T.J. Duffy’s, Ealing

Published on 15 March 2004 in , , , ,

When in a foreign country, I’ve always wanted to go to an English Theme Pub. I’ve wanted to so I can see what a dire state its in, and see what the natives think is so English.

I say this cos I’ve seen far too many Irish theme pubs. Sorry, but putting some fake fiddles on the wall, installing a few Guinness pumps and having loud music. Doth not make an Irish pub make. O’Neils, Finnegans Wake, Waxy O’Connors, Scruffy Murphys… Oh save me from your fake pointless crap. You can write on the windows that its "where the craic" is, it won’t be true. It will be just another crappy pub full of idiots in Ben Sherman shirts that gets aggressive round closing time.

No. If you want to experience the craic you need to actually go somewhere proper. You need to go somewhere where Irish people actually go.

Thanks to the large Irish community in Ealing, there’s quite a few of these places, which one website neatly described as "being in the Irish High Street pub tradition". I’ve never been in most of them. And with good reason. Half the ones in Ealing just look dire, and the ones that look decent, don’t have any ale. You can witter on about Guinness until the cows come home, but I’ll stick to a pint of bitter – although I would be tempted to hunt down somewhere that sells Beamish. Many of them are in Northfields.

Northfields is a strange part of Ealing – rather hidden from the rest of the town. You could wander round Ealing for years and never really know its there. It’s not a main road, it’s not a major shopping area and it’s not on any major bus routes. It does have a tube station, but as an area, I’ve been there only a handfull of times.

It does however has a large collection of pubs "in the Irish High Street tradition" (which if describing the ones in Northfields probably means ‘former shop’).

We walked past a few of them last night. It was about 8:30. ‘Players’ had one customer in and looked awful. The Spinning Wheel fared better with about six people but didn’t look enticing. Thankfully we didn’t need either of them, for just down the road is T.J. Duffy’s.

In contrast to its rivals, it was packed. In contrast to its rivals, it looks nice (there’s nice plants outside). In contrast to its rivals, as well as selling plenty of Guinness, it has three handpulls.

But T.J. Duffy’s is more than that. It might not look much – the decor doesn’t set it aside as being anything too special (it is a former shop) but it’s a wonderful place.

Every time I’ve been (admitedly only twice) it’s been packed to the rafters but people politely squeeze by. The place feels like you were a gatecrasher on someone elses private party, but a party where no one cared one bit and were glad to have you along.

Last night was live music night, and a smattering of people where dancing merrily away.

The beer was good. Very good. Three handpulls – the ubiquotious London Pride on one and the other two seem to be guests – I say seem as last night Abbot Ale was on, as it was the time before that, but the blackboards seem to suggest it’s not always there. Both being bog standard, I set about the rather scrummy ‘Slaters Premium’, although I was tempted by a certain stout. No not Guinness. Not even Murphys or Beamish Black. Something a little different.

T.J. Duffy’s is the only pub I’ve ever seen bottles of Mackerson Stout – a rather sweet but delicious beer that’s made with lactose and used to be known as milk stout. It has a glimmer of condensed milk about it, but it’s so good when you’re in the mood. Incidentally it’s not Irish, coming originally as it did from Hythe in Kent.

It’s a great little place, and it’s a shame I only first went not long ago. Irish pubs aren’t about fake fiddles and umpteen Guinness pumps (I’m sure I saw more lager being served in T.J. Duffy’s). They are, like any good English pub, like a community. A friendly, warm welcoming place where you feel at home. And T.J. Duffy’s has got that down to a tee!


282 Northfield Avenue, Ealing, W5

Beers on handpull during visit:

Fullers London Pride, Greene King Abbot Ale, Slaters Premium (guest).