Our local pub has had many incarnations. When we first moved to the area it was a neglected outpost of a national chain and called the Freedom and Firkin. As a foreigner, I didn’t quite understand the 70s tv allusion to the sit-com Citizen Smith which was set in the local area. A colleague kept saying “Freedom for Tooting!” every time I mentioned the new area I was moving to. (The catch phrase of the eponymous lead. Freedom for Tooting, indeed.)
On our second viewing of the house, we stopped in and had drinks to escape the rain and reflect on our potential future. It wasn’t quite sawdust on the floor, in fact underneath the grime of use the pub is handsomely decorated with impressive wood panelling, but the surly, scattered patrons and the barely stirring retriever entangled among the barstools seemed to fit. We thought “We can drink in this pub,” and we bought the house.
Not too long after, the pub became The George, presumably a free house and taking its name from the nearby St George’s Hospital, and it was essentially unchanged. Off and on it offered food, deep fried fare, smears of meat on a bun which passed for burgers. But it was cheap. It was a good low-stress place to shoot a little pool or have a few drinks. I liked The George.
Then the pub was bought out and spent a long time in a metamorphosis phase – it emerged from its chrysalis as The Garden House, a chi chi gastropub like you might find in Wandsworth Town. There was, in fact, no garden – but a brick paved courtyard stacked with disused furniture. The menu was suitably faffy. Football was banned, much to the disappointment (I presume) of the loyal patrons and followers of Chelsea FC. The food was never quite right and the beer prices were significantly higher. Our visits dropped off and after the birth of our son, we never darkened the door again.
Unsurprisingly, The Garden House did not succeed, and subsequently morphed into its current incarnation The Manor. The Manor benefits from the refurb undertaken by its previous landlords, but we avoided it until this weekend, despite the fact that it was attempting to establish some good value credentials and the football was back.
We decided to try their Sunday menu and found that the atmosphere was somewhat similar to The George, but at a slightly higher tone. The bar menu was largely traditional pub fare, Simon had the roast, I had the burger and Bill had egg on toast with chips.
The food was really good. Simon felt his roast beef was a little on the cheap side, but very well cooked. It came with roasted root veggies and a mash made of potato and sweet potato and a little something else. His Yorkshire pud looked perfectly done and he said it was. My burger was really yummy, served on a sort of sour dough bap with loads of greenery just like I like. Bill ate all of his egg, so it must have been alright. The beer prices were still a bit high, but it was nice having Peroni on tap. We’ll be back.
The other new, old thing we tried this weekend was Wimbledon Park. Back in our child free days we walked from our house to Wimbledon Park (it’s a long way) one wintry afternoon and found it all a bit grim. It’s not a good walking park, hemmed in by two golf courses. But going again with parental eyes, we saw it in an entirely different light (and we think it’s been refurbed a bit, too). There are two separate play areas, including some fairly dangerous climbing frames (we saw a couple of accidents while there, nothing serious but plenty of tears). There’s a fabulous sand area and a water play area with fountains and sprinklers all on a safety impact mat. We went too late in the day for that to be on. Bill enjoyed the boating lake populated with Egyptian Geese and a single cantankerous swan. He loved exploring the track and field area. We set up the hurdles on the track on their lowest setting (which was probably a no-no) and one parent on each arm lifted Bill over them at a “sprint”.
We had to bodily carry him out when it was after eight and growing dark. We’ll be back.