At last: a bit of competition for the Queen Vic. For years, that nuclear sub has quenched the thirst of generations of ‘EastEnders’ almost unchallenged in its fictional district of E20.
Fictional, that is, until someone decided to plonk a stadium, swimming pool and shopping mall in the lower Lea Valley, thus requiring a new postcode. This mall is, of course, Westfield Stratford City, E20.
To their credit, its planners could have just given the green light to another Slug and Lettuce, but instead the people behind the The Rake pub and Utobeer stall in Borough Market have opened a brewpub here with a huge beer selection (there are plenty of chains too, if that’s your thing).
And we’re pleased to report that Phil Mitchell probably won’t be happy – it’s a worthy rival.
A new-build pub in a shopping centre will always seem like a relatively sterile proposition compared to a historic hostelry, lacking as it naturally does the reassuring imprint of those countless fags smoked, pies munched and pints supped.
Tap East is not immune to this, but the evident commitment to exciting beer provides incentive to visit retail nirvana. (More comfy seating would perhaps be welcome too.)
The advantages – for the owners at least – of opening a bar like Tap East in a shopping centre are clear. You get a shiny new space, untainted by previous owners, and plenty of room to set up brewing equipment. There are no obligations to buy through a big pub landlord conglomerate, and there’s guaranteed footfall outside.
On the evening we stopped by, six cask ales included Tap East’s own deep, malty 6.6 per cent Extra Stout (made in the open microbrewery at the back), as well as the Bristol brewery Arbor’s hop-charged Green Bullet IPA; nine kegs dispensed, among others, Brooklyn’s Vienna-style lager, Lovibonds’s 69 IPA and Hofbrau’s Oktoberfest.
These are available in the newly legal third-of-a-pint measures (which makes sense, as many are a fair whack stronger than your average British beers).
Fridges hold a fine sample of the cream of new US microbreweries – Flying Dog, Ballast Point etc – as well as a truly vast collection from Britain and around the world. There are far too many to do it justice here, but the range would certainly stand up to repeat samplings. There’s food, too – largely of the beer-soaking-up sandwich sort.
Tap East is nothing like most people’s idea of a local boozer, but it definitely merits a visit from beer lovers – even if you have to walk past every store in Europe’s biggest shopping mall to get there.