|Crawling The Pubs of Chiswick|
Sue Choularton samples some of the real ales on offer in W4
Chiswick has a great variety of pubs and the best way to sample their diversity – and the increasing number of real ales on offer these days – is to go on a good old-fashioned pub crawl.
We picked on four pubs within a stroll of each other – the Swan at Evershed Walk, just off Acton Lane; the Duke of Sussex round the corner at South Parade; the Old Pack Horse on Chiswick High Road; and a final totter to the Crown and Anchor further up Chiswick High Road.
First up was the Swan – a pub slightly off the beaten track, but obviously popular as there was only one empty table left when we arrived and there was a great buzz of people talking. It has the feel of a traditional pub, with wooden floors, an eclectic set of furniture and great bay windows, but it’s also a popular food destination.
However we were principally here to test the beer. The real ales on offer during our visit were Otter Bitter; Hogsback TEA and London Pride. But the beers change regularly, and a blackboard behind the bar listed the following “in the cellar” – Grandstand Bitter from local brewery Twickenham Fine Ales; Deuchars IPA and Marston’s Pedigree.
The Otter Bitter, at 3.6%, was an easy-drinking start to our evening. It was an amber-coloured ale, from Honiton, Devon, which was refreshing and smooth with a dry finish - something you could certainly drink all night! But after a half of that, it was onto the Hogsback TEA, from Tongham in Surrey.
The TEA stands for Traditional English Ale, and that’s just what it was. It’s a fuller flavoured, slightly darker, beer than the Otter, at 4.2%, and has an almost floral finish to it. Fuller’s London Pride (4.7%) completed the set, and is pretty familiar to anyone around Chiswick. Like the pub’s other beers, it was in good condition and was just as I expected – it’s just seen a bit too frequently for me.
By the time we’d finished our ales, most of the other tables were full of diners. The food looked very tempting and the portions looked generous – with a menu ranging from roast whole seabass, with sautéed courgette, chickpea and green bean salad with coriander at £15, to conchiglie pasta with cavolo nero (Italian cabbage), ricotta and pinenuts at £9.50 for the main course size.
But we moved onto the nearby Duke of Sussex, a pub which has made the CAMRA Real Ale Guide for 2010. This pub, with its tiled mosaic flooring near the doors and etched glass windows, has a real hint of Victorian splendour. We made an immediate beeline for the Greenwich Meantime London Pale Ale (4.3%), which is newly out in casks. This golden ale was a tangy alternative to the beers we’d been drinking so far, with a pleasant, almost dry, aftertaste.
The Duke is another pub which changes its ales on a regular basis, and the other beers on offer during our visit were Adnams Bitter (3.7%) – a copper-coloured ale from Southwold in Suffolk, with a biscuity and full flavour – and Wells Bombardier (4.3%) – a slightly blander bitter, but in good condition.
This pub’s menu, combining tapas-style dishes, alongside fuller courses, is perfect fayre for a quick bite during a pub crawl. I couldn’t resist the cheddar, leek and squash tart (£5.75), while my companion had a razor clam with chilli and chorizo (£6.25). Bread and butter were included, and we also shared chips and aioli (£3). The tart was made with great pastry – sometimes a letdown on these kind of dishes – and the leek and squash combination was unusual, but they went well together. My companion’s razor clam came in a tasty, tangy, sauce, and the clam was fresh and well-cooked. The chunky chips rounded off our meal.
It was time to hit the High Road, and another pub which has made CAMRA’s 2010 guide – the Old Pack Horse. This is a Fuller’s pub and is far more traditional than the other two hostelries. It had a range of Fuller’s beers on offer, with the lightest being the Discovery (3.9%). This blonde beer has a real zest to it and was a refreshing drink after the walk from South Parade.
Fuller’s London Pride was there again, and the other two beers we tried were Fuller’s ESB (a strong 5.5%) and Gales Winter Brew (4.2%). The ESB is certainly rich and tasty, with more flavour than Pride – it has a hint of toffee and honey about it. Winter Brew is a warming beer, as the name suggests, with a sharp and satisfying finish.
The Old Pack Horse offers a vast Thai menu in a Thai-themed restaurant towards the back of the pub, with evening meals including banquets for two starting at £15.50 per person, to main courses such as Khao Pad (stir-fried rice with egg, soya sauce, spring onions and vegetables, plus beef, pork or chicken) for £5.95.
Our final stop was the Crown and Anchor – a traditional-looking pub on the outside with its cream and black tiles, which are listed to protect them. Inside it’s more modern, with a wooden floor, traditional furniture, including sofas, and a great central fireplace – a welcoming feature at the end of our evening. It comes across as a relaxed and friendly pub.
The Crown and Anchor introduced Purity beers to its drinks offerings just a few weeks ago. Purity Brewing are based in Warwickshire and have an environmental approach to all their ales. We tried their Pure Gold (3.8%) and Pure UBU (4.5%). The Pure Gold, obviously a golden ale, has a hint of citrus and a lovely fresh taste. The Pure UBU is a fuller-bodied beer, but it still has a tangy-ness about it.
Plenty of people were also eating here, with the staff working hard in the open kitchen. The menu looks excellent value, with main course prices starting from linguine with leek, mushroom, parsley and cream sauce at £8.50, and rising to £12.50 for an 8oz hanging steak with sea salt chips, roasted tomato, herb and caper. There’s also a Monday to Friday (5.30pm-7pm) meal deal called Beat the Clock, which certainly seems worth trying.
Reflecting on the evening’s ale selection, if I had to pick my favourite beer of the night, I’d be split between the cask version of the Greenwich Meantime London Pale Ale in the Duke of Sussex and the Purity Pure Gold in the Crown and Anchor. I think I’ll do a “Simon Cowell” and ask the viewers to chose – so why not give them both a go next time you fancy a drink?
November 20, 2009