I’ve been pretty critical of various things across SE London recently so I thought that it’s about time I wrote a new post rounding up recent improvements in Woolwich. Re-address the balance somewhat. With the recent opening of new pub ‘The Woolwich Equitable‘ the town can conceivably be seen as a decent place to head out for the night, for the first time in a very long time. A destination in its own right. Along with a number of good quality, interesting restaurants, it is now possible to head there in the evening after work, stay till 1am closing at The Woolwich, and in that time have various good quality, varied spots to enjoy.
The ‘Woolwich Equitable’ pub opened last week, occupying space inside the main entrance of what was formally the Woolwich Building Society headquarters. First impressions were good. Good music was playing as we entered, and the staff were welcoming. I scouted the beers on pump, though it wasn’t particularly inspiring. There’s 6 pumps if I recall correctly, and the 5 that were on offer all seemed pretty similar – 4% session beers on the whole. Stuff like Bath Ale’s Gem. A nice drink, but a choice of IPAs, stouts, porters etc is needed. To be fair, this was a few days after their busy opening so beers like Hopstuff stout had run out.
For those that don’t know, Hopstuff brewery are based in the nearby Royal Arsenal development. It seems a close relationship has already been established between the new pub and brewer, and I hope in future a couple of their beers are always on. Hopstuff also have regular open brewery nights. Last weekend they had one to celebrate their first anniversary, with the next on the 5th and 6th of December.
The pints of beer I had were £3.60. Fair enough given the location, ambience and planned evening attractions in future like DJs and live music. Oh, and by the way, by DJs I don’t hope for dodgy wedding fellers playing ‘funky house’ crap, but a more varied and interesting choice. Open DJ nights would be a good idea as well as allowing people to bring in their own vinyl, or play from their ipods/smartphones, as happens at quite a few other pubs. This could go horribly wrong but I’ve found it a good laugh in other pubs, yet something no SE London pub offers. This being an antic pub, and having visited some of their others, I’m confident they’ll get it right.
Open mic nights would also be welcome a couple of times a week. I wonder if in time there’s a possibility to extend into the large Woolwich HQ building and have club nights on? Again, I’m not talking Earl of Chatham style pop-house/contemporary RnB but more interesting nights, the like of which are rare in this neck of the woods. Motown/Soul/Disco etc nights – that kind of thing. Hip hop another. Indie of course as well. This is perhaps way too ambitious, but there’s nothing else like it locally.
One potential issue at the Woolwich is that the main room is a large hall with a high ceiling, which could see it suffering a cacophony of echoing voices. A bit like your standard Wetherspoons which a few people dislike. Hopefully the music will mitigate against it. There’s also a small cosy room just to the left as you enter if it is an issue. I’m not sure if there’s also another small room to the right as you enter but it looked like it.
Another reason to now go to Woolwich is the Blue Nile restuarant. It serves Eritrean and a small amount of Italian food at good prices. Lunch (12-3pm) is particularly good value at around£5 with prices up to around £8 in the evening (6-9pm).
It’s a small place, and faces onto the green outside Tesco. A typical lunch dish is Kilwa, which is a warm lamb, beef or chicken stew with onion, tomatoes and garlic with a flatbread on the side for £4.95. Most dishes seem to come with a spongy, sour, stretchy pancake-like bread called injera which you pour the fillings on and wrap around.
A few doors along is Kailash Momo Tibetan restaurant. I had a very nice meal here a while back and it’s well worth a visit for all your momo (like dumplings) needs. Directly next door is Vietnamese restaurant An. I’ve not been there myself but heard good things. Word is that it is shortly to be moving into larger premises around the corner to Anglesea Road where the Wine Cellar was. In addition another interesting place is the Prince Albert (Rose) pub the other end of Woolwich near the leisure centre. I’ve never been myself but hear good things, and they make an effort with things like beer festivals. Somewhere to check out soon. I learnt about a few of these places from the brilliant ‘The Only Way is Woolwich’ blog.
With all this and more it’s now possible to imagine a decent, varied night out. You could start out after work at Wetherspoons for a couple of cheap drinks. One problem with Wetherspoons is that it’s not a place I want to stay all night. Good to start but then move on to a place with bands, music, good DJ’s etc. Now you can.
Despite being derided by a few, I don’t mind Woolwich spoons though havn’t been so much since it reopened. It was far better than nearby Greenwich which often has many beers off or flat, staff that can’t work out who got there first, and is generally a worse space to have a drink. You know you’ll get a good range of beer at Woolwich spoons, and where else can you get great American craft beer for 2 quid a drink, a Brewdog or Innis & Gunn pint for £3, or a great choice of gin & tonics for less than £3?
From there the night could take you to one of the good restaurants nearby before heading to the Woolwich pub after for good music till 1am. Not bad at all.
You may notice I havn’t mentioned the Dial Arch. Despite being in a lovely building I find its prices laughable, food very inconsistent, beer range dull and the music sometimes boring enough to send me into a coma. Hopefully they up their game with some competition.
In addition there’s a number of cafes around to visit such as Koffees and Kream on Calderwood Street near Sainsbury’s, which has begun to offer late nights with soul and funk music, a bar and food. The next night is 28th November. There daytime food offerings get very good reviews too. Another highly rated recent addition to Woolwich is the Cornerstone Cafe on the Arsenal which is open till 8pm Monday to Friday. In addition, pub chain Geronimo is opening an outlet on the square opposite the Dial Arch. I’m probably missing some other great places so apologies if so.
Second Floor Open Studios
Something else that is a great, yet somewhat hidden, asset to Woolwich is the Second Floor artists studios near Woolwich Dockyard. This weekend is open studios, where the many artists open their door for the visiting public. I went a year ago and would strongly recommend a visit. There’s a very large number of studios to see, and a nice place to grab some food and drink. The variety and quality of things to see was fantastic. Allow a good few hours. Good views along the river as well outside, and the decaying hulk of a former Mersey River ferry is moored up alongside.
It has the largest number of artists studios in London with 270 based there. A real hidden gem that not many are aware of, and I’d love to see a closer link between the site and the wider area. Perhaps Greenwich council could work with some to improve the public realm across the borough, and also help create a gallery site to display work.
In other brief Woolwich news which I’ll cover in a bit more depth in future posts, the demolition of Connaught Estate has begun. The grotty estate is located just up the road from the three restaurants mentioned above. Residents will start moving in from 2016.
Finally, Greenwich Council have launched a consultation into the future of Spray Street and surrounding areas in Woolwich such as the row of shops opposite the Crossrail station and indoor market. The site has been neglected for a very long time and has scope to offer a huge amount. It’s worth having a look through the 104mb (!) consultation.
This is a huge site, but only part of a wider area that is ripe for redevelopment. As seen to the south there is much derelict land. The mass of land used for DLR construction still lays empty, 5 years after opening. South of that is the Wilkinson’s site that Greenwich council intend to build a replacement leisure centre for Waterfront.
Woolwich has certainly improved its offering a great amount in the recent past. Public realm improvements and more pubs, cafes and restaurants have all greatly helped, and Antic’s pub is perhaps the missing piece that has been lacking for so long. Somewhere to have good drinks with good music until gone midnight. Hopefully it is the first of a few more as the town grows in coming years.