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For my birthday Mark bought me a few small pressies and promised me a day in London; nothing special, just a drive past the sights followed by lunch and a bit of shopping somewhere. It was a boiling hot day so as we were heading out of London we stopped off at The Blind Beggar for a cooling beer before tackling the sticky two hour car journey home. The Blind Beggar is, of course, historically the haunt of the notorious Kray twins and their gang - the pub being the scene of the shooting of George Cornell for which Ronnie Kray was eventually jailed for life.
Mark's a bit of a British gangster buff so we took the parking challenge (luckily squeezing into a space outside Nandos) and walked the short distance to the pub, looking forward to a glimpse into the underworld of yesteryear. To say I was disappointed is an understatement... I walked into a mostly empty shabby little place with just one small nod to its past in the form of a framed print showing the twins. Cynically, despite making the place as un-Kray as possible, the owners have paired this print with another frame with examples of Blind Beggar memorabilia you can buy from behind the bar - cheap and nasty products with overinflated prices in my opinion, even Kray loving Mark wasn't tempted!
The Blind Beggar is quite big inside with a fabulous beer garden at the rear. There's a distinct lack of seating inside, which wasn't a problem at the time of our visit as there were exactly two people inside - one being the barmaids three month old baby, the other being her husband. We'd decided to drink inside to cool off a little and while several people came in from the beer garden to be served or use the loo, no one chose to sat on the tatty and highly uncomfortable indoor seating. The whole place just has an air of... 'meh' and appears poorly maintained all the way through - it's reasonably clean, better than reasonably to be fair but the cleanliness is offset by the shabbiness of the interior. It's a shame really as there are features within the building that could be quite grand if they were kept in better condition; the chandeliers for example are stunningly beautiful but covered in so much dust and grime that I doubt they'd sparkle as they should when lit! The main fireplace near the entrance is gorgeous, it obviously wasn't alight during our visit as it was so hot but I can imagine how cosy the pub must feel with a roaring fire in the large grate.
The bar is well stocked as far as beers and lagers go, but was lacking in the spirits department with my favourite tipple (Disaronno) being unavailable - the top shelf looked decidedly bare actually, this could partly be because the bar is quite long but they had in no way made any effort to make it look fuller than it was. We both ended up drinking lager in the end, with both drinks being perfectly chilled (perfect on such a hot day!) and served in spotlessly clean glasses - we took our drinks outside once we realised there actually was no atmosphere to soak up inside The Blind Beggar.
The beer garden is very impressive, announcing itself as the biggest in East London there are very separate areas for you to choose from when you come to sit down. Mark and I chose a seat against the wall to allow us to survey the garden during our short visit, ours was a typical wooden pub bench but there were also tables and chairs available for those people who don't like to sit with their legs cocked over a bench. The beer garden is perfectly positioned to catch the sun but there is a nicely arranged shaded area which also doubles up as the smoking area in wet weather, it's amazing really that so much effort has been put into the exterior of the pub but the interior has been so badly neglected! The large Koi Carp pond was a little dirty looking, but after speaking to a 'local' while watching the fish I was reassured that it was time for it to be cleaned out and usually the water is beautifully clear - the fish didn't seem at all concerned by the murkiness and were swimming around contentedly, occasionally popping to the top of the water but never lingering long enough for me to get a photo for my giant fish loving five year old.
After sitting in the beer garden I decided to take a look at the menu as I was feeling peckish. The Blind Beggar serve a range of baguettes and salads, all ridiculously overpriced in my opinion and not terribly inspired going on the descriptions. After deciding not to spend almost £7 on a tuna mayo baguette I instead peeked over the shoulder of a lady who was eating what looked like a pastrami and cheese sandwich, it looked nice enough but I did notice she left half of it uneaten after picking out several too-large chunks of cheese. I didn't see anyone else eating, although did overhear someone at the bar asking about hot food and being told it was unavailable.
As a local boozer I suppose you could do worse, my main issue with The Blind Beggar is the fact that it has so much history that has been completely ignored - admittedly it might not be in great taste to make a big song and dance about your local murderers, but like it or not The Krays and their various peers do capture the interest of people and it would have been great to see some kind of demonstration of this. Maybe I missed a room? There were several locked doors in the pub, perhaps inside one of those is a veritable theme park of Krays memorabilia? I very much doubt it, there just seemed to be zero interest in the pair that draws tourists to this particular pub when there are better available if you're prepared to walk a short distance.
The Blind Beggar
337 Whitechapel Road