The new Utobeer premises in Westfield Stratford City has been open for a couple of weeks, so I figured it was time to check out the trip and the place. I've been enjoying Rabid Barfly Glyn Roberts' intense dislike of the bar's environs with schadenfreude aforethought, and knew that the place isn't finished yet.
So, door-to-door, Kennington to the entrance to the shopping centre, took about 25 minutes. Very nice. I'd scanned the map of the place on the Westfield website and located Tap East, at the far end from the Underground. Not so nice. Now I know why George Romero made those zombie films in shopping malls. People with two speeds, breeders, kibitzers, gawpers, hawkers, canvassers, old'uns, brats... Gaaaahhhh!! It took a good few minutes and at no point did I see the end of the place as it curves to the left, and I was starting to feel like that surveyor in The Castle. And the shops seemed... different. There's a Greggs, but suddenly the sausage rolls and pasties seemed... you know, aspirational. There's a big Krispy Kreme donut concession on the concourse, but this one sells tins you can put your donuts in. Very lifestyle, I may have to invest in one. For my watercress sandwiches. Obviously.
I eventually reached something called the Great Eastern Market, down a little slope in the floor by the last set of escalators and then everything becomes marketplacey. Turn right, and tucked at the end is Tap East. This part of Stratford City doesn't seem to get so much footfall - people seemed to head back up the other side of the human river by the escalators. I suppose that might worry the businesses in there, but it was a relief to be able to get out of that tide of shoppers and into a little haven of calm.
The bar has a large open front like all the units at this end of the shopping centre. One side is all glazed with a door letting on to the square opposite Stratford International Terminal. A false wall with a tiled alcove has been built at the back, with fridges in front and a temporary bar, courtesy of Otley Brewing. Seating is a mix of those high tables and stools you see in a lot of pubs nowadays, and a nice soft seating area with a low table and a nice full-height display unit with books and breweriana on.
There's a huge boarded-off space where the cold room and brewhouse are being prepared, and it'll be a few weeks before all of the work is finished. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of beers Eddie Baines is planning to brew here. I was hoping to turn up at the bar and announce myself as Kevin The Local Brewery Inspector, come to ensure the beer was in cask and brown enough, but Joe from The Rake is based there, so no jolly japes this time. Feel free to use this one once the brewery is open.
So, a couple of beers then back into the seething mass. It's a nice space which felt chilled and calm. Beers from Otley and Thornbridge, and a couple of temporary keg taps are supplemented by two big fridges of bottles. Once the brewery is up and running, the permanent bar is in and all the taps are in place, it'll be a cracking addition to the list of good bars to drink beer in London.