Clapton CFC matchday independent pub guide – Five Forest Gate venues for a pre- or post-game drink

Luckily for us, the E7 area is blessed with some great little boozers for a pre- or post-game drink.

Anyone who has passed through Forest Gate or Wanstead Park stations will already be familiar with the Fox & Hounds and Forest Tavern.

Each owned by chains, these side-by-side pubs cater for very different tastes and budgets. The Fox & Hounds is owned by Craft Union and is famous for cheap drinks, while Forest Tavern is a Portobello Brewery gastropub.

Many a Clapton CFC fan and away supporter will have already visited one or the other after a trip on the Lizzy Line or Overground so instead let’s focus on a number of independent locals in Forest Gate that often get overlooked on matchdays. 

The Forest Gate Hotel

Distance from OSD: 1.3mls. Closest station: Wanstead Park/Manor Park. Price of Premium beer: £5

As back street as they come. Similar to the Rising Sun, The Forest Gate Hotel is a surviving monument to a fast disappearing culture of neighbourhood pubs in East London. It’s a historic, grand building, with ornate features and high ceilings, although it does give form to the phrase “rough round the edges” (in every sense).

The route from the pub to the ground is the least straightforward on this list. Google maps has it as a 28 minute walk, without a direct bus route. There is a pool table, jukebox and plenty of dark corners to crash out, though. You can even book a room upstairs if you’re really knackered. The drink selection is basically your classic pub staples and you won’t get food, unless you order breakfast.

The Wanstead Tap

Distance from OSD: 1.2mls. Closest station: Wanstead Park. Price of Premium beer: £5.75

If your heart sinks when confronted with the choice of a few different lagers and a cider, then the Wanstead Tap is probably the direction you want to travel. It is a hefty 25 minute walk to The Dog, although the 58 and 330 buses will take you most of the way, at least to the junction of Woodgrange and Romford Road.

The Tap is a bar under a railway arch and peddles a dynamic selection of beers from their backstreet location near Wanstead Flats. It has been an active part of its local community for years and hosts numerous, very sound comedy, talks and readings in partnership with Newham Bookshop.

The Rising Sun

Distance from OSD: 1.1mls. Closest station: Woodgrange Park/Manor Park. Price of Premium beer: £5 (Bring Cash)

On the opposite end of E7, and pictured at the top of this page, the Rising Sun is a grand old pub building in the northern territories of Romford Road. It is an Indian-owned boozer and very much serves that community, sitting between Forest Gate, Ilford and East Ham. Although it’s another 25-ish minute walk to the OSD, the 25, 425 & 86 will drop you at the end of Disraeli Road. 

There are four well kept pool tables in a large back room, dart board and screens for live sport. Don’t go in thinking “Indian cuisine”, however, as they don’t do food and they don’t do any of your fancy beers either (though there is draft Cobra). The Rising Sun is split between two bars. It wasn’t very busy when we visited before an evening game and had a strangely tranquil atmosphere for that time of night.

The Bay Tree

Distance from OSD: 0.5ml. Closest station: Stratford/Forest Gate. Price of Premium beer: £5.50

Technically just over the border in E15, the Bay Tree is a mere 10 minute walk from the Spotted Dog, directly up Ham Park Road. What makes this pub remarkable is just how out of context it is from the surrounding area. Recently refurbed, it is bizarrely plush inside, making it look more like a bar in the West End than a back street in Stratford. The smartly dressed bartender even used one of those scooping tools to manicure the froth on my San Miguel.

The Bay Tree is a Lithuanian-owned pub and seems to have regular live music on. It has a screen for football and was very quiet when we popped in on Saturday during the early kick off. There is a good tradition of Lithuanian bars in East London over the last 15 or so years and this one seems to have had some money spent on it. The beer selection is very lager-heavy, so any real ale heads or crafty types will likely be disappointed.

The Red House

Distance from OSD: 335ft. Closest station: Forest Gate/Plaistow. Price of Premium beer: £5.50

Officially called St Anthony’s Catholic Club, The Red House, as it’s known locally, is a full 2 minute walk from the Spotted Dog gates. It is a private members club so you will need to be a member or a guest.

Highly unassuming from the outside, tucked away on a side street, The Red House is a genuinely beautiful place to have a drink in. The bar is cosy and comfortable, the garden is arguably the nicest outdoor space in the area, while the building itself looks like an old stately home. All run by a community of local people who have been part of Forest Gate for generations. You’ll need to ring the doorbell to get in.

Honourable mentions 

The Black Lion in Plaistow (0.9mls from the Spotted Dog). Traditionally a West Ham pub when they’re at home, it’s a nice local, Irish-run boozer. Although pints were a bit on the pricey side on the last visit. 

King Edward VII on Stratford Broadway (1.0mls from the OSD), again not the cheapest, but it’s a historical, grade II listed building, with plenty of space and pub food.

Obviously, it should go without saying, local pubs provide a vital outlet for working class areas and different communities. If you’re not part of that community or a regular, you’re essentially a guest of the people who value the pub as an important part of where they live. Please walk in with respect and don’t take the piss.