Friend at Hand, Herbrand Street, Bloomsbury

A busy Friday night in Central London. As already noted, we hadn’t really accounted for all those post-work drinkers when we were wandering around earlier on. We had popped our heads in here about an hour previously, and it was absolutely packed. Upon our return, we managed to find ourselves a table, the last one available.

I’ve been to this pub before. It was before MOFAD records began, before Untappd records began and I can’t find a check in on Facebook. So I don’t know when it was exactly. Let’s say 2012. Anyway, I remembered that it was ok, so we settled ourselves in for dinner at this cosy little pub, just a very short stroll from Russell Square tube station.

Lots of food to choose from on the menu, various sharing platters that are popular in so many pubs nowadays, a selection of burgers (no pulled pork option though!), fish’n’chips, a vegetarian version (halloumi replacing the fish) as well as pub classics like steak, hunters chicken, sausage & mash, and several pies.

It was the “Big Ben burger” for me, a 6oz beef burger, topped with crispy bacon, Cheddar cheese, a fried free range egg and crispy onion rings, served with a burger sauce (BBQ sauce). Looking at this, it appears my onion rings were missing! I was too hungry to notice this on the night, obviously! It was a very tasty (and messy, which is a good sign) burger.

Mrs MOFAD had wanted hunters chicken, but it had been hunted to extinction tonight, so opted for second choice, chicken & chorizo pie, with chips, fresh seasonal vegetables and a jug of gravy.

Mrs MOFAD accompanied this with some Aspall cider (served in the lovely Aspall half pint “wine glass”). Mine was washed down with some Portobello VPA, which stands for very pale ale. It was not a very pale ale, but was sweet and pleasant enough. Quite pricey though and not value for money.

The final members of our party had arrived at this point, so as Chris & Caroline were tucking into dinner, we ordered some more drinks. This time the Taylor Walker 1730 Special Pale Ale. What a big name to live up to. And what an utter disappointment. My Untappd review simply says “meh”. It was just so “nothing”. A shame really, but I’d rather explore new beers than stick with the usual.

The Friend at Hand is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the area. They could do with sorting out the toilets though, they are a bit scabby.

Callaghans Bar, Coram Street, Bloomsbury

Friday night in Central London. When you don’t work there, you forget how busy places get from anything from about 4pm onwards, as offices and other workplaces empty, and their occupants spill out into nearby pubs and bars, to have a few drinks and let their hair down, without having to think of the impending 2 hour commute home for a few more hours.

What this means is that you can spend quite a while wandering around and looking for somewhere where you can get a sit so you can sit down and eat and have a drink, and catch up with the friends that you have travelled down to spend the weekend with.

Some times this means that you can end up somewhere that you weren’t intending to. Callaghans Bar is situated on the ground floor of the Holiday Inn in Bloomsbury, which is where we were staying. We had spent around 20 minutes wandering around the three nearby pubs, but seating was lacking, so we ended up here.

This was not my first choice, as I’ve been in here before when staying at the hotel. The beer selection is poor, as they have just a couple of vaguely interesting German beers in the fridge, and nothing decent on tap. Contrast this with the pub across the road, where they have around 8 decent ales on tap and more bottles and cans available. And ciders as well.

So my first drink of our London weekend ended up being this Paulaner Hefe-Weisbier, an unsubtle and slightly fruity number, which went down well.

As we couldn’t get in anywhere for proper food just yet, we opted for some nachos, because the menu was pretty limited  – a few burgers and hot dogs, some pasta, fish’n’chips and a steak.

The nachos were very tasty – good salsa and guacamole, it’s just a shame that everything else about the place is so uninteresting. It’s basically a sports bar type place, burgers and lagers and not much more. Having been in it during a football match, it’s not exactly a relaxing atmosphere.

Only for use in emergencies, like this one!