News Pubs and Old Favourites #1: The Forester, Ealing

We spent the gap between Christmas and New Year in West London, on the hunt for Proper Pubs. Four stood out and we’re going to give each one its own post.

Jess first vis­it­ed the Forester in North­fields, Eal­ing, in 2016, dur­ing research for 20th Cen­tu­ry Pub, and has been try­ing to get Ray there ever since. It’s of aca­d­e­m­ic inter­est, being built in 1909 as an ear­ly Improved Pub to a design by Now­ell-Parr, and retain­ing a mul­ti-room lay­out with lots of peri­od details.

It also hap­pens to be a sub­ur­ban back­street cor­ner pub – our cur­rent favourite thing. As we approached, it peeked into view between the cor­ner shops and ter­raced hous­es, like a steam­punk cruise ship at berth.

It’s a Fuller’s pub, too, which means touch­es of the cor­po­rate, but not to an oppres­sive degree. It helps that the light is kept low and (not to every­one’s taste, we know) the music loud, so every table feels like its own warm bub­ble.

The Forester, Ealing -- interior.

The locals seemed well-to-do with­out being posh, sink­ing beer and gin, and throw­ing out the odd rau­cous joke: “Bloody hell! When you bent over then, Steve… Either you’re wear­ing a black thong or you for­got to wipe your arse.”

They ignored par­ties of out­siders – a group of what we took for pro­fes­sion­al foot­ballers on tour, all design­er shirts and hair prod­uct; a trio of twen­tysome­things, appar­ent­ly from the mid­dle east, when-in-Rome-ing with pints of Guin­ness – with­out appar­ent mal­ice.

The beer was excel­lent, too – Fuller’s as Fuller’s should be served, gleam­ing and bril­liant beneath clean arc­tic foam. The ESB in par­tic­u­lar was hard to resist, demand­ing to be treat­ed like a ses­sion beer, which maybe it is at Christ­mas.

We made time to vis­it twice dur­ing a four-night trip, which should tell you some­thing. You might find it worth a detour next time you’re in Lon­don.

Pub History: Field Work in West London

After spending an afternoon reading about pubs in the National Archives at Kew we were keen to actually visit some and so decided on a crawl through the West London heartland of Fuller’s.

We start­ed, as the sun began to set, at The Tap on the Line which is, hand­i­ly, right on the plat­form at Kew sta­tion. A con­vert­ed rail­way buf­fet bar inspired we guess by the Sheffield Tap, it’s also a bit like a mini ver­sion of the Par­cel Yard at King’s Cross with which it shares a ten­den­cy to vin­tage tiling and scrubbed wood. There was lots of eat­ing, not much seat­ing, and a row of keg taps on the back wall. The ubiq­ui­tous Edi­son bulbs were also present and cor­rect. It’s easy to admire the good taste with which it’s been put togeth­er, and pubs at sta­tions are A Good Thing, but it did feel, frankly, a bit like drink­ing in the kitchen depart­ment of John Lewis.

Window at the Old Pack Horse, Chiswick.

On the tube to Gun­ners­bury we pon­dered what we did like in a Fuller’s pub and, rather to our own sur­prise, found our­selves think­ing, wist­ful­ly, that we hoped the next one would be one of the mid-2000s refurbs with shiny orange wood and the full range of cask ales. With that in mind, The Old Pack Horse on Chiswick High Road was a sight for sore eyes: a grand, vague­ly-art-nou­veau exte­ri­or from 1905 with frost­ed win­dows full of gleam­ing light, adver­tis­ing Pub­lic and Saloon bars. Though the inte­ri­or was spa­cious there seemed to be lots of cor­ners, cub­by-holes and screens mak­ing it feel quite inti­mate. An antique met­al sign adver­tis­ing The Empire Bar lurked in the shad­ows above the bar evok­ing the peri­od of pomp when the pub was built. The beer offer was cask-led… just – a new craft beer menu (most­ly in bot­tles) was in the process of being rolled out, and was being pushed fair­ly hard by staff. The Thai restau­rant at the back was a gen­uine­ly pleas­ing reminder of a decade ago when every pub in Lon­don seemed to have the same.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Pub His­to­ry: Field Work in West Lon­don”