A pub that boasts 21 keg taps and 18 hand-pumps is perhaps not one for the drinker plagued by indecision. So if that’s you, I wouldn’t bother. Even if it’s not you, this is a stupidly confusing proposition and one that isn’t helped by a menu that details a further 50-odd bottles of beer for sale as well. It’s ridiculous. And I say that as a man who likes variety. The even dafter thing is, once you scrape away the fog of confusion, you’re actually left with precious few real alternatives. Several pale ales vie with a few porters on cask, while the kegs are mainly manned with pales, saisons and obscure sours. I cannot stress how silly this makes you feel when you approach the pleasingly (and necessarily) wide bar.
It wasn’t always this way, as you an tell from the things retained by this small chain of beer purveyors. Back when it was the humble Clockhouse, this place served a couple of (below) standard bitters, a few lagers and a token cider. With Guinness thrown in for those who – rightly as it turned out – didn’t trust the real ale. As time has ticked by, in this respect alone, it has gone from one extreme to another. A complete refurbishment was probably long overdue, though, and the Craft Beer Company’s first iteration (aside from its sister pub Cask in Pimlico) has not disappointed. The crappy carpet has been ripped out – along with much of this place’s soul, mind – and wood has not so much been shipped in as brought in by the boat load. That’s been done to make it look classier; more upmarket than the market boozer it once was. The old place at least needed that, especially now the barrowboys have been replaced by pop-ups. But it’s ruined the acoustics, such that the buzzsaw of annoying, nasal Scottish accents whining about timesheets, click-through rates and ‘going forward’ can be heard from clean over the other side of the room. That said, the redecorators saw fit to save the mirrored, clock-themed ceiling – still a sensational trompe l’oeil that fractures your perspective – and the completely ostentatious chandelier, which at the very least labels the preposterousness of the venue accurately. The stained glass windows and Charrington’s mirror have been kept too, original features that just about save the pub from a proper slating. I recognise what they’ve done here and it’s a valiant effort that must have taken considerable graft. But I can’t get away from the thought they’ve gone overboard in almost every respect.
Sledgehammers to crack nuts.