Friday 5 September sees a welcome opening of the recently restored Forest Tavern, as the district's most recently face-lifted pub. It has replaced the former Railway Tavern, on the corner of Forest Lane and Woodgrange Road, in what is rapidly becoming the centre of the recent Forest Gate revival.
The pub is owned by London pub chain Antic, which had its own financial difficulties at the start of this year. Antic's business strategy has been to take over old, run down, pubs in London suburbs that are about to experience a bout of gentrification, as a survey of their website shows.
It is a bold move that aims to buck the trend of floods of pub closures, by offering a different product to a younger, more affluent, aspirational market.
|Railway Tavern, transformed into Forest Tavern|
Antic doesn't like the term, but the Tavern will become the post code's first gastropub - with relatively expensive, but well prepared and cooked, meals and a fine selection of interesting, and more highly priced, drinks, including many "real ales" and ciders.
It is a tough market they are entering. Pubs are closing at the rate of one every other day, nationally, and that pattern is more than reflected locally. The national trend, coupled with changes to local demography have meant that three times as many pubs have closed in Forest Gate over the last twenty years as currently remain open.
Below, in alphabetical order, we look at the Forest Tavern's competition - now and then, in presenting Forest Gates own Good (and not so good) Pub Guide!
Forest Gate Hotel - Godwin Road. The post code's only remaining pub off a main drag, buried in what in estate agents' speak is now known as Forest Gate Village. Its decor is shabby, and the pub has had its problems with neighbours, noise and drugs over recent times.
Like all our local pubs, it has had to move with the times and offer more than just booze, to its predominantly white, middle aged, male, manual labour, customer base. So, there is a limited range of bar meals available, along with regular feature nights. These include Karaoke, DJ's and a Wednesday night quiz, together with Sunday roast lunches as attractions. There are the inevitable sports screens, and fruit machines, as well as a pool table.
|Forest Gate Hotel|
At the back there is an outdoor smokers' zone and a few tables and chairs, which share the enclosed space with a small car park. There is a large function room, available for hire, in a stand-alone building. The pub boasts cheap accommodation on its upper floors.
There is a limited range of drink available, and although a hand pump is in evidence, there's not much sign of real ale being widely available. A pint of Stella will set you back £3.30.
Fox and Hounds - Forest Lane. Of all local pubs, this is most likely to feel the impact of the Forest Tavern, which is only a couple of doors away. The pub has had its ups and downs over recent years and a few changes of owners, having been closed for a while in 2011.
It is now as close as you'll get to an old east end boozer in Forest Gate, complete with a juke box, a fruit machine, pool table and Sports Bar screens. There's a stage for live music, discos and karaoke. There is also a paved back yard with tables and chairs, for smokers and others. While there are bar snacks and food is served on special occasions, there is no standing menu for would-be diners.
|Fox and Hounds|
The walls are covered with evidence of its involvement in the local community: receipts for charity donations, old local photographs, West Ham memorabilia and death notices of former customers
The clientele is almost exclusively older, male and white. The pub looks like being the face of the old east end, as it continues to look after this traditional customer base, and tries to survive the offer made by the Forest Tavern, to the incoming "Nouveau Forest Gate" younger crowd.
Golden Fleece - Capel Road. Probably Forest Gate's smartest pub, overlooking Wanstead Flats. It is now owned by John Barras pubs, an old north-east England brewery which rebranded itself in 2010 as a pub chain, along Chef and Brewer lines. It has over 250 pubs in the group, nationwide.
In addition to being able to spill out on to the Flats on a warm summer evening, the pub has a well established back garden, complete with children's play equipment. It has a small function room, integrated into the main bar, which is a favourite for wakes and funeral events for the nearby by Manor Park and City of London cemeteries.
It boasts sports screens and a quiz night every Wednesday. It has a fairly extensive and reasonably priced pub menu for diners. The drinks offer is extensive, with at least three real ales regularly on supply, and a pint of the ubiquitous Stella there costs £3.54.
Hudson Bay - Upton Lane, located in the premises of the former Co-op supermarket. This is a typical, pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap Wetherspoons pub. And the formula works for Forest Gate's most consistently busy pub, with a wide-ranging black and white customer base. Like all Wetherspoons pubs, there is an attempt to connect with the local community. The pub is named in honour of the local nineteenth century landlord, Sir Henry Pelly, who was, for a while, governor of the Hudson Bay Company, which did so much to open up Canada as a British colony. There are also a range of photos on the walls, featuring aspects of local history.
Using the adopted price yardstick, a pint of Stella Artois is £3.15 - best value in Forest Gate.
Live and Let Live - 268 Romford Road, located close to the site of the former West Ham Brewery. What was formerly an old boozer, the Live and Let Live has had a facelift and now offers a sports bar (and associated big screens) in the front of the pub and a club setting in the back bar. There is a paved outside area at the back of the pub, overlooking the Ranks Hovis McDougal bakery, which acts as a smoking area and also hosts a food bar. We were offered a goat stew, when we visited! Not surprisingly perhaps, the back room club is aimed at the local African clientele, and provides music from 11 pm til 4 a.m.
|Live and Let Live|
The Forest Gate Stellarometer
All five of the local pubs sell draught Stella Artois, which provides a handy guide to the prices they charge for drinks generally. here are the prices, as of early August 2013.
Pub Price of a pint of Stella
Hudson Bay £3.15
Live and Let Live (pub hours) £3.25
Forest Gate Tavern £3.30
Golden Fleece £3.54
Fox and Hounds £3.65
Live and let Live (club hours) £3.75
Below we list those we know of, thanks to an excellent website,
We will return to the history and stories related to some of them, in more detail, over future months.
Albion, 144 Boleyn Road, closed 2002, converted into flats
Duke of Fife, Katherine Road, now partially used as a nightclub
|Duke of Fife|
|Eagle and Child, as a functioning pub|
Earl of Derby, 16 Station Road, closed 2002 and converted into a nursery
|Earl of Derby|
|Freemasons Arms, later Simpsons, now closed|
Odessa Arms, 53 Odessa Road, demolished in 1998
|Old Spotted Dog, in better days, as a thriving local|
|Princess Alice, 100 years ago - in better days|
Tower Arms, 83 Tower Hamlets Road, closed 1996, converted into flats in 2002 Martin Warne tweets: "Not especially attractive, despite proximity". Andrew Jarman is even more frank; "Went in once just before bailiffs seized the contents and closed it down. Filthy dirty hole of a place". Great to get feedback!!
Recently had licence revoked, following complaints about violence inflicted by bouncers on drunken customers.
|Waggon and Horses becomes|
Temptations night club, now closed
|The White Hart, later Spinks, now a restaurant|
See you at the end of September!