Charing Cross Road

04/08/2018 at 15:24 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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On a hot evening in August 2018, Tim took us back to Tottenham Court Road, only this time we headed south down Charing Cross Road.

We started out at the Royal George, conveniently close to Tottenham Court Road station, just just down a side street. I’ve seen it many times but never been in; it’s fair to say the building lacks kerb appeal and has in recent years borne the brunt of being next door to the extensive Crossrail construction site, but it was in fact pretty pleasant inside, plenty of light and fresh air coming in, and a small but decent range of beer on the bar. In the fridge they even had Big Drop Brewing’s Pale Ale and Stout; these are decent craft low alcohol beers, and went down well to start with on a hot evening – I must be getting responsible in my old age! Fear not, there is also a good range of cask, keg and bottled beers too, and sometimes a tap takeover.

Soho crawl (3).jpgSo, once assembled, we came back out past the construction site, where once the Astoria stood, and before that the Crosse & Blackwell building, and headed into Charing Cross Road proper. We paused at the entrance to the old St Martin’s College of Art, where Jarvis Cocker famously met a girl from Greece in the iconic Britpop anthem Common People, and continued into the Montagu Pike. Originally a Moon Under Water when I first frequented it in the 90s, this Wetherspoons was formerly a cinema, and then a home for the Marquee Club. The original Marquee a few streets away played host to a Who’s Who of late 20th Century music, and this venue was opened by Kiss.

After a quick round here we left the morning drinkers’ favourite and headed out the back exit to Greek Street, named after a 1677 Greek church (now long gone), and described by a police inspector in 1906 as “the worst street in the West End of London, some of the vilest reptiles in London live there or frequent it”. By the 60s it was at the heart of London’s creative quarter, and just next to the Montagu Pike was Peter Cook’s Establishment Club, a ground-breaking satirical comedy venue.

Soho crawl Old Compton St (2)Where Greek Street meets Old Compton Street sits the Three Greyhounds, its name harking back to the days when Soho was a rural hunting ground. This is a fairly small Nicholson’s pub, but has plenty of room for al-fresco drinking outside, where you can watch the crowds wandering past, together with the traffic that the City of Westminster inexplicably insists on allowing to dominate the thronged streets of Soho.

Soho crawl Spice of Life (4)A few doors down the street lies the Spice of Life, Hertfordshire brewer McMullans’s London outlet, which has been very nicely modernised and has a wide range of their ales on the bar, and a large area of street outside to stand and drink while the sun goes down. The pub was originally called the George, first opening in 1686, though the current building is late Victorian.

Directly across from the Spice of Life lies another venerable pub, the Cambridge, first opened as the King’s Arms in 1744, but was again last rebuilt by the Victorians. This is another Nicholson’s pub, pretty small inside but retaining a lot of character, not least with its highly decorative ceiling. Some good ales on, and as all Nicholsons pubs, St Peter’s Without in the fridge for those looking to pace themselves – particularly handy during this heatwave, it was hot out there!

Across the street we paused outside 84 Charing Cross Road, site of the famous bookshop recalled in Helene Hanff’s wonderful book chronicling her correspondence with shop worker Frank Doel, now part of McDonald’s. Well worth picking up the book if you haven’t read it – used copies are available from just 1p on Amazon, or better still pick one up from a real book shop, ideally one of the few remaining ones on Charing Cross Road!

Brewdog (1).jpgAfter a few minutes admiring the architecture of Cambridge Circus, especially the lovely facade of the Palace Theatre, which is easy to miss if rushing through as I normally am, we headed to the newest pub in the area (at the time of writing!), a new branch of the BrewDog empire. Although it was inevitably pretty busy with tourists, and may therefore not be the fastest place to get served if the people in front of you have no idea what to order, the range of beers was extensive (over 20 on draft), and the live version of Dead Pony Club, which I hadn’t had before, was excellent. While BrewDog focusses on keg beers, the live Dead Pony is very close to a real ale and well worth trying. It’s a big venue and there was plenty of room even late on on a Friday despite its central location.

And so to the final business of the evening; after a short vote, the BrewDog Seven Dials was voted the Pub of the Crawl. Congratulations!

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