Friday : A Travelodge Breakfast in Feltham, a Decadent Lunch and the Impeccable Goose Island

I haven’t purchased a breakfast at a Travelodge in many years, as they’re just that bit too expensive for me. They’re really designed for families, with children eating free, so that just means I avoid the whole arrangement. However, since Travelodge were paying for this one, I decided to make an exception which I thought was very flexible of me.

The packed breakfast arrangement just before 08:00.

It’s all entirely satisfactory, the bacon is undercooked for my liking but is of a good quality, whilst the sausages were suitably meaty. The tomato added colour and the hash browns were a little underwhelming, but there was nothing that would annoy me about the breakfast. There were also cereals, a dodgy looking croissant and the loudest coffee machine that I’ve used in some time. It usually costs £8.95 and isn’t an unreasonable cost, although it’s not quite sufficiently tempting for me to ever pay for it.

The Wetherspoons in Feltham looks more appealing in the daytime. I hadn’t thought my visit the previous evening was particularly positive, so I didn’t bother going in for a coffee.

This was about the most attractive photo that I could take of Feltham. This is the Longford River, which is a man-made creation which is 12 miles long, with its creation ordered by King Charles I as a water-supply for Hampton Court. The route did go across what is now Heathrow Airport, but they decided that it was best to move it.

The delights of Feltham railway station, originally opened in August 1848 as part of the Windsor, Staines and South Western Railway. It’s all an odd shape and lacking in facilities, but it is well served with trains to London.

The variety of ramps for trains, I hadn’t realised they needed an entire range of them, with options here for the 701, 458, 707, 455 and 456 class of trains.

I decided against getting the first train into London Waterloo as a school party were boarding and it already looked packed with customers. I waited for this one to arrive four minutes later, and I was rewarded with a mostly empty train.

A slightly rickety train, but it does the job of transporting customers and there are also power points which is a handy additional feature.

Safely into London Waterloo and at the rear is the central clock made famous by the Only Fools and Horses episode ‘Dates’.

Any excuse to use my favourite underground line, the Waterloo & City. I’m not sure why I find this service so captivating, but it has an air of grandeur to it.

I also like the map of this route, with its two stations on. It keeps things simple.

I needed to go near to the Bank of England, here it is in all its beauty. The weather was a bit strange, going from reasonably warm to, for a short while, snowing. This part of London felt quiet, but the city does feel a little calmer than it did.

The next stop for me was Victoria railway station and there’s a useful seating area where I could catch up on a few things before lunch. I had arrived earlier than necessary for my nearby lunch, so this is a handy place to wait.

The grandness of Victoria railway station. I’m not sure if the flags represent any event in particular.

I’m afraid to say that I find TheFork to be a really confused table booking company and I suspect they do damage to the brands they so badly represent on their app. However, they keep issuing me with free meals, so here is the restaurant that is TH@51 that I had £50 to spend in. I’m not sure how I’d define this restaurant, which is located within the St. James’s Taj Hotel near to St. James’s Park underground station. It’s contemporary certainly, but there’s no defined cuisine, it’s a little bit of a mix of European and Indian. It was all a bit posh for my liking and I got lost trying to find where the restaurant was inside the hotel, but luckily a well trained porter swept over to point me in the right direction.

I wasn’t riveted with the beer options, but they’d made an effort with some local products, so no complaints here. Everyone was seated in the large summerhouse type arrangement that they have at the rear of the restaurant, something of a grand addition, although there’s more seating inside for those who want it.

I’m going to say that this was magnificent, it’s a two-way fish and chips meal, with the left half being Indian and the right half being British. When ordering from the restaurant’s short menu, I felt that this probably wasn’t the connoisseur’s choice of dish, but it was the one that sounded best to me. The waiting staff didn’t mention that I’m not sure I fitted in with my backpack perched next to me on the floor whilst ordering fish and chips, but nor did they fail to provide me with the same attention as they did with everyone else. It all felt well managed and organised, a mixture of leisure diners and those on business lunches.

But back to this meal, as I liked it very much, part of the restaurant’s flavour pairing options. The chickpea batter was light and crisp, with the haddock being suitably cooked, and the mint chutney was surprisingly chunky, but had the suitable flavour that I expected. I often find sweet potato chips to be bland, and never see them as an upgrade on restaurant menus, but here they were rich with a firm exterior. The classic batter was, and I rarely say this, was as near to perfection as I could expect, firm, full of flavour and not wet at all, with the fish remaining succulent. The chips and what I assume was homemade tartare sauce complemented each other, all combining to be a generous portion that I struggled to get through (although obviously did). At £22 it’s not cheap, but at least the quality was high.

I waited for over 25 minutes for my dessert and had to follow it up to see where it had gone, but it was worth the wait. It looks like three mini magnums on top of each other, but they were flavourful and the ice cream was, well, particularly creamy. The three flavours were rose & strawberry, orange & cardamom, and white chocolate & yuzu. It was meant to come with a fruit platter, but perhaps that was the splodge of red and I was prepared to go without this fruit extravaganza. Absolutely no complaints here, although I’m not sure that I would have spent £10 of my own money.

I did have a little bit of wait to pay the bill and then there was some confusion as to how my £50 was to be applied. I had already checked on entering that the restaurant were aware of it, which they were, but the waitresses looked puzzled. Fortunately, just as a waitress thought I was likely scamming them, the manager swept over and confirmed I didn’t have to pay anything. The manager was one of those staff who has clearly been impeccably trained, all very smooth, professional and helpful. I then went to use the toilet which is located in the main part of the hotel and I felt a little out of place in such expensive surroundings. All told, I’d eat here again, the surroundings were spotlessly clean, the staff were helpful and the food was innovative and interesting.

The former Bluecoat school on Caxton Street which was built in 1709 for the poor to be education and remained in use for educational purposes until 1926. It’s owned by the National Trust, but is let out to be a shop, and I’m not sure why it can’t be opened to the public as a museum.

The evening’s hotel was once again the Barking Ibis, which I’ve written about enough times before, so I don’t need to add much here.

My friend Liam joined me, as we were walking the LDWA Capital Challenge the next day, so thought we’d make part of a weekend of the whole thing. We got our free pint each of Camden Pale Ale as a welcome drink at the Ibis, although I noted for those paying that this was nearly £7 per pint. These prices really aren’t sustainable, especially for a beer that really isn’t particularly interesting and I was bored of this one half way through.

The brilliantly named Barking Dog, a JD Wetherspoon outlet which has recently closed due to work that needs to be done to the building, but I understand they hope to open another one in 2024. I hope that the work that needs doing to the building involves knocking it down, it’s something of an eyesore.

We got the C2C train into London city centre, listening to some rather loud Essex residents (they announced where they were from) who were planning their arrangements. It was something of a relief to get off at Fenchurch Street to find some peace and quiet.

I’ve taken a few photos for this blog of the state of the Tower of London moat over the last few months, as they’re having something of a wildflower moment this summer. The soil is now in place, looking somewhat different to when I was last here just a few weeks ago.

We were going to have a couple of drinks in Brewdog’s Tower Hill outlet, but it was surprisingly full. A couple of years ago, it would always be full on a Friday evening with mostly office workers having a post-work drink. It has been much quieter recently, but suddenly seems to have come alive again in terms of the number of drinkers. That’s good for the hospitality industry, although we meant that we had to find an alternative.

We had a couple of drinks in Craft Beer Co’s St. Mary Axe outlet, which had some brilliant beers, not least a white stout from Alphabet Brewing Company which I was particularly taken by. I have a slight complaint about this outlet, part of a small chain, that their on-line menu is nearly always out of date, and their beer selection is so wide it’s a faff to try and work along the counter looking at everything when there are other customers standing in the way. I’m not sure why they don’t switch to listing on Untappd, it’d make things much clearer. The service was though friendly, timely and welcoming, it’s a great venue.

And then Goose Island, which I need to write little more about, but I think it’s the best bar in the UK. I’ve stopped counting how many times that I’ve visited, but my standard food order is buttermilk chicken strips with aggy fries, I’m really not that exotic sometimes. Liam’s order came first, but mine arrived a few minutes later, served by the manager Daniel, who was as engaging and welcoming as ever. The customer service here, and not just from the manager, is always on point, it’s a delight to be here.

The Orange Line which is brewed at the premises and which Daniel mentioned has just won an award, but I also went with the suitably decadent and rich Spring Porter, which is another beer brewed here by Goose Island. The brewer really does do a marvellous job, creating such a range of beers and also in a relatively small space at the rear of the premises.

And then back to Barking and I’m sure that my camera used to handle night-time photos better than this. Anyway, we didn’t get back ferociously late as we had an early start to cross London to then traipse the city for 27 miles. Barking is one of those places which retains an edge to it, but judging from all the new residential developments, there’s money coming in. That’s gentrification coming, which I suspect might improve things overall and at least it might mean a couple more craft beer bars….