FG Good Booze guide - 2015

Saturday 15 August 2015

This is the third of our popular annual look at Forest Gate's drinking spots. And, this year, it's good news. No closures, a new opening and the prospect of a restaurant selling "craft beers" on the horizon.

The new outlet is, like the longer standing Wanstead Tap, to be found underneath the arches - at 361 Winchelsea Road. Hawkes is largely a cider house and at present only open on Saturdays.

Two years ago we used the price of the then ubiquitous Stella Artois as a benchmark for the pubs at work. Stella is no longer available in all local boozers, whereas draft cider now is.  In view of this we have used cider as our price barometer, and at the end of this blog we produce our first Forest Gate Draftcidrometer.

One other, good, local feature has been the complete refurb and relaunch of neighbouring Manor Park's Golden Fleece - a regular for many Forest Gate locals - so, we've included it in this year's round up.

We've tried to offer a bit more consistency in our descriptions, so are using a common format of features examined. Each drinks outlet, of course, has its own unique characteristics that don't fit this format, so, we've produced a paragraph, or so, on these, for each drinks house examined. They appear in alphabetical order.

Forest Gate Hotel

The only Forest Gate pub not on a main drag - it's on Godwin Road. The pub clearly caters almost exclusively for very local customer base. It has had problems with drugs in the past and now displays many "zero tolerance of drugs" notices. Very quiet pub. Must be tempting for owners to turn into flats - see Holly Tree, below.

Drink: Real ale pumps on display, but look infrequently used.

Food: No menu on display.  Small selection of bar snacks.

Entertainment: Pool table, wide-screen TV, with BT football. Quizzes on Wednesdays and Karaoke evenings.

Garden: Small terraced area with tables and much larger tarmaced car parks area, available.  Mainly for smokers, as no interesting landscaping, design features.

Child-friendly: "No under 18's, after 8.30 pm".

Forest Tavern

Improbable as it may seem, this pub, at the centre, physically and socially of much of the recent regeneration and gentrification of Forest Gate has only been open for two years. Everything about it seems to sum up the "new Forest Gate", from its client base, to its offer.

Drink: Up to eight real ales on tap, plus a couple of ciders.  Trendy enough to get away with selling Pimms in jam jars, and for people not to feel put-off by it.

Food: Menu constantly evolving, with a varied and innovative option currently on offer.  Meals can be taken either in the back, restaurant area, or in the bar.
Standard of food varies a bit, but can be very good; not the cheapest - with Haddock and chips being served at £11.50. Good range of tasty bar snacks on offer, too.

Entertainment: The Tavern has cracked it, and is now reflecting local interests well, with regular free Forest Gap music nights, Saturday record sales, open mike nights, quizzes, all soon to be joined by Swing Patrol on Monday nights - a fusion of two of the more prominent manifestations of the "new Forest Gate".

Garden: Decent back garden that has been spruced up recently. Not an exclusive preserve for the smokers and very pleasant on a summer evening. There are a couple of tables at the front, usually used for smokers - which minimises the smoke pollution in the back.

Child-friendly: Yes, in both garden and pub, although not much to assist with child entertainment.

Fox and Hounds

Sits cheek by jowl with the Forest Tavern, facing Forest Gate station, on Woodgrange Road/Forest Lane junction. The juxtaposition is a mirror image of the shopping centre options in Stratford - one catering for the "new" arrivals in the area and the other - the Fox and Hounds, like the old Stratford shopping centre - for the older established residents. Home drinking base for the Clapton FC Ultra fans.

Drink: Now sells Real Ales, though two of the pumps were out of order, when we visited.

Food: None advertised, other than a small range of bar snacks.

Entertainment: Sky Sports, pool table, regular Karaoke nights.

Garden: Described as a "secret garden", at the back of the pub; small and mainly a smokers' area.

Child-friendly: Nobody under 14 permitted.

Golden Fleece

Capel Road, overlooking Wanstead Flats.  Had a major face lift this spring, from which it is clearly benefitting. Wide range of seating, including nooks and crannies, if you don't want to eat, or join in the entertainment. Packed when we visited, very popular with the shiny black-BMW crew.

Drink: Six real ales, good range of other drinks, including ciders.

Food: Large and varied menu. Like an upmarket Wetherspoons: e.g. steak and ale pie, £7.99 and regular list of interesting specials, averaging £10.

Entertainment: A very full week of entertainment advertised, see photo.

Garden: Wanstead Flats, to the front! In addition, large, well furnished back garden, with comfortable furniture and very good children's play and climbing equipment.

Child-friendly: Great garden - front and back for children.  Good children's menu on bar food and restaurant.


Under the railway arches, at 361 Winchelsea Road - yards from Wanstead Tap.

The East London based cider-making company started in 2012, and is named after traditional street sellers - hawkers. Forest Gate is its first fixed venue and was opened at the end of July, for the time being, on Saturdays only.
Hours noon till 10pm. Great new initiative for this cider house, who have doubled up with Wanstead Pizza company, Luppolo to provide an enjoyable Saturday night offer - wood-fired, stone-baked pizza and cider, inside or out.. Friendly helpful staff.

Drink: Range of ciders - including their own - made from London apples, spirits and cocktails, mainly. Nice cider sampler 3 x 1/3 pints for £4.

Food: Excellent choice from about half a dozen pizzas: £5.95 - £7.95, from Luppolo of Wanstead, baked on the terrace.

Entertainment: No, but plenty of enthusiastic conversations.

Garden: Front terrace, only.

Child-friendly: Yes, but nothing specifically to entertain them.

Holly Tree

Junction of Dames and Vansitaart Roads. Large, airy pub, with sizeable conservatory area, overlooking Wanstead Flats. Fairly quiet, whenever visited. Occupies large footprint.  Seems only a question of time before freeholders, like those of Forest Tavern, above, cash in and seek planning permission to demolish and replace by £7m - £10m of apartments, in an increasingly sought-after residential area.

Drink: No real ales. Standard range of typical pub beers, wines and spirits.

Food: A limited menu. Lower end price range, e.g. Shepherd's Pie, chips and veg £5.95.

Entertainment: Sky Sports, pool table, Karaoke nights, small library.

Garden: Large garden with over a dozen tables, barbecue area
Child-friendly: Good garden space. Large range of children's equipment now depleted, down to only a couple of pieces.

Hudson Bay

Top of Upton Lane - the only pub in Forest Gate, south of Romford Road. Full story behind the pub's name will be featured in a future blog! A Wetherspoons house, where they pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap.  Always busy; the most multi-racial pub in the district.

Drink: Good range of real ales and ciders.  Regular beer and cider festivals, with lots of guest drinks.  Always good value for money.

Food: Typical Wetherspoons menu: wide choice, low prices. "Special" nights, e.g. fish and chips plus a pint of beer/cider/glass of wine on Fridays,  £6.25! Wetherspoons are, corporately, making a big push to challenge McDonalds and Greggs for the low cost breakfast this year.  Again, very good value.

Entertainment: TV's with sport, but low/no sound. No live entertainment - just a pub/restaurant. Wetherspoons doing, what they do well.

Garden: Back garden area reasonably well laid out, but mainly a haven for smokers.

Child-friendly: Children welcome and able to eat until 8.30 pm.

Wansted Tap

This intriguing local initiative, "underneath the arches" in Winchelsea Road, goes from strength to strength: good drink, food, company and entertainment. Opening hours slightly erratic, not helped by the fact that they are not well posted on the premises. Perfect name for a watering hole, apart from the fact that it's not in Wanstead and most of the drink isn't on tap!

Drink: A wide range (up to 100 varieties) of bottled craft beers and ciders and three barrelled beers, fresh tea and good coffees. Not the cheapest, but by far the widest local selection of drink options.

Food: Regular bar snacks, plus tasty cakes and biscuits.  But the food highlight is the regular hosting of local celebrity chef, Michael Sanders, Invite to Supper nights. Monthly food fests, with 4 innovative and tasty courses for £30, with a complementary drink option for each course.  The food nights have now been extended to include vegetarian and fish evenings.

Entertainment: Great selection of high class evening entertainments: book launches and readings, with the likes of Ian Sinclair and Harper Lee novel launches, in conjunction with Newham Bookshop, good comedy nights, with big names like Simon Munnery and Bob Mills, free film shows, interesting music evenings, occasional historic and other local interest talks. Location for Forest Gate Arts trail exhibit. There's even a library, for dull moments.

Garden: No.

Child-friendly: Very. Comfortable, home-like furniture, children's play things and toys, where involvement is encouraged.  Child-friendly play sessions some afternoons, for thirsty supervising adults! Even children's books in the library.

Off licences

There are approximately 30 supermarkets/off-licenses, selling alcohol, in Forest Gate.

Since we are in a cider vein, we thought we'd try three out, to see what the comparative cider offer is, and include them in our Draftcidrometer table, below.

The excellent Bereket, Woodgrange Road, seems to have strange licensing restrictions imposed on them: they can only sell ciders and beers in minimums of packs of 4. They sell a range of ciders, including many fruit ones.

Co-operative, Woodgrange Road. Half a dozen ciders, including fruit flavoured ones on sale. Often multi-pack offers, at discount.

Tescos in Woodgrange Road, like the Co-op, often have multi-pack discounts and sell their own brand, very cheap ciders, by the bottle.


Forest Gate Hotel: Pint of Magners, £3.50.

Forest Tavern: Pint of Hogans, £3.90.

Fox and Hounds: Pint of Strongbow, £3.40.

Golden Fleece: Pint of Symonds, £3.60.

Hawkes: Pint of own brewed, Hawkes, £3.60.

Holly Tree: Pint of Strongbow, £3.40.

Hudson Bay: Pint of Hawkes Urban Orchard, £3.49.

Wanstead Tap: No cider on tap, but pint of bottled London Glider, £4.00.

Bereket Supermarket: Bottle of Stella Artois cider, £1.99.

Co-op Supermarket: Bottle of Carling cider, £1.25.

Tesco Supermarket: Bottles of Stella Artois, 3 for £5 - i.e. £1.66 per bottle.


  1. Let's hope planning recognise the value of the few pubs left in the area and don't let places like the Holly Tree and Forest Gate Hotel become residential.

  2. Is there any more info on the 'prospect of a restaurant selling "craft beers" on the horizon.??


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