Bayswater provides an oddly farmyard friendly evening of cows, dogs and oysters galore.
Bayswater is a station that sits in the awkward crack between the city centre and the burbs. It isn’t quite the chain-tastic swathe of zone one pubs and, yet, doesn’t hold the charm and allure of the out the way, untouched orbital stops. It is unsure and timid, as uncomfortable in its own skin as a gawky teenager.
We started, fittingly, in The Bayswater Arms – a standard commuter pub with all the faux trimmings one would expect from such an establishment. Amongst the questionable ‘historic’ prints of ploughs, old-y world-y country folk and all those other quintessentially London tropes, slumped the suits talking to their miserable partners. Despite mine and Greg’s animated chat, this pub remained a sullen and desperate non-entity.
We forged on, undeterred by the lacking vibrancy of Bayswater and stopped for refills in The Phoenix, another bland entry, and The Commander, an upmarket oyster bar – the kind of establishment that puts a serviette down before your bottle of beer (a characteristic of London boozers that, as a Northerner, still perplexes me greatly). These were followed by The Prince Bonaparte, The Oak and an accidental stop in Taco restaurant Crazy Homies. In our desperate need for atmosphere and chit chat we foolishly took the small Mexican diner for a pub and did nothing but confuse the waiting staff by ordering two beers and then asking for the bill. A faux pas we plan to avoid in future for fear of being set upon by Crazy Homies’ angry gringos.
We finally, through sheer luck, wandered into The Cow, the only pub from the entire evening that appeared to have any life to it. Unabashed boozers spilled onto the street and there was much laughing and back slapping from the west Londoners. We squeezed into the bar, finding it to be the second establishment that thinks oysters are a credible pub snack, and got chatting to a friendly middle aged man.
“Is this your local?” we enquired, our usual opening gambit for pub conversation (which now, when seen in black and white, does have a slight, and unintentional, chat-up line feel to it).
“Oh yeah, best bar around. First time I came, Kate Moss was here. She comes all the time. And another time”, he pointed down the long, narrow room towards the back of the small pub ,“Tom Cruise and David Beckham turned up, no entourage, nothing. Just sat at the back over there having a beer”. This would turn out to be the anecdote of The Cow and one that was corroborated, without prompting, from numerous other drinkers we spoke to.
“What do you boys do then?” our new chum asked.
“Greg’s a musician and I’m a writer. Sort of. What about yourself?”
And without a breath of hesitation he proudly announced, “I’m a celebrity TV chef”. Greg and I nodded, completely unable to place him from the limited number of cookery shows we indulge in. He handed us his card, Mark Broadbent, and bought us both a beer before heading off back
to his spoilbroth of mates.
As pleasant as Mark was, he would be the precursor to an ongoing and enlightening trip around The Cow‘s confident and chatty regulars. First there was Doug – an immensely personable kiwi (aren’t they all) – and then Bernie – a small dog I befriended (Bernie seemed happy, although the picture Greg took of us does have a slight Of Mice and Men feel to it).
We finally fell into conversation with Rene, Lilly and Richard – a trio of close friends flung together from far corners of the earth. We discussed cats, dancing, tattoos and Richard enthralled Greg and I with a twisting, turning story of another life once lived in South Africa. A life where he was gifted land by the respected father of his one time fiancé. It was truly something from a David Lean film. A story so engrossing and immense that Greg and I discussed it for most of the journey home and, as is the curse with the pub crawl, forgot almost every detail come sun up.
Next stop: BECONTREE