The 44th Meeting of TOFC – The Old House at Home, Havant

old_house_at_homeThis was our third visit to The Old House at Home and it remains a firm favourite for many.  We booked for fifteen in advance, but as often happens these days we ended up being a larger gathering – 19 in this case.  We were setup near the back of the pub (near the kitchen) where we were last time and this area allows some expansion if necessary and we made good use of that capability.  In effect we used the lower long tables and three tall tables, which meant we were broken into smaller groups, but I think that helps conversations.

We had one new face at this meeting and a few who we haven’t seen for a while, which is always good for the atmosphere.  I certainly has a few good chats and a slightly political debate (ah well!), but all very enjoyable!  It looked to me like everyone else also enjoyed the day.

We were slightly late starting to order the food – we were delayed when Southern Trains cancelled the 11:13 and then pulled the 11:35 onto the wrong platform (which was already occupied) and consequently took several minutes just to unload the passengers through the one door on the ne carriage that was at the platform!  Still, once the order went in it didn’t seem to take too long for the meals to be served and as far as I could tell everyone got the meal they ordered.  My own personal view about Fuller’s pubs is that they are quite expensive and the food, on particular, is expensive for what you get.  that is certainly the situation here and my fish and chips were nice enough, but at £8.95 not cheap.  The beer that I had was HSB and that was good, but also not cheap.

All in all I still like this pub, but I think it doesn’t quite work for us as such a large group – not so much a space problem as an organisation problem – it is quite a drain on the kitty and makes it difficult to ensure fair access to the funds for everyone.  I think we may have to make more frequent visits to Wetherspoons in order to boost the kitty if we are to keep this gathering going along the current lines!

The 43rd Meeting of TOFC–The White Swan, Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth

The White Swan

This was our second visit to this old haunt since Wetherspoons sold the pub and a microbrewery company took over – Brewhouse and Kitchen – and knowing the layout I thought I would contact them to make a booking.  In fact, we couldn’t get an answer when we phoned, but an email got a very quick answer and we booked for 20.  When we arrived we found we were situated at the back left of the pub, okay but a bit closed off from the rest of the pub, but there was plenty of space we just needed to arrange the tables a little.  There was a little inconvenience in that the door to the kitchen was next to us and we had to ensure access, but otherwise we were fine.

Being a microbrewery there is always the chance that a brew is being made when you visit this pub and today we were lucky (unlucky?) enough to be there as a brew was being produced, so the pub had a distinct aroma of yeast and malt.

There was a good turn out of TOFC members (19), so it took a while to compile the list of lunches, buy beers and drinks and settle down, but it worked out reasonably well with us splitting into one main group and one satellite group.  Once again it was nice to see old faces (a few we haven’t seen for a while) and at least one new face who has joined us.  Interestingly, we also saw a few faces of old colleagues from The University who had popped in for lunch (nice to see some traditions carry on).  I am pleased that everyone is still enjoying these events and that their popularity is growing, I just hope we can find enough new places to visit in 2014.

The menu has some unusual items (Chilli with chocolate in it!) and seemed to be reasonably popular – the Chilli was quite popular, but not sure I could taste chocolate, maybe – and despite the pub being busy, the food arrived after about twenty minutes and was very tasty.  I didn’t hear any complaints, just a slight uncertainty as to whether we got one too many meals (we didn’t).  So, so far so good and I have to say I like how they have set this pub up – I even got used to the smell of wort being prepared.  We all tried one of the locally brewed ales, Troubleshooter, and it seemed popular with everyone.  This is definitely a place to visit if you haven’t been before and I was more impressed at this second visit than I was at the previous visit.

The 42nd Meeting of TOFC – back to The Lord Palmerston

The Lord PalmerstonThis meeting of TOFC is the first of the New Year and consequently the one where we spend the excess funds in the kitty.  For that reason we always choose a Wetherspoons as they provide best value for money and The Lord Palmerston in Southsea is a good size to accommodate a sizable group.  Unfortunately, they don’t take table booking (apparently too many people fail to turn up) so we had to grab some tables early.  In fact, we managed to get a couple of long table down near the food serving area, which allowed us to expand easily and was handy for the food when it arrived.

For my wife and me, the journey was a train through to Portsmouth harbour, which ran perfectly on time, and then the No 1 bus that dropped us of at the top of Palmerston Road – so a relatively easy journey from Southampton.

As usual with this “free” event, we had a good turn-out (19 eventually) and there was already a good crowd in the pub by the time we got there with the kitty!  We quickly settled in and paid back those who has bought a round (that always goes down well) and then started to order food.  In between food orders there were a few different beers bought at the bar and, as usual for this pub, there was a good choice of different real ales.  The food order went in about 20 min after we arrived and the food was served very quickly afterwards.  I was not alone in saying how well Wetherspoons manage big food orders these days and everyone seemed to get there food quickly and without problem.

Once again there was good mix of people and, this time, we even found a new recruit in the pub – he mentioned to me that he remembered our Friday meeting from when we were all at work, lol!  Everyone seemed in good spirits and we chatted about everything from The Ashes (a bit depressing) to memories from work (distant!) and there was a good amount of mixing of people to improve this chatting.  All in all a good day and still some kitty left over!

The 41st Meeting of TOFC – a return to Cosham

firstpostThis month’s meeting, held one week late due to difficulties attending the usual date for a number of people, saw us return to an old favourite – The First Post, Wetherspoon’s in Cosham.  This pub is popular as its location is very central for a lot of people and it is quite close to the railway station and the buses from Portsmouth.  This meant a good turn out for the last meeting of 2013, with 21 people turning up, setting a record for attendance – thanks to everyone for coming along, it was good to see so many people.

While The First Post is not the most attractive setting for a pub (very much in the high street and it is typical of large Wetherspoon facilities), it is always pleasant – friendly staff and good service.  With such a large gathering there was always going to be the question of JDW-J4302_2_MEAL_DEAL_BANNER_170X250pixels.inddhow we would arrange the sitting.  In fact, this time we got a line of tables against the wall at the foot of the stairs, which meant we weren’t blocking people in the booth seats (as we have before), but a couple of the seats were booth style, which meant there were large wooden extrusions to sit around – a bit awkward I know as I sat at one!  Still most people got to sit around the main block of three tables and we managed to grab at least one other table just across the pub, so the pub catered with the numbers well.  Food was ordered and served quickly as usual and there was no problems, which is always the case in this pub.  There was a reasonable choice of real ales that were easy to drink and tasted good, so all went well again.

I think I would always recommend this pub for meeting of a large number of people – they cope very well and always serve the food promptly.  The waitress even ordered my wife her desert from the table!  For our group it certainly seemed to work well and there was a good mixture of chats and groupings of people.  It was nice to see a face returning from Australia (I joked he wasn’t enjoying the Ashes) and a good number of our female members – all in all a good afternoon.  I would also like to thank those who thanked me for arranging these sessions – I don’t really do much – but it is nice that people enjoy them so much.

The 40th Meeting of TOFC – The Golden Lion, Bedhampton


The Golden LionThe Golden Lion, Bedhampton was a new venue for TOFC and also for me, in fact I have not been to Bedhampton before, but I am happy to report that the journey was worthwhile.

The train journey from Southampton was about one hour, changing at Havant, but the journey went quite smoothly.  For many of the other TOFC members the journey was a bus ride from Portsmouth, but no one complained about problems getting to Bedhampton, which is good.  I had thought we might only have a few members for this meeting, and I had booked a table for 12, but in fact it was one of the best attended meetings of the year with 17 turning up!  This also meant it was a good mix of people, most of whom were able to sit around a big round table in the main window of the lounge area of the pub.  The rest of us grabbed a couple of tables nearby.

The pub was very welcoming and they had no objection to us moving tables and taking over most the lounge area.  The bar itself is fairly short and a couple of locals were sat at it, facing the bar was what I would describe as a bar area, while the lounge area, where we were, was off to the right of the bar.  There were three real ales and most of us drank jail Ale, which was very good.  The food menu was very reasonably priced (main meals were £5) and the food order was processed quickly and the food arrived very quickly.  In fact the service was both friendly and efficient and there were no problems at all.  In fact, it was a very enjoyable afternoon out and the pub is definitely worth a visit.

Another free music festival – Music in the City


The weekend of the 5th and 6th October saw another festival of music in Southampton, the weather was reasonable and so we went for a walk around a few of the events, a couple of pubs and a meal in the evening……

The music was due to start around 1 p.m. and there were a wide range of locations, mostly set in historical setting around the city.  We decided that the best idea would be to have lunch down at Town Quays and work our way from there to a couple of the sites where there was music playing – there were so many bands and locations it was always going to be impossible to see many sessions, but we saw this more as a trip around places we haven’t been to (mostly in the City Walls).  Platform-Tavern-Close-UpSo, the first stop was The Platform Tavern, where we have been several times and new that they did good pub food.  This pub is on the front at Town Quays so is ideally placed for visiting the bottom end of town.  The lunch menu is reasonably good and we had two meals for £10, which is not too bad – the food is cooked well and was tasty – I had a wrap filled with Cajun Chicken and their locally brewed beer, DNA, was excellent as always.  From there we made our way to The Weigh House in French Street.  Weigh_HouseThis is a grade 2 listed building that dates from the 13th century and is believed to have housed the King’s weigh beam and was an interesting setting for the music.  There were a whole string of bands listed, which meant this was probably the best place to hear different types of music, but what intrigued me was that some of the sessions were indoors and I was interested to find out what that meant (knowing that the building had no roof).  When we arrived we could see that the outside music was just inside the metal gate in the main room of the building, but no one was playing at that moment so we made our way through an exit at the back to find the indoor music.  Somewhat surprisingly this led into an underground cellar-like room with a stone arched ceiling.  Amongst The PigeonsThere were only a couple of people listening to the last few pieces by a one-man band called Amongst The Pigeons.  He was basically producing a synthetic music mix from keyboards and synthesiser, which reminded me a little of Tangerine Dream.  I had thought to ask him if he knew their music, but he had to get out of the way as the next band arrived.  I actually thought the music he produced was good; although, sometimes a little too repetitive, especially at the end of the tracks.  What it did show was how the stone walls were going to make a “wall of sound” effect on the music.  We had grabbed a couple of seats at the back, but the next band, The Flying Alexanders, was unexpectedly popular and we ended up with a lot of people standing in front of us.  The band consisted of a lead singer, who was a big lad who looked like he would have a strong voice, a drummer, The_Flying_Alexandersbass player and lead guitar, they produced a fast rock sound that illustrated the “wall of sound” effect and we were glad that our ears were sheltered a little by the crowd.  Still it was good to see that the music event was attracting a crowd and I think in any other setting I would have enjoyed the band.  We listened to a few tracks and then made our way out.

King_John's_PalaceThe next location was to be King John’s Palace, which was originally a 12th Century building, but was altered to become part of the City Wall’s defence in the 14th Century, but before we got there we stopped for a drink and comfort break at The Duke of Wellington pub in Bugle Street – always a popular spot, but this time we ran into a wedding party!  I hope they had a good day, but it is not every day you see a bride sat in the local pub.  Lucy Kitchen (2)The music that we heard at King John’s Palace was much more folk-orientated and the singer – Lucy Kitchen – played acoustic guitar and sang her own songs.  She is a very talented young lady, with a really good voice and a good repertoire of songs.  We sat through most of session, but I knew we had to move on to catch other bands and places!  So far we were enjoying this event and I was very impressed by the organisation that must have been put into it to ensure it ran smoothly.

The next location was to be The Castle Vault, which is just along the wall from John’s Palace and when we got there it was already quite full of people and a band called “Not Made in China” were playing.  The setting was something similar to the first underground cellar; although larger.  Not Made In China (2)The stone walls were again reflecting the sound, but it was not too bad from where we were stood at the entrance.  Once again I was glad to see that there was a good-sized audience and it was clear that this event was working and very popular.  The band had a very individual sound, which I thought was let down a little by the lead singer’s voice being a little flat (maybe she had a cold), but overall they sounded good and were popular.  I am not totally convinced by the “underground” style setting for amplified music, but that is just a personal view.  however, I think making more people aware of these places (and maybe the history surrounding them) is a good idea.

Doghouse Boat BoysAfter listening to a few tracks by Not Made in China we made our way back to the first venue (The Weigh House) for the final outdoor acoustic band – The Doghouse Boat Boys – we have seen this band before at The Platform Tavern, but they were very much an amplified band, so I was interested to see how they would do unplugged.  The band had already started when we got there and there was good crowd in The Weigh house courtyard area.  The band has a good following and we recognised people we had seen before at their gig.  The upbeat, almost bluegrass sound, always gets people dancing and there was a good deal of that happening already.  Their music is a cheerful stomp and a little afternoon alcohol had certainly warmed the occasion.  They were just as good unplugged and I was surprised how clear I could hear them despite only just being inside the gate.

KutisBrasserie_6So, overall a good day out and another success for Southampton Councils entertainment people – these concerts must boost local economy – I think they are a good idea and will maybe get more people listening to local bands.  We moved onto Oxford Street area and found ourselves at Kuti’s Indian restaurant for a meal.  I can really recommend this restaurant – the service was excellent (we got a seat easily without booking) and the food was an amazingly wide choice across a wide range of flavours.  We really enjoyed the meal and the whole day.

The 39th TOFC Meeting – The Red Lion, Cosham

RedLionCoshamI cannot believe we are already rapidly approaching our 40th meeting (which will be in November and at a new location for us), but this 39th meeting also took place in a new pub – The Red Lion, Cosham.  Previously, our visits to Cosham have taken us to the local Wetherspoons, but The Red Lion is further up the High Street, past the pedestrian-only shopping area to the main road at the top of the street.  People attending arrived by both bus and train and Cosham is handy for public transport, but the town itself lacks any real character and is beginning to look somewhat run down (which is a shame).  In fact, finding this pub (any pub) for TOFC was something of a struggle as most of the other places were in very poor condition!

As you can see from the picture, The Red Lion is quite a big pub with an outside sitting area next to the main road (good for the carbon monoxide, lol) and inside one main central bar with seating widely spread around the room.  First impressions was that pub was in need of refurbishment and there were some areas that looked “past their sell by date”, but the good side was there was plenty of space to pull tables together and gather a bit of a crowd – 12 of us turned up, so not too big a gathering, but okay.  The pub sells one real ale (despite having three pumps on the bar), which was Doombar – a very tasty Cornish ale – at ONLY £2.50 a pint, which is a good price.  Some drank cider and lager, but most of us consumed enough of the Doombar to keep the barrel flowing well!  The food menu was reasonably extensive and included some very good “food-deals” that we partook of – fish and chips in my case as a shared meal that also included a free drink (we had wine), but the star of the food-deals were the steaks!  The food arrived quickly and was tasty, so that helped improve my view of the pub – it really just needs a refurbishment, as I mentioned.

We had a good afternoon and it was, once again, nice to see a couple of faces who have been absent for a while.  Although the turn out was smaller that some recent events, it was a good size gathering for chat and I think most people chatted to most others – I must get up and mix more though, I am getting lazy!