The Old Brewery, Meantime’s new bar and restaurant in Greenwich, seems to us to be an absolute triumph.
Approaching from the river (it was a nice evening, so we got a boat) we couldn’t help but be a little excited: behind a classically designed wing of the Royal Naval College we could hear the murmur of a bona fide beer garden. Even if the beer was rubbish, we’d be coming here for the garden, which has exactly the atmosphere of something in Regensburg or Mainz. Alistair Hook is a complete Germanophile and has clearly put a lot of thought into what it is that makes a German beer garden feel the way it does.
It’s brave of the Naval College to let this venture go ahead with all the anxiety about binge Britain, but it would be hard to imagine a more civilised atmosphere. Given that most museums and public parks in Germany have beer gardens, it would be great if this experiment pays off and a few more of our institutions took the plunge.
Despite a nip in the air, we sat outside and had a few pre-dinner drinks. The Helles was more pleasing than usual (although with a slick of white foam rather than the big fluffy German-style head it deserves). Schoenram Pils was an excellent, authentic, but rather pricy, biergarten brew. They also please the ticker, with some little homegrown beers we’d not seen before. Unfortunately Kellerbier was off but Famous Belgian and Hospital Porter were available. The former smelled odd but tasted interesting, like a really hoppy triple with a nice toffee flavour. Hospital porter (8%) also had a whiff of dodgy homebrew about it but, in the gob, offered an interesting blend of peat-smoke and burnt cream. It’s an ‘extreme beer’.
Inside, it’s even more of a wonderland, with beer bottle chandeliers and a timeline of interesting points in the history of beer in London from the 18th century to the present. (Who was their historian? There was a whiff of scholarship about it.) The kettles and mash tuns of Alistair Hook’s playground microbrewery take centre stage and each course of the short but interesting menu has a recommended beer option (“Recommended beers not included in price”). Even the desserts have a beer angle — chocolate fondant with chocalate malt crunch, or lemon tart with’ kent hop meringue’.
The food is fantastic and reasonably priced given the quality, while the restaurant space is perfect — large and bustling but intimate-feeling nonetheless.
Bloody well done, Mr Hook.