A week last Friday, I found myself in Victualler with 6 other residents of Wapping, collectively labelled by WiW Vickie as the Wapping bloggers (and their support teams).
I’ve been in Victualler several times, normally to buy a bottle of kernel beer to take home and the odd bottle of wine for a gift, but have never sat in, indeed the last time I’d sat in that unit was for a tweet-up in the days of James Wallace Wines.
I’m no expert on wine, I stick to what I know unless the pricing of a wine list decides for me, so I can’t really comment on the range Victualler offers, but can offer a view on the service.
I arrived at about 7.15 and the place was largely full other than a single small table. given that I was meeting people who I didn’t really know what they looked like I asked at the bar if a table had been reserved by anyone and when I explained the situation (and the realisation 7 people weren’t going to fit round a small table) the lady serving immediately offered to negotiate with a lady sitting at a large table on her own, and rather than moving the other patron, we discovered a brief moment of diplomacy led to the movement of the tables themselves.
When two of our party asked for a wine recommendation, they were treated to a quick canter through the wine list with bottles brought over to the table for them to have a sample before making a decision (ironically they chose a) the first one they tried and b) the wine everyone else was already drinking). I think it’s reassuring to see staff so knowledgeable about their product-it makes a very different experience compared to going to a pub and asking for a ‘glass of white’ yet to me the wine was reasonably priced and more importantly very drinkable. Other small touches over the evening, such as the periodic topping up of glasses that didn’t feel intrusive, made the experience casual with an air of sophistication.
It’s the attention to detail that means that I know we’ll go back there again, and would certainly be tempted by one of their periodic organised wine tastings having just missed their ‘orange’ wine tasting.
Whilst the Kernel beers that Victualler sell are some of the best known examples of craft beer in London, I am a bit old fashioned and I love the surprise of going to a pub and seeing what’s on offer. The danger of living a stone’s throw away from a pub like the Prospect of Whitby is that the barley brewed beverages call out like sirens enticing you in to your inevitable doom. Tragically I must confess to periodically popping in as I walk past just to see what’s on offer (though this works both ways, I have also (very rarely) walked out if the beer doesn’t fill me with anticipation.
As a beer drinker I have rarely found the cellar management of the Prospect and the Town [of Ramsgate] to disappoint. Whilst the Town tends to stick with three house beers (London Pride, Youngs and Doombar) and a guest ale, the Prospect tends to have a greater level of rotation and variety. The Prospect also offers a 10% discount to CAMRA members which brings a pint to a more affordable £3 or so, which is considerably less than the £4.50 or so you’ll pay for some Euro-fizz Peroni. However, the Town has the benefit of having only employing 3 bar staff, so are generally more in the loop about what beer is coming on next, or which has most recently come on, but the variety of beers on draught and in bottles at the Prospect keeps me coming back.
You read in lifestyle magazines and newspaper supplements about the benefit of getting to know your fishmonger, and the same is true of any purveyor of food and drink. Peter, the landlord of the ‘Town’ will often tell me what it most recently on, because he knows that’s what I care about. Similarly, when I’ve spoken to Peyman at White Mulberries about coffee it not only tells me that he cares about his product but also his customers. Developing a relationship with locals is important, because they will provide a steady level of business. Peter and Tina who manage of the Prospect have been trying to develop this and hosting of the Wapping bookclub and a weekly quiz night should go someway to this end and over the year I’ve lived in the East of Wapping I’ve started to think of the Prospect as my local, even if the arrival of a coach of French tourists makes it a bizarre experience!
If anyone involved in purchasing beer in any pubs in Wapping reads this, know one thing – put any beer by the St Austell Brewery on, and not only will I come immediately over, I will even buy two pints. The truth of this is evident by the fact I’m running to the Prospect for a pint of Tribute.