Sunday, 24 July 2016


I was treated this weekend to seeing the Pet Shop Boys at the Royal Opera House doing their residency to celebrate the release of their new album, Super, which of course I have had since the release date back in February. My father was to be my guide for the evening and ensured that we were in London earlier than we needed to be so that we could spend some time having some ales and visiting a couple of pubs in preparation before having a meal and then seeing the show. I can't say that I was anything other than enthusiastic at the prospect.

After travelling down via the Victoria Line (one of only two Underground lines that are totally underground) and then wandering about the old fruit market outside the Actor's Church with it's vast false portico on one side (and the burial place of the first victim of the Plague in 1665) we walked out onto the road outside the Royal Opera House and found our first place of repose and ale, much welcome in the stifling heat and bright broad sunshine. Would you like to join me on this journey?

Our first port of call was, therefore, to be the Marquess of Anglesey, a lovely place just on the corner of the area where the new Royal Opera House stands. My father assures me that the place gets good reviews but I'll be honest and say that I've never heard of it. So it was that my father ordered in a Kronenberg 1664 because it was warm and I scanned and quickly settled on Hummingbird by Young's as it was a golden ale at a balmy 4.2% ABV. These seem to have served me well in the heat of the last few weeks and I saw no reason to stop that little run now.

This did exactly what it was supposed to do. There was plenty of fragrant hops on the nose that spoke of tropical fruit and flora and were cool and at odds with the heat of the evening. These were delicate and hard to miss but easily overpowered as we headed outside to enjoy the weather and were assailed somewhat by the fumes of the traffic. However, the taste that followed was strong enough to withstand these pressures and brought forth a well of quenching malt that carried a good strong hop wave with it. Thin and watery, but in the sense that it was nice to contrast with the weight of the air outside rather than being weedy, this brew was a proper summer ale. It worked well and did the job of cooling my brow and setting me up for the evening ahead. It had a freshness about it, almost as though it had bottled youth, and the golden hue was perfect for twinkling in the rays of sunlight pouring down, capturing the sense of adventure at being in this part of London on the cusp of seeing the Pet Shop Boys. Okay, that last part is largely me, but there was something of a free spirit about the taste that I rather liked and the aftertaste was sufficiently moist to avoid being the sort of ale that would make you regret it as the evening wore on.

From here we went off to have our meal in the Opera Tavern, which was a Spanish tapas place down the road. It was certainly well populated and most of the denizens seemed the business sort so I must assume that it is a Good Place to Be Seen. We ordered a selection of hams and got gulled a little into trying quite the most Pet Shop Boys-esque cocktail I have ever seen. My father was somewhat unimpressed and ruminated on being talked into it for the rest of the night whereas I found it decent enough, not enough to have a second but nowt wrong with it, and, like I said, perfect for the occasion.

By now it was time to travel to our second hostelry, where I decided to get the drinks in and my father decided to retreat to an apple juice. The first place we went in I had the presence of mind to snap a shot but they only had two ales on tap and, despite looking like a nice place, I was looking for something a little more adventurous. So, we wandered off to the Covent Garden and I forgot to take a photo until we were hurrying to the Underground after the show, hence the awful quality of it below.

However, once in, I wasted no time in finding a second golden ale by the name of Swift from Truman's who appear to be another local brewery. This weighed in nicely at 3.9% ABV and seemed to embody the concept of a light ale that one would have to stave off the heat and to finish the day. Obviously my night was still beginning but the ale part of it was drawing to a close and so I thought it was as good a place to end as any. There was a bit more of a malty nose on this one, a tad thicker and thus less openly hoppy though there was a hint of the citrus and bitter notes that one would associate with a decent golden ale. Sure enough it came from the pump a little cool and below room temperature, which was nice, and promised much from beyond the creamy head. It did deliver, a good hit of hops opened proceedings before graciously giving way to the malt that delivered the final thrust of bitterness right before it trickled down to the aftertaste, being considerably drier than my first half. Nevertheless, this was a decent ale, though I rather wished I'd tried the Rio Gold that was on tap next to it from the same brewer, it seemed to have a deeper golden colour to it and thus more of interest. Mind you, this pub will stand a revisit as there was evidence that the place had been opened up in the recent past and the balcony area upstairs was really very clever, showing the signs of a pub that knows its ales and gets plenty of selection.

On balance, I think I preferred the Young's Hummingbird but the Covent Garden was by far the better public house. All, of course, was overshadowed by the reason for going out, though. A taster of which I leave below because, well, why not?

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