Shandelle Battersby finds the Palm Tree a haven from London's summer sun.

There it was, peeking out from behind a curtain of grey. The sun. A rare sighting in London in early July, despite it being well into summer. The English celebrated with barbecues and enthusiastic sunbathing in the parks. It was still only 20C but they were acting like it was 40.

It was a pleasant day for a meander along the canal in Mile End to the Palm Tree, my friend's favourite pub from her time as a Londoner, 15 years before.

We got off the Tube and walked in her late-20s' footsteps to the pub, through a pretty park and past a dodgy carpark famous as a venue for lewd acts. And then it appeared "like an oasis in the desert", just as she'd promised, set back from the canal sitting all on its lonesome.

A couple of hippies sat strumming guitars on the grass outside. It didn't look open but there were a few hardy souls sheltering from the sunshine indoors, though you can drink outside - with plastic glasses - if you want.


I almost had to leave my sunglasses on. The Palm Tree is brighter inside than you'd expect. Gold-patterned paper adorns its walls; its sticky blue carpet makes your eyes go funny if you look at it too long. The bar stools are covered with a jolly shade of purple. In the corner is a decrepit drum kit and band set-up for Saturday nights. The same group of blokes have been entertaining Palm Tree patrons for years. Some of them are reported to be barely still breathing.

The best bit is the theatrical red trim festooning the top of the circular bar, above which sits many dated photos of local celebrities. There's no explanation why they are there. I had no idea who any of them were. In the midst is a proudly framed award declaring the Palm Tree the "Pub of the Year 2007". I sincerely hope the band was on deck the night that went down.

Holding court, with a pint, behind the bar was publican Alf. We ordered two shandies. He poured one before wandering off to ring it up on an ancient cash register (a sign advises no cards are accepted). I reordered my drink. It was awful. I tipped it into my mate's glass and went back to the bar.

"Could I have a small beer please?" I repeated a couple of times. I had to choose which beer I wanted from the grimy taps without knowing what any of them were. Alf brought me over a shot glass of lager.

"That small enough for you?" he asked.

"That'll be £12 please."

A punter helpfully told me to ask for a "half". Alf obliged.

"That'll be £43 please."


What a character. I couldn't get enough. Someone asked him what he'd had for dinner the night before. He told them he'd roasted a squirrel. My friend asked if he had any salt and vinegar crisps.

"Do I?" he hooted.

"Only the best salt and vinegar crisps in the world! From Ireland! I'll be back in a moment."

He disappeared out the back.

When he reappeared a minute later, he was empty-handed. My mate waited.

"What can I get you love?" he asked.

"Er, the best salt and vinegar crisps in the world?" she reminded him.

"Oh yeah!" he exclaimed, and reached behind him for a packet. They were good but I've had better.

Unfortunately, another barman turned up for his shift soon after and Alf disappeared out the back again, for good this time.

Entertainment over, we downed our drinks and wandered back out into the weak sunshine before it buggered off again.

Best Sunday Session ever.

Palm Tree is at 127 Grove Rd, London E3 5RP, United Kingdom.

Getting there: Emirates flies daily to both London Heathrow and Gatwick from Auckland via Dubai.