The Beaten Docket
50-56 Cricklewood Broadway, 020 8450 2972
Gourmand writes: "This country. It's getting worse all the time," moans the corpse at the bar. "It could be worse," replies the corpse to his left. "It could be Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe."
At its best, this JW Wetherspoon pub is a place where sixty-something male alcoholics congregate to drink real ale and moan about the state of things today. At its worst, it's a place where lonely, depressed sixty-something inebriates sit alone, stare at the wall, shuffle in their chair occasionally, stumble home at midnight and return the next morning to do the whole thing again. Whether they're angrily lamenting "Brown's Broken Britain", sipping the head of a Goffs Merlin (4.3% ABV) or dribbling down their chin dementedly while arguing with their dead wives, everyone's foaming at the mouth at this undeservedly popular old people's home.
There's no background music or sports TV at Wetherspoons, which means you can hear your fellow customers dying. The man sitting behind us summons every ounce of strength to keep his nose from drooping in his pint glass. The tinsel and glitter adorning the walls seem wholly inappropriate. It's Christmastime at the morgue.
The food is cheap. Straight from the packet, cooked from frozen. The tortilla chips with salsa are passable, as is my sweet potato, chick pea and spinach curry, although the naan bread is cold and tough. It's his birthday, so I treat Gormless to a 'gourmet' burger (a poor man's burger with extra cheese and bacon). The meat is tough, chewy and miserable. You get what you pay for.
There's a silver lining. As Gormless completes another journey round the sun and joins me on the precipice of a fourth decade, we bask in the glory of being the youngest people in The Beaten Docket by at least 20 years. Worth a toast, I think.
Gormless writes: Five restaurants in and I think now is a good time to pay tribute to Gourmand. He has introduced me to new cuisines from around the world on my doorstep. Nigerian, Persian, Ethiopian… what, I wondered, would he have in store for me on my birthday?
It was Wetherspoons. I’m not complaining, but a night spent dodging the despairing glances of broken men is the kind of ‘experience’ I look to my patron to liberate me from. I fell in, though, and in a desperate play for finesse ordered the gourmet burger with its predictable chip and onion ring companions. It was all barely serviceable stodge enlivened by conversation and fellow diner speculation; all washed down with super cheap gin and tonic. I had some of Gourmand’s chick pea curry. It was borderline fine.
It was a night at Wetherspoons. What would you expect?
Overall score: 10.5/20
The best pub so far, out of one