Pub #1: The Black Friar

So I posted yesterday that I wasn’t going to start on the 100 Pubs Project quite yet, but I did wind up doing so anyway because I was late in getting to the BFI to watch Shanghai Express.  What was a very “damn!” moment soon turned into a better night as I walked along the bank of the Thames, snapped some photos, and made my way to The Black Friar on the other side of the river.

Now, I was at The Black Friar once before.  After watching a film at the BFI, Derry led Aru, Johnny and myself to the place in search of a drink.  However, it was around 11 pm, which is when most pubs in London close, and The Black Friar wasn’t any exception.  Still, we got a gander at the impressive interior briefly before we went back out into the cold and the rain.

This experience was to be different, as I had arrived at around 9 pm, so well enough time to tuck in a pint.  The bartender (pubtender?) behind the counter was about to recommend the Landlord after seeing me look at the row of ales, but, having sampled the Landlord ale before, I was after something different.  With a note saying that it was brewed in London–Battersea, to be exact–the Wandle caught my eye.  I don’t think I’ve noticed it in the other pubs I’ve been to in London so far, so it seemed like something I ought to go for on a cold December evening when plans have gone somewhat awry.

It was a good choice.  For those of you who are curious, a pint of the Wandle goes for £2.80 at The Black Friar, which is quite a decent price to pay in a London Pub, in my experience of three months in the city.

My drink began to disappear quite quickly as I sat at a little table and had a gander of the surroundings.  Per  The Black Friar’s interior is literally a work of art. It was begun in 1904, with sculptors Nathaniel Hitch, Frederick T. Callcott and Henry Poole contributing to its splendour. This pub is a lasting testament to their skill and craftsmanship.

Anyway, back to my beer.  Wandle is an easy ale to drink, with little bite or feel of heaviness, in my opinion.  It was quite a light ale to quaff as my eyes and stomach were enticed by something on the food menu: “Woodland Mushroom Pie.”  Now, don’t ask me if the mushrooms were really from the woodlands of Britain, because I don’t know.  What I do know was that the pie, and the accompanying carrots and mash, were majestic.  Furthermore, as I was eating my delicious meal (coupled with another pint of Wandle), I realised that this pie and mash couple was probably my first properly “British” meal.  Of course, terming something as being “British” or any other ethnic group is bound to be problematic, as one can argue well that the food I ate last Friday at Merkato, an Ethiopian restaurant, could also be British in a sense that it is here in London, and British culture is a vast spectrum of cultures and ethnic backgrounds and so on.  But you know what I mean.  When someone thinks of stereotypically British food, they think of bangers n’ mash, toad-in-the-hole, fish n’ chips and, perhaps, this:

Can I tell you how good this was?  Because it was good.  And filling.  I ate everything on my plate, and it was a bit of a struggle to finish my second pint of Wandle, as the previously light beer had gained a bit of heft after eating such a fantastic specimen of British cuisine.  Still, I persevered and, after putting the empty glass on the bar and thanking the very nice bartender, I scampered out into the darkness, feeling bold, adventurous and full of good food.  I was ready to explore more in the late hours, but then I felt a light London drizzle start, so instead I hopped a bus to King’s Cross.

All in all, I found The Black Friar to be quite an amicable place.  The clientele consisted mostly of men, with some women, although none of them were on their own as I was.  In fact, aside from an old guy in one of the little corner nooks, I think I was the only person on my own.  Any case, if you go, you should definitely check out the little side room.  It’s quite fantastic; I failed to get photos of it this time around, but next time I go, I hope to have my camera on hand to snap some of the fantastic work done by the talented sculptors from the beginning of last century.  Seriously, the interior of The Black Friar and its historical significance is reason enough to go.

So, thus concludes my trip to my first pub of the hundred I have vowed to go to.  The format will be more of the same, maybe sans food, maybe with friends, but always with a pint (or half–though that seems kind of weak now that I think about it).  Hope you have enjoyed this inaugural installment of my 100 Pubs Project.  See you at the next pub and all.


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