Beer and Loathing
The White Cross, Richmond
This far west that classic recreational activity of waving at people in boats until they wave back at you is a completely different game to the one you’ve played so many times on other parts of the river. Basically, pre-Wandsworth Bridge rowing about in circles like a knob goes from being a crime that’ll get the river police called on you to being a social norm. Bare heads punting/rowing about at all hours. It’s like being a in a polluted Cambridge. It also means that their hands are pretty tied so getting people to wave back becomes damn near impossible. Which is upsetting.
What Richmond lacks in river-to-ground greetings it more than makes up for in pubs. Clearly people’s unexplainable desire to go sit by the river whenever it gets even slightly warm has not been lost on publicans, who have built many a drinking establishment along the stretch of Richmond that looks out upon the river. When we turned up the whole area was packed with yupsters quaffing white wine spritzers and lager tops and convivally chatting about Caggie and all the other people that have been Made in Chelsea.
The White Cross was the obvious choice of these many riverside drink-ahol houses. This was because – A: It was the biggest & most proud/badass. B: It wasn’t a Slug and Lettuce like the pub next door. C: It had a beer garden courtyard thing with seating that provided the best opportunity for waving at passing oarsmen and last but not least D: Because it was the first one we came to.
It is a Youngs pub, Youngs being, up until 2006, a brewery based in Wandsworth that claimed to be the oldest brewery in London. Maybe Britain too? I have forgotten. Almost gave you some facts there. We almost learnt something. Close call. I think their beer is now brewed up north somewhere. But everybody still treats them as a local London brewery and drinks their beer with ill placed pride and a weird localised jingoism where they think that because it is brewed in London it is somehow better for them. Whereas in fact probably the opposite is true. By “everybody” I mean CAMRA wankers who are 45+ and think that London Pride is a good ale because it has the word ‘London’ in it and the word ‘Pride’ and is endorsed by Jeremy Clarkson’s floppy haired bellend m8.
We got a beer called ‘Young’s Special’ and were very unimpressed. I don’t know what was bloody special about it. It just tasted like very middle of the road bitter. I guess they just thought that if they called it ‘special’ idiots like us would buy it in the hope that it would taste like nutmeg and roses and cashew nuts and generally blow our mind. After that crushing disappointment we just stuck to their porter. Which is very delicious and I can recommend it. Although I am always put off by the silhouette of a fat bloke having a sick time on the pump badge. It’s like the pump badge is one of the visual warnings you get on packets of fags. But instead of telling you you’re going to get horrific throat cancer it’s warning you that you’re gonna get fat and jolly.
After a couple of rounds we got a bit peckish/cold and went inside and ordered some chips to go with our porter (definitely going to look like that pump badge before long) and sat upstairs in this room that was empty except for some old dude who looked like the bony lovechild of a hippy and a punk. It was quite a big room, and he was sitting on the other side of it to us. This is an important factor to note in the upcoming story. When our chips arrived and we started applying condiments he got up, walked across the room, right up until he was in physical contact with our table and said “You lot like chips then?” Too gobsmacked/full of chips to respond we just sort of stared at him for a few seconds to which he replied “Yeah, I just came over to look at this” and started studying the painting hanging behind our table. A couple of awkward minutes passed and he returned to his seat. Odd bloke.
Unless you count kids who consider themselves pretty hardcore because they once got a day ticket to V Festival that we overheard rofling about the B-A-N-T-R at last years Henley regatta then no, there were no hipsters here.
I would have expected the prices to be jacked up round these ends because everybody is posh and there is a body of water nearby. But it was alright. No bank breaking.
Richmond is an odd place; I have never seen so many high end clothing shops on what looks like an average middle England high street. Everybody is very posh and gross, the few ethnic minorities you do see are speaking in accents even more plummy than their white counterparts. But it’s nice to look at clean, safe, not on fire etc. Whilst I wouldn’t want to live there it’s certainly nice for a day trip.
Solid balmy spring evening beer garden vibes, lots of people, everyone having a rad time. As hard as I cast disparaging glances at the rest of the clientele for not conforming to my idea of cool I didn’t seem to ruin anybody’s night. I am still waiting for some nuclear disaster to imbue me with that particular super-power.
The Botanist, Kew
This was a nice surprise, we were wandering around the outside of Kew Gardens to find a means of jumping the fence and getting in to see all the rad plants but instead stumbled upon this awesome little brewpub on the corner of Kew Green.
I thought I knew which pub it was before we went in as there is another pub called ‘The Botanist’ in London somewhere which is run by a company called EBM who basically specialise in providing pubs for people who are absolute cunts and walk about with so many sticks up their arse that everytime they fart they plant a new section of urban woodland. But fortunately it was not a pub for foodie bankers in the >150k wage bracket, it was a pub for beery bankers in the <150k wage bracket. And beery people are always better than foodie people. They’re drunker for one, and happier. Probably.
Enough bitching about what pub it wasn’t. As we entered the bar, realised what we had come across and started letting the nooo waaaays escape our mouths some semi-hipster mid 20s dude literally popped up from behind the bar and greeted us.
He asked if we had been to The Botanist before and we responded that we hadn’t and asked some general questions. Clearly it was a slow day up until this point because we got a very thorough explanation of all the different beers made on the premises coupled with tasters of each and his own tasting notes. I know this dude’s pain. As somebody who works with good beer I am forever waiting for a customer to come in and actually ask some questions other than “I just want a lager, do you have Fosters?”
His welcome and subsequent talk through of all the in house beers basically just made us want to try them all and eat food and have a sick time. Which we did. Even though we didn’t have long before Kew Gardens closed and really the aim was to go to Kew Gardens and try and find an example of one of those massive flowers that smell like dead bodies. Hats off to this chap’s customer service skills then. You have successfully distracted us from the task in hand enough to entirely forget the task in hand and get drunk in the middle of the afternoon instead.
Décor wise the pub was very modern, glass and polished wood were abundant. Lots of chalkboards dotted about telling you interesting little facts about all the beers they brewed and tables with little drawers of malt/hops under the glass so you could learn as you drink. I think I quite liked everything. Actually, no, there was a jank porcelain statue of a cherub in the garden that I wasn’t into. Fuck that guy.
We got some delicious pub grub and sat in the garden slowly making our way through all their in house brews. They had 3 hand pumps and a kegged beer on. There was a brown ale, a bitter and a stout on the hand pumps and this odd raspberry chilled wheat beer on the tap. They were all rad through. And they got us drunk.
So drunk, in fact, that when we finally left there was only an hour left before Kew Gardens closed, yet we both still paid the 15 quid to get in. Idiots.
Johnny McHelpful the helpful barman was basically the only person in the pub, but he struck me as cool. He had a haircut and stuff and seemed to view to world with a sort of wry cynicism. Wry cynicism is cool, right? Well if it isn’t, it should be. I don’t reckon this is the hippest part of Kew though. If Kew has a hip part.
Kew is really pretty. Stupid and full of garden, but very pretty. It’s like the most clichéd west Londony part of west London that I have ever been in. All the stereotypes were out in force, avenues lined with London plane trees, UK based Americans sipping cappuccinos in the shade talking to eccentric rich old women whilst gaggles of children called ‘Tarquin’ and ‘Oscar’ glide past on microscooters. It was jokes. Rubbish jokes.
We paid just under £50 for about three beers each and a meal each which I think could have been much worse considering how much money is fucking falling out of peoples’ wallets around here. They could’ve charged more. But didn’t so hats off to you, The Botanist, Kew (that rhymes).
Not great. But we were the only customers in the building, and we sat in the beer garden/patio/storage area for the casks and had a nice time in the sun so didn’t really need other people. Fuck other people. However, I think atmosphere has to be based on the vibes you’re getting off the other punters so I can’t really allot a high score. Sorry buddy.
Do you have any god awful pubs in mind for Jack to go to at some point in the future? If you do please harass him on twitter @beerandloathinz