more, drives away the punters.

I am happy with live music, at least if you can listen, but background music is a bloody pain.

Too pissed to run his own pub

April 2, 2015
Councillor Bruce Thomas runs La Fontaine

Councillor Bruce Thomas runs La Fontaine

La Fontaine has been raided eleven times by council officials, at times also accomanied by police and councillors.

They have found illegal after-hours drinking, illegal on-premises smoking, illegal out-of-hours music.

They would have liked to have questioned the pub landlord Councillor Bruce Thomas, only found he was too intoxicated to answer questions.

Not the behaviour to be expected from a pub landlord, not the behaviour to be expected from a local councillor.

This therefore begs the questions: Why has the pub not been closed, why has the licence to run a pub not been revoked? Why is he still a local councillor?

To run a pub, it is necessary to show fit and proper person.

According to the local comic:

In documents handed to the council, PC Iain Barnes said the La Fontaine was in breach of two of the council’s four licensing objectives – prevention of crime and disorder and prevention of public nuisance.

PC Barnes first visited the pub during the early hours of August 20, 2011, with RBC licensing officer Sue Berry.

They found the front door locked but could see through the window people at the bar and the pub’s disco lights on.

Entering, PC Barnes and Mrs Berry heard people talking about ‘hiding ash trays’ and they could see and smell smoke. They were led to the kitchen where PC Barnes challenged Cllr Thomas about people smoking on the premises, which Cllr Thomas denied.

Further visits by RBC found other breaches of the pub’s 2005 licence, including recorded music being played after hours, people being re-admitted after midnight and patrons drinking outside in areas not covered by the pub’s licence.

The pub’s licence requires it to ensure customers vacate external drinking areas by 10pm and to stop recorded music at 11pm.

PC Barnes found the level of intoxication witnessed during his two most recent visits suggested alcohol was not being sold in a responsible way and people were being served ‘beyond the point of drunkenness’. And that the conduct of Bruce Thomas  painted an unprofessional image and demonstrated an inability to maintain ‘satisfactory control’ of his establishment and customers.

During the planning meeting to discuss the destruction of The Tumbledown Dick, Councillor Bruce Thomas fell over backwards to put the boot in. No vested interest was declared. When later that evening he dared to show his face at the Tilly Shilling, he was asked to justify his deplorable behaviour. He claimed he did not know what was going on and had to vote how he was told to vote by council officials.

Gerald Howarth Saves The Tumbledown Dick

January 14, 2015
Gerald Howarth serves a Big Whopper

Gerald Howarth serves a Big Whopper

The Tumbledown Dick demolition

The Tumbledown Dick demolition

Gerald Howarth must think the local community stupid if his latest Big Whopper is anything to go by.

What can only be seen as an insult to the intelligence of local people, Gerald Howarth claims to have Saved The Tumbledown Dick.

Really, in that case it must be an illusion that it has been demolished, the oldest part demolished, the internals gutted, leaving only most but not all of the front façade intact.

And for what, a Drive-Thru McDonald’s, when there is a Drive Thru only a mile up the road.

The stomach churning stench from McDonald’s is not the only stomach churning stench coming from The Tumbledown Dick.

This is the same Gerald Howarth who did a dirty behind closed doors deal with McDonald’s to destroy Tumbledown Dick, then blatantly lied he had saved.

First he made much of the historic importance of The Tumbledown Dick. The same Gerald Howarth whose track record was to back all the way the destruction of Farnborough town centre, even going so far as to call one retailer whose livelihood was at stake to tell him he could not understand what he was complaining about. Then having emphasised the historic importance of The Tumbledown Dick, he does a dirty little back-door deal with McDonald’s to destroy The Tumbledown Dick. Then having bragged at the rubber-stamping of his sleazy little deal, he has the gall to blatantly lie that he Saved The Tumbledown Dick. You could not make it up if you tried.

Far from Saving The Tumbledown Dick, Gerald Howarth was instrumental in its destruction. Without any consultation with the local community, Howarth engaged in a sleazy back door deal with McDonald’s to destroy a c 1720s coaching inn.

What else doe Howarth get up to?

Serving up a Big Mac and fries. Serving Big Whoppers seems to be a bad habit.

Howarth compares the service he provides with that of McDonald’s:

I myself have 75,000 constituents who I serve and I do that in a similar that McDonald’s approaches its customers.

In the infamous McLibel trial more than a decade ago, the barrister acting for McDonald’s admitted in court they serve junk food.

Is this an implicit admission by Howarth that he provides a junk service? The local community that fought hard to save The Tumbledown would not wish to disagree.

It takes a low life specimen of humanity to act for a pay day loan shark.

Howarth did however have his five minutes of fame, acting as handbag carrier for the Iron Lady.

Howarth opposed the Right of Recall, the right of constituents to dismiss their Member of Parliament. It is easy to see why, turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

Gerald Howarth is a prime example of why people have nothing but contempt for politicians.

It is time to get dirty money out of politics.

Not though only Gerald Howarth.

Vile local trolls did their best to sabotage the campaign, one persistent troll, a public disgrace as a county councillor, posted misinformation, displayed ignorance of planning matters, posted abuse and eventually had to be blocked from posting comments.

Gerald Howarth serves a whopper

Gerald Howarth serves a whopper

Fair deal for pubs

November 19, 2014
Sharp's Doom Bar

Sharp’s Doom Bar

Last night saw an historic victory for pubs. The government was defeated in the House of Commons.

The result

  • pub landlords will be able to have their rents reviewed by an independent body
  • pubs will be able to terminate the pubco tie
  • pubs will be able to by their drinks on the open market, not at artificially inflated prices from the pubos

Pubs are understandably delighted.

For beer drinkers, no more rubbish beer in the pub and prices should drop.

The shares of pubos have gone into free fall.

The pubcos say this is bad news for pubs, will lead to more pub closures.

Why then are pub landlords celebrating?

It means their businesses becomes viable. Currently, only free houses (not tied to pubcos) are viable.

It will only lead to more pub closures if pubcos sell off more pubs to service their debt (which is what they have been doing).

Shame on those MPs who voted in favour of the pubcos.

Name and shame your MP.

We know Gerald Howarth voted for the pubcos. Is anyone surprised?

We must thanks Greg Mulholland and Caroline Lucas whose hard work made this possible.

Slowly slowly, we are starting to see self-serving politicians act for the people not Big Business.

Last night another historic victory. In the US Senate the Keystone XL Pipeline (to bring oil from tar sands in Canada to the US) was defeated.

Today, students tore down the fencing and once again occupied Parliament Square. Remember liar Nick Clegg who promised free student tuition fees and voted with his Tory cronies to triple student fees.

Yesterday, the Czech President was egged.

Today, people took to the streets in Hungary to bring down the corrupt government.

Guru faces reality

October 2, 2014

DSC04295

Either desperation or reality has kicked in.

Overpriced drinks, 2-3 times what you’d pay elsewhere.

Tonight a board offering local beer at 2.8 euros, staff handing out fliers to passers-by.

Still expensive compared with other bars, but getting there.

A failed business model. Will Guru be there next season?

Why would anyone pay extortionate prices simply to sit on white seats. Probably explains why always empty.

It is not only drinks are expensive. Clueless how to make freddo cappuccino, looks and tastes disgusting.

Bliss offering the same failed business model closed last month.

Verano is more of the same, and also always empty.

The new prices did not work, still empty, and whereas all the other bars still open gone 1am Guru was closed.

For quality live music try La Pas on Monday and Thursday nights.

Lunch at The Keystone

September 2, 2014

Excellent chef at The Keystone has left, and sadly it shows. No, you do not serve hot food on a cold plate. No, you do not dump the fish cakes on the salad. Fish cakes were nowhere of the usual high standards of The Keystone. It also helps to alert the bar that you have sent the food down.

Lunch at The Keystone has always been good. Even when it went downhill, even with a change of owner, lunch was the one consistent factor. And now they have gone and lost their excellent chef.

Jewelia and Andy at The Keystone

August 22, 2014
Jewelia and Andy at The Keystone

Jewelia and Andy at The Keystone

Excellent performance by Jewelia and Andy at The Keystone.

Monsters and Masks and Scars from her recently released album Monsters (which can be found on bandcamp). Spine chilling renditions of Beatles cum Paul McCartney classic Yesterday and Nina Simone classic You Know How I Feel.

The Keystone is not a venue for quality live music.

I thought only Jewelia, but it was something called Emerging Talent, where they were emerging from, I do not know, and talent was stretching the definition of talent to breaking point. Jewelia preceded by someone who was like a late night bad karaoke act. Basically it was an Open Mic night under any other name.

Her first song, Jewelia stunned them into silence, she was then drowned by rowdy drunks on a nearby table. Why they could not have had the courtesy to move around the bar into the corner, or maybe had the good manners to keep quiet. Why bother going to a live music night? You Know How I Feel stunned them into silence again. Jewelia was very professional and carried on.

Why do people behave like this, why a pub book live music? Maybe, it is that the pub has moronic music playing all day long (no lessons learnt from J D Wetherspoon), and for regulars, it is music something always there, always in the background, an annoying mush, something to be ignored.

One reason not to have background music, music is then valued, something to be listened to.

The Keystone clueless in their use of social media. No mention of Jewelia playing on their twitter feed, and yet repetition ad nauseam of a jazz night.

Jewelia and Andy deserved better and The Keystone needs to give a serious rethink how they do their live music nights.

Jewelia and Andy played an acoustic set at Staycation Live 2014.

Republished on Medium.

Lunch at The Keystone

July 26, 2014
fish cakes and salad

fish cakes and salad

As yesterday, excellent lunch at The Keystone, but unlike yesterday, not raining.

I gave the soup a miss. Leek and potato is a winter soup. Summer soups: pea and mint, watercress, tomato, courgette, to name but a few.

Fish cakes and salad as main course. Excellent.

The Keystone are participants in Guildford Independent’s Day, and I forgot to get my card stamped.

The Keystone is located at the bottom of the High Street over the bridge, behind St Nicolas Church.