A few weeks back, we went for a riverside walk in the East End and blogged about various pubs there. This time, we went Surrey side, starting at Tower Bridge.
While the tourists were busy snapping the bridge, we were photographing the remains of the Anchor brewery. Or rather, one of the Anchor breweries. There were (at least) two on the south side of the Thames. The arguably more famous one was further upstream, on Bankside, and was home to Barclay Perkins.
The Anchor brewery at Tower Bridge (or at Horsleydown, as it’s also known) was set up by John Courage in 1789. It was a working brewery up until 1982, and you still see quite a lot of it — chimney and all — although it’s now yuppie flats and estate agents. Further down Horsleydown Rd is the Anchor Tap, which is now a Sam Smith’s place. It’s worth knowing about because it has a beer garden, which is unusual for somewhere so central.
There are fewer riverside pubs on this stretch of river, but it’s still a very interesting walk. You go past converted wharves, and even some original wharf buildings that haven’t yet become flats. They could still film the Sweeney there.
The first pub on the river you come to is the Angel (closest tube Bermondsey or Rotherhithe). This is a very old pub — first recorded back in the seventeenth century, but probably older. It’s across the road from the ruins of Edward III’s fourteenth century palace, although someone has nicked the sign explaining that. The current pub building dates from c.1837. It has an old-fashioned but recently refurbished partitioned interior. It also has a great first floor lounge with spectacular views upriver towards Tower Bridge.
We used to come here quite a lot when Bailey lived in South-East London, but hadn’t been back for four or five years. It felt a bit rough back then, and it’s still a little “on the edge” – when we walked in, a scary bloke was talking to the landlady about how he wanted to cut someone’s throat. We think the view and the history make it well worth a trip though. And the landlady was lovely! Samuel Smith provides again.
A little further downriver, you come to the Mayflower, which is also pretty old. It was renamed in the nineteenth century after the ship, which apparently sailed from Rotherhithe. This is as posh as the Angel is rough (ie – not as much as you might think). It serves lots of seafood, and has a great jetty outside. It’s a wonderful place to sit for hours. The only downside is that it’s a Greene King place. In the spirit of giving everything another chance, we tried an Old Speckled Hen, but remain unconvinced.
After this point, the riverside walk becomes a lot less interesting. It’s all soulless Barrett home developments and really run-down council estates. You’re better off continuing your journey by public transport from Rotherhithe –- if the East London line was working, you could cut across to Wapping and visit the pubs we wrote about last time. Or you can get a bus into Deptford and Greenwich, where the pubs are more interesting.
In our desperation to escape the barren wasteland that is Surrey Quays, we stumbled across The Most Disappointing Pub in London. This is the Moby Dick, a Fuller’s pub. Now, we associate Fuller’s with quality, and while some Fuller’s pubs are better than others, we expect to find fresh tasty beer and good service in all of them. This place looks like a Travelodge bar, and was extremely unfriendly. No welcome, no pleasantries. The clientele were mostly weird blokes on their own, watching the telly.
We asked for tap water to go with our beer, and were told they only served water in bottles. We haven’t heard that desperate line for about ten years. Turns out they’re famous for refusing water -– google “tap water pubs” and they’re on the first page. The beer was flat and dull as well.
It’s not the worst beer in London, and it’s probably not the unfriendliest, but we expect a lot better from Fuller’s. Avoid Surrey Quays and avoid this pub. It was so depressing, we needed a couple of good strong beers at the Greenwich Union to restore our usual cheery natures.