Just where is the best beer garden to go in post-lockdown Croydon for a socially distanced, covid-safe drink with old mates?
KEN TOWL, pictured right in his best new normal going-out gear, needed no second invitation to try a few
Simon is finally coming out!
A month ago, he excused himself from our planned investigation into local pubs post-lockdown on the entirely reasonable grounds that his parents are in the vulnerable category and he does not want to jeopardise their health. A month further into the “new normal”, and he feels a little more confidant, especially when I suggest confining our research to pubs with beer gardens. Gardens are, after all, no longer safe as houses. They are even safer.
We meet under the geranium pink hanging baskets of the Bedford Tavern, an unassuming Irish house (part of the Whelan’s mini-chain) tucked away beneath Croydon’s towering office buildings round the back of East Croydon Station (16, Sydenham Road to be exact).
It appears to have had a bit of a façade lift, the cream paint of last year replaced by a more fashionable potter’s clay grey. The beer is fine, washed down with side pints of iced water to slake our thirst after public transport-avoiding walks.
We sit at opposite ends of the same bench, in the shade of course (since you get a choice in the Bedford’s democratic front yard) and maintain a metre’s distance (and earn our “plus” by being side-by-side rather than face-to-face.
Verdict: a convenient (between East and West Croydon stations) place to have a quiet pint in the sun or in the shade. 7/10
We chew the fat until we decide to move on and chew some food.
The Windmill (at 224 St James’ Road), just around the corner from the Bedford, has both a beer garden and a reputation for excellent curries.
Since today is a Sunak day, we have the added prospect of a half-price, taxpayer-subsidised lunch. Imagine our disappointment, then, when after sanitising our hands and giving up our mobile numbers, we discover that “due to the current situation” The Windmill is not serving food until 5pm.
We are here, though, and we have walked for a full five minutes in the heatwave to get here, so we console ourselves with a beer, and more water, which we carry, observing the one-way system marked on the floor, out into the beer garden.
If you go to The Windmill, you probably go there for the food. We have the garden to ourselves. It is immediately apparent that all of the tables are unshaded. We put down our drinks and move one of the tables to a corner where the garden wall affords a little shade and speculate, like the entrepreneurs that we aren’t, just what we would do with the place if we had our way.
Verdict: Could do with sprucing up and a bit of shade. 5/10 in the middle of the day, but maybe 9/10 with food, and coloured lights, in the evening?
Having turned The Windmill into the coolest, most lucrative pub/curry house in the borough, at least in our imaginations, we set off over the railway line right into Cherry Orchard Road and then first left on to Leslie Park Road where we find The Builders Arms (at No65, since you ask; if you check its location on Googlemaps you’ll see it is described as a “traditional pub with hanging baskets”. Somebody knows how to do marketing).
The Builders also provides a decent beer garden (which includes an apple tree with hanging apples) and, as with all Fullers’ houses, the opportunity to claim your 50 per cent government food subsidy. Food was available from 5pm, but by now we did not have long to wait.
We were happy to wait and it was a good decision. Our cheeseburger with extra bacon, sausages with a grain mustard sauce and red pepper hummus with pitta bread come to £12.55.
You can get puddings for a couple of quid if you want to, but there really is no need.
Verdict: Well-kept beer and half-price food made the back garden of the Builders Arms a very pleasant place to while away a couple of hours. 8/10
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