I have the questionable fortune to live in Woolwich. My flat is nice enough but to get anywhere remotely civilised requires 25 minutes of sharing a train with the South-East London detritus. Luckily, once the train hits London Bridge I am just seconds away from the Barrow Boy and Banker, a decorous oasis of superior beer and satisfactory pie.
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The BBandB is a Fuller’s pub; a brewery based in Chiswick (South West London for those who don’t know Town) so the beer does not have to travel very far before it reaches your pint glass. This is a good thing – real ales are living entities which evolve over time and can get distinctly nasty if they have travelled too far or been badly treated. With the brewery just down the road the beers here are always fresh, in top shape and ready to engage your interest.
The boozer is located in a converted bank and retains some of the features; its high ceiling allows there to be a mezzanine floor where you can go to hide from the bustle of the bar below. There are plenty of tables and it is usually possible to score one apart from at really busy times. If you turn up for an early lunch you can normally choose to be seated anywhere you fancy.
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Once you stagger up to the bar you are confronted with a broad selection of real ales, including guest ales as well as Fuller’s own, and a depressingly mundane selection of woefully tedious fizzy lagers and disgusting, lifeless keg stouts of the sort people pretend to enjoy on 17th March. Go for a pint from Fuller’s range and you will not go wrong. On this trip to the BBandB I had a couple of pints of Discovery and one of Honeydew.
Discovery on draught, when it is in as good a condition as they keep it here, is a top pint of ale. They refer to it as a ‘blonde ale’ and that is a good descriptor of the colour. Refreshingly bitter with a slightly floral, fruity character thanks to the use of Saaz hops this is a great sharpener to invigorate you after a long, hot day or just a drink to stimulate the senses before moving on to more acts of booze heroism.
Honeydew was my preferred taste of booze heroism being a solid 5% abv. It is another pale coloured beer which is brewed with the addition of some honey. This gives it a rich, complex flavour which is not heavy or sweet but does increase its interest-level. It is another good refresher for a balmy summer’s evening.
The BBandB also serve food. Their sausage sandwiches are great for lunch but what one should really be eating here are the pies. I found my steak and ale pie (the ale used is Fuller’s ESB, a distinctly characterful bitter) to be meaty and flavoursome, if not particularly demanding. The pastry was surprisingly good.
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My drinking companion[ref]Many thanks for buying me dinner and beer, Carlos.[/ref] (he came all the way from the US, nice to show him a bit of local colour) had a fish pie topped with mash and cheese. He reported it was nicely full of bits of fish and was pretty tasty.
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We are told the first bite is with the eye and I did find the look of his pie to be unpleasantly reminiscent of congealed vomit; fortunately my friend didn’t seem to notice this.
The food may be a stupefying distance away from the most sophisticated you can find in London, but it is perfectly reasonable for a modestly priced meal in a pub. On the other hand the beer is quite superb, there is not much fresher or throbbingly lively ale in London. If you fancy an extremely well-kept restorative academic half[ref]An academic half is half a quart, which is to say a pint.[/ref] then this is a destination to seek out.
Contact details: The Barrow Boy and Banker, 8 Borough High Street, London SE1 9QQ Telephone: 020 7403 5415