Tottenham Court Road area

04/07/2018 at 19:54 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

At the end of June 2018 I took a crawl around the Tottenham Court Road area.

We met up across the street from the eponymous tube station in the Flying Horse, which was still the Tottenham the last time I visited (and what a better name that is!). Readers of the excellent Cormoran Strike novels by JK Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) will remember the Tottenham as Strike’s local, where he could often be found supping a Doom Bar. That beer is no longer available at the rechristened Flying Horse, but several well kept beers were, and the pub remains a very attractive one, with a lovely Victorian interior yet warm light coming in from the large front windows, and with fast service even after work on a Friday despite its central location. Incredibly, it is the last remaining pub on Oxford Street, London’s High Street; perhaps the shift towards online retail will at least diversify the offer on Oxford Street and other pubs will re-emerge.

Flying Horse.jpgFrom here we did a quick circular walk to look at the top of Charing Cross Road – known as London’t traditional home of bookshops, and of the wonderful collection of letters between Helene Hanff and Frank Doel captured in 84 Charing Cross Road – and into Denmark Street, traditional centre of London’s music scene. Still home to a number of musical instrument shops, it was once lined with musical publishers and recording studios, with connections to countless major stars of the 60s and 70, including the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Elton John, David Bowie and the Sex Pistols. It was also home of the Job Centre where serial killer Dennis Nielsen worked, while in the fictional world it is the home and office of the aforementioned Cormoran Strike.

Back at Tottenham Court Road, we paused at the crossroads, once site of a gallows and resting place of murderer John Duke, who was buried here with a stake through his body, and the site of the 1814 London Beer Flood, in which nearly one and a half million litres of beer burst from the Meux brewery – part of the site of which is now the Dominion Theatre – demolishing two houses, one pub, and killing eight people, but causing others to rush to the site to scoop up free beer from the gutters in whatever they could lay their hands on.

Continuing the book theme, we popped into Waterstone’s bookshop, which has a hidden bar in the basement, where a quiet drink can be enjoyed, surrounded by books; who says we’re uncultured?!  Worth popping in to enjoy a drink, and buy a book while you’re there – the death of bookshops would be a very sad thing indeed.

crawl Spanish (1)Around the corner lies Hanway Street, which has a number of independent businesses surviving, reminiscent of its past as a jumble of Spanish, Italian, Greek and other businesses. One survivor of the 60s is Bradley’s Spanish Bar, a rare Spanish pub in London, which we stopped at next. It has some Spanish beers on draught (Estrella Damm, Mahou) and some more in the fridge, but no real ales; however the Budvar proved very refreshing on a warm night. It’s very small inside, and would be very cosy in winter and there was some Motörhead playing on the classic jukebox, but given the summer heat we joined most people in the street outside.

Across Oxford Street into Soho next, and through Soho Square, laid out in 1681 and containing a hut in the centre which was built to house an electrical sub-station in 1927 but appears to be much older, to the nearby Toucan. It’s a longstanding Irish pub with Guinness the speciality, as the name suggests, and Tayto crisps. Most people were outside in the street but we headed downstairs and got a table in the very small basement bar, complete with Guinness stools, in which Jimi Hendrix played before he was was famous.

Some very short strolls now, the first of which brought us across the street to the Nellie Dean, which has stood on this corner since 1748 and is currently selling a decent range of ales (and pies!).

A short walk down Dean Street brought us to the Soho Theatre Bar, a venue I come to fairly regularly to catch a comedy show, which has a lively bar with a couple of cask ales and a wider range of kegs and bottles.

Back across the road and into St Anne’s Court we came to the blue plaque marking Trident Studios, where David Bowie recorded some of his most important hits including Life on Mars and Space Oddity. Down the alleyway opposite now to the final port of call, the Ship. This traditional Fullers pub was in full flow, with good music playing, good beers, and a lively crowd.

And so finally we came to debate the Pub of the Crawl. I think we set a record of how long it took to agree, so diverse were the options, but in the end a vote settled the winner as the Ship. Congratulations!

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