Saturday, 13 June 2015

Tour 3 - From (The) Bahamas to Malta (via Canada?)

There’s a famous Shakespeare play called “The Comedy of Errors” and although I wouldn’t dare be as so conceited to compare my level of writing with the great bard’s, (I mean we all know I’m much better) I think I could legitimately claim that there were enough mistakes with the latest tour route that the title of the play would be a suitable epitaph for this particular episode.

If you remember, at the end of the last chapter I tempted everyone to come along to the next outing by explaining that the next High Commission alphabetically (after Antigua & Barbuda and Australia) would be Bangladesh. I, of course, like so many things in my life (as Spiky Haired Ed constantly reminds me) got this completely and utterly wrong.

The next country alphabetically is of course, as even the most challenged of primary school pupil knows, Bahamas, or to give it the more proper title “The Bahamas”. So actually, perhap it should appears with the T’s anyway, which would make me right…..or half right anyway.

So thanks to the power of the search engine I searched around for other High Commissions near to where the one for The Bahamas is located in central Mayfair and eventually located another two such establishments nearby. One of them, the Canadian High Commission, was a bit of a surprise because I always thought that they were located in a big impressive building called Canada House in Trafalgar Square. It turns out that apparently the building in Trafalgar Square is just a “front” and all the actual official business is done from MacDonald House in Grosvenor Square.

So with the route all planned with a very ambitious 6 (or maybe even 7) pubs, it was only on the evening before the trip that I discovered that actually the good people of Canada had moved all the business of the High Commission to Canada House in Trafalgar Square and the one I had planned to visit was sold to a property developer for 530 million dollars in November 2013 and has been vacated since December 2014.

Never mind, I’m sure the tourists would understand…….yeah right.

The meeting point was The Three Crowns, a Taylor Walker pub located in Babmaes Street, a little side alley off Jermyn Street which itself is just off Piccadilly Circus. And it was into this busy, bustling place that I emerged on a lovely sunny June evening.

Oi you! Put that Ullage away!

Finding the pub as easily as one can say “Google Maps” I was pleased to see New Guy Mickey was waiting outside and it was with pints of Little Vienna from The Little Beer Corporation that we welcomed the prompt arrival of the others which consisted of the aforementioned Spikey Haired Ed, Buddy Rob, Gemma, Mo, Nicole, Phil, Lucie and Isabelle. And if you were wondering what we were all doing out on that most partying of nights, a Tuesday, it was because Munchkin Steve was down for another dose of southern culture and modern life (like cars and street lamps).

Is that Will Carling on the label?

It was also nice to see the reappearance of Lisa (along with her eyelashes and pink nails) and new to the tour Russell, who was an old ex-work colleague of Rob. There was also a reappearance of Emma, making it two tours in a row (obviously we didn’t offend her too much last time then) and also a young gentleman by the name of Tim, who probably only the most dedicated readers will remember from the Park Lane episode of the Monopoly Tour.

The pub is quite a nice attractive one with the usual dark wood and glass that Taylor Walker seem to like so much, but it was small, meaning we had to stand outside and endure constant berating from the glass wardens as they forced us back behind an arbitrary yellow line painted on the street. The pub was also the first Cask Marque pub of the evening and I easily spotted the certificate behind the bar, nailed to the wall, which made it easy to spot but impossible to scan.

After a quick visit to the toilets and cajoling the late arriving Rav into finishing his pint we needed to make a move to pub number 2 if we were ever going to make it round all 6 pubs (or maybe 7) before the clock struck midnight.

The next location couldn’t be nearer in the shape of The Red Lion in Duke of York Street which runs parallel to Babmaes Street and in fact the two pubs are almost carbon copies of each other with the same dark wood, etched glass and moulded ceilings. The Red Lion also has a nice line in a cosy little back bar and a wrought iron circular stairway complete with sticky patterned carpet.

We took our drinks outside again and were at least this time not harangued by any overzealous drink monitors. The drinks in question was Redwood, a seasonal special brewed by Fullers under their Gales name.

The Red Lion saw the late arrival of Mr Cheese and Mr Clarke who certainly in the case of Mr Cheese came sauntering down dressed for a blazing hot summer’s evening with just a toothbrush in his back pocket. He looked so stylist in fact he was almost comparable to the models in the windows of the gentleman’s outfitters just over the road.

Yep Rob....just like the picture.

So with everyone finally now on board we moved off for our first High Commission of the evening which meant a quick cut up by the side of St James’s church and a safe crossing of Piccadilly itself by use of the handy pelican crossing. Directly opposite us was the High Commission of Malta located in a building imaginatively titled “Malta House” (I sense a pattern here).

Whilst the tour tourists were taking note of the flag colours I made the flurry of real-life tourists walk around us for a change as Munchkin Steve took my photo which is also becoming a bit of a pattern.
We now had a bit of a walk in front of us; a long stroll down the length of Piccadilly, past the Royal Society, past the Ritz, past the entrance to Green Park tube station and finally, after much moaning from the tourists about their inappropriate footwear (at least Nicole was back on form again) and from me about the idiots with their wheelie suitcases, we turned into White Horse Street and hit Shepherd Market with its collection of pubs.

Walking up White Horse Street.

Ye Grapes.

Last time we came here, as part of the Mayfair square in the Monopoly Tour, we stopped in the Kings Arms but tonight we sailed on by and went into Ye Grapes, which is a tall looming building tucked in the corner of the market place. There was quite a crowd outside the pub but that meant that inside things were actually fairly quiet and we managed to secure a couple of tables in a raised area which were a positive boon for the people wanting to crack on with the night’s colouring competition.
With the three flags now on display most of the players had no trouble identifying the very recognisable flag of Canada which led to more than one cry of “I thought they were in Trafalgar Square?” which forced my hand rather earlier than I had wished and I had to explain that although the Canadian flag was on the sheet tonight, we wouldn’t actually be visiting their High Commission.

What should be the before and after of the colouring competition

The moaning aside, I think I got away with it although it seems that a few of the colourers took it out on the crayons and quite a few were pressing much harder than was actually needed. In fact Munchkin Steve’s entry was so waxy you could have sewn a hood on it and used it as a fisherman’s jacket.


The drink of choice in the pub for me was a pint of Rev James Gold and although it came in the correctly logo’ed glass I missed a trick as several of the others secured pints of something called Franciscan Well, which turns out to be a beer from a brewpub in Cork in Ireland. I’m not sure if this is just a front for one of the big brewers trying to jump on the craft wagon or whether the brewery has just signed a distribution deal but what I can confirm is that the beer was very very nice and even though I only managed to sneak a sip or two of Rob’s pint, it was the beer of the evening.

Bar at Ye Grapes.

Saying goodbye to Isabelle and Lucie who once again didn’t make it to the end of the tour we made a move to leave. Also staying behind, tucked up very cosily in a corner banquette were Mo and Gemma although I have it on very good authority that “they’re just like brother and sister”…….yeah right.
The route now led us through the small alley running up the side of Ye Grapes to Curzon Street where we dodged the chauffeur driven Bentleys and twat driven BMW tractors turning into Chesterfield Street. Half way up this smart residential area was the second High Commission and the next in the list alphabetically, so not Bangladesh.

The Bahamas has its High Commission at number 10 and they in an amazing effort of originality have named this house, Bahamas House and it only seemed like the right thing to do to ask Munchkin Steve to capture the scene once again for posterity.

Someone call security.....

Continuing our journey round into Charles Street it was another case of dodging the luxury cars until we reached the junction of Hay’s Mews and the planned 4th pub of the night, The Only Running Footman. This fantastically named pub was earlier called “I am the only running footman” but seems to have lost the personal pronoun sometime during its recent refurbishment.

The refurbishment has made the pub a smart place and it was very popular with a huge crowd of floppy haired, blazer wearing, young poshos but the beer range wasn’t up to much and with a heavy schedule still ahead of us we chose to make a quick exit and continue to wend our way up the mews to The Coach and Horses, which was the “reserve” on the pub list at the start of the evening.

Buddy Rob cases out The Coach and Horses.

This was the “one mistake” of the evening which turned out to be a better decision as the pub was a smart and welcoming place and although the beer range was limited to Shepherd Neame beers, (I went for a bottle of non-Shepherd Neame Sam Adams) it was probably a better choice than the TORF and we at least had enough room to sit down for once and either complete the colouring or eat some crips. Or in my case, get a lecture from Nicole about how unbelievable it was that I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars or Indian Jones films from start to finish and how I’ll never be a complete man in her eyes until I had done so. Something else to add to the bucket list then.

Me and Sam

The planned route took us up and round the corner into Farm Street and The Punchbowl, the 6th pub of the evening and the third Cask Marque accredited one. There was an actual bouncer on duty outside the front door, which was quite puzzling as surely there aren’t any rowdies in this most gentile area of London? Unless of course there’s often pavement scraps breaking out over “did you spill my Dom PĂ©rignon?” or “are you looking at my missues in her Christian Louboutin’s?”

Getting punchy at the Punchbowl

Not being in a scrapping mood, we instead went inside and took a far too long a time waiting to order drinks as Rob, Ian & Rav had all got lost and had gone sauntering off to what should have been the final pub of the evening. One quick phone call later they eventually arrived only to order a pint of one type of ale (can’t remember what it was) and then have the barman top it up with another type of ale (this one was Deuchars). Upon mentioning the mistake the friendly chap pulled two new pints and then even gave us the two “mixes” for free. “It’s been one of those days” he grinned and we nodded “I’ve been a twat all day” he continued and we stopped nodding.

Top - Gemma & Mo or Mo & Gemma
Bottom - Rob's life-size cock and Ian's origami

So with drinks eventually purchased (or obtained for free) it was time to judge the colouring competition. We had the usual array of entries, ranging from Gemma & Mo’s joint effort (brother and sister….yeah right) to Ian’s over-neat folded effort and from Rav trying to highjack both Tim and Ed’s very competent entries by forging his name on their papers, to Rob’s usual level of sexual abuse.
In my mind there was a very clear winner and it had a lot to do with not only the superbly neat entry for this week but the superbly neat entry from last time also, which nearly won the prize. So taking these points in mind and of course the fact she hadn’t drawn a cock on the paper or tried to pass herself off as someone else’s effort, I declared Emma the winner.

A worthy winner.

And of course then World War III broke out. The biggest cry-babies were Ed and once again Rav but I just comforted myself with the sight of Emma being quite overwhelmed with her prize of a real life Union Jack. You’d never know that it cost me 50p from the local car boot.

It was then time for another mass departure as several of the tourists took the end of the competition to mark the end of their evenings but the brave Secret Seven of Rob, Ian, Rav, Tim, Emma and Nicole decided to try to complete the tour by making our way through to Grosvenor Square, past where the Canadian High Commission should have been, and up towards Oxford Street and the planned final pub of The Running Horse. But because the gates to Mount Street Gardens were closed we got a little lost and ended up in South Audley Street. Luckily to the rescue came the welcoming sight of The Audley on Mount Street.

I wonder where these three are going.

Rav, still miffed at the colouring competition, note that he hasn't got a drink.

This was our second Taylor Walker pub of the night and the 4th one to hold a Cask Marque certificate, which amazingly was freely available meaning the first actual scan of the night. The pub was a much bigger place than the Three Crowns and had a more traditional back street boozer feel to it, with the red ceiling and the pattern carpet. There was also a very interesting ceiling clock which we toasted with perfectly poured pints of Young’s London Stout.

Time to go home.

And all too soon , time eventually got the better of us and Tim had to runaway to catch the last night bus to Paddington whilst I was in the fortunate position of being able to enjoy things to the very final ring of the bell as I’d been offered a bed along with Mr Cheese at Mr Clarke’s Couch End. So for us it was a retracing of the steps back to Ye Grapes and then back up Piccadilly to Green Park Station.

Show me the way to go home......

So next time we will definitely be visiting Bangladesh and I think for peace of mind I’ll let the tour vote who should win the colouring competition…..maybe that will stop the moaning. Yeah, right.

Down Mr Clarke's local.