GETTING TO KNOW ESSEX

Places to visit (or not!) in Essex


STARLIGHT EXPRESS UK TOUR

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lak11 on October 2, 2012



****THE FASTEST SHOW ON EARTH (Background)****

Starlight Express was created by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1975 as a children's story. Sir Andrew intended it to become an animated show but this didn't happen. He went on to re-write it in 1983, as a story for his two children. The show opened in 1984 at London's Apollo Victoria theatre. Nine years later the music was devoted to another of his children, Alastair.
The shows lyrics are by Richard Stilgoe (additional lyrics for the tour by David Yazbeck). Arlene Phillips choreographed for the West End and is also choreographer and director for this tour. The tour is presented by Bill Kenwright.

I was impressed to hear that Starlight Express has been seen by almost 20 million people and gross box office world-wide is estimated at over £270 million. It has been shown in Germany (and still is in an adapted stage in Bochum), the USA, Canada, Australia, Mexico and Japan and it was also shown on ice in 1997. I think it's shame that it isn't still running in London.

****STORYLINE****

A simple story of a boy (unseen) playing with his train set. His mother tells him it's time to stop playing, he falls asleep and dreams of the all-important race as his trains come to life and he is the controller. His voice is heard throughout the show.

The trains are engines and carriages both male and female. The actors skate and dance through the show, imitating the movement of trains.

Starlight Express is about the preparations of the trains for the big race; a contest between steam, diesel and electric to see which really is the best. It's a tail of the underdog and of course, there's a love story in there too.

The story is simple but, in my opinion, works very well and is all that is needed as this show has so much action as well as imaginative, vibrant costumes, brilliant skating and lots of catchy tunes and much innuendo contained in the song lyrics.

**** I'VE SEEN THE STARLIGHT BUT ONCE IS NEVER ENOUGH****

I never got to see Starlight Express when it was being shown in London's Apollo Victoria theatre in London, back in March 1984. I wanted to go although admittedly I wasn't as interested in musicals at the time as I am now, and also, with two young children under the age of two and a half, I had to watch the pennies. But I regret not seeing it while it was still showing in London's West End (especially as I was living in London) in its purpose built set.

I was pleased to see in 2004 that Starlight Express was on tour and would be at Southend-on-Sea in Essex, not too far away from us. We did go to see it and were most impressed, so much so that I wanted to see this show again. This year, after a wait of several years, I was very pleased to discover that it was again on tour in the UK.
The tour covered much of the United Kingdom and we saw it again at Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

**** THE SONGS AND MUSIC****

The songs in this show when heard but not seen in the context of the show aren't amongst my favourites from musicals but when watching the show then they seem so much better and really suit the action and story perfectly. The music is mainly upbeat, as is the show and the lyrics are very humorous. Most of the songs get the audience clapping and tapping their feet to the rhythm.

My favourites are I am the Starlight, Starlight Express and Make Up My Heart. All songs were sung well and received well by the audience. There was laughter as U.N.C.O.U.P.L.E.D. (a parody of D.I.V.O.R.C.E. by Tammy Wynette) was sung by Dinah the dining car and when three worst for wear trains sang, One Rock and Roll too many.

****WELL TRAINED CAST****

I thought this an excellent cast. On the night that we saw the show Poppa was played by Gavin Ashbarry, instead of Lothair Eaton. When I last saw Starlight, I remember the actor playing Poppa had a very memorable gospel/blues type voice, more so than Gavin Ashbarry, BUT this was made up for by Ashbarry's excellent interaction with the audience and his obvious enjoyment of playing this part.
I thought that Amanda Coutts as Pearl had a beautiful voice.

I was very impressed with Kristofer Harding (Rusty) and Jamie Capewell (Greaseball) for their singing talents and their acting.


****THE EFFECTS****

Entering the auditorium one is handed cardboard 3D glasses I'd seen the show before so knew what to expect yet even so I still enjoyed the safety warnings of: Safety alert. Please put on your safety glasses
A screen lowers onto the stage and the 3D effect can be seen. Trains (skaters) speed through the tunnels whilst objects fly through the air, seeming to head straight at the audience. When a bat flew in the tunnel everyone jumped, including me.

I understand that when the show was at the Apollo Victoria, the actors really did race on their skates, but on tour, without a custom built track this wouldn't be possible with any feeling of realism. I felt the 3D effect worked very well and added something different.

****LITTLE STARS (Children)****

I was surprised at the amount of children as it wasn't a matinée and there had been matinées shown. I think some parents may think this show is aimed at children but although it may initially have been, the humour is adult. No bad language but plenty of innuendo. True, the adult jokes would be over the heads of young children and I don't think anything is offensive, but I thought some very young children were a little bored, confused and too tired to enjoy the show. I think the show is suitable for adults, older children and teens.

****EXPRESS INTERVAL (A race to the loo!)****

The interval wasn't long enough or more to the point there are never enough ladies toilets in any theatre. We rushed to get to the toilets but were still in for a long wait.

As is always the case, the queue for the gents toilets is shorter and quicker moving than for the ladies, fortunately my son and husband were able to undertake our bar requirements. We took a drink into the theatre in plastic beakers. The show only lasted a little over two hours and so I think the interval could be longer.

****BOOKING****

I booked on-line. As I've been to this theatre before I had a good idea of where best to sit. As the stage is high and there’s no rake in the stalls I don't think sitting close to the stage is a good idea as a lot of the action will be missed.

For this show there is lot of action. Actors throughout the show are on roller skatesso probably the front rows of the balcony or boxes would be best to get the most from the action. I couldn't acquire four seats together in these so thought the next best choice would be the centre aisle and a little way back (row F, seats 13 to 16). Although I do find it good when in the stalls fairly close to the stage and able to see the actor's expressions; this draws you into the show.

****TOUR DATES/VENUES (Get Your Skates On)****

The Starlight Express tour began in May at The New Wimbledon Theatre, London. The tour is currently showing in Aberdeen. Further dates are to be announced so please see http://www.reallyuseful.com)


****TICKET PRICE****

For the tour ticket prices will vary according to which theatre you choose to see the show at. It will work out considerably cheaper in most, if not all, theatres than seeing a West End production. I paid £43 for each of my tickets (four in all) and these were top price. If I had watched a West End show then the top price would usually be over £60, often quite a bit more.

I think the price I paid was probably a little high for this theatre, but then again, for the enjoyment we all got from watching Starlight Express, it was money well spent.

****OVERALL****

This is an uplifting show. I wanted to watch something upbeat and amusing. It isn't my favourite musical but, this show has a well-deserved place as a musical supplying fun from start to finish.

The encore was fantastic. After everyone took their bows, encores were shouted from all corners of the audience, the cast, sang a medley of songs from the show and Poppa (Gavin Ashbarry) standing at front centre stage, invited the audience to get up and join in. Most did! We had a great fifteen minutes or so swaying and clapping to the songs. The cast really appeared to be appreciative of their audience and seemed to enjoy performing this brilliant encore.

Cliffs Pavilion
Station Road
Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS0 7RA
01702 390657

PARK LIFE at Hainault Forest Country Park

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lak11 on September 18, 2012


I have visited Hainault Forest Country Park many times over the past twenty-five years or so. In this time it has only changed a little, with extra and better facilities being incorporated and so has remained a pleasant location for myself and my family. I believe it's a real treat in a London borough to find an area of public land containing forest, farmland, a lake and a large open space making it a lovely place to visit any time of the year and a bonus is that entry is free.

Hainault Forest Country Park provides a wonderful leisure facility for local residents and also to visitors to the area. It has something for everyone from the very young to the elderly. As facilities at the park are improved the area becomes even more accessible to many.

My first visits here were when my four children were young and were mostly made on a Sunday or during school holidays. We found the hills ideal for kite flying and simply letting off steam.
I also came here several times on organised trips when I worked at a local playgroup.

The forest area is much used by children's and teen clubs, such as girl and boy scouts and Boys' and Girls'
brigade. When these clubs have sports days and similar events this large area provides a great spot. With all this space to hand there is no restriction on numbers of parents and relatives who can come to watch their children compete in sack races, hurdles etc.

I love to visit the park and walk in the woods in the autumn as then it truly is spectacular when it's ablaze with autumnal colours.

But for me the fondest memories I have of this public land is when my children were young and the snow fell. We have had a few cold winters resulting in enough snowfall for sledges. Whenever there is snow glistening on the hills of the park they quickly become quite crowded. The local shops soon sell out of sledges. At these times it's common to see all ages having fun and acting like kids. I have witnessed, as well as taken part myself, both children and adults hurtling downhill, not only on sledges, but on trays and even house for sale signs.

Over the last few months the country park has had less to offer, for a limited time, and has looked quite different because it has been used as temporary accommodation (named Snoozebox) for security staff during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This park is in a location which has excellent transport links to Stratford and thus the Olympic Park. This has resulted in some areas of the country park being closed off and a few activities halted until October 2012.
And it has meant that there have been many members of the armed forces to be seen around the area.
Money paid to the council for the use of the ground will be used to invest in the park. I am reviewing the park as it was before Snoozebox and how it should be after October 2012.

HISTORY IN BRIEF

Hainault Forest is one of a few sections that still remain of the Forest of Essex. In the year 1851 an Act of Parliament meant the area was deforested; deer were removed and trees cut down in readiness for building.

I understand that owing to public pressure the land was saved and then the park was divided between both the London boroughs of Redbridge and of, Havering and also Epping Forest District (Essex) as is still the case. These three areas and certain facilities fall within the different districts. The Woodland Trust helps to manage the country park. Next to the farmland is the golf course with restaurants and facilities.
Over the years the park has been gradually improved and today I would say it has much to offer as an area of natural beauty which also has some useful facilities which help to make it accessible to many, whether they are lovers of nature (surveys have listed the forest as being equally first as a nationally important invertebrate site) or parents bringing their children out to have fun in the open air.

FACILITIES

This public area has much to offer in the way of facilities for everyone, I believe. There are some lovely walks set out for the independent rambler as well as organised ones; some easy and some providing more of a challenge. I like the fact that walks are signposted directing the walker.

Dogs can be walked here or enjoy a run, fishing can be enjoyed on the lake and much more. I will explain a little about the various facilities that can be enjoyed here.

LAKE/FISHING

I have seen several dogs enjoy a swim in the lake but I'm not sure if it is an official doggy swimming pool. Probably not!

My enjoyment of the lake is confined to feeding the ducks and geese, however the lake is open for day time fishing during the season and it is free to fish on the north bank. Night fishing is not allowed here but there are facilities close by.

DOGS

As I have already mentioned, dogs can be walked in the park but are not allowed in the farm section. It is a lovely area for dogs and their owners.

FOR CHILDREN

There's so much here for children from the very young who watch the world from their buggies to those ready and able to let off steam in the open spaces.

The forest offers three play areas for the younger generation and these weren't available when mine were young. These facilities have been funded by The National lottery. Good luck to all those who can now
enjoy them.

ADVENTURE TRAIL

This trail has:

A climbing wall

Balancing posts

Bouncy bridge

Ropes and foot swings

ADVENTURE PLAY TOWERS

These are meant for children between the ages of 8-13 and consist of linked towers with bridges for climbing fun. There is also a round swing for several children to use together.

ADVENTURE WOODLAND TRAIL

This has been designed for teenagers upwards and it consists of ropes and bridges set amongst the trees.

ANIMALS

Foxburrows Farm and the rare breeds farm and zoo opens daily. This isn't a particularly large concern but it is interesting in what is to be seen. Rare animals such as Hybrid Chinese Geese, Oxford Forest (or Plum Pudding) pigs are to be seen.

Also to be met are donkeys, rabbits, guinea fowl, sheep, geese, Shetland ponies and more.
There are opportunities at specific times to feed the animals.

On Wednesdays during the schools summer holidays donkey rides are available at a cost of £2.50 per person.

ADDITIONAL FACILITIES

* Bridleways

* Guided walks

* Nature trail

* Picnic area

* Practical Conservation Sessions

* Wild in the Woods

* Visitor Centre

* Cycling allowed

DISABLED ACCESS

Much of the park is accessible for wheelchair users and has become more so with ramps being incorporated where feasible. Of course all of the actual forest areas aren't easy for those in wheelchairs but maps of accessible walks are available from the office. I believe enough of the park is disabled friendly enough to make it a pleasant place to visit.

Toilets in the park are adapted for wheelchair users.

Car parking is free for Blue Badge holders in both car parks.

CAFÉ

For visitors feeling hungry, thirsty or both, there is a Café on site for refreshments. The café stays open quite late (usually until six in the evening) so this is a useful facility for the park, in my opinion.

TOILETS

There are two toilet block facilities within the park with the main block being situated close to the café. The smaller block is open during school holidays. Disabled facilities are here too.

LOCATION

Hainault Forest Country Park is conveniently located in greater London and is easily accessible to those travelling from within the London Borough of Redbridge and of Havering and from Essex and East London. It’s close to Hainault underground station, on the central line. A short bus ride from the station of a few minutes duration brings you to the park.

The park can be reached by the 247 bus and is close to other bus routes.

CAR PARKING

The two car parks charge £1 for the first hour or £3 all day. Blue Badge Holders can park free of charge. There are three spaces for coaches inside the park.

OPENING HOURS

The Country Park opens from 7am to
dusk 7 days per week.

9.30 a.m. - 5 p.m. in the summer months and
9.30 a.m. - 3 p.m. during the rest of the year.

The Café is open from 9.30am-6pm weather permitting.

A SNIPPET

(From http://www.hainaultforest.co.uk/)

Hainault Forest Country Park celebrated 100 years of being made into an 'open space' in
2006. It has also won the Green Flag Award three times - 2006/07,
2009/10 and 2010/11.
Hainault Forest Country Park
Greater London
Essex, England
020 8500 7353

NO DANCING AROUND THIS MAYPOLE

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by lak11 on May 8, 2012

A review of the pub and its facilities.

The Old Maypole is situated in an area that’s lost most of its public houses. Although The Old Maypole isn't the best pub I’ve been in, because I've been going in here occasionally for about twenty-five years it must be one of the pubs I've visited most. One thing I like about this pub is although food is served all day it’s still essentially, a pub. It looks and feels traditional. One can go in here for a drink without feeling you're taking up valuable dining space. There are always a fair number of customers dining here and many who visit just for a drink.

When I first went in here about,26 years ago, it was very different; there were more public houses in the area. The Old Maypole was ordinary but had a large room where children were allowed with their parents. The room was basic but children had a great time in here.

Then the management changed along with the brewery. Now children were delighted with the 'Jumblie's Village', a soft, brightly decorated play area, which could be hired for children's parties. The garden was updated and wooden adventure play toys were installed.

Then the pub layout changed again and the 'Jumblie's' disappeared. The play area had brought in a good crowd, but perhaps it was realised extending the dining area would make more financial sense. Probably correct as this pub has kept going when most other pubs in the area have gone.

The same family have run the pub for many years; I would think it must be over twenty.

The Old Maypole is a 'local' serving cheap food and reasonably priced drinks. A place for an average meal, in an unremarkable setting. I'm not running it down; I feel it serves the area well, being a place for young singles to meet before they go on elsewhere and a place for all ages to go, from couples and families to the lone pensioner.

BAR AREA

The pub offers a large bar area with tables of varying sizes, some with sofa type chairs, others with upright chairs, and several high tables and stools.

This bar has fruit machines and television screens.

The actual bar is large.

I find whether I'm with family or female friends it's always easy to get served. I think some of you females will know how annoying it is when the men are served first by bar maids.

POOL BAR

This bar is more often frequented by younger male clientele. In this area can be found: quiz machine, fruit machine, pool tables, darts, juke box, television screens showing sky sports.

DINING AREA

A good selection of tables ranging from tables for two to six to eight. Some tables are too near to the gents and when the door keeps opening it can be a little off-putting if sitting in this area, fresh air wise; I wouldn't sit here. A few other tables are near to the door and as smokers tend to keep going out into the garden area the door is often being opened making it cold at times. If you find a decent table which isn't usually difficult, even on a Sunday lunchtime, then you can be fairly comfortable in this area of the pub.

The Old Maypole seems to do a good trade. There are few pubs in the area yet it still doesn't get too crowded in the daytime and weekday evenings.

This area has a quiz machine.

As well as food prices being cheap in this pub, so are drinks.
The Old Maypole stocks lager, cask ale, bottled beer, cider, wines by the glass or bottle, as well as all the usual spirits, cocktails, soft drinks, tea and coffee.

ENTERTAINMENT

Weekly quiz with prizes

Sky Sports

I've seen psychic nights advertised (or it may have just entered my head!) but I haven't been to one.

Other entertainment is offered such as a live music but this doesn't seem to occur on a regular basis.

CLIENTELE

Clientele appears to change throughout the day. Daytime and early evening sees mainly couples, families and local workers enjoying lunch. The evening draws in more youngsters but, for the pub area this is strictly over eighteen and ID will be requested. I would say this is still a pub for all ages but Friday and Saturday nights will find many eighteen to thirties. I will say that this pub is strict and from what I've seen doesn't allow underage drinkers. ID is often asked for.

TELEVISION SCREENS

The pub is a particularly popular place when an important football or international rugby match is being shown live. This doesn't affect the entire pub as the restaurant area remains screen-free.

DISABLED ACCESS

The Old Maypole is on one level. Wheelchair users often frequent this pub; a special needs centre enjoys lunch here one day per week.

One of the cubicles within the ladies toilets is large and may be accessible to those with mobility difficulties.

TOILETS

There are two sets of both male and female lavatories in this pub. The ladies toilets in the main bar have so many cubicles fitted in meaning some are incredibly small; I don't think so many cubicles are necessary for the amount of people who visit the pub. Fewer cubicles could mean a dedicated baby changing area and a specially designed disabled toilet.

There are plenty of basins, soaps and hand drying machine.

Baby changing facilities are available in the toilets.

GARDEN

There is wooden benches and tables and a raised grassy area here. More could be made of this garden to make a pleasant area to be enjoyed by pub customers.

SMOKING AREA

The exterior and car park at the side of this pub has been improved and seating areas with shelter and heaters.

ATMOSPHERE

Nothing spectacular but staff are pleasant and polite. Most are young and from the locality. The pub isn’t often rowdy although it can draw a young crowd. There was a serious incident involving this pub a year or so ago concerning an (inebriated I believe) individual being asked to leave. The incident escalated with policemen being attacked. I don't think the pub could really be blamed for this occurrence as the man was asked to leave and I think he took exception to this. I feel there aren't many incidents to blacken the name of the pub. Customers have to behave or are asked to leave the premises or barred.

I feel most people regularly using this pub will know others in here and it has become a local to many living close to the pub.

travelling far as I don't think it's worth singing and dancing around this maypole.

CAR PARK

The car park is quite large although some parking spaces have been lost due to the smoking area. However, the spaces provided are usually adequate and it's unusual not to be able to find a spot. As this is a local pub many customers tend to walk here. There is also the possibility of on street parking in nearby roads, a minute or two walk away, although the pub itself is on a corner of a main road with no parking, and a residential road with little available parking.

LOCATION

Buses stop directly outside. Routes 150, 247, 167 and 462 stop here. Tlhe pub can be accessed from a wide area. Two of these buses pass the local central line underground station. The station is a ten minute walk away.

Address:

105-107 Fencepiece Road,
Hainault,
Ilford,
Essex, IG6 2NG


OPENING HOURS:

Mon to Wed: 12.00 - 23.00
Thu to Sat: 12.00 - 00.00
Sun: 12.00 - 23.00

OVERALL

I would say the pub is fairly clean.
It does an average job as a pub serving food but with so many pubs closing in England we have little choice. The demise of local pubs, I believe, is a loss to the area. The Old Maypole provides employment; with staff taken from the local area, mainly being in their late teens and twenties. This must be a good thing.

One big advantage of The Old Maypole, over other public houses is that although Sky Sports are shown there aren't screens in the dining area, so when a big match is on one can eat in relative peace and quiet. I don't mind watching football but much prefer to dine without seeing it and would rather chat to my companions than cheer for scored goals or swear at the referee!

I would say The Old Maypole is a good facility to have in the area but could be improved, mainly in respect of the food being of better quality and not so hit and miss depending on when you eat and even down to which chef is on duty. It's not too bad for locals but I wouldn't recommend anyone travelling far as I don't think it's worth singing and dancing around this maypole.
The Old Maypole
105-107 Fencepiece Road
Hainault, Ilford, Essex, IG6 2NG

ONCE THE VILLAGE PUB BY THE GREEN

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by lak11 on July 19, 2012

EXTERIOR

I've always thought this pub looks inviting from the outside with its traditional façade, wooden benches, table and parasols placed outside. It's situated on a slip road off of a fairly busy main road. The pub looks good when seen from the main road, when driving or walking past.

If I'm visiting the pub in the warmer months then I like to sit at an outside table at the front of the pub. From here the view is good and I find myself thinking back to years ago when the area would have been a country village. It's easy to imagine bygone days from this aspect of a wonderful view of the village green with the focal point being the beautiful old church of St Paul's. There's the pond with willow trees and ducks a plenty enjoying the area. It's a green enjoyed by many living in a residential area which still has signs by which to remember the past.

To the side of the pub are a further seating area, another entrance and an entrance to the garden.

I've been in the pub occasionally over many years to eat and more often to have one or two drink s mostly during the summer, often on a Sunday afternoon. I must say that I have never been impressed with the menu here or the quality of the food but recently the pub has changed licensees and the new people seem to be making an effort. I hope they do; we don't have many pubs left in this area and need to keep open the few that remain.

I prefer to visit the pub for a drink before going out for a meal or just for a drink when I can sit in the sunshine and watch the world go by.

GARDEN

The garden is quite large but so much more could be done to it. Wooden picnic benches and tables are placed on the grass which is often in need of mowing. It isn't pretty but then again it can be nice if the weather is pleasant. But as I have already said, I prefer to sit outside at the front of the pub. If I had children with me then the garden would be appreciated. Before my youngest daughter reached eighteen my husband and I would occasionally collect her from school on a hot summers afternoon (when was that I hear you ask!) and sit in the garden with her while she consumed a large slice of chocolate fudge cake and a cola while we had a cold drink.

SMOKING

An outside area has been dedicated to smokers. Umbrellas, heaters and tables for customers to use while they smoke are set up in the garden away from the grassed area.

INTERIOR

This pub is traditionally decorated and in keeping with a village pub. This, in my opinion is its main selling point. But then also there are few pubs in the area which makes remaining trouble-free pubs popular.

Inside is the main pub and bar area which can be entered from the front or side. In this area are tables and chairs, and also some stools around the bar. One end of this area leads to a smaller bar with a fruit machine, pool table and toilets.

The other end of the main bar leads to a conservatory area where there are more tables and this makes a pleasant dining area, although at times traditional pub games take place in here and tables to dine at are limited. However, meals can be eaten in the pub area and in the garden and other outside areas.
The garden can be reached from the conservatory or a side entrance.

MENU

I last ate a light lunch here a few weeks ago and the meal was quite nice but then our choices were a jacket potato with tuna and mayonnaise for me and a beef burger with chips for my husband. I can't remember the cost of the individual items (although nothing on the menu is at all expensive) but do remember us saying that we had a drink each and lunch yet we still managed to spend under fifteen pounds. But I wouldn't recommend this pub for its food yet but I will be looking to see if the standard improves, now that the management has changed.

The menu at The Crown and Crooked Billet is a typical pub menu with food being on the plainer side and I would say that prices are cheap, even without partaking of offers. Various offers/deals such as a meal and a drink means not much money has to be spent to go out for lunch or dinner.

There are various choices on the menu for less than five pounds for a meal and a few priced at a little more. However, there is little choice for vegetarians. For main meals there is a fajita wrap with peppers, courgettes and the usual, a lasagne and light bites such as jacket potatoes with fillings such as cheese, or beans and baguettes with chesses and salad fillings. There is a Sunday vegetarian nut roast but if they have run out of this (which has often happened) then there is not much else to choose from. Not so bad for me as I will eat the battered fish and chips. For meat eaters the menu is typically a pub one with burgers, mixed grill or sausage and mash on offer.

I don't often have dessert but my youngest daughter and my future daughter-in-law both have a sweet tooth and enjoy the desserts here. I always think they look superior to the main meals.

DRINKS

Brands of beer seem to change quite often. They did serve Bombardier and Spitfire and always seem to have Carling and Foster's lager and John Smiths bitter. All types of wine (red, white, rose and sparkling) mostly from the cheaper ranges are served, as are all spirits and soft drinks that you would expect to be able to order from a public house.

FACILITIES

Sky sports shown on plasma screens

Pool table

Fruit machines/quiz machine

Beer Garden

Outdoor smoking area

All day food menu

EVENTS

Events are held at The Crooke Billet Pub such as quiz nights and poker nights. I have been to a quiz night. Cash prizes are given but the system of winning a cash prize depended on luck with numbers rather than getting questions right. We won some vouchers for free meals but certain restrictions applied such as times they could be taken and weekends weren't included so we didn't get to use these.

TOILETS

There are two sets of both gents and ladies toilets in this pub. I feel that the ladies toilets could definitely do with modernising and decorating and would expect that the same would be true of the men's.

DISABLED ACCESS

Access is good; the pub can be entered from level ground but toilets are not adapted.

BREWERY

The Crown and Crooked Billet now belongs to the chain, Stonegate Pub Company.

DOGS

Well behaved dogs are allowed, which is handy for dog owners as this pub is located near to parkland and wooded areas popular for exercising dogs. I don't take my dog into pubs as I'm not confident he would behave. I think he would probably get barred, or would have me barred!

LOCATION

The pub is in an area that, although not countrified, still has many green areas and has retained some charm. It’s just into Woodford in Essex, although close to Chigwell, also in Essex, in an area known as Woodford Bridge. Close by is Manor Road with houses possessing garages the size of the downstairs of my home. But I don't think the clientele of the pub are from our local Millionaire's Row.

Opening Hours

Sun - Wed 11am -11pm
Thurs - Sat 11am - midnight.

Buses serve the area, stopping close to the Crown and Crooked Billet, coming from neighbouring areas of Redbridge and Essex.

It's also only a walk away from Woodford central line station.

Easy by taxi or, indeed, one's own car as there is a good sized car park available free to patrons of the pub.

Several customers walk here from nearby and some from further afield when walking their dogs.

OVERALL

I wouldn't be too happy to recommend this pub to others and certainly not if wanting a good meal but admit to quite liking it myself for a drink. I mainly visit this pub to have a drink or two with my husband occasionally and usually sit outside. There's often some quite blue language to be heard from the regulars but I haven't seen or heard any fighting or arguing, although I wouldn't be drinking here on a Saturday or Friday evening when trouble seems more likely.

Customers range in age from a few over eighteens to all age groups. This means that no-one in my family would feel out of place in here.
The Crown and Crooked Billet
13 Cross Road
Woodford Green, Essex, IG8 8BN
020 8502 9192

ABSHAR-LUTELY LOVELY

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lak11 on July 26, 2012


I have eaten at Abshar Punjabi restaurant many times. In my locality we have a great choice of Indian restaurants and sometimes it's difficult to decide which one to go to. My two favourite Indian restaurants are both on the same high street and they are Abshar and Sharod. I usually favour Abshar if dining out on a Saturday evening, as one is more likely to secure a table than at the neighbouring Sharod. As for sharod, even if a table is booked one has to wait for it which puts me off dining there at busy times. But, then, if I'm going out to eat during the week or on a Sunday night I'm more likely to choose Sharod as it is smaller and more intimate resulting, in my opinion, in a better atmosphere.

Abshar always seems to attract many Asian families which seems to me to say the food is authentically Asian and of a good standard.

I have taken my friend, who has lived in India for many years, to this restaurant, and she was impressed and said it comes close to the restaurants she frequents in Mumbai and New Delhi.

I last dined at Abshar in July with my husband as it was our wedding anniversary.

INTERIOR

On the walls pictures depict Punjabi scenes. At the far end of this restaurant can be seen a decorative fountain.

The restaurant reaches back a long way and can seat 150. Tables vary from those set for four to a round table towards the rear which seats about twelve. For larger parties tables can be placed together on request. It’s quite usual to see large parties of Asian families dining here with family members including grandparents (or perhaps great grandparents) children and babies.

Tables are always inviting with clean, well-presented linen and cutlery.

AMBIENCE

Although it's pleasant in here, I do feel that as many people seem to be feeling the pinch in today's economic climate resulting in many less able to afford to dine out as often as they might have used to. A few years ago when I visited this restaurant on a Saturday evening I would have made sure we booked or we would probably have turned up and it would be full or perhaps we would have been squeezed in somewhere, but lately there is no need to book and the last few times I've eaten here we have had a choice of tables. But because the restaurant is no more than half full this can mean that there isn't much in the way of atmosphere.

I think Abshar should take a leaf out of nearby Sharod’s book; here even when almost empty, a friendlier ambience seems to prevail. Management at Sharod never fail to converse with customers; give complimentary drinks; a dish of chocolates is placed upon the table; a box of maltesers is given to ladies on departure. The last time we went my husband was driving so refused a drink. As we left the manager pressed a bottle of Cobra beer upon him to take home. What did we get at Abshar's? No complimentary drink but one very small mint! Not that we need a complimentary drink but I feel Sharod makes an effort and diners feel their custom is appreciated. But then again this doesn't affect the service or quality of the meal. I have had a complimentary drink here before but when there were four of us and we’d spent a great deal on food and drink. I felt management felt bound to offer a free drink as one person in our group hinted a little (which I found a little embarrassing) but they weren't overly willing.

I still would say both restaurants have pros and cons and both are assets to the high street.

MENU

The menu is good with plenty of choice for all. In fact, I feel spoilt for choice here. I’ve been here so many times but still find interesting choices. I would highly recommend the garlic chilli mushroom shashlik, which is from the tandoori section. This consists of mushrooms, onions and peppers marinated in yoghurt and herbs and cooked tandoori style and served steaming on a skewer with salad and yoghurt sauce.

Poppadums arrive with finely chopped salad, yoghurt dressing and chutney. I enjoy this but on my last visit we decided to have starters so didn't have poppadums.

I chose as my starter, tandoori garlic chilli mushrooms from the appetiser section and this cost £5.50.
My husband decided on the prawn puri at £5.25. He hadn't tried this before and was impressed. I think this will be a regular first choice for him now.

For my main course I had fish curry (£7.50) which was tender fish steaks served in a spicy brown sauce with pilau rice (£2.50). I asked for this to be medium in strength; it was.
My husband chose chicken tikka (£7.95) served with a green salad and had plain white boiled rice (£2.00).

VEGETARIAN

As long as one likes spicy food, then for the vegetarian, or pescatarian, Indian food is a great option and I always feel I'm getting as good a deal as meat eaters and that as much care and thought has been taken with my food. In many restaurants vegetarians are given few choices.

OPINION ON FOOD

I find the food of an excellent quality here. I appreciate that the food is prepared how one requests it; mild, medium or hot. I've enjoyed every meal I've eaten at Abshar and so has my husband and others we’ve been here with.

DRINKS

Abshar has a well-stocked bar and has a separate drinks menu. On my last visit I drank vodka and lemonade and my husband draught beer; I think Cobra.

SERVICE

Waiters always ask if we’re ready for our main course. We usually ask for fifteen minutes or so wait.
Waiters are knowledgeable about the menu and happy to give advice.

Throughout the meal it’s always easy to attract attention from staff and without aiming for this a waiter will appear from time to time to ask if everything is alright and whether more drinks are required.

Waiters are polite but I admit to preferring Sharod's in this respect where the waiters are attentive yet come up for a friendly chat. But then again, the dining experience is comfortable and a little more formal at Abshar's and both experiences are good, depending on the occasion.

At the end of the meal a small basket is brought to the table which contains packaged hot moist serviettes steaming and smelling of lemon.
FAMILY FRIENDLY
All ages can be found dining in Abshar's although it is essentially, of an evening, adult. When we last went in here (July) there was a large family group celebrating a birthday in here and two very young children were part of this group. One was making quite a racket and I wondered if we had made the wrong choice of restaurant but the parents took turns in going outside with the child. What a change from the local Wetherspoons which is just a short walk away.
The restaurant provides high chairs.
VALUE
In my opinion this restaurant offers good value. We spent around £50 altogether for a two course meal with drinks. Everything tasted delicious and we enjoyed our evening.

FACILITIES
Abshar boasts of car parking facilities but this I haven't seen and can't think of any parking other than in the high street outside. When we drive here we park in the main road outside the restaurant, which is free in the evening.

Also a dance floor with music and entertainment. I haven't ever been here when there has been entertainment and so I cannot comment.

TAKE-AWAY

Items from the main menu can be ordered as take-away and can be collected in person or delivered by Abshar. If ordering by phone then the menu can be downloaded and an estimate as to how long the food will take to be delivered will be given.

TOILETS

The ladies and gents are placed at the rear of the restaurant. They are clean and modern.

DISABLED

On entering the restaurant there is a slight slope leading to the main area and then the ground is level.
There is a disabled toilet in Abshar.

OPENING TIMES

Abshar opens every day except Mondays and now also opens for lunch.
Tues-Thurs: 5.30pm-12a.m.
Fri-Sat: 5.30pm-12.30am
Sun: 5.30pm-11.30pm

ADDRESS

43 Barkingside High Street
Ilford
Essex IG6 2AD

Email: info@abshar.co.uk

OVERALL

We enjoyed our last meal at Abshar as we always do at this restaurant. Food and service are always good. I expect that we will be returning for a meal in the not too distant future. The only thing that I think would make this an even better dining experience would be the practise by Abshar of offering a complimentary drink, as when other restaurants in the vicinity do this it does show up the lack of this.
Abshar Punjabi Restaurant
43 High Street
Barkingside, Essex, IG6 2AD
Tel:(020)85506213

http://www.igougo.com/journal-j77071-Essex-GETTING_TO_KNOW_ESSEX.html

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