I think of myself as quite adventurous, fairly quick on the uptake and keen to venture into new places. So, why was it only this weekend that I discovered the joys of Crystal Palace's Grape and Grain, and The Harp, near Charing Cross? I did consider making out that I'd been to both of these gems before, out of sheer embarassment, but then my excitement would give me away- nothing beats that fluttering buzz of finding a phenomenal real ale pub.
So imagine this. It's Friday night. I've come straight from work, having gotten changed in the coat cupboard and put lipstick on in the dark, as everyone else had left and I was concerned that turning the light on might trigger an alarm. I'm due to attend a special one off pub quiz put on by a friend's church, and I need somewhere to while away half a hour or so while I wait for fiance. I had heard about this place, the Grape and Grain, but I'd heard about it from CAMRA ticking friends, and was apprehensive about the presence of my short skirt in such an establishment. I've still got a CAMRA card, miniskirt or not, I thought, as I pushed on the heavy door, escaping the drizzly rain.
And there it was. Pub heaven. 8 real ales, Locale and microbreweries. Arm chairs. Discounts for CAMRA members. Wood panelling. Menus in LP covers. In SOUTH EAST LONDON! I have a feeling that miniskirt may become a regualr feature at the Grape and Grain.
Pity we had to leave to go the quiz, although we had a marvellously civilised time and busted all competition with our music round prowess and ended up winning. The quiz, by the way, was at The Rosendale, in West Dulwich. My pal's pals had hired out the upstairs. Meanwhile downstairs, in the main bar, I reluctantly ordered one of my least favourite ales (from a choice of one), Adnams Broadside. The serving was laughable, I flagged down the nearest barmaid for a top up (it was missing about 40p worth of beer, at these prices) and she topped it up with Murphys. It might be worth avoiding the Rosendale if you like your ale without an Irish stout top.
Saturday brought with it an early meeting at our wedding reception venue- quarter past eleven isn't too early for a half, is it? Cottage Ex Mayor or Itchen Valley Godfather? Ok, then. Both.
Meeting down, and fiance off to football, I had a good few hours to fill, and so took a stack of work to the Baker Street Wetherspoons. The barman serenaded me as I ordered Welton's Sweet Chariot- any guesses what he sang? And soon it was time for my Harp adventure. Bro took me round the houses (well, the side of the Colliseum, in truth) to find the back entrance- which was well worth it. The Narnia effect of pushing open the unmarked door and stumbling into the warm bustle of the tiny bar made me want to run aroundand say hello to everyone. Redemption's Urban Dusk just added to the glowing loveliness of this place, and after 4 ales, I vowed to come back again soon. I had'n' expected it to be the next day. A very dodgy play in Kentish Town put us fabulously close to the Southampton Arms, my previous pub heaven discovery. A local played rock and roll on the peiano, we shared a bench with Helen Mirren lookalikes and we made our way through all thier ales and a selection of their ciders, but let me say- a green beer should not taste of egg, Stonehenge Ales.
Sunday- and we paid a visit to our wedding chapel, followed by a tour of Wembley Stadium (we really do get up to all sorts, don't we?) We jumped off the tube at Finchley for a Wetherspoons Sunday lunch, and then hopped off again at Euston to pop into the Bree Louise. Hopback's Back row was the most exciting of an already outdated range of Six nations themed beers, but we had a lot of fun playing bankety blank with the menu. Who would ever guess garlic loaf?
And as if by magic, we were back at Charing Cross, and our legs led us subconciously back to The Harp. Some Dark Star wares and dry cider finished off my weekend of surprised discovery. Do you think I can stumble across two stunning new pubs every weekend? I'll give it a good shot.