Pub quiz for Maryon Park Community Garden, Royal Oak, Wednesday 24 November

Maryon Park community garden
The Maryon Park Community Garden has been hit by the pandemic

The Royal Oak on Charlton Lane is holding a pub quiz on Wednesday 24 November to raise funds for the Maryon Park Community Garden. Quizmaster PAUL BREEN explains more…

The Maryon Park Community Garden is a food growing space in a reclaimed area of the park which had previously been neglected and abandoned. Thanks to a group of dedicated local volunteers, steered largely by community stalwarts Tim and Edna Anderson, the food growing space has been radically transformed in the past decade. It is now a thriving social space that brings together people from all parts of our very diverse community. Even through Covid, it has served as a source of social sustenance for members.

Unfortunately, with lockdowns and so on, the garden has been unable to host many open days or public events in recent times. Therefore, this is a very worthy cause and support is very much appreciated. Incidentally, this is also the first pub quiz in The Royal Oak since it came under management earlier this year. New owner Kevin Latta has been very keen to participate actively in the life of the community and is looking forward to welcoming regulars and visitors alike on Wednesday 24th.

The quiz kicks off at 7.30pm with up to five members in each team, at a cost of £5 per player. There is also food available in the pub and people are welcome to come as early as possible. Indeed, in these times, that is probably advisable as every effort will be made to make the venue Covid safe. Quiz attendees are advised to bring masks for use when outside of their seated areas.

And as a taster, what famous 1960s film was shot in Maryon Park? So easy not even any need to answer here! Expect the difficulty of questions to be blown up significantly.


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‘The angry past has moved out’: Charlton’s White Horse pub rides again

White Horse Charlton
The White Horse has cast off its old reputation

It’s a brave time to open a new pub, but the once-infamous White Horse on Woolwich Road has been reopened with a new look and a new menu. PAUL BREEN popped in for a pint.

Having taught briefly at the old Holborn College (now Windrush Primary School) over the road, I knew the reputation of The White Horse. Passing it a few weeks ago, I realised that something about it seemed very different from the past associations of the place. However, I didn’t enter because like with most people, the act of going out is now a rarity.

But after seeing the lounge empty one early evening, with sensible precautions in place for social distancing, I went in and ordered a pint, where I experienced something new, positive and unexpected.

Under the radar, Charlton seems to have acquired a decent new pub to go along with the others that we already have. The angry past has moved out and there’s a new rider on the saddle of The White Horse. Though I never ventured into the previous shaven-headed incarnation, everything’s most definitely changed beyond recognition, from décor to drinks. I could feel echoes of The White Swan’s early days in a lot of what I saw, from the friendliness of staff to the general ambience of the place.

Speaking to the owner, I get a sense that he’s got a vision for the place and for being a part of the Charlton community. That seems timely when the football club has just acquired a new owner too; Thomas Sandgaard. There’s something about new ownership that fills people’s hearts and minds with a sense of hope, a sense of better times on the road ahead. That’s as true of a local pub as it is of a football club. Something in the human spirit feeds so strongly off fragments of an imagined future. Here, the promise of Sunday roasts (including a veggie option) brought back those lost moments of in-law lunches as a group at the same table.

Possibly even better than that (sorry in-laws) was the promise of forthcoming craft lagers and theme nights that used to be such a feature of The White Swan from dodgy DJs to quizzes and folk sessions. I wanted to scream out “my God, there is a future!” but present regulations dictate that shouting ecstatically is very definitely not allowed in public. I do though want to shout about this place because in my head I’m already there on that sunny May day when Thomas Sandgaard shocks us all by reaching this stage of his title-winning pub crawl around Charlton.

Though I only got a snapshot of one brief evening here, this discovery gives me a sense of hope, a light in the darkness of this lingering winter. Going to our other locals, of course, does the same I should add but there’s something beautiful, something restorative in finding newness right now. There’s a kindling of hope that the good old days can come back to us, that they’re not just moments lost in time in these days of living in fear.

The White Horse is somewhere I’m hoping to visit on one of those rainy Saturdays, in a time when we’ll joke darkly of days when we could cough suddenly and clear the bar to get a round.

There is hope out there and there is healing in the sight of old places staying open and new ones springing to life, even in this darkest of winters. We do need to support them though so that they’ll be there for us on rainy evenings, match days, film festival nights and the like. Nobody knows what the future holds or even how this virus is going to play out, but we’ve got to keep believing and to keep looking ahead. Thanks to the White Horse and Hachi Sushi Grill for their tastes of the past and the future. Thinking about it almost brings tears to my eyes, though it could just be the wasabi from last night in the Japanese café!

Read Paul’s review of Hachi Sushi Grill.


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Restaurant review: Hello to Hachi Sushi Grill in Frances Street

Hachi Sushi Grill
Hachi Sushi Grill is in Frances Street in Woolwich

With the second lockdown at an end, local restaurants are looking to fill their tables once again. PAUL BREEN wandered over the border into SE18 to welcome a newcomer…

I have seen light at the end of this tunnel of whatever way we wish to describe it, crudely or otherwise. I discovered two new places within one evening that remind me this will be over one day in the future and when it is, maybe we’ll come out of it all the stronger.

The two new venues that I’m talking about are Hachi Sushi Grill up in Frances Street between Woolwich and Charlton and the revamped White Horse Bar and Bistro on the main road between the same two places. Each of these are new in their own way and deserving of local support. That’s not singling them out for special praise. They’re just two examples of the many businesses that are struggling through these crazy times.

Inconsistently we’ve got a system that lets people fly on planes with a hundred strangers, but not eat out with half-a-dozen friends. Neither’s ideal in the midst of a pandemic, but the inconsistency’s stomach-churning. That’s why we need to support such places to help them survive.

Okay mini-rant over. Let’s get down to the meat and veg – metaphorically since I’m a pescatarian. Probably just as well too, since the first stop on my tour of local eateries is the new sushi restaurant on Frances Street, just around the corner from where the King’s Arms used to be. That appears to have been eaten up by yet another apartment block in a city that’s hungering to look like parts of Tokyo. Maybe that’s a good omen for the little business taking up residence in what seems an unlikely place.

Hachi Sushi Grill is a new venture that is run by people from the Philippines who have a real passion for Japanese cuisine. Being nosey, I fished for this information and also got told that the chefs have worked for the more famous Sticks’ N’ Sushi chain. Having lived in Japan and then Korea for a few years, I’ve high standards when it comes to Asian restaurants. Generally speaking, the real gems are most often not found in the high streets but slightly off the beaten track like the amazing Seoul Bakery in Bloomsbury or Sensaru, closer to home in east Greenwich.

Hachi is a lot closer to Seoul Bakery than Sensaru in spirit, if not in geography. It’s a small place that offers both take-away and sit-in options. It’s not licensed though seems open to the BYB idea. On the menu there’s a good selection of sushi, sashimi and other more substantial, hot meals. Though basic in furnishings and appearance, the authenticity of the food is what made this place a real gem for me. In Japanese cooking, every meal’s treated as a work of art. Each piece of sushi should have the aesthetics of sea and mountain, fish and rice. There’s no throwing things onto the plate, as if appearance is secondary to taste.

The guys at Hachi seem to get that. They wanted us to like our food – their food – laid out on the plate as if inviting us to pause for a moment and upload it onto Instagram. Better than that, they gave us free bowls of miso soup to accompany it. The price was reasonable too and the place safe as possible in these times, with customers being sensible around each other. If it hadn’t been that way, I wouldn’t have eaten in.

It took me the best part of this year to make a tentative return to eating out, rarely. Probably from now on, I’ll mostly get takeaways from this place until such times as it’s a more normal sit-in experience – but, I will support them. Places like this need our support for having the courage to start out on a new venture in these times when so many are fighting to stay in existence. And both new and old need to survive so that when things do normalise, there’s a world and a locality worth going back to.

Hachi Sushi Grill is also on Just Eat. Tomorrow: Paul visits the revamped White Horse on Woolwich Road.


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