July 2020 edit: Clearly much has changed in the last few months. However, I’m delighted to confirm that the Bethnal Green Tavern is now back open with an excellent, fresh beer selection and table service. Do please pop in!
There’s a lot of confusing news flying around us right now. Some people are convinced the whole world is going up in flames, others reckon all the fuss is nothing to worry about, still more have been ransacking supermarkets for supplies to see them through the coming weeks.
But enough about Brexit. What about coronavirus?
The constant reminders about hand-washing and basic hygiene have highlighted just how silly it is cramming myself into someone else’s armpit for an hour each day as part of my commute on the underground. With or without a pandemic, I’m a fan of working away from the office…but where? Coffee shops are noisy and expect you to drink a steady stream of anxiety juice. Home is lovely and quiet until my also-home-working partner starts a conference call, at which point her voice is audible half a mile away.
No, by far the best place for me to work (during the afternoon at least) is the pub. Specifically, the Bethnal Green Tavern.
For the last few weeks I’ve been peering inside the BGT, nose pressed to the window like an urchin at a sweet shop as people inside put the finishing touches on this refurb. Last week the doors opened and as it happened to coincide with a work from home day, I popped in to crunch some numbers while crushing some IPAs.
You’re greeted by a well-stocked bar as soon as you walk in, with a great range of beers in the fridge and a shockingly diverse spirit selection.
The beers on tap, however, are where this pub really comes into its own. Three cask ales and 13 kegs means you face some difficult choices. If you’re coming in from out of town, you need to figure out now which are worth your time. For lucky old me living around the corner, it’s just a question of which I try first.
Reasoning that I should only drink half pints while working, I head straight to the bottom of the menu. Left Handed Giant’s Time Will Tell is a pale gold, slightly hazy IPA with a funky, almost acetone aroma. The palate leads with bitter citrus, orange and mango, but rounds out and grows more peppery as it warms in the mouth before leaving a slick, resinous finish.
Omnipollo, famous for their non-traditional ingredients lists (doughnuts, anyone?) have their imperial stout Mammut on tap: that’s an oily, shiny drop of danger in a glass. I’m expecting this to taste like a cake, and yet it still shocks me just how cakey it is. It’s packed full of vanilla, hazelnut and chocolate, and slips down far too easily for a beer at 11%.
In many ways BGT is very similar to its sister pub the King’s Arms, just around the corner from here. Where it differs most is in the food menu: while Kingy limits itself to charcuterie and cheese plates, a visit to BGT comes with the promise of bahn mi sandwiches, poke bowls, butternut squash stews and kedgeree. Both menus have more than enough on offer to tempt me back.
For now, the Bethnal Green Tavern is fairly quiet. Part of that I suspect is because I’ve visited in the middle of the day, but venues in London have generally felt a lot quieter over the last couple of weeks. By all rights, this pub should be heaving – right now, I’ll give it what support I can working with one of their beers in hand in the afternoon.