KEN TOWL has damaged his ankle, so hasn’t been able to get out for one of his regular walks. But he did make it across the road to his Addiscombe local
Last year, Charles Reid, a pilot for Virgin Airways, grew tired of long-haul flights and bought himself a pub. Thus, the Claret on Lower Addiscombe Road became the Claret and Ale on Lower Addiscombe Road and is, this year, if you believe the bearded and be-sandled types at CAMRA, officially the best pub in Croydon.
I had planned originally to go for a long walk to a pub in the south of the borough and write it up for Inside Croydon but, hindered by a painful twist of the ankle, I revised my plans and took a trip to the Claret and Ale which is just across the road from me. It is easily accessible to anyone in Croydon, since it sits just around the corner from Addiscombe tram stop.
There I met Reid, who was understandably chuffed with the award from the local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.
It is not the first time the establishment has won the award: it did the “double” by beating more obvious, established Croydon pubs in 2014 and 2015. Reid had been a regular at the Claret for years, appreciative of its constantly revolving section of real ales and, when the place came up for sale, he put in a bid which was, somewhat to his surprise, accepted.
I remember the Claret from those (literally) dark days. It was dingy and the carpet was permanently sticky. Although it was the nearest pub to me by miles, I was disinclined to become a regular.
Reid, however, got to work, installing a wood paneling floor at the front of the pub and a new claret-coloured carpet towards the back, as well as lighting up the exterior of the pub to give it a safer feel. This, along with the free Cumberland sausages on Sunday lunchtimes, seems to be drawing the punters in, and, from what I saw on Monday evening, a more diverse crowd than before.
The manager, Matt, known to some as Dudley (that’s the Midlands town where he comes from), and his team behind the bar are a friendly lot. You are greeted with a smile when you get to the bar and served efficiently.
The old beer board is still there, testament to the range and value of the beer offer, the perennial Palmers IPA at £3.40 and half a dozen or so similarly priced guest beers.
Reid appears to have kept the essence of the “old” Claret, while making it cleaner, brighter and more friendly.
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