Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published August 5th 2014
Shakespeare Drank Here
After completing the Books About Town Riverside Trail, my dad wanted to whet his whistle with a pint. Most pubs only seem to do larger these days because of the greater effort required to look after beers brewed in barrels; so when Dad As spotted a pub that did cask ales, there was no doubt in his mind where he wanted to go.
The Anchor Bankside on Park Street, Southwark is a Taylor Walker pub built in 1615. It was built on a site with a rather macabre history, having been the location of a Roman grave, a place for bear and baiting, and used for plague pis in the seventeenth century.
Hey, they have our carpet!
Any residual bad karma has almost certainly left the building now, because upon entering, there was nothing but a warm, comforting glow. It has all the makings of a traditional English pub, with dark wooden floorboards, brick walls, a mismatch of antique leather-backed chairs, and orange shining chandeliers.
Although connected to some gruesome bits of history, The Anchor also has revered associations as well. For example, both William Shakespeare and Doctor Samuel Johnson have both enjoyed a pint at the pub, and it was also the refuge place of Samuel Pepys during The Great Fire of London.
1730 Special Pale Ale
The Anchor has a variety of cask ales available at £4.50 a pint. Dad chose the 1730 Special Pale Ale, which is Taylor Walker's first new own brand ale in sixties years. It is named after the date when the brewer's was founded, and used 100% English ingredients, including four different types of hops to give it a unique flavour.
Fish & Chip Shop Upstairs
As well as a bar, there is also a fish & chips takeaway up stairs, and a eat-in menu in the dedicated Clink Prison dinning room. Apart from a plaque describing the prison, there does not appear to be any theme relating to it. That is unless the gaol had fruit machines for its inmates.
The Clink Dining Room
There are various types of meals to choose from, including sharing plates (nachos, beef trencher), mini plates (Korean spicy chicken wings, soup, wild boar sausage roll), favourites (red pepper cheesecake, ham, egg & chips, bangers & mash, hunters chicken), and the mains (scampi & chips, cod & chips, chicken & mushroom pie, burgers, steak). Dad and I chose to share The Cod Father for £14.29: hand battered cod with chunky chips, mushy or garden peas, pickled onions, curry sauce, tartar sauce, and bread & butter (whether it was Anchor butter I don't know).
The Cod Father
A big dish like this deserves a big plate. I hate it when places only give you plates large enough to fit the food on, forgetting the need for wiggle room when cutting. No such problem here. Our plates were ginormous. The helping of chips we received, however, were not as 'generous' as I expected from what was stated. Even a small portion of chips from the chippies have more than we got. Saying that, however, these chips were thick, and there was no greasiness to them at all. They were also left 'naked' so you could add your own salt and vinegar if wanted.
I'm not a great fan of fish & chips, partly because I don't want all the unhealthy batter that comes with it; here, however, I was easily able to separate the fish from its encasement. The cod was perfectly cooked - I was about to say it just fell from the bone, but there was not a single bone it sight.
The curry sauce made a delicious accompaniment, and I also enjoyed building myself a chip and mushy pea butty.
For dessert, we ordered apple pie and treacle sponge for £4.69 each. Initially there was a bit of confusion because the waiter didn't have perfect English. He told us that the apple pie came with ice. While Dad tried to work out what he meant, I quickly determined he meant ice cream. But which ice cream were we getting? The waiter said the choice was vanilla, coconut, or strawberry. When I asked for coconut, he said the choice was vanilla, strawberry or coke. Coke ice cream? The light bulb then switched on, and I realised he meant chocolate. Still, perhaps it was best to play it safe. Vanilla, please.
When our desserts arrived, it wasn't only the apple pie that came with ice cream, but the treacle sponge too. Both were excellent. The treacle sponge was sweet, but not too sweet, and the apples came in chunky slices rather than a mush. The pastry wasn't thick, and decorated with a light sprinkle of icing sugar.
My final verdict? They may not make the best fish & chips in the world, but certainly still tasty. The Anchor has a cosy atmosphere, pleasant staff, and excellent beer.