Each of us who cares about beer and pubs has a duty to warn the rest against the potential of being ripped off. After waxing lyrical about the Cricket Inn, I'm therefore compelled to bring attention to the Pub on the Park on London Fields.
It's a great building in a perfect location, with a beer garden and terrace looking out onto the park, across which lies Broadway Market - a lovely place to get your ricotta and sun-blushed tomatoes if Borough's a bit too busy. It attracts the shaggy-haired, ironically t-shirted artisanal bread-shopping crowd who love reading their copy of the Guardian while keeping an eye on the football, and markets itself accordingly: a charming array of mismatched furniture, and an excellent selection of ales and speciality beers on the bar as well as the premier league of 'world' lagers (you know the brands I mean, and I think most of them are decent beers. But if these are 'world' lagers, where do the other lagers come from? Space? Anyway, different topic).
So far so good - the perfect pub - until you order something to eat or drink.
They had Grolsch Weizen on tap. In bottle this is a stunning wheat beer, all the moreso for the low expectations you probably have when you see the word 'Grolsch' on the label. That'll teach you to be snobby about big brewers. So I ordered a pint of it. The barman had never heard of it before. I had to point it out to him on the bar. He gave it to me in a Stella glass. Nice touch there mate. I also ordered a half a Leffe for my wife, which was also served in a Stella half pint glass. And then the world turned upside down.
"Seven pound seventy please, mate."
"I'm sorry? I thought you just said it was seven pounds seventy for a pint and a half of beer just then!"
"That's right. These beers are a little expensive, just over five pounds a pint."
Over five pounds a pint is not 'a little expensive'. It's taking the piss. Even the Rake , often criticised for its pricing, wouldn't charge this much for these beers, and their staff warn you in advance if you've ordered something super-expensive. The only beers they charge this much for are those that are rarely available on draught, and beers that you shouldn't be drinking in pints anyway becauise they're above 7%ABV. By contrast, here were two premium, 'speciality' yet freely available commercial brands, served in the wrong fucking glassware by a man who wasn't even aware that one of them was sitting on the bar he stood behind for six hours a day. I had been well and truly robbed.
After all that, the beer was deeply average. It tasted like Hoegaarden, not Grolsch Weizen, and these are two quite distinctly different wheat beers.
I then made the mistake of ordering food. All the main courses were basic pub fare and every dish came with chips. In this situation, with nothing better to choose from, I usually order fish and chips. I've been lucky recently, getting fish in pubs how it should be: crisp, golden, light batter, soft flaky fish inside.
In Pub on the Park, my luck ran out. My fillet of fish - if indeed that's what it truly was - had clearly spent much, much longer in a cardboard box in a deep freezer somewhere than it ever had in its native aquatic environment. The batter was thick and wooden, the deep, shit-brown colour of the last thing in the bottom of a deep fat fryer that hasn't been cleaned for a long time. There was a thin layer of something white and runny inside it. The chips were carboardy oven chips.
I would have complained if I thought this was in any way below the standard they aimed for, but as our plates were wordlessly plonked in front of us by a scowling woman who answered our query about salt and vinegar by pointing to a table on the other side of the pub, where we had to go and fetch our own knives and forks and salt, vinegar and sauce, all in those unbranded, cheap, nasty little plastic sachets you only ever see in dives and dirty motorway service stations, I knew there was little point.
The whole meal was inedible. Given that I left it, any server who cared one shred about what their customers thought would have asked me if the meal was OK. As the scowling woman came back to collect our still-full plates, she didn't say a word.
Pub on the Park is a down-at-heel, no-strings, back street boozer pretending to be a well-run, modern food and drink pub. Judging by how busy it was yesterday, it's getting away with this deception. Don't go there. Tell everyone you know not to go there. If this blog post changes one person's mind about visiting this pub, and deprives it of the twenty quid I wasted in there, I'll be happy.