Pub/Bar of the Month July 2012: Tap East, Stratford, London, UK
Tap East, Stratford, London, UK
This month, there will be much grumbling about beer in Stratford, London E20.
At a flash of the much-travelled torch, the games of the 30th Olympiad will flare into life in the British capital.
But there is sure to be a burning discontent among on-site spectators when they discover the limited choice of beer (only the sponsor’s international lager) and the silly price they are expected to pay for it.
Thankfully, the Olympic Park is not the only place in Stratford where beer can be purchased.
There are numerous pubs within a mile of two of the stadia, including The King William IV (home of Brodie’s brewery) in Leyton.
Even closer to the action is a specialist beer bar in the Westfields shopping centre, conveniently just where the transport connections converge.
Westfields is an enormous complex, typical of the American-style indoor mall that has sucked the life out of many a town centre. It’s a most unlikely place to find one of Britain’s best equipped beer bars, but that simply proves that great beer is finding its way into all kinds of venues these days.
The bar known as Tap East is a sibling operation to The Rake in Borough, London, which itself is an offshoot of the Utobeer specialist off-licence that trades in Borough Market.
Anyone who has visited The Rake will know roughly what to expect in terms of Tap East’s beer offering, although they may be relieved to find that the Stratford venue is at least a little bit more spacious.
Making Its Mark
Tucked among a row of shops and quality food concessions on the ground floor of the Great Eastern Market area, the bar has been open just under a year, but has already made its mark with beer connoisseurs and shoppers looking for more than the usual bland beers normally stocked in venues like this.
The décor in the corner location is bright and modern, though deliberately simple. The floor is hard and tiled, the ceiling high, with designer lampshades slung above a number of small tables and high stools.
A clutch of leather sofas and armchairs offers a softer option. It’s not the most intimate of venues but it’s comfortable enough.
Live music (rock, funk) is pumped through a PA speaker and food, as you’d expect when there are so many other dining options close by, is limited, focusing on cheeseboards, ploughmans, pork pies and sandwiches.
On top of the brightly-striped bar counter, six handpumps take care of cask ale dispense, with breweries such as Dark Star, Titanic, Oakham and Redemption featuring.
Pumpclip displays reveal past glories and an ‘In the Cellar’ board trails what’s coming next.
Keg fonts also present a varying selection of treats, with the likes of Affligem Blond, Thornbridge Versa, Innis & Gunn and imported greats such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Schlenkerla’s Eiche Doppelbock seen to date.
As you’d expect from an enterprise associated with Utobeer, there are plenty of exotic bottles on offer, too, with American, Belgian and new British classics from the likes of Kernel also available to take away.
But adding further to the attraction of Tap East is its own microbrewery, visible behind plate glass at the side of the bar. Added after the pub was opened, it is still finding its feet but well-regarded beers such as the 3.8% JWB bitter and the 6% Topaz IPA are available.
Prices are not cheap here. Premium beers (in the true sense of the term) incur higher costs, but at least you feel you’re getting your money’s worth – that’s not an emotion likely to be shared by anyone buying a beer no more than a few hundred yards away in the Olympic Park.
Tap East, Great Eastern Market, Westfields Shopping Centre, London E20.
Tel. (0208) 555 4467
Opening Hours: 11–11; 12–10 Sunday