Marylebone and Maida Vale

17/08/2013 at 13:46 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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We returned to the Marylebone area in August 2013, for a crawl by Rich along the north-western periphery of zone 1.

Close to Baker Street station, we assembled at the Volunteer, a few doors up from the Sherlock Holmes museum and within sight of Regent’s Park. The pub has been refurbished and now sells itself as a speciality beer pub, although of the promised four cask ales, only two were on offer. Although a black IPA was unusual and tempting, for the start of a long evening we plumped for the slightly lower strength Doom Bar. Not sure whether the beer has changed or it’s something about this pub, but it felt quite heavy and I wasn’t overly impressed with it.

Anyway, moving on now to the Swan & Edgar, a very small backstreet pub towards Marylebone station. Although small, it has huge potential to be a wonderful little pub, but sadly it was let down by its beer range, if you can call it that, of just Becks Vier or Asahi. Seriously, that was it, without even any bottled beers. What a shame, give me the keys to the place and I’d turn it into London’s finest micropub.

Leaving the Swan & Edgar, we walked down Balcombe Street, scene of the famous 1975 siege, and through Dorset Square, site of the original Lord’s cricket ground, built in the rural fields of Marylebone by Thomas Lord for Islington’s White Conduit cricket club, which became the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). The first match played here was White Conduit v Middlesex in May 1787, with Middlesex playing Essex a few days later for a prize of 200 guineas.

Passing by the front of Marylebone station, possibly London’s most charming terminus, we crossed over to the Perseverance in Shroton Street. Just a couple of beers on offer, Doom Bar (again) and Harvey’s Best, which most of us opted for. And what a good choice, whether it was the disappointment of the previous drinks or whether it was genuinely well kept, the Best slipped down very nicely indeed. And top marks to the friendly barman and his home-cooked crisps, which were made on the premises and were excellent.

LordsFrom here we had a longish walk north along Lisson Grove, where there is a temporary departure from the genteel affluence of Marylebone. We paused to take pictures of the plaque marking the second, short-lived Lord’s cricket ground; as we did so some youths emerging from the estate behind suddenly scarpered back into the estate as a police van arrived, so we moved swiftly on, and were very soon  back in plush surroundings, dipping our toes slightly into St John’s Wood. This brought us, not coincidentally, to the Lord’s Tavern, famous pub in the corner of the “new” (since 1814) Lord’s cricket ground. It’s a nice pub, recently refurbished, and is accessible from the street as well as from inside the ground on matchdays. Its outside terrace to the front was quite busy, although it was surprisingly quiet inside, and we had the interior terrace (overlooking the back of the ground) pretty much to ourselves. Nice ales were on offer, most of us going for Thrashers’s. Cricket was showing on TV, and cricket fans would appreciate the wallpaper inside the pub, which comprises copies of numerous interesting historical objects from the Lord’s collection.

There followed another slightly longish walk west to the next pub, taking us from St Johns Wood into Maida Vale, but the destination was well worth it. The Warrington was originally built in 1857 as a plush hotel, and remains stunning, with many beautiful Victorian features preserved today. It lies on the corner of Randolph Crescent, a haunt in Victorian times of high-class ladies of the night, and apparently the origin of the word “randy”. Importantly the beer was good too, including Westerham’s Summer Perle, which was top notch.

A pleasant (if slightly roundabout) walk brought us next to the Truscott Arms. The Truscott was fairly busy but we still got a table, from which to enjoy some interesting beer; I had the local Moncada brewery’s Notting Hill Summer, which seemed appropriate and was very nice, while others enjoyed a summer seasonal beer from Truman’s.

We were thwarted at the next target, the Warwick Castle, as last orders had been called before we arrived. No matter, we were just a couple of minutes from Little Venice’s Bridge House, a very pleasant pub just across the Regent’s Canal, serving well kept ales including Landlord and Windsor & Eton’s Knights of the Garter. After much debate about whether we were still in zone 1 (no) and the names of Australian cheeses, we got down to the serious business of voting for the Pub of the Crawl.

There were some strong candidates tonight but prestigious Pub of the Crawl prize was eventually awarded to the Warrington. Congratulations!

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Tower Gateway-Aldgate

10/08/2013 at 13:49 | Posted in Crawls | 2 Comments
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For July 2013, it was my turn to lead, and as with Dimo last month, I targetted the City Fringe, this time around Tower Gateway / Aldgate.

The meeting point was virtually underneath Fenchurch Street station at the Crutched Friar, on the street of the same name, itself named after a 12th century Catholic order which settled in the street in 1249. The pub has a surprising entrance, enclosed but with the feel of entering a yard, with comfortable areas off to each side.  Despite its central location, it wasn’t too busy, with quick service and several ales on offer, although one of the milds wasn’t to anyone’s taste.

Heading east, we began our movement away from the City, stopping first at the Three Lords. This has recently been pleasantly modernised by Youngs and has the look of the new generation of craft ale pubs, but without the large range of beers, and also, surprisingly for its location, without very many customers. The beers we did have were perfectly respectable if not from a stellar range (standard Youngs / Wells range).

Heading south along the Minories now, we came to to Ibex House, built in the late 1930s in the modernist Art Deco style, it was rumoured to have been earmarked by the Gestapo as a London headquarters in the event of an occupation of the UK. Tucked in its corner is the Peacock, a comfortable split-level pub, with the feel of a normal neighbourhood pub rather than a City watering hole. Limited selection of ales but what they had (Hackney Best) was good.

From the Peacock we headed east and across the City boundary to Tower Hamlets and the East End. Along Prescot Street we soon came to the Princess of Prussia, a Shepherd Neame pub with a very narrow frontage but which is quite deep and surprisingly houses a beer garden to the rear. The standard Sheps beers were available, the staff were friendly and there was plenty of room inside to sit down. For future reference the food appears to be very good value for so central a location but we didn’t stop to sample it.

Eastward again after this to the site of the famous Battle of Cable Street in 1936, where a planned march by the British Union of Fascists was prevented from entering the East End and forced back down Royal Mint Street.

Very close by lies Wilton’s Music Hall and its Mahogany Bar. This wonderful Grade II* listed building was built as a pub around 1743 but since underwent several transformations, most famously to a music hall in the mid-19th century, when it played host to famous music hall names including the original Champagne Charlie. After a long period as a church and then lying derelict, it was slated for demolition but was saved this fate by a campaign including figures such as Sir John Betjeman, Peter Sellars and Spike Milligan. In recent years the building has been undergoing structural repairs which have saved the fabric of the building while retaining its ‘shabby chic’ appearance. Although the main auditorium is generaly closed (except for perfomances), you may recognise the interior from one of its many appearances on screen, in films including Sherlock Holmes, Interview with a Vampire, Dorian Gray, Chaplin, and music videos including Annie Lennox’s No More I Love Yous, and the original banned videos for Duran Duran’s Girls on Film, and Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (neither of those are safe for work!).

Getting back onto the subject of beer, its Mahogany Bar is a wonderful addition to the music hall which has been doing great business of late. While they have some good bottles (including Kernel) its draught offer is a little short, but there’s always a couple on. Well, except sadly on this occasion, when the Trumans Runner ran out after a single pint, and most of us had to settle for a keg beer (which admittedly was Meantime so pretty good, but we do always try for real ales when we can). But despite this small disappointment, I still love the place!

Wilton's

Beginning to move back towards the tube now, we headed up Leman Street to the Oliver Conquest. This was very nice and wasn’t too busy, and we were able to bag a couple of sofas to enjoy a few quickfire rounds with the pub’s box of Trivial Pursuit!

We would have gone to the White Swan next but it was already closed, although this may have been a blessing in disguise going by the experiences of a couple of our number. Instead we went to the late-closing Duke of Somerset for a final one. This is rather large and barn-like, and at this stage of the evening was home to the last hangers-on from an office party, trying to dance to the very loud music on the small dance floor. Luckily we could escape to the beer garden and enjoy our final pints in relative peace!

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