Monday, 18 October 2010

Pub Fun Bus Vs Stag Weekend

By Christian Rose-Day.

The definition of a ‘good idea’: get smashed the night before leaving for a stag weekend, of which you’re the chief organiser, aka the best man. Or in this case, the far-from-best man.

Seems like a bad idea to get on the boozy Geronimo Inns vintage Routemaster fun bus when you have to be at Galvin’s Cafe De Vin in Spitalfields at 11am sharp the next morning to meet the groom-to-be for a spot of posh brunch - amazingly light black pudding, btw - before jetting off to Slovenia for 4 days to eat hearty food, dance with glamourous women, ride the turquoise waters of the River Soča in a flimsy raft, and, surpise surprise, get pushed around the town square in wheelie bin (not me, but I admit I was there) after decent bout of Whose Round Is It Anyway?

Seems like a bad idea. But bad ideas shouldn’t always be left untouched.

Myself and fellow Fluid chap, Anthony, rolled up at The Phoenix pub near Victoria for the first Geronimo stop on our magical bus tour. Picking a route through a sea of suits on the ground floor, we made our way up to the compact Yalumba Room (sponsored by a certain wine brand), to receive canapés and our first (and second) glass of Pol Roger champagne. After some cold cucumber & lime tea (hmmm, refreshing) and a brief introductory speech by our host, Rupert Clevely, the Managing Director of Geronimo Inns, the vintage fun bus was loaded up with press and pointed in the direction of Battersea.

On route, as we passed Buckingham Palace, I sipped on my teacup of champagne and smiled at the Pol Roger-tickled women who sat about me, and I thought to myself “God, I love my job”; stag duties could wait until daybreak.

The reason for the tour was to showcase the private club rooms at a handful of London’s Geronimo Inns - there are 11, for formal wifi-tastic flipchart-crazed meetings, or just plain old cosy parties - and The Prince Albert in Battersea was our second pub of the night.

Off the bus, up the stairs, and down went another glass of Pol Roger. This pub’s upstairs room, the Bridge Room, is a resplendent domain, decorated with wallpaper that’s not only covered in dog silhouettes (this is Battersea) but also raised and velvety, therefore quite strokeable. As for the giant glowing cow on the roof terrace....I have no idea, but I like it.

Spotting a former Fluid London writer who left under unsavoury circumstances, myself and Anthony ventured outside for a non-smoking smoke break to avoid her. There we were introduced to various Geronimo staff who edified us about the Bridge Room, oft used as a restaurant overflow, occasionally commandeered as centre for embroidery classes; versatile indeed.

Christmas was the prevalent theme on this stop, and between the roasted pumpkin and Berkswell cheese canapés, we managed to take a glimpse at The Prince Albert’s Xmas menu: 5 starters, 5 mains, and 5 desserts to choose from, which, at £25 per person, sounds like a pretty decent investment. Personally, after the hot chestnuts on arrival, I would opt for the smoked salmon roulade starter, the poached sea bass with cockles & mussels main, followed by a traditional Christmas pudding to finish.

Fingers snapped in front of our faces and we suddenly jerked out of our Christmas dinner reveries. Orders were barked concerning getting back on the bus, and we departed with haste, momentarily stopping to admire the nice outdoor area at The Prince Albert. It’s called Battersea Park, and you could probably spit the distance, it’s that close.

Another bus ride, another teacup of Pol Roger, another Geronimo Inn, this time checking out the bijou club room at The Northcote pub in Clapham Junction. The Head Chef, knowingly prepared for a bus load of champer’d-up freeloaders, had cooked up a delicious sampling table of baked salmon wellington with buttered leeks and new potatoes, AND roast rump of Welsh lamb with mint and caper lentils, radish and watercress salad. The local Wandle beer (pint of) completed the Circle of Comfort in my eyes, because, dare I say, I’d seen enough of Pol Roger for one night.

Eschewing the sensible option to throw myself off the bus at that point and take the short journey back to my waiting bed close by, I foolishly got back on the fun bus. By this point, the group were well liquoured and getting rowdy; our conversation rising to a shout and the question of the moment proving to be ‘Is it possible to conduct a rap battle on Skype?’

The brand new and rather snazzy Elgin pub in Ladbroke Grove, just moment from Portobello Road, was already in full swing when the bus came careening through the front doors, fuelled by Pol Roger. We’d been deposited at this pub, the finale on our tour, to enjoy the soft, soothing music of the talented musician, Sarah Lucie Shaw, but instead we just seemed to intrude. To be honest, I don’t really remember. Tokens were thrust into our welcoming palms which in turn materialised as pints of golden ale. More golden ale. I remember sipping a lovely pint of winter warming beer at the bar, and the next thing I knew my alarm was shouting at me to get the hell up and pack my bag for Slovenia.

It’s true, get smashed the night before leaving for a stag weekend is definitely a good idea. And I’m not saying you should visit a Geronimo Inn just because they got me squiffy. I’m saying you should visit a Geronimo Inn because they’re great. I should know, I’ve reviewed enough of them. The menus are British bent, and the wine list is chosen by one of those Jedi wine chaps (Master of Wine), who just happens to be related to Geronimo’s MD. Handy (tip: you cant go wrong with The Wild Rock Infamous Goose Sauvignon).

And if you don’t trust me, trust the awards. Two-time winners of the Evening Standard Pub of the Year award and voted Pub Company of the Year at the 2009 Publican Awards. Also voted Food Operator of the Year in the 2010 Great British Pub Food Awards.

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