Oxford Circus Circular

30/11/2013 at 17:00 | Posted in Crawls | 2 Comments
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As the chill of winter returned in November 2013, we headed for the West End, with a crawl starting and ending at Oxford Circus.

We gathered in fits and starts at the Old Explorer, a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus. This busy Greene King pub was doing a swift trade with shoppers and workers, but we didn’t linger long, and once assembled we started heading east, across Portland Place and along the lively Eastcastle Street.

ChampionThe first stop was the Champion, on the corner of Wells Street. It’s a busy Sam Smiths pub, with, as usual, a wonderful interior. The stained glass windows depict an eclectic mix of subjects, all deemed to be champions in their field. Sadly there was no ale on offer, with only the keg version of Old Brewery. These we drank, just about, but they were very poor value despite the £2.90/pint price tag.

We moved a little further down Eastcastle Street to the next venue, the Blue Posts. There are several pubs of this name, the most likely explanation being that the blue posts which originally stood outside were markers for the hire of sedan chairs. Inside, we found another Sam Smiths pub, and were pleased to see handpumps in this one. Sadly, however, our beers came in plastic glasses (even though we were standing at the bar), and the beer was just as foul as at the previous pub. I managed about the top 2cm of mine and left the rest, not making the £2.90 seem like such a bargain. We’d all rather pay another £1 and get a drinkable guest ale, it’s a mystery why they sell such poor beer in such lovely buildings.

From here we headed north and east, through the alleyway past the Newman Arms, and over to the Wheatsheaf, a smallish pub with an alley alongside. Back in the 1930s it was a haunt of such characters as George Orwell and Dylan Thomas. They were doing a good trade, possibly helped by the England match on at the time, and fortunately had some decent ales on too.

The next stop was a pub with great bohemian heritage, the Fitzroy Tavern, another 1930s literary hangout. It’s a great pub inside and out, dominating its surroundings and large and well appointed inside. However, spotting that only Old Brewery was the only beer on offer – yes, we’d wandered into another Sam Smiths – we decided that after our earlier poor experiences, we would pass and move on.

And next up was the first pub which felt like a local pub, rather than a central London pub – the King & Queen. It was also a free house, and served the first interesting beer of the night, The World’s Biggest Liar by Jennings, a nice dark bitter – we normally tend to go for lighter styles but this was very good.

Beginning to head back to the west again, we came next to the Green Man on Riding House Street. This was thriving, and had a much livelier atmosphere, louder music, younger crowd, and was a way from the main tourist streets. Good beer too, can’t in all honesty remember what we went for in the end, but there were three decent ales on handpump, and fairly sure I had a Tribute.

Next up, the Yorkshire Grey, a handsome pub on the corner of an alley in Foley Street. Unfortunately we strode in to be confronted by Sam Smiths Old Brewery again – so headed back out into the night for the next venue.

Back towards Oxford Circus for the final stop of the night, the George on Great Portland Street. Is is a decent if fairly standard Greene King pub in a busy location, so not one for  a quiet contemplative pint, but not at all bad if you want to escape Oxford Street for a swift half. Decent array of GK and some guest ales, decent service, and got a table, where Phil regaled us with some 1980s Geordie jokes…

We also had time to vote for the Pub of the Crawl. We agreed by consensus that the Green Man was the best pub on the crawl, congratulations!


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