I mentioned in my last post that the area of London around Aldgate has changed beyond recognition. Bearing this in mind, I decided to make use of the changes and instead of approaching the Brick Lane area via my usual route of Whitechapel Rd, I went along Commercial St for a change, thus giving me a chance to walk on the posher parallel. A mere 15 minute stroll from our flat I came across Culpepper. From outside it looked pretty attractive, though the name itself set off alarm bells. This wasn't going to be a basic boozer, even though, with Truman's boards on the façade, it obviously was at some time, having lived most of its existence as the Princess Alice and after that as the City Darts - a name that just makes you want to say "Why?" A bit like its latest name in fact. It has, like many a place in this area, Jack the Ripper connections. That lad got about a bit.
Anyway enough of pub naming, I'm more into pub shaming, so around noon, in I went. Now I have no idea what it looked like before, but I rather liked the way it has been done up; stripped walls, large windows with wrought iron surrounds and a nice wooden floor give it a very pubby feel, even though, clearly, the emphasis is on food. You can read what Jay Rayner thought about it here*, but I was there for the beer. Good it was too, but pricey. You'd expect that, but at least they'd remembered to spend some money on cellar cooling and, more importantly, switched the bloody stuff on. The young barman was happy to chat as I was the only one there, but his boss - I sussed that out - gave me not as much as a glance, so you may have to take your chances in being greeted kindly. I had two beers; Hackney American Pale and having spotted it, Harveys Sussex Bitter, because it is the law that this cannot be passed by. I enjoyed the latter more than the former, but the Hackney was fine. In fact a touch better than that and if I hadn't been the sole customer the whole time I was there, it might have been even finer. I understand though the pub/restaurant/hotel isn't this quiet normally, being filled and overfilled by hipsters and suits. Now I know though, I can enjoy a pint there when it isn't rammed. So in short, I liked it.
I also liked the Golden Heart on the corner of Commercial St and Hanbury St, as a pub that has been preserved in its 1960s glory. It really is a smasher inside, with much dark wood, nice old prints, Trumans memorabilia, sparklingly clean (I didn't use the toilets though) and with a legendary, characterful landlady (Didn't know that at the time). So putting aside the gougy prices (£2.80 half of Trumans) - what's not to like? Again I was the only customer, so was served by the legend who gave an immediate impression of the individuality that earns her the descriptor of brusque and obtuse in one review. I put it down at the time as her being deaf and eccentric, so enjoyed the décor, put her out of my mind, supped up, thanked her and left.
I didn't witness her other behaviours, described as "rude, awful, unreasonable, acidic, belligerent" and more, though I suppose I did witness "Daylight Robber". I have a feeling the other less than complimentary attributes weren't hidden that far below the surface. I like "character", but you can have too much of a good thing it seems. Enter at your own discretion.
*Jay Rayner advises that Culpepper was a herbalist of some repute. They grow herbs in the roof garden apparently. Jay isn't impressed.
You really want to read some of the astonishing reviews of the Golden Heart. You might even want to go there afterwards. I might even go back myself, but probably safer not to.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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