Piccadilly Circus

17/01/2014 at 19:16 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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Having ended 2013 with a walk around Oxford Circus, we started 2014 with a walk around nearby Piccadilly Circus and the fringes of Soho, led by Tim.

The meeting point tonight was the Glassblower, a Taylor Walker branded pub just to the north of Piccadilly Circus. The pub is -, forming the corner of Glasshouse and Brewer Streets, and was unsurprisingly fairly busy. Rumours of a discount for CAMRA members turned out to be false unfortunately, and the 6X ran out as we got to it, but the Landlord and Trumans Runner were both perfectly decent.

A short walk along the appropriately named Brewer Street brought us to the Crown, a Nicholsons pub and much as you’d expect from a Nicholsons, a traditional interior in good order and some decent ales on tap, and quite a throng around the bar on a Friday evening. The surprise ale was Fullers Steel, a limited edition collaboration brew between Fullers and Sheffield’s Steel City Brewing (motto: “Craft beer from the Grim North”), a very drinkable pale ale, which we were able to enjoy in reasonable peace towards the rear of the pub.

Piccadilly A very short walk now down to the Queens Head, a free house tucked under the Piccadilly Theatre. This is a small pub and just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus, yet we still managed to get a table to enjoy our lovely pints of Moncada Notting Hill Blonde, possibly we were lucky in doing this crawl around a busy area just when half the population is de-toxing after Christmas and New Year. Genuinely surprising to find such a decent, normal pub so close to the epicentre of the West End tourist economy.

We went back down Sherwood Street, which used to be a fairly depressing backstreet still sadly typical of this part of central London but has recently been pedestrianised and completely transformed, to the central pivot of the crawl and indeed probably the epicentre of the West End, Piccadilly Circus, where Tim regaled us with assorted trivia which I can’t relay here in sufficient detail to compete with Wikipedia, but suffice to say it’s an interesting place!

We soon arrived at the St James Tavern, “the best managed pub of 2013”, as proclaimed by a banner out the front of its prime position on a corner of Shaftesbury Avenue as it leads into Soho. Despite this prime location and apparent high management standards, it wasn’t at all busy for a Friday night, suggesting all is not well. Once past the bouncer on the door – not a good sign – we had a pick of tables to choose from, but the same choice didn’t extend to the beers, with just two on offer – Firkin Good and Adnams Gunhill. Sadly neither were actually much good, though in this they did at least match the atmosphere. With almost everybody else being a tourist and the pub winning a national award, I don’t know what message the industry is trying to send about British pubs and beers but they need to stop it. Incidentally they didn’t make up the award, I googled it – incredible.

LyricOn a much lighter note, just a little further up Great Windmill Street, we came to the Lyric. This small Victorian corner pub has been recently relaunched as a craft beer pub, with six handpumps and ten keg taps, all offering decent beers. My Crack of Dawn from South East London’s own Late Knights was lovely, meanwhile a couple of the others went for the Williams Bros Alloa 80/ and pronounced it “amazing” – high praise indeed. All this, and room to stand next to the fire. Very nice place, best enjoyed, I imagine, by day, when there are fewer people around to fill the place up.

Back to the bright lights of Shaftesbury Avenue now, passing the fringes of Chinatown at Wardour Street and into Rupert Street, to arrive at the back entrance of the Blue Posts, another of which we visited on our last crawl. However unlike the beer fail in the last pub of the same name, in this one we had a mixture of Woodfords Wherry, Summer Lightning, and Tim Taylor’s Landlord – between us, that is, not in the same glass – at a table in the upstairs room.

Our arrival at our next and final pub was interesting, a row was going on outside the entrance which involved a drunk woman shouting “shut up you slaaaag!” Appropriately enough this was the Comedy Pub. As far as we could tell the scene at the entrance wasn’t some sort of immersive improv act, although as the name implies, the venue does host comedy gigs. We were there for the beer though, and we went for Rev James, Doom Bar and Resolution.  The ground floor bar was large and not unlike many lively central London pubs, though a trip to the loos in the basement level revealed more of a club area, but unsurprisingly we stuck it out upstairs until last orders.

The final business of the evening was agreeing on the Pub of the Crawl. On account of its excellent beers and atmosphere, we agreed that the Lyceum was a very fitting winner, congratulations!

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