Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

AFC Wimbledon v Blackpool: Shepherds Bush Pub Crawl

I have had an irrational fear of London ever since Fulham away in March 1999. I got flustered on the Tube at Euston and was just about to step on the wrong train when I spied some Seasiders boarding the train on the opposite platform. I wished I had taken the wrong train as we ended up losing 4-0 that day. London is not a happy hunting ground for Blackpool. Since then, in London, I have arranged for friends to meet me off the train at Euston. I can make it to Kings Cross/St Pancras (walkable) and Liverpool Street (after Liz drew me an idiot-proof map) but that completes my travel knowledge of London.

Now this makes no sense. I’ve travelled alone to the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Latvia to watch Blackpool with no problems whatsoever. Navigating London IS possible. I just need to prepare, right? Well, what better place to start than a match I wasn’t going to – and a virtual pub crawl. If I could navigate this confidently, I might just brave the capital on my own the next time Northerners are allowed down there.

On my previous visit to AFC Wimbledon, they were playing at Kingstonian and I enjoyed the pubs of Kingston en route. Tonight they were playing their last match at Loftus Road – or rather the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium – where they are ground sharing with QPR ahead of their imminent return to Plough Lane. A quick scan of Google Maps reveals the ground is in Shepherds Bush (Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush).

The Journey

As this is a midweeker, there is no way I can get home after the match, despite it being brought forward to a 7pm kick-off. Technically, I could jump on the BSA coach (if there was one), but frankly I still have coach fatigue from the earlier part of the year. And I do like the added adventure of a random stopover. Anyway, the Advance Single fare on the train costs £70 (including the return journey), which seems expensive (£370 for an Anytime Return though!). Are fares going up or is it just expensive to travel outside of The North?

I’m delighted to see that my journey does not involve the Tube. Yay! THAT I can cope with! I take the 1028 from Blackpool North to Manchester Piccadilly, where I dart across the station to make a tight connection to Euston. Both trains are quiet, which I’m grateful for, as I have a short story to write for the first assignment for my OU Advanced Creative Writing Course.

From Euston, I take an overground train to Willesden Junction, then another to Shepherds Bush. Hey that was easy! Why was I ever scared of London? I can do this!

I walk past Belushi’s (poncy name, avocado on the menu, gin top billing on the drinks list) and The Central Bar (Spoons).

Brewdog Shepherds Bush

The Brewdog Now app allows you to order beer delivered from your nearest Brewdog to (a) your home or (b) your table (if you’re in it). Nice!

The beer menu here today was as follows. From Brewdog: O-G, Dogma, Low Hanging Helles, Elvis Juice Radler and Half & Half. From Overworks: Cosmic Pomegranate, Campfire Cult and Dreamcatcher. Guests: World King Fist IPA, Sunnybank American Pale, Buxton Citra IPA Lupulus X, Verdant Light Bulb and White Hag Puma Big Berry. I’m straight into the fridge, though, and having a Brew by Numbers BBNo19 Cherry Gose. Sweet cherries, sour cherries and vanilla pods. Oh my!

As this is London, I do not believe I am presently obliged to take a meal in every pub I visit, but I peruse the menu here anyway. I am all over this:

Seriously, what exactly IS a ‘vagabond battered cauliflower’? I visualise Bill Sykes lifting a cauli from Borough Market and kicking it like a football all the way back to Fagin, who yells: ‘Facking vegan mayo! Yer ‘avin a larf, incha?’ I’m still chuckling at this image as I head across the road to the next pub.

Sindercombe Social

Dear reader, please take a moment to view the image below and comment below the first words that enter your head.

My thoughts are thus:

  1. Her nails don’t match. I’m not comfortable with this.
  2. How on earth are you supposed to fit that in your mouth?
  3. Are those NACHOS?
  4. And a HASH BROWN?!
  5. Pass me the Rennies. I have indigestion just looking at that.
  6. Nice brioche bun, though.

Suffice it to say, these monsters simply aren’t for me. I continue perusing the menu, though, because I’m curious now.

Ooh tobacco onions. Interesting! I’ll be ordering those as a side. As for my main…hmm….oh this!

As I mentioned on my crawl of Rochester, it takes a special kind of pizza to tempt me – and this one sounds magnificent!

Now to the beer! Ohhhh baby! On tap: Fourpure x Brewgooder Zambezi Hazy IPA, Lagunitas IPA, Northern Monk Faith, Fierce Peach Fuzz (YES!), Porterhouse Yippy IPA (great name!), Beavertown Bloody ‘Ell, Siren Soundwave IPA, Purity Session IPA, Brew York Kaijuice and Tiny Rebel Pump Up The Jam. On the regular drinks menu (assuming bottles/cans): Magic Rock Common Grounds, Tiny Rebel Clwb Tropicana (mmm), Delirium Tremens (oh my!), St Stefanus, Duchesse de Bourgogne, Maisel’s Weisse, Hawkes Alcoholic Ginger Beer (ooh not tried this one!), Bacchus Raspberry Beer, Peroni Libera Alcohol Free Lager, Big Drop Milk Stout (ooh yeah!), Big Drop Pale Ale, Becks Blue Alcohol Free Lager, Peroni Nastro Azzurro Gluten Free, Corona, Paulaner Munchner Hell and Perona Nastro Azzurro.

It’s safe to say I like it here. Indeed, I like anywhere that serves Fierce Beer and I enjoy my Peach Fuzz very much. Fierce beers do exactly what they say on the can and this is a lovely peachy beer. I really want another and find it quite hard to leave this pub. But leave I must – as I have further pubs to research for you (and, indeed, my next visit to QPR).

The Green

I continue my circuit of Shepherds Bush Green (it is difficult to get lost on this crawl – I am liking it already). This is a common area of grass and trees in the shape of a triangle. I am guessing this pub is named after said Green, but I like to think of it as a homage to the old Saturday night newspaper that contained that afternoon’s football results.

The Green’s website promises ‘a friendly venue offering delicious food, great drinks and unforgettable experiences’. Of course I’m going in here!

Right! Let’s start with the drinks menu: White Wine…Red Wine…Rosé Wine…Sparkling…Yeah yeah yeah…Softs…Low + No Alcohol…Gin…er isn’t this menu lacking something? Garçon! I download the My Pub app in desperate hope. Right…yes! There’s an ‘Ale, Cask and Stout’ section. Sounds promising! Options? Guinness, Cask Ale 1, Cask Ale 2 and Cask Ale 3. Ooh beer bingo!

OHMYGOD THE FOOD MENU HERE!!!

Teleport me to this place RIGHT NOW!!!

Dear reader, this pub is incredibly hard to leave (not least because I have eaten so much!) but I continue on for your benefit.

Defector’s Weld

I love the name of this place and simply have to pop in. Plus it’s only across the road and I can’t walk much further…

Defector’s Weld claims to be the ‘best pub’ in Shepherds Bush. That is some claim, so let’s see what it has to offer…

I’m not sure I’ve even got room for beer after all that amazing food, but peruse the beer menu nonetheless: Amstel, Beavertown Beavo, Beavertown Gamma Ray, Beavertown Neck Oil, Birra Moretti, Camden Hells, Camden Pale Ale, Estrella Damm, Fourpure Hemisphere, Guinness, Little Creatures Dog Days, Magic Rock Saucery, Orchard Thieves (cider) and Youngs London Original. Nope. Nowt there I can fit in. How about the fridge? Fourpure Last Train Oatmeal Stout? Oh go on then! Ooh chocolate, toast and coffee flavours. Nice!

The menu is predominantly burgers, with a steak and fish & chips thrown in for good measure. I simply don’t have the room, although the ale onions sound appetising. I like what they do with their onions round here. On a Sunday they offer vegan black pudding, which intrigues me…

AFC Wimbledon v Blackpool

I was feeling positive (at least not negative) heading into this match. The team news was encouraging, with our impotent forward line given a much-needed shake-up. Kemp and Kaikai were starting together and I was quite excited. Blackpool attacked with vigour, Kaikai placing the ball right on Madine’s head – and even defenders coming forward in their droves to attack (Ballard, Ekpiteta, Mitchell). It was great to watch.

If you haven’t seen Lee’s interview with Shaun Barker, I recommend you give it a watch. It sounds like there could be a lot of parallels with Blackpool’s team of 2006/7 and this current team. It gave me hope.

Even when we conceded after just 13 minutes, I felt Blackpool had much more to offer and the game wasn’t over. Well, I wasn’t wrong…

Before half time, Ethan Robson was sent off for a stupid and pointless challenge in the middle of nowhere. I was flabbergasted. Why do they put us through the mill EVERY week?

Dear reader, it got worse. You know Dan Ballard, the centre half from Arsenal who has been gaining the plaudits in the last couple of matches, shoring up our defence – and even rampaging forward today? Sent off for an off-the-ball incident.

How did we manage to get two men sent off when James Husband wasn’t even playing? What is the matter with this team?

Anyway, it ended 11v9 and 1-0 and if you want to watch us have a meltdown you can do so here:

W12 Rooms

I can’t even face the pub after that, so return straight to my accommodation for the night, hoping sleep will transport me somewhere less nightmarish. I’ve booked W12 Rooms via booking.com as it’s ‘sensibly priced luxury’ at only £38 and right by Shepherds Bush station.

Petit Pret

I wake up refreshed and ravenous. I set out in plenty of time for my train and head first to Pret for some breakfast.

I LOVE the Pret Veggie Brioche!

I always ask for a Rooibos Cacao and almost always get a blank look as opposed to a nice chocolate red tea. Instead, I settle for an Earl Grey (with milk), even though I should avoid tea as a migraine trigger.

Now suitably sustained, I bury myself (and murder someone in a rage) in my short story on the train home.

Next stop Burton. Can’t wait for THAT virtual pub crawl. Here’s a reminder of my trip to the home of brewing last year as a taster…

#UTMP


NB All pics above are taken from the websites referenced.


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