Saturday, 4 January 2014

Paddington, London. Part I.

Christmas is a time to justify excess. Eating, drinking, spending, it's all fine because it's that time of year. With a bit of festive time off in the bank, I decided it was far from my place to argue. So with that in mind, it was off to the big smoke.

Paddington is my favorite station (we all have one, I don't care what you say). It's a bustling, workmanlike modern station, but one that recognises and remembers it's glamorous past as the London terminus of Brunel's Great Western Railway.

These days First Great Western, Heathrow Connect, Heathrow Express and Chilterm share the 14 platforms, with FGW making up the vast majority of services. The grand station clock overlooks platform one, as do the former GWR, and current Network Rail and FGW offices.

Further down platform one sits the man himself, Isambaard Kingdom Brunel. Today he sits among information outlining the Crossrail works, I like to think he'd approve of his location.

This impressive statue serves as a memorial to all  GWR men and women who lost their lives in the First World War. The statue was unveiled on armistice day, 1922.
Above the doors either side of the statue can be seen two coats of arms. Those on the right are the GWR, representing Bristol and London, the left being that of the Royal Family. The left door was at one time the royal waiting room, but is now slightly less exclusive as a first class lounge.

If you come down to platform one late on a week night, you might just see the Night Riviera sleeper service. This train is one of two sleeper services currently operating in the UK (the other is the Caledonian Sleeper) and runs between Paddington and Penzance, one train in each direction. 57603 Tintagel Castle is pictured at the head of a Riviera train above, 57604 Pendennis Castle brings up the rear below.

The services use a fleet of four Class 57 locomotives that run top and tailed, all named after castles in GWR tradition. The train is made up of a mixture of sleeper, standard and buffet carriages.

That's a lot of train geekyness, so apologies for that. How about some beer now?

Thought so. Going through the ticket barriers, across the concourse and past the statue of Paddington bear we find ourselves in an area of known as 'The Lawn'. Going up all the escalators we come to the Fuller's house, The Mad Bishop and Bear.

There's an interesting story behind the name. Dreamt up by a member of the public for a competition, the 'mad bishop' refers to the former owners of the land Paddington station is built upon: the Church of England. When the GWR came a-calling looking to purchase the land, the church let them have it for a song. If you haven't figured out where the 'bear' bit comes from at this stage of the post, well, I don't know what to tell you.

The interior is tastefully done, giving the impression of somewhere much older than it actually is. High ceilings and semi-booths are the order of the day in the main bar and seating area and this chandelier makes for an impressive centrepiece. I bet this is on Instagram a hell of a lot, so I thought I'd better join in. Information screens mean you needn't miss your train. 

Beer wise, the focus is unsurprisingly on Fuller's. As a country boy, is nice to see the likes of Bengal Lancer, HSB and Chiswick in draught, as well as some of the more specialist bottles. The Mad Bishop & Bear also stocks Fuller's new(ish) craft lager, Frontier. If you're stuck for a bit of last minute Christmas shopping, there's always the gift shop!
It's not all about Fuller's though, as the pub has changing guests. St Austell Tribute was on the bar during my most recent visit. 
The pub has shown an impressive commitment to serving good beer. They've hosted a beer festival, a beer and food matching event and a beer book launch in the past few months alone. Commendable considering they could probably quite easily pay the bills selling lager and a basic range of ales to commuter types.

I love a pub breakfast (who doesn't?) and the Mad Bishop & Bear do a cracker. The 'Fuller Breakfast' is served until noon and for the record, I matched it nicely with a nice pint of Jack Frost. Granted it wasn't particularly scientific, but it worked for me.

The Mad Bishop & Bear is a great place to wait for a train, maybe even miss one on purpose!

Happy New Year!

Find out more:
London Paddington
The Mad Bishop & Bear