JUST like the Royal Oak in High Beech, the Royal Forest pub along Rangers Road from Chingford Station, is a monument to the speculation that the railway would be extended to the north east.

It is a truly massive place with a number of large bars, extensive beer gardens and children's play areas (one of which is inside the building).

And it looks as though the place is sometimes full, judging by the notices ready for use that ask customers to queue until a place becomes available in the bar.

So what do all these people come for?

It's probably not the beer, although the only real ale on sale, Flowers Original, was pumped up in perfectly good condition.

I doubt if it is the food. I had my third worst pub meal ever in this place about four years ago and, although things have doubtlessly improved, I doubt the current menu would entice you for a gourmet night out.

It could be for the architectural splendour. This is a Victorian take on a Tudor building enhanced with sumptuous curtains, interesting stained glass, solid furniture and some (very few) interesting painted wooden panels with information about the forest. It's a bit of a let down that next door is the genuine article, the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge, one of the most important Tudor buildings in the country.

Instead, I think it is the way the place caters for children. There's a Charlie Chalks play area, which I was unable to inspect thoroughly because no over-elevens are allowed. You can't even get in if you are over 4ft 1in high, but the idea is that you can slot your little darling in for an hour at £2 a go.

But don't think that you just can slope off to the bar and get plastered. A notice proclaims that parents must maintain supervision at all times.

Near the play area is an array of novelty slot machines, which add to the general seaside effect.

So, in what must be an unusual situation, protesting adults are dragged along to the Royal Forest by children who want to play on the wizard attractions in Charlie Chalks and afterwards eat cheap meals from the kids' menu, the Main Munch, in which at least three of the nine feeding opportunities don't feature chips and where you get free crayons if you clean up your plate.

Just in case the food, the slot machines, and the Charlie Chalks leave you short of money, the management have thoughtfully installed a cash machine in one of the bars.

As a postscript, I have to share some information I gleaned from the bar staff. Apparently the prices on the tills are controlled directly from the head office. On one occasion at least, this particular barman says, prices have changed mid-round. So if you are drinking with a group, it's best to get your round in first at the Royal Forest.