Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The Refinery - London Bridge Pubs - Katzenjammers - 214 Bermondsey

Friday April 12th - Sam and I planned to play some tennis in the afternoon, but a combination of the rain and Sam's drinking of two pints over lunch led us to skip the exercise and move straight on to The Refinery near Southwark.  The Refinery is a pub for city boys (lager-fest on tap) and a cocktail bar for city girls (ludicrous cocktails on offer) that can either be packed and unpleasant, or relaxed and enjoyable depending on when you go.  The bar is run by Drake and Morgan who are behind The Anthologist (Bank), The Folly (Monument), The Drift (Liverpool Street) and The Parlour (Canary Wharf) and The Happenstance (St.Pauls).

The Refinery
Sam headed to the empty bar to get us a couple of Brewskis (beer cocktails).  Sadly for Sam, the cocktail menu has just been revamped, so it took the barman longer than usual to make the drinks.  Meanwhile, a crowd of lager-drinking blokes built up behind him, getting progressively more annoyed by Sam's order as the barman went back and forth to find the odd ingredients and garnishes - "Oh, he's gone to get another bloody flower!" etc.


The cocktail list is impressive and fun, with several made to share in quirky containers which you can actually buy to take home. The most interesting one on the menu is Goldfish in a Bag which includes pink grapefruit 'fish' and edible lily pads, presented in a goldfish bag.  If we had been hungry, we would have gone for a Beer Flight - 3 beer samples each served with a miniature canapé version of a classic dish (fish and chips, burgers etc) - or one of their three types of fries (Roman, Samurai or Cowboy?).  We also liked the flavour wheels for wine, beer and cocktails included in the menu.  It's a good looking place with a really great choice of food and drink, but go at the wrong time and it will seem like an ordinary banker bar! Time it carefully.


We moved on and had a quick drink at 3 of London Bridge's best pubs - Brew WharfThe Rake and The Wheatsheaf.  If you are not a beer fan - skip ahead. Brew Wharf is tucked down a cobbled side street near Borough Market, and has a wide selection of Meantime beer alongside a couple of its own home brewed beers. Sit outside with the wonderful umbrella art installation, if the weather allows!  Wine Wharf is next door of that doesn't take your fancy.


We wandered a few yards down the road for our next stop.  The Rake is owned by Utobeer, who run a fantastic beer shop at Borough Market.  On certain days you can fill up your own Growler (0.5 litre bottle) with their beer to takeaway (at the shop that is).  The tiny pub has an excellent selection of beers and a wall covered in friendly notes from brewers that have visited the pub over the years.  As we were leaving we were joined by one of Sam's flatmates, Henry, making his List début.

The Rake
On our way from The Rake to The Wheatsheaf we passed by The Wheatsheaf (yep, that's what I said), a refurbished pub on Stoney Street next to Borough Market that has a beer garden complete with a hipster street kitchen van.  Also nearby is The Wine Pantry, an interesting little shop where you can sample many wines on tap, and match them with cured meats and cheeses. There is another one in St.Pancras station.

The Wheatsheaf - Stoney Street
The Wine Pantry
We then moved on to the other Wheatsheaf on Southwark Street, a great underground pub that is free of Borough market crowds due to it's unimpressive exterior. Here we were joined by Sam's other flatmate, Tom Rex (T.Rex - best name ever?), completing our team for the evening. They had a great selection of ales on, and it was the perfect place to stop off before heading to Katzenjammers next door.  You are really spoilt for choice for drinking around London Bridge if you know where to look.  If those pubs aren't enough, head over towards Tower Bridge to find The Dean Swift, The Draft House and Simon the Tanner.  Has anyone completed that dream of a pub crawl in one day? 

The Wheatsheaf - Southwark Street
We moved on to Katzenjammers, an underground Bierkeller (German beer hall) on Southwark Street.  It's a fantastic place to go any night of the week, but on Fridays they don't take any bookings as drinkers in the know jostle for space to see the Oompah Brass band.


Get there as early as you can so that you can get a table near the band, order yourself some steins of Bavarian beer and settle in for the entertainment. Oompah kicked off with a traditional German brass tune before powering through an incredible range of pop covers (they describe themselves as the world's leading exponents of 'Oom-pop') from Britney Spears to Queen that got everyone singing along and swinging their steins left and right.   If you sit right next to them, you will probably have a french horn on your head at some point, or a trombone slide poking you in the face. They will also happily drink any beer that you send their way.  Their trumpeter may be related to Maynard Ferguson?


It was whilst Sam was swinging his glass (imagine the Stonecutters scene in The Simpsons) that I suddenly found myself covered in Henry's beer and broken glass.  If this was any old English pub, an argument would have probably broken out with the people sharing our table, but our neighbours were so friendly (as I often find in the German pubs in London) that they just cheered and cleared it up for us!  The long bench seating arrangement always leads to this sociable atmosphere.  I have had similarly fun times at Bierschenke in Temple, and the Bavarian Beerhouse in Old Street - both of these would be great places to go and watch the upcoming German vs Spanish Champions League semi-finals.  I can't personally recommend any Spanish venues although apparently Bradley's Spanish Bar in Tottenham Court Road is a good place to start.  Any insider tips from Spanish Londoners?


We were eventually kicked out of Katzenjammers at closing time, but we still had one place left that was handily open late and situated en route to Sam's flat.  214 Bermondsey is a gin and cocktail bar hidden underneath the Antico Italian restaurant on Bermondsey Street.  It has only opened recently (having previously been a bar owned by Antico) and so hasn't been discovered by the masses yet.  T.Rex and I both went for their Gin Flight Tests - you are given three gin and tonics (making use of their homemade tonic) with tasting notes, and are invited to guess which is which, with the answers provided in a sealed envelope.  It's a clever way to introduce drinkers to a few of the daunting 50 or so gins on offer, and might even tempt some non-gin drinkers to convert.  Gin Mare was the standout from the 6 that we tried.  Head down there before it fills up!




Thanks to Sam for a big effort (6 places if you count all the pubs), and to his flamates Henry and Tom, who pick up 4 and 3 points respectively.  The beer and gin clearly had an effect - Henry, Tom and I tried to play Fifa when we reached their flat but found ourselves 7-1 down to Napoli at half-time, at which point we gave up.  We covered all of the London Bridge places currently on The List - if anyone has any other suggestions, please leave a comment.

Last but not least, the London Marathon is on Sunday and my flatmate Ali is running it as part of her 3000 mile project for Save the Children and the Motor Neurone Disease Association - head over to her blog here to support her insane effort.

Square Meal

Square Meal



Square Meal

Square Meal

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