Strand-Trafalgar Square

13/10/2012 at 10:07 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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With Autumn closing in to end the summer of 2012, I took a crawl around the Strand and Trafalgar Square area of the West End on a rainy night in October.

We started out at the Savoy Tup, a small pub just off the Strand near Waterloo Bridge which has had a fairly recent facelift and sports a bright and welcoming interior. It being a Friday evening and raining outside, it was very busy inside with local workers (including one of my old colleagues) but the service was rapid. Fortunately there is also an upstairs bar which was much quieter, so we assembled upstairs with out pints of Pilgrim’s Progress.

Once we were all there, we headed out past the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy and past the entrance of the recently refurbished Savoy Hotel, to Carting Lane. This is home of the famous last remaining sewer lamp, which burnt off noxious gases from the nearby main sewer and gives this small street its nickname Farting Lane. Just at the top of the alley lies the Coal Hole, our second stop. The most popular choice of ale here was Wharfdale’s VPA, but sadly they could only squeeze one last pint out of that so we had various beers from the decent range on offer. While it’s a busy pub it’s also fairly large, so as well as being served efficiently we also found space to sit down up on the mezzanine level away.

After this we crossed over the Strand and into the narrow alleyway Bull Inn Court for the Nell Gwynne pub, the only pub I know which has managed to mis-spell its own name on its sign (it is shown as “Nell Gwyn” on the Strand sign)! This is a very small but popular pub, with a traditional interior with a reddish hue and a staircase to the loos which can compete with the Seven Stars for the title of dodgiest staircase to tackle while drinking.

From here we crossed back over the Strand and walked down to Embankment Gardens to see York Stairs, the last remnant of York House, which formerly occupied the area just east of what is now Charing Cross station, and the last survivor of the old stairs which used to line this part of the Thames shore before the construction of the Embankment left them over 50 metres from the new artificial river shore. From here we came up Villiers Street and below Charing Cross station to reach the Ship & Shovell, a pub of two halves either side of Craven Passage. As ever, the Badger beers slipped down nicely.

Moving westwards again, we passed through Great Scotland Yard – once the Scottish crown’s London residence and later the Metropolitan Police force’s first head office – to the Clarence, on the corner of Whitehall. This is a Geronimo Inns pub and was very busy when we visited, although again we were quite lucky and managed to get  a table. There is a good range of well kept ales on the bar.

Almost next door, a few steps closer to Trafalgar Square, lies the Old Shades. This is a narrow pub at the front but goes back a long way, and has a gorgeous bar. It is aiming towards the top of the market with good food but is certainly still a pub where drinkers are welcome. Several ales were on the bar, and there is also a large selection of beers from the Belgian brewer Palm. This was somewhat quieter than the Clarence, with the feel more of a members’ club (or at least how I imagine one to be) than a Friday night pub. The food looks excellent, if a little pricier than average, though I have yet to try it.

Moving on, we passed the Silver Cross and turned the corner into Craig’s Court for Walkers of Whitehall, heading immediately downstairs to the bottom level where there is a very attractive underground bar on the lowest of the three levels. This started life in 1694 as an Irish bank, and the lowest level occupies what were once the bank vaults.

As Walkers closed for the night we made one more stop, heading just past Trafalgar Square to the Two Chairmen, a small traditional pub tucked just off the main road. Over pints of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord we set to work on the Look for Longer tube station picture quiz – we manages 44 stations over that beer (although we got a lot more collectively the next day!)

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