ANDREW LENG proves that you don’t have to go too far out of your way to find a decent pub serving decent, local beers
After several days of chasing my wind-propelled wheelie bin down the road and running outside to check that the tiles on my roof were still there as the wind and rain battered Croydon last month, I thought I deserved a little bit of a break. So one blustery afternoon I decided to pay a visit to my local.
As it’s a gentle five-minute stroll, door to door, Clarets in Addiscome is as good as any place to kick off occasional pub reviews. It’s been my local since I decamped from South Norwood to Addiscombe a few years ago.
Clarets, or the “Claret Free House” to give it its full name, is a few yards from the Addiscombe tram stop and part of a parade of businesses on the Lower Addiscombe Road. It does a cracking trade in real ale and has been a fixture in the Campaign for Real Ale’s Good Beer Guide since 1989. Yet from the name and to look at it, you might never realise it’s even a pub.
But Clarets has won Croydon CAMRA pub of the year on numerous occasions. All of the certificates are framed and proudly displayed on the walls among other pub memorabilia. The large sign for “Faulkner’s Nosegay Shag” is particularly eye-catching.
Clarets is fronted by a large bay window, which provides all of the natural light to the inside of the relatively small bar. The décor is a bit lived-in; the style is faux Tudor, but it’s functional, with plenty of seating. The room is quite dimly lit in the evening, and there are two television screens; one large one at the back of the pub and a smaller TV at the side of the bar, which you sometimes have to crane your neck to follow what is going on.
The landlord, Don, is a bit of a sports fan and a Leeds United supporter (we all have our crosses to bear), the screens usually show football, rugby or highlights of England getting thrashed at cricket…
The place hasn’t changed much since I started going there. After some complaints about the state of the toilets they have recently been refurbished. The new hand dryer in the gents will blow your hands off.
It is the beer where Clarets really excels. As well as being a main outlet for Palmers Beers, there are usually five ales on hand pull, in an ever-rotating menu of guest beers. The beers are well-kept and are usually sourced from small and independent breweries, predominantly from the south-east, such as Dark Star and Westerham and Whitstable, from Kent. I’ve also had the odd pint from Croydon’s two new micro-breweries, Cronx and Clarence and Fredericks, which have been very good.
In fact, on the windy afternoon I visited, I tried Clarence and Fredericks’ Best (4.1%) and the Welbeck Abbey Brewery Cavendish IPA (5%). Both pints were very nice; the Best Bitter did exactly what it says on the tin, being… well, bitter and with a bitter aftertaste. The IPA was light and very refreshing with a grapefruit aftertaste.
During the day time, the bar is fairly quiet but it’s a nice place in which to sit and read a book or newspaper with a pint, or two. Prices are in-line with most pubs, with a pint of beer setting you back £3.10 – £3.20. Spirits and lager are similarly priced.
Clarets also serves perry and cider from local brewers. These are kept out in the cellar but if ordered, Don will disappear into the back room and will bring your pint to your table – nice man. Apart from one brief experiment with rolls a couple of years ago, Clarets doesn’t serve food. There is no real demand for pub food, as the local area is well served for cafes and restaurants. In fact there’s a very decent Chinese next door. So you can grab a menu, make your choice while finishing your pint, and then pop back into the Welcome Friends for a meal. There is also Ossie’s, an excellent fish shop, just across the road.
Clarets has a small but loyal set of regulars. They are a friendly bunch – very polite when you try to squeeze past them at the bar and willing to engage you in conversation, usually about sport.
The bar is usually at its busiest on Friday evenings, as a lot of the workers from local businesses can be found relaxing in there after a hard week’s graft. Clarets is also busy on Saturdays and Sunday evenings, with pub goers heading there before moving off to Croydon for the rest of the evening. The staff are efficient and friendly and you usually get served quickly. As with a pub that is a fixture in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, it also attracts real ale enthusiasts.
It’s nice to have a local on your doorstep that serves really good beer, which is also well-served by local transport, with quick access into town. Together with the establishment of the Clarence and Fredericks and Cronx Breweries, the revival of the Oval Tavern and the ongoing success of places such as the Green Dragon and the Dog and Bull, in the town centre, Croydon is better served for decent beer these days.
Coming to Croydon
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Patchwork and quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 3
- Fairtrade stall at Food Market, Haynes Lane, Mar 8
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- South Norwood Lakes Playground group workshop, Mar 25
- David Lean Cinema: Basically Johnny Moped, Mar 27-28
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
- David Lean Cinema: 12 Years a Slave, Apr 3
- David Lean Cinema: The Great Beauty, Apr 10
- David Lean Cinema: Inside Llewyn Davis, Apr 17
- David Lean Cinema: Short Term, Apr 24
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
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