At various times in its history, parts of the building have been an off-licence, a hotel and a wine bar. Nowadays it is very pleasant, traditional Victorian pub with a great atmosphere. You can almost feel those Dickensian ghosts breathing down your neck.
The pub is quite spacious with some fenced-in seating on the pavement outside, 2 bars on the ground floor and a function room in the basement. This is used for meetings, weddings, parties, salsa evenings and both psychic and recruitment Fairs.
The Country Courtyard is very pleasant on a warm summer evening. In fact, this beer-garden is such an oasis of calm that you would not think you were in Barking at all.
The main bar has high-backed wooden seating and some comfy leather settees. There is low lighting, port barrels behind the bar and lots of dark wood. Until a few years ago, the floor was even covered in sawdust. This aspect is missed by many - especially me.
Each table has a card explaining the pub’s history and there are lots of antiquities and dusty photos to keep your interest
With no background music and a single TV, only on very quietly showing Sky Sports and occasionally more loudly for major sporting events, it’s ideal for a quiet chat. The central location, close to Barking Station makes it a good local meeting point.
The clientele is a mixture of lunchtime office workers, beer-lovers of all ages, plus a few old-timers, chatting about the past whilst drinking away their pensions. Recent times have seen an influx of East European immigrants to the pub and the unwelcome intrusion of karaoke from time to time.
At lunchtime they serve good traditional English food, like home-made pies and well-filled crusty rolls. There are salads plus some hot, tasty main courses. In recent months however (May 2010), in spite of ads on chalkboards outside and menus on the bar, requests for food in the evening have been turned down with little or explanation.
A very long wine list is suplemented with a selection of real ales, such as Old Wallop and Kentish Ale.
There is disabled access to the ground floor and designated smoking areas in the Courtyard and on the heated Patio.
This pub is much dearer than the Barking Dog next door but has a far better atmosphere. With the closure of the Britannia it is now probably the best pub in Barking.
Open from 11.00-11.00pm Mon-Sat and 12.00-10.30 Sun.
Dress Code: No dirty workclothes allowed but apart from that there is no particular dress code
The Britannia has now closed but I have left this review for nostalgic purposes - It was my boozer for all my adult life and I was very sad to see it go.
The Brit was built between 1848 and 1863 and is an excellent example of a typical British family run pub with a nice relaxed atmosphere and a reputation for good service. It is friendly, clean, old-fashioned, unpretentious and rarely overcrowded.
The pub is managed by Rita and John Pells who have been there for at least the last 17 years. They run a tight ship and any rare bouts of anti-social behaviour are swiftly and quietly dealt with.
It is a Wells & Young's Brewery pub, so expect a fine selection of good beer on tap. This year it won the 2007 CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) London Pub of the Year and has been in the Good Beer Guide many times. (See My Separate Tip on "Local Customs".)
The pub is in a quiet backstreet surrounded by a mixture of oldish, commercial property and some brand new ultra modern, 2, 3 & 4 bedroom flats and houses. A huge amount of money continues to be spent brightening up and regenerating this formerly, run down area. (See my separate tip, with photographs, all about the adjacent Tanner Street Mediterranean Village.)
Inside the Brit, you will find a comfortable, two-bar pub. There is a Public bar on the corner which has pool, darts and a flatscreen TV showing major football matches - Thankfully not too loudly.
On the other side of the building is a large, three part Lounge bar. There is a piano where you can join in an occasional Cockney "sing-song." From time to time they also have a DJ or sometimes a there's even a small live band. A door from the lounge bar leads to a small summer patio and the car park but please note: there is only room for 18 cars & street parking can be quite challenging, so why not leave your vehicle at home and enjoy the delicious beer.
The Brit also has an interesting and locally notorious exterior. Please see my tip below for details. Don't forget your camera for an excellent photo opportunity.
Dress Code: No dress code as such - Anything goes really, apart from very dirty work clothes - There is a mixed clientele aged 18-80 – Singles, couples and families - But it is not what I would call a young person's pub.
From Monday to Saturday at lunchtimes, good food is served to the local office and factory workers, (dressed exactly as you would imagine them to be dressed.) On Sundays; they do a terrific, reasonably priced roast dinner with all the trimmings. There is often a selection of free snack-food on the bar.
If you are having a celebrating something, Rita the Landlady can do you a great buffet meal, no matter how large or small your party is.
In the evenings and at weekends, this pub is enjoyed by many loyal regulars, drawn from the local cosmopolitan community. Most regulars are very scathing about others pubs in the area and would cheerfully walk straight past them to come to this one.
There is always something going on at the newly refurbished Broadway Theatre. They try and cater for all ages with a particular emphasis on music, comedy and family entertainment. It is in fact one of the last places to see a traditional East End variety show, featuring top acts, tea dances and even young amateur performers.The theatre has recently had such a major facelift that it took 3 years to complete.
It was well worth the wait though as now theatre-goers can relax and unwind in the stunning café bar and look out over Abbey Green, before taking in a show in the stylish new auditorium.
Dress Code: In general there is no dress code but for an event that may appeal to older people, you will find that most are smartly dressed for the occasion. Call the theatre if you are in any doubt.
There was not enough room to mention the exterior of the Britannia in my other "Nightlife Tip", so I have created an additional page here
As you can see the building is adorned with a reminder of Barking Town's seafaring days ... Moulded into the columns around all the external doorways are a selection of amply bosomed sailor's lasses, reminiscent of the naked figureheads (often mermaids) on a ship's prow.
Strictly speaking, these lovely ladies are what is known, in the architectural world, as "semi-caryatids but what on earth is a semi-caryatid? – Well, it is a sculpted female figure, which takes the place of a regular supporting column or a pillar.
They usually carry an "etablature" on their heads - which as you can see in my picture is basically a large flat tray. This regularly shaped piece of stone goes between the caryatid and whatever it is meant to be supporting, thus strengthening the structure.
The Greek word “karyatides” literally means "The Maidens of Karyae" - An ancient town in the Peloponnese.
Now it may be that I have lead a sheltered life. Maybe the crowd I mix with is a bit straight-laced. Whatever the reason, I have certainly not heard this nickname myself. However, every site on the internet that mentions the Britannia's says that it is known locally as the “Titty Tavern.” - My drinking pals and I prefer simply to call it "The Brit !"
More details to follow
3rd Wednesday of the month
Visitors welcome, entrance is £1.50
If you are looking to find your roots by creating a family tree then the East of London Family History Society can put you on the right track.
For more information, telephone Deirdre Marculescu on 020 8595 5339
When all else fails I guess there is always a movie - The nearest multiplex to Barking Town is Showcase Cinema in Beckton. If you have a car, it's just a 5 minute drive from Barking Town Centre. Failing that, a taxi from outside Barking Station would not cost very much or you can take bus numbers 262 or 366 to the door.
Showcase is a comfortable, spacious, reasonably new, 10 screen cinema with good Dolby Stereo sound. They show all the latest blockbusters, with occasional previews or ethnic films. On Friday and Saturday, there is often a late night movie, starting between 11pm & 12pm.
Drinks - There is no bar in the cinema. The nearest large ones are in Frankie and Benny's and the Hollywood Bowl next door. My preference and recommendation is to sit and have a quick drink in the small bar at the front of the Indian restaurant.
Food - If you are peckish and don't mind paying ridiculously high cinema prices, you can get the usual bags of M and Ms or pick and mix sweets. There's ice creams, hotdogs, tortila chips & huge buckets of popcorn with equally large containers of soft drinks.
For slightly better value, right by the cinema, you will find Frankie and Benny's Restaurant, a branch of Burger King, a Hollywood Bowling Alley plus a small but excellent Indian restaurant. This offers a good, reasonably priced, all-you-can-eat buffet and a la carte snacks.
5 minutes walk away from the cinema at the other side of the North Circular Rd, you will find branches of McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Ticket Prices - They offer a bargain matinee price of £5.25 from Monday to Friday up to 6pm and before 1pm on Sat/Sun/Bank Hols. This price also applies to all films and all screening, every Tuesday and Wednesday, excluding Bank Hols. All the theatres are quite large, so there is no need to book. Disabled facilities are available and there is also a very large free car park.
Information correct @ 16th Oct 07 - Please check website below for what's on, times and prices.
Dress Code: None