Leadenhall pub crawl

26/11/2019 at 22:21 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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On a chilly November evening Dave led us around some thankfully well heated pubs in the City.

We met in Aldgate at The Old Tea Warehouse which is tucked away off Creechurch Lane.  The sign for the darts club in the basement was a useful marker.  We limited our sporting activities to what was on offer at the bar, and service was quick even for a busy Friday evening.  A couple of the guest ales were off leaving the usual Greene King choices plus Old Tea Clipper ale, a reasonable bitter.  The second bar can be accessed by a short subterranean passage.  The serving area there is smaller but we found more space to stand.  The pub also has a courtyard and the heaters were clearly doing a good job as plenty of people were standing outside.

East India Arms.jpgNext we walked south to the East India Arms a small corner pub on Fenchurch Street which has been there since 1829.  It offered the usual Shepherd Neame beers in a lovely old fashioned bar.  It also keeps to the old City tradition of closing at 9pm.  For a pub of its size there was plenty of room inside, plus drinkers could spill over on to the large pavement area outside.

A five minute walk along Fenchurch Street took to our next stop, The Swan Tavern, a Fullers pub sandwiched between two office buildings.  The ground floor bar is especially small; if it were any larger it would constrict the alleyway.  We took our drinks – London Pride, Olivers Island etc – to the larger upstairs room, which also has a its own bar.  Again for a Friday evening in a small-ish pub, space wasn’t a problem.  We remarked with approval that the floor was carpeted (and not sticky!), an uncommon feature in pubs today.  This led us to some inadvertent trivia that Wetherspoons’ several hundred outlets each have their own unique carpet.

Bunch of Grapes.jpgOn Lime Street we visited The Grapes as it says outside, or Bunch of Grapes according some internal decor and the pub sign.  Another distinctly old-fashioned corner pub with wood panelling and impressive lamps on the ceiling.  The beers available were reasonable if not particularly wide.  We tried to ignore the (muted) tv showing the leaders’ debates for the general election, to mixed success.

From here we headed into Leadenhall Market and a very short walk to Crafty Fellas, a recent arrival trading out of premises still signed as ‘We Grill’.  As the name suggests they have an excellent range of craft beer, on tap and in the fridge, including several tasty non-alcoholic options.  We got a table to enjoy our drinks and a highlight was the 2.8% strength Table Beer which was delicious.  If there is a downside, it is the prices.  A round of six pints cost over £40.

New Moon2.jpgWe continued through the market – always a pleasant stroll but even nicer with the Christmas decorations – to the New Moon.  This Greene King pub had a wider than usual choices of beers, and offers a 10% discount on real ale for CAMRA members.  One of our group reminisced about the days when it was part pub, part Pizza Hut.  Happily it is now all pub, with a good-sized ground floor bar plus a cellar bar we didn’t explore.  The (unobtrusive) background music was mostly 90s and put a smile on our faces.

Our final pub was the Cock & Woolpack just off Cornhill.  It continued the theme of small pubs, though we had no difficulty securing a table.  It had standard Shepherd Neame fare at the bar, but contrasted to other pubs this evening with its lighter wood and cosier feel.  In an ‘off-piste’ moment we ascertained that non-alcoholic fruit cider is essentially overpriced fruit juice, and then reflected surely that was obvious.

Finally we came to the question of the pub of the crawl.  There were several strong contenders and after much debate, for its atmosphere and beer selection the vote went to New Moon.

Sloane Square to Battersea

20/10/2019 at 18:23 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In October 2019, Phil took us on our first cross-Thames crawl, from Sloane Square to Battersea.

We met at the Antelope, close to Sloane Square station, just across the boundary from Chelsea in Belgravia, as pub lies just across the River Westbourne, which now passes above the platforms at Sloane Square within a pipe. The Antelope is a classic Fuller’s pub, and its only problem is that it’s so popular that it’s often rather crowded, as it was when we met.

We soon headed off, following the Westbourne to the Orange, overlooking Orange Square (named after the House of Orange) and its statue of Mozart. The Orange was a brewpub once upon a time, but is now a very pleasant gastropub, the drinking area at the front is quite small and was already busy with a Friday night crowd when we were there.  Some of us had the N1 which was remarkably fresh tasting.

On leaving, we soon passed the church of St Barnabas, site of riots in the mid-19th Century and the ‘Popery in Pimlico‘ scandal, 200 years after the birth of William of Orange anti-Catholic feelings were still festering. At the end of the street came to the Rising Sun, a large and bright Young’s pub, with friendly barman.  The whole the pub was lacking atmosphere at the time of our visit with its bright lights and only one hand pump, the ale from which was past its best.

A short walk brought us past the last remnants of the Grosvenor Canal, which once brought barges as far as Victoria Street until Victoria railway station was built on top of the most of the canal, the basin area was quiet in stark contract to its history.  First a waterworks up to around 1850, drawing drinking water for London by the late 1800s the dirty tidal canal stood on top of a sewer and a pumping house was built, this is now awkwardly situated disused and behind the modern buildings flanking the canal.

crawl Battersea (3) We crossed Chelsea Bridge, making this the first of our crawls to cross the Thames.  The original bridge, when it opened in 1850 was named Victoria Bridge but it was soon deemed inappropriate that a doomed bridge likely to collapse should carry a royal name.  The well lit replacement was the first self supporting suspension bridge of its kind in the UK.  To the east of this the Grosvenor Bridge was the first ever railway bridge to cross the Thames and it was underneath the approaching viaduct we were heading next.

We descended in a rather small and gloomy lift to the Thames Path – the stairs being closed for construction – and passed under the railway into the environs of Battersea Power Station, now a substantial way through its rebuild and with the first buildings hugging the western side complete. They have done a nice job of bringing the railway arches back into use, and one of them houses the Battersea Brewery, and another next door is its bar and taproom. This was very nicely done, with a wide range of beers as well, of course, as their own.  Most of the house beers are keg beers but there were also 2 hand pumps on offer.

crawl Battersea (7).jpg

Battersea Brewery

Around the corner we stopped at Wright Bros, which is ostensibly an upmarket seafood restaurant but also has a bar and a range of beers at decent prices, and it has a lovely view to the river.

We then followed a temporary road through the building site around the Power Station to Nine Elms Lane, and to another new development slightly closer to Vauxhall, where the Nine Elms Tavern lies at the riverside end of a large new apartment building. The pub has been fitted out well and was doing a decent trade even quite late on the Friday night.  For an area devoid of culture, including the US embassy, this bar was a welcome surprise.

This brought us to the end of the crawl; after a short vote, the Battersea Brewery was unanimously voted Pub of the Crawl. Congratulations!

Chancery Lane

27/07/2019 at 16:12 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In July 2019, Tony took a short crawl around Chancery Lane.

We met at the Inn of Court, a Fuller’s pub on Holborn, a stone’s throw from Chancery Lane station on the City of London’s western edge. It’s a newish pub but decorated classically, with the classic range of Fuller’s beers, and takes its name from the legal institutions based in the area; the pub itself was once a bailiff’s office. Staples Inn, a few doors to the west and straddling the City boundary, has London’s last remaining domestic 16th century facade, and used to feature on the packets of Old Holborn tobacco, which was originally produced in an alley of Holborn.

A short walk down Furnival Street brought us to 26 Furnival Street, previously the Castle until the building was redeveloped and the pub was reborn a few months ago. Although only a few months old, and in a building dating back to 1901, there’s been a pub here since 1541. The newest incarnation is as small as its predecessor but very nicely decorated and with a good range of beers for a cosy venue.

pub crawl July 2019 (4) Draft HouseAt the end of the street lies the Draft House, another recent opening, a new pub in the ground floor of a new office development. While 26 Furnival Street retains the small corner pub footprint of its predecessor, the Draft House is huge, with a large terrace area it spills out into, and a wide range of draught cask, keg and bottled beers (and tanked Pilsner Urquell). It sits on the site of the Swan & Sugarloaf, destroyed by a bomb in 1941, but unlike its predecessor the Draft House beers are kept in perfect condition.

pub crawl July 2019 (2)Back across Holborn now, and another pub below an office development, the Sir Christoper Hatton, named after a 16th century politician and courtier of Elizabeth I. The large Nicholson’s pub has a decent range of beers and a large outside area, useful on warm summer evenings.

pub crawl July 2019 (7) Argyle.jpgA short step along Leather Lane lies the Argyle, a modern pub built into the corner of a residential building, which doesn’t exactly have kerb appeal; but that’s a failure of a 1970s architect rather than the pub management, who’ve done a great job on the inside, and indeed on the outside terrace on the 1st floor. We had a friendly welcome and enjoyed standing outside on the terrace on a warm evening watching the street below.

Around the corner lies Hatton Garden, London’s jewellery district also named after Sir Christopher Hatton, and at the corner of Greville Street lies the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit, which was famously robbed in 2015.

Hidden just off Hatton Garden is Ely Court, the tiny alleyway which is home of the Ye Olde Mitre, one of London’s unique and historic pubs. Dating from 1546, the pub lies on land which was formerly part of the Bishop of Ely’s palace and as such was officially in Ely, Cambridgeshire, rather than London.

pub crawl July 2019 (22) Draft House.jpgCrossing over the Fleet Valley into Smithfield, we came to the final pub of the night, a second Draft House, in an interesting location overlooking Smithfield market, but painfully loud music which pushed all the customers into the street. But the beer selection draught and bottled, was excellent, and lubricated our pavement deliberations of Pub of the Crawl.

Although the Olde Mitre can’t be beaten for history, or the Draft House for range, we plumped for the Argyle, which gave us a friendly welcome, good beers, and a surprisingly well appointed roof terrace on which to enjoy our drinks. Congratulations!

Vauxhall – Kennington – Waterloo

15/06/2019 at 16:03 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In June 2019 Dimo took us for a walk from Vauxhall to Waterloo via Kennington, in London’s sunny southern side.

mi6-007.jpgWe met at Mother Kelly’s, a relatively new offshoot of the Bethnal Green craft beer house, also located in a railway arch but somewhat larger than the original, and a very convenient meeting point, with tables with a view of MI6 headquarters across the street. They certainly serve a wide range of draught drinks, with 24 beers on tap at the time of our visit, as well as draught cider, wine and even Martini – which is presumably handy if James Bond nips across the road from his office for a swift one!

A short walk to the east took us close to the Oval’s famous gasholder and the Pilgrim, a busy modern pub with a large outdoor area; last time we came here on a crawl it was being refurbished, so nice to come back with it in all its modern glory!

A short walk across Kennington Lane brought us to the Duchy Arms, a backstreet pub which has had a recent modest refresh. It is fairly small inside, but has a surprisingly large outdoors drinking area on its former car park.

pub crawl Oxymoron SE11 (3).jpgOur next call was also a smallish backstreet pub, the Oxymoron, but this one blew me away; the quirky décor was apparent before even stepping inside, and continued throughout the pub, with every surface having something resting on it, stuck on it, or hanging from it. Although there were no cask ales, the keg and bottle selection was small but with some good quality (e.g. various Kernels in the fridge), and more importantly were served by a friendly and welcoming landlord. The pub boasts not only a lovely pub dog but also a pub crow, who was taken for a walk around the pub while we were there.

Closer now to Lambeth North, we called next at the Tankard, part of the Draft House chain, so whether it will stay branded as it is for long now that it’s part of the BrewDog empire I don’t know. But for now at least it retains an extensive range of beers from across the UK and beyond, including the largest range of alcohol-free beers I’ve ever seen in a pub.

Continuing on towards Waterloo, we came to the Duke of Sussex, a smart, modernised pub which has benefitted from having a very large terrace area to the front; inside the beer fridges are up high behind the bar, which I thought was a great innovation to allow customers to see the full range of bottles and cans without having to lean over the bar and peer between the bar staff’s legs.

Waterloo Tap.jpgThe final stop was just the other side of Waterloo station, the Waterloo Tap, tucked under an arch close to the South Bank and sister pub of the well known Euston Tap (and a few others). It’s quite small but manages to pack in 20 taps of excellent beer, plus a few in the fridge.

Time was getting on by this point so this was the end of the road. After a short discussion, the Oxymoron won the Pub of the Crawl hands-down, congratulations!



30/03/2019 at 13:31 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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At the end of March 2019 we headed to the Paddington area, led by Paul.

We met at the lovely Victoria near Lancaster Gate, a small but perfectly formed late Victorian pub, with the usual Fuller’s fare on the bar, a classic Victorian interior, a delightful library-like room upstairs, and plenty of room outside, which we took advantage of as the weather was kind to us.

From here we headed the short distance to the Duke of Kendal, another smallish Victorian pub but a little more worn and less ornate than the Victoria, and with a more limited range of drinks. Pictures on the wall show Jack Black and Dick Van Dyke visiting the pub – I wonder if Tony Blair ever calls into his local?

Anyway, across Edgware Road now, once a Roman road but now distinctly the main commercial centre of Arab London, to the Duke of York, a small Victorian corner pub, modernised since our last visit in 2014 now with a better selection of beers for its size, which we enjoyed at an outside table.

Just around the corner lies the Lord Wargrave, another Victorian pub which has been beautifully restored, with a wide range of interesting beers and whiskies, and quality food with an emphasis on smoked meat.

Back across the Edgware Road again now to the Royal Exchange, a traditional place, a bit of a throwback to the 1990s – no frills but well-kept beers, a loud jukebox and a very friendly welcome (and goodbye) from the landlord.

Brewdog PaddingtonJust a couple of minutes away and we entered a very different environment, in the form of Paddington Basin, a new district which has risen on the site of the former industrial area around the canal basin. Within this is BrewDog‘s latest London site, opened only two weeks ago in a former Draft House, with about 20 BrewDog beers on draught, from the 0.5% Nanny State up to strong specialist beers (but no cask ale).

Nearby was the final call of the evening, the curiously named Heist Bank, a very modern craft beer and pizza joint, all straight lines, concrete and tiles, doing a very brisk trade despite some pretty high prices; no cask ale here either but a number of different keg ales.

So, our walk took us from classic stucco west London, through the Arabic Edgware Road, and ended in the modernist Paddington Basin development – a very varied range of environments within just a few minutes walk.

After a short discussion we agreed that the Pub of the Crawl should be the Lord Wargrave. Congratulations!

City & East End

28/01/2019 at 07:24 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On a chilly January evening in 2019, Artie kicked off the year with a crawl from the heart of the City into the East End.

We met at the newish Crafty Fellas in Leadenhall Market, which has taken over a unit tucked away in the market’s side alleys, bringing the pared-back industrial craft beer vibe to unusual City surroundings. They have a wide range of craft beers on draught or bottle, and space to drink inside or out (but still under cover), though the crowd was rather thin on our visit.

A few minutes’ walk brought us to the Craft Beer Co., where a large range of craft beers was again on offer, as the name would suggest. We had a range of beers here, including a decent alcohol-free wheat beer from Rothaus, meaning Dry January, should you be trying it, need not keep you out not the pub.

Pitt Cue (3).jpgHeading north to Devonshire Square, we headed into Pitt Cue, a fancy restaurant I’d never have thought of venturing into for a beer, but it turns out that it hosts the Alpha Beta brewery – possibly the only current brewery in the City? – and a stylish bar, with their own and guest beers. Drinkers very welcome, though you’ll leave hungry after the smell of the meat being cooked for the happy-looking diners.

Wentworth street (2).jpgCrossing out of the City and into the East End, the change from glossy skyscrapers to shabby East End is pretty stark, even though it’s not quite as shabby as it was when the Pet Shop Boys used Wentworth Street as their East End location in the video for West End Girls; a century earlier these streets were haunted by Jack the Ripper, as the numerour walking groups can attest. But our next port of call was the Culpeper, an ever-busy (or so it seems) lively pub with a gastro feel, though at least on a Friday evening it seems to be filled with contented drinkers rather than diners.

Around the corner on Brick Lane lies the Kill the Cat bottle shop, which has a small number of taps and a large bank of bottled beers to choose from, though be warned, the prices are high – admittedly, these are unusual beers which are doubtless not to cheap or easy to source, but do check prices before you buy, you could be ordering something rather more expensive than your usual!

Backtracking now slightly to Whitechapel Road, we heading a little further East, to Indo on the Whitechapel Road. This is a small pub which seems always to be busy, with a lively slightly punkish atmosphere, and a mix of traditional (e.g. very well kept Harvey’s Best) and more crafty beers.

Continuing along the Whitechapel Road we passed the building on the corner of Fulbourne Street where Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky met for the 1907 Bolshevik conference, the shop at no. 259 that was one the home of Joseph Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man, and the Blind Beggar, where Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornell in 1966. But we had time for just one more pub, so we continued across the road to the White Hart. This large and popular corner pub is home of the One Mile End brewery, the pub obviously sticks a wide range of their own excellent beers as well as a number of others, but their own Jazz Police was the pick of the evening, a very tasty cloudy 6% IPA.

So finally to the Pub of the Crawl. After much debate, including arguments about points of order and meaningful amendments (as inspired by the behaviour of the current crop of incompetents at Westminster) a motion was eventually passed – congratulations to the White Hart!

St Paul’s to Cannon Street

02/12/2018 at 11:36 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In November 2018, Dave took us for a walk from St Paul’s to Cannon Street.

We met at The Paternoster, a modern Youngs pub close to St Paul’s with plenty of space, even managing to bag a table on a Friday evening.  It also offers a wider than average selection of ales.  The Truman Zephyr seemed a little below that brewery’s average but still a decent beer.

st pauls.jpgA stroll around St Paul’s cathedral and along a pleasantly illuminated Watling Street took us to Williamson’s Tavern, tucked away on Groveland Court.  This Nicholson’s pub has two bars and is laid out in a L-shape.  The first bar as we entered was the smaller of the two, with more space and seating available in the back.  The pub was rebuilt in the 1930s and certainly has the feel of that period.  Long before that it was originally the residence of the Lord Mayor of London.

We moved on to the Three Cranes, now accurately billed as a ‘cosy gastro pub’ and previously the Hatchet when we visited in July 2014.  It has two small rooms and a small but nice selection of keg beer.

A very short walk took us to another Nicholson’s pub, The Sugar Loaf, the name apparently referring to something which was used as currency in years gone by.  Inside the pub has dark wood panelling and ample space as well as Nicholson’s usual wide selection of real ales with a bias towards St Austell.

brigadiersOur next stop was not a pub in the traditional sense but the remarkable bar in the back of the Brigadiers Indian restaurant.  Quite unexpectedly (at least if you didn’t know) it offered 10 craft ales in opulent surroundings, and was welcoming of non-dining drinkers. We particularly enjoyed Magic Rock’s Revelstoke IPA, a lovely session ale.  Inspired by Indian army officers’ mess, the dark wood and red wallpaper create an intimate rather than overpowering atmosphere.  We didn’t eat though the restaurant was full and the food smelled good, albeit judging by the beer prices – around £5 to £6 for two-thirds of a pint – we assume it is not cheap.  Perhaps appropriately it is located in the new Bloomberg buildings which reportedly cost close to £1 billion.

canning tappsMoving on we passed a sculpture to mark the location of the Walbrook river, now underground, with water flowing over what look like tree roots.  A matching sculpture is located at the other end of Bloomberg Arcade which was the way we headed to our next pub, the Cannick Tapps.  This Cask Marque pub had several hand pumps as well as craft beers on tap.  Its location below street level almost underneath an All Bar One may have undeservedly starved it of customers, although on a visit earlier in the week it had been full for a lively pub quiz.

Our final stop was meant to be The Bell on Bush Lane, a small traditional pub, but we arrived just as it was closing up at 10pm.  A quick change of plan and we moved to the Pelt Trader a modern craft beer pub, and the starting point for our July 2014 crawl referred to above.  Still a favourite with the group it was a close second for pub of the crawl, with honours going to Brigadiers.

Tottenham Court Road (north)

29/09/2018 at 18:45 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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We returned to the Tottenham Court Road area for a crawl in September 2018, led by Phil.

We met up at the Northumberland Arms, on Tottenham Court Road itself but close to Warren Street station. This is a smallish pub with a small bar, but service was fast and friendly, with a small range of decent ales (e.g. Purity’s Mad Goose & Ubu). We were able to drink in the small outside drinking area, which was pretty pleasant despite the fairly close proximity of the evening traffic passing by.

Once assembled we headed all of 70 metres to the next pub down Tottenham Court Road, the Court. This had a much longer bar, on which were a slimmed down cask selection (seemingly normally a wider range, but reduced on our visit to Doom Bar and Pride), and behind which operated one of the slowest barmen in London. We stood inside (there is outside seating, but it was pretty full). The bar was pretty busy, with a rapid succession of people coming and going.

Bada Bing

Soon enough it was time for us to move on too, and we crossed into the environs of University College London, one of London’s largest universities, and the Jeremy Bentham, now branded a Simmons Bar. The old sign remains though, showing the famous philosopher and reformer after whom the pub was named, and whose body now lies in nearby UCL. Inside, the pub is aimed squarely at the affluent student, with loud DJ music and no cask ales (though the kegs were at least decent Meantime offerings). The interior though is nicely done, and we particularly liked the neon signs (Top of the Pops, and the Sopranos’ Bada Bing!), but it was definitely one to stand outside rather than in, being about double the age of everyone else in attendance!

We passed next the plaque marking the efforts of Richard Trevithick in developing the steam engine, and paused to look at the Eisenhower Centre. This rather brutal structure, defacing what is otherwise a lovely crescent, is a pillbox sitting atop the deep level shelter which was built during World War 2, which had been intended to form part of an express Northern line for London Underground, but was used as a shelter and headquarters for General Eisenhower, Commander of the US Army.


Close by lies the College Arms, on Store Street. Last time I was here this was a fairly run of the mill place, fairly old fashioned, but it’s since been refurbished and opened up, with lots of fresh air and light from the street. The bar’s small but had a couple of ales on, one standard (Doom Bar) and a more interesting Ringwood Razor Back. They also get brownie points for having a couple of decent alcohol-free beers (Erdinger and Nanny State).


For the final stop of the night we headed to a pub we’ve visited before, but knew had been refurbished since, the Newman Arms. This sits alongside a narrow passage, which older readers may remember for its bent lamppost, which Arthur and Terry pretended to hold up in the Minder titles, now sadly gone. The pub’s got a much more modern look, with Truman’s beers on the bar. The downstairs room looks particularly cosy, and the place was doing good business at the time of our visit.

Finally, the matter of Pub of the Crawl. After some protracted discussions on recent crawls, this evening we had a very fast unanimous decision (albeit reached as people were leaving, so perhaps weren’t in a mood to debate!)… congratulations to the College Arms!

Charing Cross Road

04/08/2018 at 15:24 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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On a hot evening in August 2018, Tim took us back to Tottenham Court Road, only this time we headed south down Charing Cross Road.

We started out at the Royal George, conveniently close to Tottenham Court Road station, just just down a side street. I’ve seen it many times but never been in; it’s fair to say the building lacks kerb appeal and has in recent years borne the brunt of being next door to the extensive Crossrail construction site, but it was in fact pretty pleasant inside, plenty of light and fresh air coming in, and a small but decent range of beer on the bar. In the fridge they even had Big Drop Brewing’s Pale Ale and Stout; these are decent craft low alcohol beers, and went down well to start with on a hot evening – I must be getting responsible in my old age! Fear not, there is also a good range of cask, keg and bottled beers too, and sometimes a tap takeover.

Soho crawl (3).jpgSo, once assembled, we came back out past the construction site, where once the Astoria stood, and before that the Crosse & Blackwell building, and headed into Charing Cross Road proper. We paused at the entrance to the old St Martin’s College of Art, where Jarvis Cocker famously met a girl from Greece in the iconic Britpop anthem Common People, and continued into the Montagu Pike. Originally a Moon Under Water when I first frequented it in the 90s, this Wetherspoons was formerly a cinema, and then a home for the Marquee Club. The original Marquee a few streets away played host to a Who’s Who of late 20th Century music, and this venue was opened by Kiss.

After a quick round here we left the morning drinkers’ favourite and headed out the back exit to Greek Street, named after a 1677 Greek church (now long gone), and described by a police inspector in 1906 as “the worst street in the West End of London, some of the vilest reptiles in London live there or frequent it”. By the 60s it was at the heart of London’s creative quarter, and just next to the Montagu Pike was Peter Cook’s Establishment Club, a ground-breaking satirical comedy venue.

Soho crawl Old Compton St (2)Where Greek Street meets Old Compton Street sits the Three Greyhounds, its name harking back to the days when Soho was a rural hunting ground. This is a fairly small Nicholson’s pub, but has plenty of room for al-fresco drinking outside, where you can watch the crowds wandering past, together with the traffic that the City of Westminster inexplicably insists on allowing to dominate the thronged streets of Soho.

Soho crawl Spice of Life (4)A few doors down the street lies the Spice of Life, Hertfordshire brewer McMullans’s London outlet, which has been very nicely modernised and has a wide range of their ales on the bar, and a large area of street outside to stand and drink while the sun goes down. The pub was originally called the George, first opening in 1686, though the current building is late Victorian.

Directly across from the Spice of Life lies another venerable pub, the Cambridge, first opened as the King’s Arms in 1744, but was again last rebuilt by the Victorians. This is another Nicholson’s pub, pretty small inside but retaining a lot of character, not least with its highly decorative ceiling. Some good ales on, and as all Nicholsons pubs, St Peter’s Without in the fridge for those looking to pace themselves – particularly handy during this heatwave, it was hot out there!

Across the street we paused outside 84 Charing Cross Road, site of the famous bookshop recalled in Helene Hanff’s wonderful book chronicling her correspondence with shop worker Frank Doel, now part of McDonald’s. Well worth picking up the book if you haven’t read it – used copies are available from just 1p on Amazon, or better still pick one up from a real book shop, ideally one of the few remaining ones on Charing Cross Road!

Brewdog (1).jpgAfter a few minutes admiring the architecture of Cambridge Circus, especially the lovely facade of the Palace Theatre, which is easy to miss if rushing through as I normally am, we headed to the newest pub in the area (at the time of writing!), a new branch of the BrewDog empire. Although it was inevitably pretty busy with tourists, and may therefore not be the fastest place to get served if the people in front of you have no idea what to order, the range of beers was extensive (over 20 on draft), and the live version of Dead Pony Club, which I hadn’t had before, was excellent. While BrewDog focusses on keg beers, the live Dead Pony is very close to a real ale and well worth trying. It’s a big venue and there was plenty of room even late on on a Friday despite its central location.

And so to the final business of the evening; after a short vote, the BrewDog Seven Dials was voted the Pub of the Crawl. Congratulations!

Tottenham Court Road area

04/07/2018 at 19:54 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

At the end of June 2018 I took a crawl around the Tottenham Court Road area.

We met up across the street from the eponymous tube station in the Flying Horse, which was still the Tottenham the last time I visited (and what a better name that is!). Readers of the excellent Cormoran Strike novels by JK Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) will remember the Tottenham as Strike’s local, where he could often be found supping a Doom Bar. That beer is no longer available at the rechristened Flying Horse, but several well kept beers were, and the pub remains a very attractive one, with a lovely Victorian interior yet warm light coming in from the large front windows, and with fast service even after work on a Friday despite its central location. Incredibly, it is the last remaining pub on Oxford Street, London’s High Street; perhaps the shift towards online retail will at least diversify the offer on Oxford Street and other pubs will re-emerge.

Flying Horse.jpgFrom here we did a quick circular walk to look at the top of Charing Cross Road – known as London’t traditional home of bookshops, and of the wonderful collection of letters between Helene Hanff and Frank Doel captured in 84 Charing Cross Road – and into Denmark Street, traditional centre of London’s music scene. Still home to a number of musical instrument shops, it was once lined with musical publishers and recording studios, with connections to countless major stars of the 60s and 70, including the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Elton John, David Bowie and the Sex Pistols. It was also home of the Job Centre where serial killer Dennis Nielsen worked, while in the fictional world it is the home and office of the aforementioned Cormoran Strike.

Back at Tottenham Court Road, we paused at the crossroads, once site of a gallows and resting place of murderer John Duke, who was buried here with a stake through his body, and the site of the 1814 London Beer Flood, in which nearly one and a half million litres of beer burst from the Meux brewery – part of the site of which is now the Dominion Theatre – demolishing two houses, one pub, and killing eight people, but causing others to rush to the site to scoop up free beer from the gutters in whatever they could lay their hands on.

Continuing the book theme, we popped into Waterstone’s bookshop, which has a hidden bar in the basement, where a quiet drink can be enjoyed, surrounded by books; who says we’re uncultured?!  Worth popping in to enjoy a drink, and buy a book while you’re there – the death of bookshops would be a very sad thing indeed.

crawl Spanish (1)Around the corner lies Hanway Street, which has a number of independent businesses surviving, reminiscent of its past as a jumble of Spanish, Italian, Greek and other businesses. One survivor of the 60s is Bradley’s Spanish Bar, a rare Spanish pub in London, which we stopped at next. It has some Spanish beers on draught (Estrella Damm, Mahou) and some more in the fridge, but no real ales; however the Budvar proved very refreshing on a warm night. It’s very small inside, and would be very cosy in winter and there was some Motörhead playing on the classic jukebox, but given the summer heat we joined most people in the street outside.

Across Oxford Street into Soho next, and through Soho Square, laid out in 1681 and containing a hut in the centre which was built to house an electrical sub-station in 1927 but appears to be much older, to the nearby Toucan. It’s a longstanding Irish pub with Guinness the speciality, as the name suggests, and Tayto crisps. Most people were outside in the street but we headed downstairs and got a table in the very small basement bar, complete with Guinness stools, in which Jimi Hendrix played before he was was famous.

Some very short strolls now, the first of which brought us across the street to the Nellie Dean, which has stood on this corner since 1748 and is currently selling a decent range of ales (and pies!).

A short walk down Dean Street brought us to the Soho Theatre Bar, a venue I come to fairly regularly to catch a comedy show, which has a lively bar with a couple of cask ales and a wider range of kegs and bottles.

Back across the road and into St Anne’s Court we came to the blue plaque marking Trident Studios, where David Bowie recorded some of his most important hits including Life on Mars and Space Oddity. Down the alleyway opposite now to the final port of call, the Ship. This traditional Fullers pub was in full flow, with good music playing, good beers, and a lively crowd.

And so finally we came to debate the Pub of the Crawl. I think we set a record of how long it took to agree, so diverse were the options, but in the end a vote settled the winner as the Ship. Congratulations!

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