“ Address: 1 Woolwich Manor Way / Beckton / London / E6 6LE „
Being back in the country and away from the picturesque, relaxed Netherlands town of Breda, for some of last year I was back to the hustle and bustle of the London area. I commuted 2 hours from Guildford to Beckton, East London (or "Grand Theft Auto : Beckton" as me and a friend refer to it as). This isn't an area blessed with culinary excellent within walking distance; you can take your chances by car in nearby Galleons Reach to Nandos, Pizza Hut or Maccy D's. The Asda near Beckton station has sandwiches and a restaurant of sorts; the retail park has an "everything with chips" Woolworths café (which probably isn't even there any more now).
It took me a month or 2 to persuade my colleagues that the Brewers Fayre was worth a look and we once we tried it we haven't looked back. So here is what I often did for lunch in Beckton.
DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES
There have been 2 fatal shootings in that area over recent years, so many a colleague drives to site with a fair amount of trepidation (my project manager even advises not stopping at the lights but slowing down until there's a green again), and there's me, laptopped up walking through the retail park without a care in the world. In fact recently someone was shot and left early morning in a car close by to the restaurant. Dig a bit deeper though and you will find an area much the same as any other (in business hours, anyway). Although I hope no potential mugger is reading this. I got stopped and searched for knives on my way home a while back by the police, they'd even thoughtfully erected a metal detector at the entrance of Beckton DLR station and handed me an informative little leaflet. Community Police Support officers can be often spotted patrolling. Yes, picturesque indeed.
As you enter from the main road, you are greeted with the bar in front of you and some small high tables and chairs, as well as a large LCD screen to the left and a couple of sofas. Sky Sport News seems to be permanently on at lunchtimes. The bar snakes round to the right and follows the restaurant round to the side and back. As you walk to the right there are several large and small tables, and a section to the right which is adults only, which gives you a picturesque view of the roadworks on the main road. This area is quite long and thin. There is another area next to it which myself and my colleagues prefer, which is a large roomy square, with big and small tables and a view of the beer garden. This area seems to be favoured by young mothers meeting each other and feeding their little ones who don't seem to scream at all when feeding their faces, so well done mums. Yet another area in front of the right of the bar is a little alcove which might be handy for that sneaky lunch with your colleague you're having an affair with (I'd expect, I work with 99.9% men so what would I know). The carpet is pretty psychedelic; large checks of light and dark blue, yellow and red, with swirly patterns on each square. The chairs are standard old pub, i.e. dark wooden and vaguely ornate with a red cushion on them. I guess it's quite refreshing that it hasn't been polished and chromed to within an inch of it's life, so it maintains a modicum of character.
You generally order your food to the right hand side of the bar at the back. And don't forget your Nectar card, as sometimes they will prompt you for this but more often than not will forget.
I guess it's the standard chain pub effort of a hugely varied menu to please everyone, and I have to say this works for me. You have a plethora of choices; from simple baguettes, to perennial favourites like fish and chips and pie and chips. I am slightly surprised to see the Thai prawn curry served with rice, naan and pappadoms but I can't fault their improvisation. Vegetarian choices include a Quorn chilli, enchiladas, risotto and not one but two pasta dishes. One interesting thing I spotted was a surf and turf, with chicken added to the expected steak and prawns. There are some starters for the slightly peckish such as soup of the day served with half a baguette, potato wedges and prawn cocktail.
There are also some specials on the board; recently I've seen lamb koftas and beef stroganoff. A fair choice of desserts includes sticky toffee pudding, apple pie, fresh fruit salad and cheesecake.
Prices are fair, with starters weighing in at about 4 pounds, mains 6-8 pounds, and desserts 3-4 pounds.
You order your food from the bar and are brought it to your table (make sure you note your table number before you order). I must admit I do feel for the waitresses a bit, as they're always rushed and very polite, but don't see much in the way of tips given thanks to the ordering system. Having said that, on several occasions drinks ordered with the meals have taken a while to turn up, but to be fair the more we go the quicker this gets and the more they smile at us; the advantage of being regulars I suppose. I can see quite clearly that the waitresses have primed the bar staff with the drinks orders and when they are late I don't blame the waitresses at all as they try their best; on many occasions they have come to check with us when they see that we haven't received our drinks yet. On one occasion the bar manager went round to each individual table to ask if the food was OK, which I thought was a nice touch, as they seem quite busy at lunchtimes.
I've had several meals here, all of decent size and reasonable quality.
The Chicken Tikka Masala was perfectly acceptable. This particular incarnation has several items piled up on a large plate; the curry itself in a bowl, a naan bread, some rice, 2 pappadoms and a small bowl of mango chutney. The curry was mild to medium and had a fairly decent taste to it; nothing special but pleasing enough. The gravy was quite rich and the naan and pappadoms served nicely to mop it all up. The chicken was in inch sized cubes, and wasn't so rich in flavour but was OK. Let's be realistic here, many of the dishes are probably either cooked from frozen portions delivered from head office and / or microwaved. The rice was quite impressive; dry, the grains separating nicely and having a pleasing aroma to it. I would say it was medium quality basmati. The chutney was probably from a jar as it was quite liquidy and sweet. The pappadoms were crispy and tasty, the oil having been well drained from them, so full marks there.
The burger with chips was quite nice; I had it with some blue cheese sauce on the side. The burger itself was pleasantly meaty with a distinct taste of it own as it wasn't smothered in mayonnaise but served with some salad, which I was impressed by. The chips were OK, the standard from frozen fare I would surmise. The cheese sauce was OK, nothing of note really but the taste of blue cheese did add to the meal somewhat.
The Caesar salad with an added salmon of fillet is a relatively healthy option. It's quite heavily dressed with that creamy Caesar sauce but the lettuce was pleasantly crispy and flavoursome. The salmon was, I think, pan fried and was firm, reasonably tasty and certainly large in size.
The salmon with new potatoes is the healthiest thing I've had on there. The salmon fillet was identical to that presented with the pervious salad, and the new potatoes were well cooked, firm on the outside and soft to the bite, very pleasant indeed.
The desserts are pretty impressive, and I fall back on them to cheer me up when the morning has been particularly taxing and I've burnt off enough nervous energy to have the room for one. This is either due to work related stress or something hair raising happening on the tram in (although to be fair it is usually the former).
The sticky toffee pudding can be served with custard or ice cream. With custard, it sits in the middle of the plate drenched in stick toffee sauce, which darkly diffuses out into the custard in a rather pleasing manner. The taste was both rich and sweet; very indulgent.
The apple pie with caramel can be served with custard, cream or ice cream. With custard, it's a pleasingly firm wedge of pie pastry with chunks of sweetened apple, again drenched in a sauce, this time a sweet caramel concoction, that renders it almost, but not quite, as rich as the sticky toffee pudding.
We dined here nearly every day for a period of a couple of weeks and they started to recognise us, so the service improved each time. This is a reasonable restaurant, and in the context of the immediate area, is certainly our first choice for lunch.
The varied menu and good choices for vegetarians too makes this a firm favourite where everyone will find something that they like.
1 Woolwich Manor Way
Telephone: 08701 977029
Police Emergency number: 999 from landline, also 112 from mobile phone
Serving favourite pub fare.