The Olympics. How long ago that feels. When the entire world had its eyes on East London, Antic Ltd opened a pop-up pub in Leyton’s old town hall. We liked it. And so did many others. Antic applied to make The Leyton Technical a permanent fixture, a saga that took months of will-they-wont-they speculation, not helped by news stories like this. But a couple of weeks back, it did finally reopen.
It’s quiet on my saturday afternoon visit. The Detroit Emeralds are belting out Feel The Need In Me. Two or three tables are occupied by couples whispering over their pints. There’s a handful of solo drinkers and two blokes at the bar talking about house prices and the number of Spanish people in the area. The Leyton Technical is a big, multi-roomed pub. And it’s beautiful – the bar area with its gilded staircase to nowhere and the magnificent mosaic floor. The high ceilings lit by chintzy lamps and opulent chandeliers. Even the heads of unfortunate animals mounted on the walls. It all works. The furniture is a stew of oligarch’s yacht, old peoples home and the boardroom of a smalltown bank. Even the khazis are nice, though it does feel like Journey To The Centre of The Earth to get to them. A great deal of money has been spent, and spent well. You can see why it took them a year to reopen. The double-fronted bar has lots and lots of spirit bottles, some keg fonts and eight handpumps; three or four occupied by clips. Hydes Original is £3.60 pint. Malty and tangy and in decent if not brilliant nick. No sign of a haze that other visitors have reported. Is there a CAMRA discount? ‘Erm, not that I know of’ says the extra from a Plan B video behind the bar.
The Leyton Technical is gentrification, oozing its way Eastwards up Ruckholt road from Hackney Wick. This place could not have existed even two years ago. Leyton was where you lived if you’d been there all your life or you couldn’t afford to live anywhere else in central-ish London. I have a short movie taken when we first moved up the road to Leytonstone, some ten years ago. Mrs Wheels filmed our new neighbourhood from the back of my scooter. The streets are dowdy and unloved. Exhausted and worn out. Leyton High Road looks like it’s made from damp cardboard boxes. And it was like that for a long, long time. But the changes to Leyton and Leytonstone in recent years have been remarkable, the prime example being the enormous success of the Red Lion, showing the positive impact an excellent ‘destination’ pub can have. Even Waltham Forest council have started to notice after decades of neglect. They’re a hard outfit to like, but occasionally they get it right. The sprucing up of Leyton High Road for the Olympics being a case in point. This was such a hit that the project is being rolled out to other areas. It’s Leytonstone’s turn this year.
My next pint is Adnams Topaz, served with a smile after a taster. £3.50. Fresh and subtly hoppy. Condition is bang on. And It’s at this point I realise that I’m locked out, having picked up my scooter keys and not my house keys. Bugger. Reluctantly, I drink up.
As I leave I notice a blackboard behind the bar. ‘The Leyton Technical – Making Leyton Better Since 8.8.2013’ And you know what? It is. It really is.