Thursday, 12 June 2014

Just off Bethnal Green Rd


It's a funny old place is Bethnall Green Road.  You tend to think of it as the Krays and Cockney geezers, but you'd be far nearer the mark nowadays thinking of Karachi or some such, as the whole area seems to be one long tatty shop after another, so the whole feels like one long foreign market.  It isn't pretty. Trust me on that one. Be that as it may, there are pubs to be found, though often more in the sense of signs for former boozers, or a few very run down looking places which could just as easily be in a poor area of Manchester, Leeds, Bradford or Liverpool rather than wealthy London.  Emerging at the end of Bethnall Green Road, where we'd walked from our flat on a sunny Sunday afternoon, we were almost on our target.  Immediate left under the railway bridge and into Paradise Row.  A neat little row of terraces leads you to Mother Kelly's, in a railway arch, but not for once a brewery, but a bar.

It is a decent size with some benches out front, a stall selling fancified pig flesh of some sort, run by an incredibly hairy guy and two skinny women and inside a neat spacious place with more benches, fridges of exotic beers down the left wall and a long bar with keg taps at the back.  A non bearded barman greets us with a smile and a hello.  He offers tasters and good advice, all in a non condescending way.  He is very amiable and friendly.  We choose two two thirds. Me of wheat beer, E of lager, which shows clearly the limitations of this glass.  On a hot day, two gulps and there is almost nothing left of my beer, but hey, maybe that's just me. We take seats inside, as outside the few patrons practice the usual British policy of spreading themselves out to keep a space for six the domain of two.  But we don't mind - it's nice inside and we can look out through the wide open doors at the trees (look to the right for this, otherwise it is the back of a nondescript building).  We note that mercifully the music, playing at a sensible volume, is not techno beat, but something equally modern, without that drilling bass sound that makes you want to kill yourself, or, better,  the bastard that put it on.  Most of the men aren't bearded, which endears the place to me even more. We like it. 

Back to Bethnall Green Road and some history.  We pass the sign for the Ship.  A Watney's House, though there is no trace of the pub.  I look with interest at the few open pubs.  The Marquis of Cornwallis, the Star of Bethnall Green which I'd have liked to go in, rough though it looked, but E wouldn't. The Old George?  No. Not this time.  A new target for us was The King's Arms.  It is disconcerting to turn a few yards off the main road with its distinct Asian feel into posh London with neat streets and that gentrified feel which is almost unique to London.  The pub is majestic,  with its long floor to ceiling windows and a good feel inside.  The place though is more or less empty and the beer, ironically from Salford, is toasty warm. The cellarman is called.  He apologises and pours a new one which is much better.  He explains the beer lines aren't cooled to the point of dispense.  He and I both shake our heads at this.  Three casks, a few well chosen kegs, but it needed customers, though we did linger a while and one or two did wander in.  We like it and again we'll be back. But I'll make sure I'm not the first customer for a while.

We finish up in the Carpenter's Arms - or rather outside it.  Fairly good (but warmish) Adnams and with a nod to the East, a curry in Tayaabs which was, frankly disappointingly bland.  It seems it isn't what it used be.  A bit like Bethnall Green Road?

 Can I thank Matt Curtis for recommending both pubs, even if he thought I'd find cask free Mother Kelly's not to my taste. Mind you I wouldn't fancy it when it is heaving.

11 comments:

Matt Curtis said...

I was only teasing when I said it wouldn't be to your taste T ;)

Don't get me wrong, and this is coming from someone who is into his 30's and still can't grow a beard but what's your issue with beards and what does their existence have to do with a decent glass of beer?

Tandleman said...

I just dislike big black bushy beards. Probably jealousy!

Curmudgeon said...

"the usual British policy of spreading themselves out to keep a space for six the domain of two"

I've seen much worse ratios than that!

Cooking Lager said...

you are right to distrust beards. they are dirty. Things live in them. I went to a CAMRA beer festival once and a bearded man coughed. Little birds flew out of the beard before settling back in the beardy nest.

Rocket said...

Ron - I was also searching for boozers on Bethnal green high st. this week (tues) , after working up a thirst in a brick lane curry house . The first door I pushed (white horse ?) required a fast about turn as I (with wife) was met by a scantily clad hostess ! We scurried around the corner behind richmix and 'holy hens teeth' we found the owl and pussycat . Decent beer although ltd choice with a cosy outside seating area , the tube soon had us back to Camden where pubs come thick and fast.

Tandleman said...

Who is Ron?

Rocket said...

Reggie's bro

Tandleman said...

Rocket: Of course and there is a picture of them in the Carpenter's Arms. It used to be "owned" by their dear old Mum.

jesusjohn said...

Tandie, living close(ish) by, I have visited the Kings Arms on several occasions and can vouch for your appraisal.

It's bizarrely quiet even in the evenings (disclosure - I've never been on a Friday night; cue loads of people saying it's heaving) and the cask seems not to have throughput sufficient to save the drinker from the unchilled-line-to-dispense curse.

Odd that it is often so quiet. It is the type of pub that is doing well in London at the mo and in a decent area.

Tandleman said...

JJ. That is strange. I just assumed it was atypically quiet.

Rob Derbyshire said...

I've been the The Kings Arms twice. First time was on recomendation of people on Twitter as its the same people who have The Earl of Essex in Islington. First time I went it was pretty much empty part Alpha State's Jonathan Queally proping up the bar, me and my wife had a nice couple of beers there. Next time I went it was a Meet the Brewer event with Mikkeller and it was packed.