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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2 Comments »

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  1. Nice write-up. I work in Aldgate (for my sins), and that seems a reasonable summation of the local pubs. The Three Lords is an interesting one: before the recent makeover it was regularly rammed, and usually busy at lunchtimes; now it seems pretty deserted. Not sure Young’s have got that one right.

    • Hi Neil, thanks for the comments. Yes I would agree that Young’s seem to have misjudged that one. Hopefully it’ll settle down and they’ll make changes to bring some more life back.
      Cheers
      Tony


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