New pubs on the block
We hear all the time about pubs closing down in the UK but a wave of new pub openings and re-openings in West London seems to tell a different story. Here is my take on the boozers making news.
The good old British boozer is on its last legs, according to reports which claims they are closing at a rate of 33 a week. Publicans cite a number of reasons: rising rent, rates, fuel, property, taxation, the smoking ban, the trend towards wine drinking, and fierce competition from off-licences and supermarkets. So when I heard of new pubs opening (and some re-opening) in my local area of West London, I decided to check them out and see how they are bucking the trend.
THE TOMMY TUCKER
First stop was the Tommy Tucker in Fulham. It was formerly The Pelican, and before that something else, so not a new pub as such, but certainly a reincarnation. It is run by the people behind the Parsons Green restaurant Claude's Kitchen and the Amuse Bouche champagne bar, who said they wanted to create a pub they "would choose to call their local" so I knew that TT would be a posh pub. No spit and sawdust here…
Tommy Tucker is rhyming slang for ‘supper’ and so it seemed appropriate to visit for an evening meal on a chilly Tuesday evening. That was my first mistake, as Chelsea Football Club was playing at home that night. Stamford Bridge is five minutes away from the Tommy T. Luckily by 7.45 the pub had emptied of football fans who gathered round the pub’s new central bar and their place was taken by groups of young women (where they the WAGs?) and gradually the dining tables filled up.
We didn’t have to sing for our supper, but if we had wanted to the walls in our corner of the pub were papered in old sheet music. Otherwise with scrubbed wood and minimum fuss the decor is fairly plain, but the food exceeded any expectations we might have had of ‘pub grub’. The menu is grouped into Meat, Fish and Vegetable. We had Chargrilled Lamb Roast Winter Veg and Mushroom Ketchup and the Day Boat Fish, which was bream on the day, with Jerusalem Artichokes Fennel and Parsley Potatoes. We couldn’t resist the Cox Apple & Quince Crispy Pie with cinnamon milk ice cream, nor the Choc, raisin and infused run choc ice.
This isn’t a pubby pub, but with good food and great wine list it is probably going to tick all the boxes for the Chelsea set, whether they are made in Chelsea or CFFC.
Tommy Tucker, 22 Waterford Road, London SW6 2DR
THE BULL WESTFIELD
What is it about shopping and quaffing? Shopping mecca Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush has a row of champagne bars in its designer ‘Village’ which are always well frequented by shoppers perched on stools knocking back the bubbly after popping into Prada or Mulberry . But the Bull, the only pub in Westfield and recently renovated by Geronimo Inns, is aimed as much as workers, cinema goers and locals as well as those laden with designer carrier bags. The group has recently given the pub a make-over bringing in a look they describe as ‘townhouse chic with a twist of The Hamptons’ and it does have an American style take on an old British boozer, which manages to keep a cosy pub-feel on the ground floor . Not the down at heel joint one might have found in the Shepherds Bush of yesteryear, but The Bull is a cheery place to rest shopping legs and a convivial and spacious venue to meet friends.
Upstairs there is mix and match furniture, sofas and comfy chairs and huge windows which mirror the Westfield glassy facade. There are even toys and games and a big kitchen serving food all day long from full English breakfast and Lobster Benedict to hearty pub food such as fish and chips and sausage and mash. There is plenty going on at The Bull including gin master classes and even life drawing classes.
The Bull. Unit 1033, Westfield Shopping Centre, London W12 7SL.
One of my favourite new pubs is The Blue Boat Right on the river Thames near Hammersmith. The new build pub is the perfect viewing spot for boat race watchers and was officially opened by twice world champion and Olympic bronze medal winning rower, Sarah Winckless. Like another fairly recent Fullers addition, One Over The Ait at Kew Bridge, The Blue Boat is part of a swanky new riverside development; in this case the Fulham Reach development by St George which stretches along what was formerly an unlovely spot of west London close to Charing Cross Hospital and five minutes from grim Hammersmith Broadway.
The pub has a large, south-facing terrace with views towards Hammersmith Bridge and Harrods Furniture Depository.
The new pub has been designed to incorporate elements of a traditional London boozer with vintage prints, battered old books and stuffed herons – plus lots of Boat Race memorabilia – and a modern, spacious area with lots of natural light, comfy seats and an eye-catching central bar.
Outside there is plenty of seating with wooden tables and overturned boats which get packed out in the summer as this is a great spot on the promenade down the river although there is some competition – I counted 5 pubs in the neighbouring 800 metres or so. But none of the locals are in the same bracket as The Blue Boat, mostly being of the more traditional variety many, like The Crabtree, frequented by visitors to Craven Cottage the home of Fulham FC.
The food at the Blue Boat is different too; an extensive menu includes premium dishes including some ‘Only at Fuller’s’ touches, such as Vintage Ale Sticky Toffee Pudding. The bar is stocked with an exciting array of beers, including Fuller’s golden ale, Oliver’s Island, alongside Frontier craft lager and the eponymous London Pride. Leading the team is Nina Dahl, general manager. Nina is a local resident and has been part of the Fuller’s family for many years, most recently, building success at the Hereford Arms in South Kensington. Nina is joined by another Fuller’s talent, Jon Pellew, as head chef. Jon comes from the White Horse in Richmond, where he has built his reputation among South West London foodies.
The Blue Boat, Distillery Wharf, Parr’s Way, London, W6 9GD. 020 3092 2090
THE HOUR GLASS was taken over last year by Luke Mackay and David Turcan - the duo behind Brompton Food Market, found just around the corner. The shop has become a neighbourhood favourite with its fresh English produce, secret garden café and friendly service. This ambience is carried over to the Hour Glass where food is the main attraction, however tempting it is to linger in the pub, run by Henry Gravells the live-in Landlord, who has managed some famous pubs in London including The Pilot Inn in Greenwich, The Cabbage Patch in Twickenham and The Salutation in Hammersmith.
One can eat upstairs in the dining room, but the same menu is available in the comfortable surroundings of the bar.
Main courses include Aylesbury duck breast with parsnips, hazelnut, celeriac and rhubarb chutney which looked like a sound English dish, but I went for the stone bass, braised fennel, monks’ beard with a Seville orange and bisque sauce which was delicate but satisfying.
A rabbit, ham and cider pie with Brussels sprouts and mash is one of the Hour Glass’ most popular choices.Local suppliers include the delightful fishmongers and butchers on the French influenced Bute Street in South Kensington. The wine list had plenty of reasonably priced choices while down in the bar London brewers are prominent making up at least 50% of the draft options alongside some proper cloudy scrumpy, IPA’s and at least 3 guest ales.
Ambience in the dining room is understated chic, with wood panelled walls salvaged from churches, old distressed mirrors which reflect the pub’s heritage and large windows looking out over the contemporary Knightsbridge designer shops. Tim has experience working with Michelin-starred chefs such as Bruno Loubet and in restaurants such as The Ebury, and has also worked in some of London’s best food pubs,to which he can now add The Hour Glass.
The Hour Glass, 279-283 Brompton Road, South Kensington, SW3 2DY www.hourglasspub.co.uk