To walk to the Palm Tree is rather lucid experience. The East End streets suddenly end. You are by a deserted canal, totally covered in bright green algae. Across a stretch of grass is a lone pub. It looks like it was once part of a larger street but is now the only remaining building. The windows are dark but the door it open…
The Palm Tree was my local many years ago when I lived in a house-share in Bow. Every Sunday we’d get down there after lunch, grab our usual table by the door and drink as much of whatever guest ale they had on that week as we possibly could. Then, around 8pm, the band would strike up (there’s a piano and a jazz drum kit permanently set up in the corner) and all the local old dears would take a turn on the mic, singing trad jazz classics. It would get rowdier and rowdier until the landlord turfed everyone out well past closing time and off we’d stumble into the night, dreading the dark Monday morning that inevitably follows such excess on the sabbath.
Walking through the door on this wet Sunday (in the area as we were on our way to the Apple Cart festival in Victoria Park) I was incredibly pleased to see that nothing has changed. At all. There isn’t another pub interior like the Palm Tree. Gold leaf wallpaper, wood-panelled central bar, the aforementioned jazz setup, thick burgundy velvet curtains, chunky 50s furniture, photos of jazz musicians above the bar and a few twee nick-nacks on display. All original. The till is ancient, there’s free Ritz biscuits, cheese and seafood in bowls on the bar and the old husband and wife team who run it are still there, and still up for some banter. There’s two bars at the Palm Tree and it’s so unmolested that you have to go outside to go between them. One is a sports bart and the other is the lounge bar. You want the lounge bar.
I remarked to Mrs MBFBY? that a wave of serenity swept over me as I sat down with my (perfectly kept) pint of Brewster’s Roll In The Hay and gazed across the bustling room. No piped music, just conversation. No braying hipsters, no aggressive drunks, no strange smells, no moody bar staff, no self-conciously cool crap on the walls, no sausage and mash in a ‘jus’, just a calming feeling of being at one with the pub. This is as close to what I imagine a sitting in a pub in the early 1960s was like. Maybe it was never like this, who knows (well, someone who was there obvs) but fake nostalgia can be very comforting in these troubled times. The Palm Tree is EASILY in my top 5 pubs of all time. I’m planning a definitive post on the top 5 pubs of all time later in the year so stay tuned.
I am aware that occasionally I write these gushing fanboy reviews of places I obviously adore and know well and it’s hardly a review as such, but I started this blog as a way to share some of the amazing places where I like to spend my time and money. There’s nothing wrong with writing the occasional love-letter. Don’t worry, I’ll be back reviewing the same painfully hip, blogged-to-death Soho joints soon enough.
The Palm Tree
127 Grove Rd
020 8980 2918