diamond geezer

 Sunday, August 21, 2022

If you've just arrived here from MyLondon, they didn't send a journalist to Brewdog, they just ripped off this article and the subsequent Twitter debate. Very poor.

The big hospitality news this weekend is the opening of Brewdog Waterloo, a very big pub indeed, possibly even the largest in London. It encompasses 27,000 sq ft of drinking space across two floors, it's crammed full of gimmicks and it's remarkably hard to spot if you're travelling through the station.

Brewdog is a bar chain that inspires extreme reactions, from "wow this is the best draft beer provider ever" to "this evil chain invokes a culture of fear by bullying its staff". People are so opinionated that the Daily Express managed to write a entire negative review of the new bar based solely on the angry tweets of people who hadn't been. Best not be a devoted disciple or a furious fistwaver, best make up your mind based on first hand evidence.

The new Brewdog is tucked into what used to be the Eurostar terminal's back-of-house, a cavernous space beneath what's now Waterloo platforms 20-24. It's also right down the far end amid what feels like an abandoned shopping mall, entirely unsigned, so when you finally skirt round the bank of escalators and see the letterbox-slot entrance at the end of a blank white corridor it's all a bit of a shock.

Entrepreneurs had big hopes that these railway catacombs, branded The Sidings, would become a major retail and grazing space, but over the past few years this echoing void has looked more like a white elephant. An immersive Alice in Wonderland attraction is coming soon, gawdhelpus, but when not even the coffee shop yet has an opening date this is unarguably still a backwater rather than a destination.

The main focus of the new Brewdog is a long bar based around two stacked metal containers painted green. This hides all the tubs and tubes required to dispense a wide range of own-brewed beer and cider, while just over to the right are a couple of large shiny silver vats either busy generating the real thing or dressed to look like they are. The sense of theatre is ever present, aided and abetted by a set of boisterous signs a team of copywriters must have sweated over... Unattended Children Will Be Asked To Collect Glasses, haha, that kind of thing.

If paying over £5 for a pint still gives you the shivers, be aware that in inner London that ship has sailed. A glass from one of the 30 pumps behind Brewdog's bar generally costs between £6.70 and £7.20, and in some cases that's for only two-thirds of a pint. A standard dose of Punk IPA is £7.10, for example, while even a non-alcoholic pint will still set you back over six quid.

Obviously there's a slide. No millennial beerspace is complete without a corkscrew descent, in this case from the upper balcony to a mat just in front of the bowling alley. Obviously there's a bowling alley, not to mention a co-working space, a set of ping pong tables, a hot-desking zone with zoom pods, a cafe that morphs into a cocktail bar after dark, an ethical florist and a podcast studio. Every avenue to keep you here as long as possible has been explored, even down to signs urging you to miss your next train.

Food is very much part of the offer and based around the holy trinity of burgers, pizzas and wings. 40% of the burgers are plant-based, but still £15. Pizzas and salads are mostly £14 and all with the number of calories plainly stated. The number of 'oak-fired chickens' as yet uneaten is displayed on a sign by the kitchen door. An ice cream van churns out gelato-based desserts. And a sidebowl of chips, which I always think is a good marker of affordability, will lighten your card by £4.95.

Rest assured it's not all froth and fuss. A series of tables and booths extend around multiple balconies and along various long corridors, particularly upstairs, so it's unlikely your group will arrive and find nowhere to sit. That said I bet it's a lot easier to get served here at lunchtime during a rail strike than it's going to be of an evening, especially if they've got a band in doing a gig like punters enjoyed last night.

I didn't stay, I just explored, before escaping and heading back out into the dystopian corridors. It seems nobody simply opens a 'pub' any more, only an 'experience', and you could argue that's a pity.

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