On top of being the nearest stop to the home of English Rugby, Twickenham station also holds a place on the railway history books. It was from this station on 4 February 1996 the first privately operated train following the privatisation of British Rail in the mid 1990s began its journey and therefore the first privately run scheduled train since nationalisation in 1948. It was the 05.10 South West Trains service to Waterloo, in case you’re interested…
Twickenham station first opened on 22 August 1848 and was resited in 1954. The present ticket office and platform buildings are rather plain and modern. The station has been adapted over the years to cope with the huge crowds who descend on match days for the nearby Rugby stadium. The latest of these only took place a few years ago to ensure the station could cope with the crowds for the 2015 World Cup. I have no doubt it works very well for these big occasions but visiting at less busy times, there is a bit of a soulless feel to the place. However I understand aesthetic preferences rightly come second to the pressing task of getting thousands of Rugby fans in and out of here as quickly and easily as possible.
The Eel Pie, 9-11 Church Street, TW1 3NJ
With an 82,000 seater rugby ground in its midst, it isn’t really surprising there are plenty of pubs in Twickenham – a perfect example of supply and demand. We chose to go to The Eel Pie, about 5 minutes south of the station on Church Street, a narrow road off King Street,with the character of somewhere from a small market town rather than a London suburb.
The Eel Pie was absolutely heaving on our Wednesday evening visit, as you’ll see from the gallery. After initially sitting at the bar, we managed to swoop in for a couple of seats quite quickly. Due to its low ceiling, the pub feels deceptively small but it spans back a fair bit, as well as having a dining area towards the back of the pub and a outside patio area too.There is no shortage of Rugby mementos and paraphernalia on the walls, from old match programmes to cigarette cards of players and newspaper cuttings the day after England won the 2003 World Cup.
The pub is owned by Hall and Woodhouse, a brewery based in Dorset, so had a selection of their ales available including First Call and Fursty Ferret. My usual pick from their range, Tanglefoot Bitter, wasn’t on as it had been replaced by the festive ale ‘Pickled Partridge’. I decided to get into the spirit of things and give it a go. I found it to be a good solid malty bitter and would definitely have it again.
Food wise, its mainly pub classics like Fish and Chips and a selection of burgers. Price wise, the mains vary from £8.55 for Ham, Egg and Chips to £12.75 for the H&W(that stands for handmade and wonderful) burger. There are also a selection of ‘light bites’, between £3 and £5. These include lamb kofta skewers, something I’m partial to and would have probably have given a go had I not eaten at the previous pub.There is no Eel Pie on the menu, the pub’s name coming from the privately owned island which is immediately south of the pub. Famous former residents of the island include William Hartnell, the first actor to play the Doctor in Doctor Who.
I very much enjoyed visiting The Eel Pie – it was a lively pub with a friendly atmosphere. A definite one to visit if you’re in these pub blessed parts of London.