Wednesday 31st January 2007
Pub One - The Bell
Not a good start to the day as I and many of my colleagues were told that we were being made redundant!
The standard thing to do in these situations is to go down the pub so I and a couple of others made an early start around 5pm in the Waterend Barn.
Keeping to the scheduled start time Dave, Alex and I entered the Bell at 7pm to start the evenings pub review.
As expected there was no real ale available so I basically had a choice of cold, gassy John Smiths, Guinness or lager.
The pleasant barmaid almost made up for the lack of real ale.
The selection of lager wasn't too bad, Hoegarden was available at £3.50, and I opted for one of the other premium lagers that were on tap.
We had quite a good choice of seats as the pub was very quiet at this time. We chose the comfy seats next to the front window.
Stuart, Rachel and Sukhwant soon joined us along with Geoff who always arrives at 7:20pm when the 84 bus gets to St Albans.
Karen, Paulette and Lorna were next to join us and they offered to review the quality and choice of wines in each pub. They said that the Bell had a good selection at a reasonable price.
Neil, Colin and Alan were next to arrive to make it an impressive turnout at the first venue.
The Bell is a smart, spacious pub with some nice comfortable seats. Early on in the evening it is fairly quiet but it does start to fill up after 9pm and is popular with the younger people.
Pub Two - The White Swan
First thing I noticed when entering the White Swan is that they have a good selection of real ales.
Three ales were available, Green King IPA and two guest ales, one of which included Bitter and Twisted which I duly chose. The choice of wines was rather limited.
Other than the choice of real ales the other thing that struck us about this pub was how smoky it was. This will of course change in June 2007 when the ban comes in.
With ten of us arriving at the same time we had quite a logistics problem as the bar is only a couple of feet inside the entrance and there were people sitting on stools at the bar.
We filtered off to the right and found some space. Rearranging the furniture we managed to make a long table where we could all sit.
This was actually quite a pleasant pub. It had a nice friendly atmosphere, it was comfortable and the music on the jukebox was very good (80's pop/rock) without being too loud.
With James Brown and "I feel good" playing in the background Richard timed his entrance perfectly. Anyone that knows Richard from the past knows that this is his theme tune.
Along with Richard came Marc and a little later the other Geoff joined the gang. We now had a very impressive sixteen people in total. It was easy to forget that we were supposed to be reviewing the pubs.
It was rather difficult persuading people to leave as we had virtually taken over the back of the pub and all had somewhere to sit in this nice pub.
The group photo outside the pub held us up for a few minutes as we had to wait for everyone to trickle out of the pub and some insisted on checking out the toilet facilities first.
Pub three - Harry Smiths
Following a small debate as to whether or not we could go further down the road that the White Swan was in to get to Harry Smiths or whether we should go past the clock tower we soon arrived.
In hindsight it was not a good idea for around sixteen people to turn up at once to Harry Smiths; I'm glad I wasn't the last person to get served!
It is a small, dark wine bar with the bar area at the back. Some people were watching the football on the plasma screen and it only takes around twenty people to make this place seem busy.
Harry Smiths had no real ale and a poor selection of lager. No wine list was available and the bar staff were a little unhelpful.
Our group felt very squashed and had to stand near the back as there are very few seats available. This highlighted another issue as you could smell the toilets if drinking near the back of the bar.
Although I didn't need to make a personal visit, fellow drinkers informed me that the toilets were rather unpleasant.
Forty five minutes was allocated to this pub visit but we all drank up very quicky and went to the next pub after about twenty minutes.
Pub Four - The Vintry
Plenty of space to move around in the Vintry which was a pleasant change from the previous pub.
This is another pub that doesn't serve real ale so I selected a bottle of Bud. The wine and lager choice was very limited and the Grolsh on tap was "off".
Service was quite good and we easily found an area where we could all sit down. This pub had little atmosphere, partly due to it being large and having high ceilings, and had no character as it is a converted Barclays bank.
It had a couple of plasma screens showing the Sky Sports News but with good background music that was fairly loud.
One of our group reported that the ladies toilets were unpleasant.
I'm not convinced that the photo on the right was actually taken at the Vintry but the outside group photo was very blurred and useless.
I need to get one of those new smart compact cameras that have anti-blur and face detection systems.
Time go visit the final pub of the evening.
Pub Five - The Boot
It was a great relief to go into an old fashioned pub with plenty of character pub and good beer. The Boot had four or five real ales available and most of these were unusual guest ales.
The selection of wines was also quite good. With its low ceiling this pub can get very smoky although this will be resolved when the smoking ban comes in this summer.
By this time many of us were feeling the effects of an evenings drinking, see photo! For the same reason the notes I made on this pub are very minimal.
We managed to find a table near the front of the pub but it was busy and most of us had to stand.
A couple of our group suggested going for a curry and although this is a great pub I decided that I couldn't resist a curry.
Most of the others in our group stayed in the pub all had a good time. Not sure what time they all left because the Boot has late opening on most nights.