The smell of coal smoke is a rare thing in London these days, and given the strange nostalgia stirring properties of the whiff this is perhaps a shame. Caught on a breeze it evokes thoughts of Queen Victoria, stiff upper lip, lovable urchins scampering down the street and cheeky chimney sweeps. Of course the realities of life in the 19th century East End was slightly different; Jack the Ripper was eviscerating women willy nilly, the Thames was ripe with human effluence and the air was often so thick with smog breathing in was the equivalent of smoking ten Bensons.
Fortunately things have improved a bit.
You’ll sniff out The Lord Tredegar long before you see it as its twin coal fires seem to constantly be burning; providing a beacon of sorts for your nostrils to follow now the coals of London have mainly been extinguished. The understated frontage is actually very easy to miss, especially as you’re likely to be concentrating on successfully navigating the dog shit gauntlet which the pavement has become in this area. When you do find it and step inside, after cleaning your shoes, there is much to explore in this TARDIS of an establishment.
This is a pub in three parts which immediately rings that little alarm bell of concern that it might be trying to be lots of things at once and doing none of them extremely well. At the front we have the original proper ‘pub zone’ where we find the bar itself, the fire places and a range of snug little corners to tuck yourself into. Decent range of beers, unfailingly chipper staff and an unexplained bust of vertically challenged French tyrant Napoleon sitting atop the backbar are all also to be found within this first segment.
Next up we move into a much more recent addition to the establishment in the form of a dining room (the food here is top notch even if it is pretentiously described). A complication of this space is that the kitchen is sharing it with you which has some benefits and the odd drawback.
The benefits being you know the food is freshly prepared and if you’re anxious, for whatever reason, that someone might be trying to poison you it’s possible to guard yourself against such an event without the fuss that would normally be caused by insisting that you watch your meal being made. However you’re also going to have to talk over the clatter and will go away honking a bit of fried things.
Leaving the dining room we head into the surprisingly large-ish beer garden. This is thoughtfully semi covered for what could be several reasons; to allow sufferers of extreme photosensitivity to enjoy a summers day, to shelter the sort of folk who prefer to sit outside even when its winter and flinging it down, protection from bees and their mega bastard wasp cousins or maybe, and probably, for smokers.
Taken as a single entity these things come together to form an odd offering which falls slightly short of the mark; a bit like Neapolitan ice cream. The ‘dining zone’ detracts from the ‘pub zone’ far too much for you to gaze wistfully into the glowing coals and transport yourself back to simpler times. The ‘outside zone’ is tragically wedged between the terrace the pub sits in and an elevated train line and so is hardly serene or sunny. The alarm bell of concern did not ring unnecessarily.
I’d suggest this pub is best enjoyed on a dark wintery eve with rain lashing the window, stick to the front of the pub itself and try to forget the rest is there as you’re warmed by the slowly combusting fossilised remains of the swamps our reptilian predecessors once roamed.