King’s Cross Revisited

23/06/2014 at 21:57 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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On a sunny June evening during the World Cup 2014 Paul’s second crawl in as many months was a welcome reworking of his previous uncharted original crawl circa 2009-10, not previously recorded on our website and, according to Paul, a sort of reversal of the previous order.

We met in the Lincoln Lounge, formerly called the Lincoln Arms from its ironwork, and most, if not all of us, started off with Green King IPA. By the looks of it the building it had survived whilst the rest of York Way had been modernized but not without a name change. The pavement we chose to stand in close to the mainline station was crowded and in sunshine. By the time we left the pub England were out of the World Cup and out was time to forget the why and wherefore and negotiate the streets of this cluttered station hinterland.

image 3Next up the King Charles I was a small pub slightly hidden from the hustle-bustle on a side street and adorned with masks and deer parts. Paul recalls criticism of this boozer on the last tour but the feedback was much better this time, especially when our guide suddenly dropped four empties on the pavement and the bar manager seemed grateful that we had owned up to it and surprised that we hadn’t done a runner! The glasses had contained our choices of Clarence and Frederick s IPA and their rather interesting “strong mild”, again everyone was outside enjoying the summer weather albeit punctuated by the sound of breaking glass.

image 2And after that rather shattering experience the next choice – Millers on Caledonian Road – was more of a High Street affair serving a full range of trendy lagers and we had to settle for the nowadays-slightly-disappointing IPA/Doom Bar widely available standard. This a convenient pub very close to the entrance/exit of KX and the plethora of cheap eateries on a busy corner site.  Instant initial appeal but for sure aiming at the lower end of market. It was no surprise then that a cheap eatery was in fact the next, er, pit stop – a Burrito joint and a huge break with tradition, which when down exceptionally well, washed down with Coronas. Paul had dug deep into his pile of fantastic Groupon deals, and there was no need to late grab station food in a mad panic this time around!

On Leeke Street the next bar was a real (hard to) find classic – Smithy’s – technically a wine bar but serving a couple of real ales in an industrial-feeling setting. We stood outside, next to the railway bridge alongside the cut which forms the first ever section of the underground from Liverpool Street to Paddington. The Portobello Pale pump was hiding in the corner but not to be missed, beautifully sharp ale packed with flavour, some others were on the Caledonian Road to Rio a “seasonal” choice.

Wacky shop sign

Wall of fame at the Queen’s Head

We passed by the Water Rats and the Lucas Arms to find the Queen’s Head next – team choices were either the Arbor Triple Hop or the resident Trinity Redemption.  This is a classic pub with a classic pub interior; including an upright piano, hop flowers on the ceiling, beer badges on the wall etc. Our thoughts turned to Tony who had planned his own crawl on this night only to fail a late fitness test!

Final stop of the night was The Boot mentioned in Charles Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge, a well laid out pub with a pool table and locals singing along to rock classics, there were two football real ale choices, neither of them memorable, except for reminding us of the plight of the country’s soccer team.  Not a bad pub at all to end the night, hidden away from the main streets again yet precariously close to the station.

Dickens recalls (1840) “This Boot was a lone house of public entertainment, situated in the fields at the back of the Foundling Hospital; a very solitary spot at that period, and quite deserted after dark. The tavern stood at some distance from any high road, and was approachable only by a dark and narrow lane; so that Hugh was much surprised to find several people drinking there, and great merriment going on.”

Dimo recalls (2014) “a special mention should go to those 3 minutes of euphoria upon entering The Boot and hearing Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer and then beltering out the chorus”

We walked back to the ever sprawling station which is becoming ever popular and well known internationally; so this crawl serves as a reminder that there is no need to stay in the terminal lounges if you want to sample proper ales in real local London.

The pub of the crawl was voted as The Queen’s Head.

Bermondsey revisited

02/06/2014 at 20:54 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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We recently toured Bermondsey’s fine collection of craft breweries on the Bermondsey Beer Mile, and in May 2014 Paul took us back to some of the local pubs we haven’t been to in previous trips.

We started, though, by revisiting the Lord Clyde pub, just off Southwark Bridge Road and close to Borough station. This time we stood outside, enjoying the long Spring evening, the beautiful old Truman’s tiled exterior, and pints of TEA (the traditional English ale, that is).

The next stop was another familiar venue, Harvey’s London outpost the Royal Oak, still in Borough. The last couple of arrivals met up with us in the back room of this very well preserved two-bar Victorian corner local, and we struck out for Bermondsey.

The walk is not, in all honesty, a very glamorous one compared with posher parts of zone 1, with a lot of post-war council housing in this area, but interesting to see the old Hartley’s jam factory shortly before arriving at Tower Bridge Road for the next stop, the George. This is an old-school locals pub, not gentrified or gastro’d, but offering a friendly welcome and a nicely preserved (or just left-alone) Truman’s interior. No trendy ales here, just Courage Best and Greene King IPA, but they were decent enough and served with a smile. Sadly no £2.50 toasties available in the evenings though!

Pub of the YearAnother short walk through an estate brought us to the next pub, the Victoria. I was very pleased to try this place, I’d chatted to the very friendly landlord once when I’d admired the beautiful exterior on my way to the Mandela Way sorting office early one morning but hadn’t been back for a beer.  It was very quiet inside when we were there, though evidently the Evening Standard’s journos have made the trip in the past, as the pub is still proudly displaying its 1972 Pub of the Year plaque. I didn’t realise the competition went back that far, nor that it had now been discontinued, but through the magic of Wikipedia a full list exists for anyone keen to visit them all! (I think we’ve done seven of these winners, most of which lie outside zone 1 – it’s certainly giving me an idea of a some themed trips to see how they are all faring today!) We all went for the Ubu Mad Goose, which was delicious, and sat outside.

MarigoldAfter the Victoria we moved back towards central London, crossing Tower Bridge Road again to visit the Marigold, at the bottom end of Bermondsey Street. This was somewhat short of beer choice (just Doom Bar), but was a nice place, fairly cosy and lively enough without being too busy. And I imagine a lovely place to while away an afternoon, judging by the huge array of board games available (though not, as far as I could see, our favourite – late 1980s Trivial Pursuit…)

Next up, the Rose, close to London Bridge station. We tried to go here once before and found that most of it had been demolished, but it reopened last year under the same management as the Simon the Tanner nearby (and which we just passed). This is a lot larger than its sibling though, and more upmarket, with lots of large tables for dining. The beer choice was surprisingly small, just a couple of ales, though interesting in the shape of Mister Squirrel and Signature Dark Heart, and there was some interesting craft beer among the keg offer.

MillerOur final stop was one that I passed on when plotting my own crawl around these parts. The Miller doesn’t look all that inspiring from the outside, and the bouncers on the door and loud music meant things weren’t looking too promising. But Paul always does his research thoroughly (!) so what could go wrong? Besides it was past closing time for many pubs, so in we went. Looked like the beer choice was going to be slim pickings on first glance, just Otter ale on the bar; not that there’s anything wrong with Otter, but we’re getting spoilt for choice these days and getting used to a row of shiny pumps offering a range of ales. But on close inspection, there was a long beer list on a blackboard behind the bar, and some very tempting looking bottles in the fridges from a host of London craft breweries, including local favourites Kernel, Brew By Numbers, Partizan, and FourPure. The excellent range of beers made for a later night than was sensible!

Fortunately we did remember to vote for the Pub of the Crawl, with the backstreet local the Victoria winning tonight, congratulations!

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