April 23, 2011

Fullers Griffin Brewery Tour – London


Those who know me well will know that I’m a big fan of Fullers Beer with London Pride and Honey Dew ranking amongst my favourite beers. Whilst I can get a keg version of London Pride in Singapore there is no substitute for the real thing i.e. cask conditioned.

For many years I worked in west London however for some unexplainable reason I never managed to make a visit to the Fullers Griffin Brewery located next to the A4 in Chiswick. Due to its location, lack of close public transport (tube) and heavy traffic I’ve also ended up omitting it from my past 4 or 5 trips back to the UK which I consider a big mistake.

Fuller Smith & Turner P.L.C. is London's last remaining traditional family brewer. Beer has been brewed on the site of the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick for over 350 years. The partnership of Fuller, Smith & Turner was formed in 1845 by John Bird Fuller, Henry Smith and John Turner. Members of the founding families are still involved in the business today.

A littlle bit of info about fullers taken from the web: "Fuller’s is best known as the brewer of London Pride, the UK’s leading premium cask ale, as well as many other award-winning ales such as Chiswick Bitter, ESB and 1845. Three of Fuller’s beers - London Pride, ESB and Chiswick Bitter - have been named Champion Beer of Britain, a record unmatched by any other brewer. Fuller’s range now also includes Discovery, a blonde beer launched in 2005."

Fullers have also made several acquisitions and details can be found on their corporate site.

The brewery offers tours 5 times a day on weekdays only for a reasonable GBP12 with a slight discount for fees paid in advance. From personal experience the tours get quickly booked up several days in advance so advanced booking is essential.

The tour lasts for approximately two hours and includes an inside into the history and culture of fullers, the beer making process and finally most peoples favourite part which is the tasting session in the Hock Cellar.

Due to the Griffin brewery being a working site the tour involves a lot of walking up and down industrial staircases around the machinery so it's not really suitable for people with walking difficulties or fear of heights.

Its a long way down!!

 Old and new equipment:

I personally found the tour interesting and informative and the tasting session was very generous with only my driving duties preventing me for sampling another round.

London Pride is my favourite beer from Fullers.


Back in 2001 I discovered Honey Dew beer which was served as a cask conditioned ale however our guide said that because its best served chilled its now mainly sold as keg conditioned and the keg beer on tap in the Hock Cellar was very good.


The brewery also has a well stocked stop including plastic take home casks of beer and Fullers branded goods.

I thoroughly recommend this tour for any beer lover visiting London and if time and weather permit there are some nice Fullers pubs nearby on the River Thames which are worth a visit.

Fuller, Smith & Turner P.L.C.
The Griffin Brewery
Chiswick Lane South
W4 2QB
+44 (0)20 8996 2000
+44 (0)20 8996 2063 (Tours Only)

Mobile Phone Coverage Issues

After a long absence from the UK in the past month I've made 2 trips back there. During my stay all my phones were used heavily and I encountered some very frustrating coverage situations.

Maybe I've become spoilt becuase mobile phone coverage in Singapore is generally very good along with fast and widespread 3G network however this isn’t the case in all local countries and in my 2nd home (KL) I find that Celcom’s 3G coverage is patchy and the speed is often slow.

Now I should explain that my telco in Singapore provides an add on which allows unlimited BlackBerry roaming in selected countries and networks which means that I’m a little constrained to which network I can use when I’m travelling.

During recent trips to Jakarta I found that 3G on the XL network was slow with poor coverage in contrast to Bangkok where DTAC’s 3G coverage was both widespread and fast much to my surprise.

On my travels I use both my BlackBerry as well as a Samsung Chat 322 which is a basic dual SIM phone. By having this hardware combo it allows me to gain a good appreciation of how good or bad each network is at any given time.

When roaming in the UK my network usage is as follow: BlackBerry uses Vodafone, my Malaysian (Maxis) SIM uses whichever network it can find and I also have a UK T-mobile SIM. In addition to these most of my family are using O2 so when we are out together we have most of the networks covered.

My experience of the UK networks has been very disappointing for example Banbury town centre seeming to have so many network coverage issues it means that I often had to move around or stand outside shops to get either a good signal or obtain a 3G coverage. The family home is located on the edge of a small village and in the 16+ years that I’ve been using the T-Mobile network, coverage is still only reliable upstairs yet other networks operate OK here.

One afternoon I took a short train ride from Banbury to Oxford and tried to make several calls without much success. From watching the coverage indicators on the phones all the networks provided very different levels of service. During this short journey there were several long periods with no coverage but interestingly enough at all times at least one network had good reception.

When I’m visiting some of the cities in Asia and experience coverage issues it’s easy to blame the infrastructure and comment that the country is not as developed as the ‘west’. In some locations within SE Asia to improve coverage and reduce costs the networks allow each other to share their infrastructure and from personal experience the coverage has got better once this is implemented.

The UK is not a big place and apart from some very remote areas you don’t have to go too far to find civilisation so why considering the 20 or so years that mobiles phones have been widely used in the UK are there still major coverage issues in many locations?

A message to the UK service providers – its 2011, mobile phone use is widespread and many people don’t have a fixed line at home. Your call charges are generally high and the poor coverage is an unsatisfactory and unacceptable situation so please address this.

The UK networks must to increase their coverage investment or be forced to open their networks to the benefit of the consumer by Ofcom.

April 13, 2011

The Londoner Brew Pub – Bangkok

In the past I’ve always tended to stay away from the English/Irish pubs in Bangkok and prefer to eat/drink in less contrived places. Perhaps as a result of being away from the UK for so long I started to have a greater desire to sample some UK food such as Sunday Roast Dinner and real ale.

After a quick morning raid on Chatuchak market to pick up some items we found the previous day it was time for lunch. For some reason the thought of a relaxing roast dinner came to mind and after a quick check on the internet I found several options not too far away at the other end of Sukhumvit road. In addition I thought it would be a good place for a blog review.

Owing to the Londoner pub being a brew pub and having a buffet lunch our minds were quickly made up and we set off. The pub is easy to find being on the corner of Sukumvit Soi 33 in the basement of the UBC II Building.

When we first entered the I was surprised at the size of the pubs dark cavernous interior and large buffet which its generous selection.

The pub was very quiet although we decided to try it anyway and certainly have no regrets. The buffet lunch is served from 12-3pm and then dinner from 6-9pm and includes a selection of fresh salad, roasted meats and deserts.


The cost by local standards is quite high at THB 470 however for this kind of meal it's reasonable especially when a Burger King Whopper meal at Suvarnabhumi costs more than THB 300.

I was looking forward to trying the home brewed Londoner’s Pride Cream Bitter and have to say that I enjoyed it very much. As a big fan of Fullers London Pride this wasn’t too far off the real stuff and made a change to the keg conditioned London Pride served in Singapore.



The brewery is located towards the rear of the pub and some of the equipment can be seen in the picture below.


My wife is not an ale fan so she ordered a mojio and when it arrived in a pint glass I knew that we would be in the pub for a while!

Due to us arriving quite late we only had around an hour of buffet time remaining so we quickly got to work.
I skipped the starters and went straight to a big helping of roast beef, lamb, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese and other vegetables.

The food was nice but certainly not gourmet or even the best roast I’ve had but was tasty so no complaints. The service was mixed and perhaps because the pub was quiet the staff tended not to be that attentive although this wasn't really an issue to us on this visit.


After a refill I tried a few starters which included salad, a whole salmon and pate. The desert section looked good and there was a selection of apple pie, ice cream, cakes, fruits and other delights. The picture below doesn't show the rest of the table which was pretty full with other items to eat.


Free tea/coffee is also included in the price which is a nice addition for a post meal drink.

After the buffet finished we picked up a copy of the UK Sunday newspapers which are provided via Newspapers direct. I usually read the UK newspapers on the internet however there is nothing like reading the broad sheets whilst supping a pint of ale.

Unfortunately the pub also had a copies of the tabloids which kept my wife amused......


Whilst deciding where to go we noticed that there were several local English style pubs which were commended and took quick look at them:

The Bulls Head – a traditional style pub that seemed busy outside but quiet inside.

The Robin hood – This pub was very busy and many people seemed to be eating which was a good sign.

The Londoner has some mixed reviews and not having been there at other times i’m unable to comment on the atmosphere in the evenings or during big televised sports events.

We really enjoyed our relaxing lunch and although the food is far from gourmet we would recommended this to anybody who likes a relaxing buffet roast lunch.

Food/Beverage: 8
Ambiance: 7
Value: 8
Service: 7.5

591 UBC II Building, Basement B 104, Sukhumvit 33
Sukhumvit Road, Klongton Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110 Thailand
Tel: +66 2-261-0238-9

April 4, 2011

Ayers Rock Butcher and Grill @ Wangsa Maju

Over the past few years Wangsa Maju has changed considerably with the opening of Wangsa Walk Mall and the adjacent Wangsa Link shop houses. As a result of the new developments several restaurants have opened including a branch of Ayers Rock Butcher and Grill.


After reading some positive reviews we recently decided to try our local branch on a Saturday night. The restaurant concept seems to becoming popular whereby there is a meat chiller cabinet with from which customers can choose the cuts of meat to take home.

The restaurant wasn’t practically busy although a few large groups occupied some tables after choosing our table we were presented with the menu. The menu is basic and the restaurant offers most cuts of meat, wagyu, sausages and burgers. In addition to meat Salmon, fish and Prawns were on the menu.

Things didn’t start well when my wife wanted the fish or the prawns only to be told that it was finished so she ordered the 150gm beef burger priced at RM15. I ordered the standard tenderloin priced at a reasonable RM45 and the menu states that all meals come with fries, salad and “special sauce”.

After 15-20 mins the waiter brought out a sausage meal and seemed confused when we told he that we hadn’t ordered that and a moment later my steak arrived. It was at this moment I realised that the waiter hadn’t asked either of us how we wanted out meet cooked with myself being partial to steak being cooked medium rare

I was starting to get concerned. The meat seemed to be several small thin cuts which is the first and I hope last time that a tenderloin is served that way. The steak was swimming in a black pepper & cream sauce and accompanied by salad and some cold potato salad.



After waiting some time neither fries or my wife's food arrived so I asked the waiter why there are no fries and was told that the menu said salad or fries. I disagreed and at this point I had to point to the menu and ask him to show where it said that and he conceded that he was wrong. Even if the menu had choices we were never asked.


After another 5-10 minutes a small basket of only just warm and undercooked fries arrived which were very poor. By now 35 minutes after arriving there was still no sign of the burger and we were informed that it would be another 10-15 mins and that the fries had now finished.

I really cannot believe that a restaurant which is situated within walking distance of a large Carrefour and a Cold Storage cannot get a bag of two of fries if they know that they are running low.

The steak was quite tasty however the sauce was over powering for somebody who is not a black pepper fan.

Almost 50 minutes after arriving the burger arrived and looked simple but good. The patty appeared to have been home made and was very tasty. Unfortunately the restaurant had decided that the burger would also be drowned in the special sauce which spoilt it a little.



The restaurant is halal and doesn’t serve alcohol so ice lemon tea was ordered.

The staff could clearly see that I was not at all impressed with either the service or food and to their credit a discount was offered when I paid.

I have to say that this was an extremely disappointing experience all round and although the prices are reasonable I cannot see myself going back there any time soon.

Food/Beverage: 4.5
Ambiance: 5
Value: 8
Service: 3

Ayers Rock Butcher and Grill
Jln Wangsa Delima 10
Wangsa Link
Wangsa Maju
03 4148 1333

April 1, 2011

Bangkok–Salil Hotel

There are many areas to stay in Bangkok however owing to the chronic traffic issues anywhere near the Bangkok Sky Train (BTS) is my preference. Over the years I’ve stayed in several locations however one of my favourite places is Soi 8 Sukhumvit.

This soi is located next to Nana BTS station and is ano through road so after the first 150m its pretty quiet and has a reasonable amount of greenery to provide some shade. Although the Soi is pretty quiet it contains several hotels, apartments, bars and restaurants along with the usual 7-11’s and massage shops and is generally suitable for families.

This time we elected to stay at the Salil Hotel which is small boutique hotel (27 rooms) and is located at the far end of the soi. The hotel seems fairly new or at least refurbished. Some websites mention that it doesn't have a lift however this has changed and it now has a working lift.


The rooms are quite small however they are clean and comfortable and free WiFi is a bonus.


A buffet breakfast was included and although the selection of food doesn’t compare to the Sheraton I had no complaints what so ever. Free DVD/book rental which may appeal to some people although we prefer to go out and maximise our time exploring.

The hotel is about 500m from Sukhumvit road which doesn’t take long to walk or guests can choose to use the free golf cart service which is available 24hrs a day.

There are several web sites linked to the hotel and I prepaid the rooms via their main site to enjoy a discounted rate of THM 1750 per night which was reasonable.

Overall I enjoyed my stay at the Salil and would recommend this hotel.

Almost opposite the hotel is the Citadines Sukhumvit 8 Apart Hotel and after reading some positive reviews we took a tour of the hotel. This is a very different concept from the Salil and contains some good facilities. The rooms vary from studios to 2 bedroom suites and the cost of the studios is only a little more than the Salil so next time I’m in Bangkok I will probably try this place.

Journey to Bangkok

We recently took a trip to Bangkok and thought we would try Air Asia’s online/mobile check in service. Between us we have a BlackBerry and an Iphone and found that both applications worked well. When using a phone you are issued a bar code which you need to validate and then a boarding pass is printed from the terminal.

Upon arriving at KL’s LCCT we headed for the self service check in machines only to be initially confused over which terminals to use.


The web/printed boarding pass machines are on the right of the pic and mobile phone readers are on the left. Its disappointing that the separate machines are needed however I believe that this will be addressed at some point in the future.


The check in process worked well and we then proceeded to the baggage drop counter. Fortunately the counter was not busy but my perception is that if you need to drop baggage then the process takes just as long as it would if we checked in at a normal counter.

Just after check in I discovered this Police View box. With the modern day CCTV installed and armed patrols walking around is there really a need for a policeman to stand on a wooden box?


The flight as operated by Thai Air Asia and was pretty standard and the pre ordered hotdog was quite tasty for an airline snack



Arrival at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport was via a domestic gate which meant slow a disembarkation whilst we waited for buses to ferry us to the international section.

The airport has been the centre of much controversy with the current complaint being around the immigration queues. Unfortunately we were not sparred and the hall was packed with the slow working officers taking almost 1 hour to process our queue.

The local media has reported that the problems are compounded by the immigration department not having any budget left to pay overtime so the airport authority will be paying millions of Thai baht try and prevent even more problem during the upcoming festive season.

IMG-20110224-00161_800x600Immigration queues

Bangkok is now the proud owner of an airport express train with services being mixed between express and commuter stopping trains with the latter extended to Phaya Thai which is linked to the Skytrain station . The express train to the City Air Terminal takes 15mins and costs THB 150 and the city commuter train takes 30mins costs THB 45.

Depending on where you are staying and the traffic situation it could be much quicker however I know that the traffic around the City Air Terminal at Makassan can be very congested. Owing to us arriving early evening and staying just off Sukhumvit we decided to take the commuter train to Phaya Thai and then take the BTS to Nana.

The train was busy and we were lucky to get a seat however the ride was smooth and journey passed quickly. Upon arrival at Phaya Thai we found that there is no down escalator and the single lift was very small which resulted in a queue forming.

The connection to the BTS involves some staircases and at Nana station there is a long set of stairs to descend which is not easy with a heavy bag.

Considering that this is an airport link its disappointing that the designers haven’t seen fit to provide sufficient ease of access for people with baggage.

The train does provide a fast value for money alternative to taking a taxi and can be usful is you have light luggage and arrive in peak times.