Two evenings in Barking

It has been quiet here for the last few days. This is mostly because a large part of the week was spent down in London.

The last time I spent an evening in London I ate delicious but expensive tapas at Barrafina and went to watch Dexy’s play in an old theatre in the West End.

So this week operated as something of a contrast.

I arrived at Euston late on Tuesday afternoon and was whisked off to The Britannia Bar overlooking the concourse to meet my companions for the next 48 hours. Having snuggled my way into a pint of Golden IPA we left to make our way to Barking. We had been booked into the Ibis Hotel there and so with thoughts of Billy Bragg we set off.

There is great benefit to be had from living in Liverpool which is a city that has seen its population shrink around the infrastructure that was created a hundred years ago. A five minute hold up through a set of lights is the worse that you may have to put up with on a drive home in the evening.

Barking is apparently just over eight miles from Euston. On Tuesday night that journey took us an hour an half in the back of a car. It was a grinding slow drive leavened by the diversity of the areas we crawled through, the sheer rough complexity of London moving past slowly beyond the back windows of the car.

It was dark by the time we got on to the three lane dual carriageway that was Barking. The sat-nav took us to the door of The Ibis and we spilled out ready for another beer and something to eat.

All our spirits were dashed as we crowded into the reception area and we looked around us. It appeared that our only options for food for the night was going to be a set of shelves filled with Pot Noodles and Mars Bars and the bar was a fridge stacked with cider and Carling. Fortunately it transpired the sat-nav had taken us to the wrong Ibis. There was a slightly posher version three hundred yards and a Travel-Lodge up the road. We turned the sat-nav back on and motored across.

The second Ibis was a great deal posher than the first in that it had a bar and offered the promise of food. We booked in, changed and met in the bar. The choice was limited to Guinness but that was okay and I tucked in.

Having looked at the menu I chose Prawn Cocktail and steak. What could go wrong. To start with there was only one steak left and two of us had ordered it. I gave way and went for a burger instead. In the event it transpired that that was wrong to. The steak that arrived after a warm prawn-cocktail was more like a third of a steak and had been cooked in a way that banished from it anything that might give the impression this could taste good.

The next night we cruised the streets of Barking to find something better and ended up in the Weatherspoons next to the tube. This time they did have steak and the piece that arrived on my plate was about five times the size of the thing that that had been served up the previous evening. They had good beer as well and I squeezed in a couple of pints of Scapa Special.

The evening was rounded off with a talk on tomatoes and greenhouses and the merits of Rossendale of which there are many!


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