Local Wanted – The Union Tavern, Maida Vale

It’s been a little over a month since I moved into my new flat in Queen’s Park (still renting, alas, but in a much nicer part of town). I’ve done most of the things you do when moving to a new flat: I’ve set up the council tax and broadband, and just about figured out how to use the fancy high-tech thermostat. But there’s still one vital task yet to do. I need to find a pub I’m happy calling my local.

So, with my brand new CAMRA membership card in my wallet (I’d given up on growing a beard any other way) and a longlist of pubs within walking distance, I hiked off in search of my first candidate.

It’s not terribly far to the Union Tavern, but the route there does take me past a number of other pubs. They’ll form part of a later visit. For now, I am singular in purpose and determined to reach this one, particular pub. I’ve just paid £25 to be a CAMRA member, of course I’m going straight to a Good Beer Guide pub. If those beardy anoraks don’t know what they’re on about, what’s even the point?

Inside, the Union Tavern is deceptively nice. I’d expected to dislike it based on my glances through the window on the way in, but somehow the wood panelling and ceramic tile blend on the walls sort of just…works. It feels homely, but not overly affected. There’s music, but the playlist is good (Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Arcade Fire, Amy Winehouse) and it’s quiet enough that the gents on the table next to mine don’t have to yell to enjoy a conversation. I start chatting with a geezer at the bar and he doesn’t tell me to piss off. We’re off to a good start.

Beer Notes: Rye, Crate

Crate is a little brewery/pizzeria combo based over in Hackney Wick. I’ll have to report back later on the quality of the pizzas, but at least tonight I can try the beer – a deep, reddish, cola brown rye ale. The aroma is metallic and rich. It tastes like iron at first, with ruby fruits rounding it off after a second or two. This is a worryingly drinkable beer for 5.5%. If I were confident which way to walk home, I’d probably have another.

At twenty past eight* a live band starts up – it’s Justin Trudeau lookalike Eddy (who I realise now is the star of that annoying PokerStars advert) and a selection of chaps playing blues music in the chilly downstairs bar. They’re playing riffs I recognise from The Goodies, but it’s still good. The drummer sings along during the best bits. And when things really start to heat up, a pair of older ladies get up to dance in the centre of the room. I might be in love.

Beer Notes: Neck Oil, Beaver Town

I ordered this on the recommendation of the friendly geezer at the bar. If you ever read this, Mr Geezer, I’m very sorry, but your recommendations are rubbish.

Perhaps because I’ve been primed for it by the name, Neck Oil somehow really does taste oily. It’s pale, and slightly cloudy. The aroma is light and fresh: melons and pears coming through strongest. But the taste…it’s sweet to start, but that taste rapidly turns to bitter and then sour as you pass through those fruit flavours and collide head-on with the hops like you’re a crash-test dummy being hurled against a wall.

The Union Tavern is a little pricy, but the beers are decent, the people are friendly, and the live music is worth a trip if only to see that bloke from the PokerStars ad. I’ll certainly be back? But will this place end up as my local? I’m not so sure. 3/5


*Twenty past eight is a ridiculous time for anything to start. That’s the time dinner should end, according to Belinda Blinked at least.

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