Where are all the pubs in Chelsea?

30/10/2017 at 14:14 | Posted in Articles, pub reviews | Leave a comment
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There has been an alarming trend over the last 20 years which has left some “wealthy” communities without a local pub.  Not every pub in Chelsea that has been lost gets a mention here but there have been enough recently to be a cause for concern.

The frontage of The Markham Arms – now a bank struggling for business was once a thriving pub on the King’s Road.  It’s one of many pub sites that have claimed in the Chelsea past to have had celebrity drinkers – The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton etc.

Continue Reading Where are all the pubs in Chelsea?…

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Bermondsey beer mile update

17/05/2015 at 18:08 | Posted in Articles, Crawls | 2 Comments
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Things are moving very fast in the world of London Breweries, so it is time to update our earlier post on the Bermondsey Beer Mile with news on the breweries which have opened since the original post was penned in 2014.

swk1First up, the Southwark Brewery opened its doors not long after our last visit, and a welcome addition it is too. Occupying a spot at the westernmost end of the collection of breweries, the Southwark Brewery is the only one to focus on cask rather than bottled or keg beers, and on entering the spacious bar the sight of a line of handpumps comes as a pleasant surprise. My favourite is the London Pale Ale, a light and hoppy ale of the modern style, a very refreshing pint at 4%, but the brewery has a range extending through a golden ale, a traditional best bitter, and a Russian Imperial Stout.

swk2aThey also do other beers outside of the house range; when we visited they had Harvard American Pale Ale, named after the Southwark boy-done-good who headed to America and founded the prestigious University, and Bankside Blonde, a blond/golden ale.

The drinking area is generous, and is a great space to spend some time trying the range of beers on offer. It’s open 11am-5pm on Saturdays, and at the time of writing is also open Friday evenings until 8pm, although that is not listed on the website so I would suggest phoning / emailing / tweeting etc. ahead of visiting on a Friday to double check if they’re open.

ubrewAnother new entrant since the last write-up is Ubrew. Another quite different prospect from the first breweries, Ubrew is an “open brewery”, where individuals join as members to have access to Ubrew’s professional kit and ingredients, and brew their own beer on 50 or 100 litre kit. As per the usual drill for Bermondsey, they have a taproom open on Saturdays, with several craft beers on draught (keg) and a very large selection of bottles from around the world; having just returned from Spain I was keen to see their Spanish offerings and found about a dozen different Spanish craft beers, to give an indication of their range!

ubrew2The bar is in the heart of the brewery and a couple of teams of self-brewers were busy on their brewing kit while we watched, one of them even having a dog in tow! A number of the members are selling their beer, through the taproom or elsewhere, so in fact this brewery is the home of many microbreweries – I wonder how many full scale breweries will be born here? Pop along to try some brews and spot a future winner.

The taproom is open Saturdays 11am to 7pm.

Don’t forget to visit the main Bermondsey Beer Mile post with details of:

Anspach & Hobday (now also open Sunday 12:00 to 17:00)

Bullfinch Brewery (now also open Sunday 12:00 to 17:00)

Brew By Numbers

Kernel Brewery

Partizan Brewing

Fourpure Brewing

Bermondsey beer mile

20/04/2014 at 15:00 | Posted in Articles, Crawls | 10 Comments
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NOTE: this crawl was in 2014; since then there have been a number of changes.

See this page for the latest latest brewery/taproom information

At Easter 2014, we decided to dispense with the Friday night zone 1 pub crawl formula and visit the Bermondsey Beer Mile for a Saturday afternoon brewery crawl instead.

Most people start at one end and walk towards the other, stopping off at all the breweries en route; my cunning plan to miss the busiest crowds was to start in the middle, taking a bus from one end to restart at the other.

We met at Bermondsey tube station at 11am in order to get to the Kernel brewery (open Sat 9am-3pm) before it got too busy; last time I was there in mid afternoon it took a while to get served, such is the popularity of the Bermondsey beer revolution which started here. Well, not quite here, but it started nearby; Kernel’s initial brewery was a little further up the train line, but they soon outgrew their first premises and moved into their current site in 2012.

As you enter the Kernel arch, there is a counter directly ahead piled high with the beers currently on offer. Most are relatively high strength but for a while now Kernel have also offered a lower strength “table beer”, typically around 3-3.3%, depending on the particular recipe on offer at any given time, but they still manage to pack in a lot of flavour even at such low strengths.

BBNTurn right into the next arch and you enter the brewery’s tap area, with lots of long tables packed full every Saturday with beer fans supping Kernel’s draught beers. Today we were ahead of the pack and bagged a table where we drank some delicious draughts, including two types of Pale Ale (Simcoe and Mosaic), and one glass of the London Sour, which was a very interesting beer – sour, as the name implies, but very tasty; not sure I could drink too many in one sitting though.

Leaving the Kernel, we turned right and through a gate into Spa Road and headed to the next stop, Brew by Numbers  (open Sat 11am-6pm) on Enid Street. Of all the breweries, this was the only one I hadn’t visited before, but it conforms to the general pattern; a bright railway arch with a small bar serving some interesting beers on draught or in bottles to take away, and a bunch of people sitting and standing around the entrance enjoying them in the sunshine. Some of our number went for the session IPA (or 11|02 in Brew by Numbers parlance), but a couple of us tried the Saison (or brew 01|02), brewed with Amarillo hops and orange peel; apparently, anyway, though my palette perhaps isn’t refined enough to pick out the orange. All were very good though, and we ended up with one and a half rounds here with the IPAs slipping down that little bit quicker than the stronger Saisons.
AH hop rocket

Moving on, we headed to Druid Street and the shared premises of two breweries, Anspach & Hobday and Bullfinch (open Sat 11am-5pm). These guys had an interesting contraption on the bar, the Hop Rocket, a device holding fresh hops through which the A&H IPA was pulled to add a very late hop finish. You could certainly taste the hops, which added a very floral flavour reminiscent of perfume, though we didn’t feel it was really needed.

Indeed we stayed for a second round to try some different drinks and generally we preferred the bottled IPA which hadn’t had the benefit of the hop rocket. Still, we’re all for experimentation, and I’d certainly try it again with another ale. As well as the IPA we also tried the A&H brown ale, which was very smooth and had a lovely smoky flavour, almost like bacon.

I got my only take-out from here; being a great fan of beers using Citra hops, I couldn’t walk away without a bottle of Citrageddon, a black ale with “a devastating amount of Citra hops”; this is currently sitting in my fridge though, so I can’t say how it tastes!

dirtylittlesecretBy now we were in the Maltby Street area, and wandered along the Ropewalk, a bustling path lined with different stalls selling all sorts of food and drinks (including bottled craft beers) (generally open Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 11am-4pm). The salvage specialists Lassco are now open at weekends too, for an interesting wander around their wares if you have a penchant for vintage stuff.

Phil thought it would be a good idea to get some monster burgers for lunch, and we all tucked into some enormous “dirty little secret” burgers topped with African Volcano, apparently a Mozambique-style peri peri sauce. They looked a little like like a heart attack on a plate, and I felt some trepidation tucking in – there was rather more grease than I would like! – but I have to say it tasted fantastic, and I’m sure was very good stomach lining for the second part of the walk.

Having reached one end of the run of breweries, we walked a few minutes walk south to be chauffeured by the big red taxi right to the other end of the beer mile – take the no. 1 bus towards Canada Water and it will drop you at Beamish House, opposite the Bermondsey Trading Estate, within which resides the Fourpure Brewery (open Sat 11am-5pm).

PingpongAlthough the estate sits under the railway lines and you pass under the railway to reach the brewery, this is the only one of the day not within a railway arch, and the premises feel a lot more spacious than the others. The first thing that greets you is the ping-pong at the entrance and the brewery opens out into a large space, with a well appointed bar on the left serving a selection of very fine ales. We had a mixture of pale ale and amber ale, both of which were very smooth and good refreshment while playing table tennis!

For the final brewery of the day we headed back towards the Blue (or Southwark Park Road to non-locals) and the inauspicious-looking Almond Road, down which is hiding the Partizan Brewery (open Sat 11am-5pm). Like the first few, this one is tucked under the railway arches, and is a rather more confined than the previous stop, but that hasn’t stopped them turning out some very fine beers to put into their beautifully designed bottles (well, the labels that is, the bottles are quite normal!).

PartizanWe mainly went with a recommendation for the bottled Saison, the 6.2% Falconer’s Flight, which was so good we bought a second round of them as last orders were called. I have to wonder whether they should be closing at 5pm when the demand was evidently there to carry on a bit longer, but nevertheless we had a small table outside and enjoyed our ales together with some lovely homemade Brazilian cheese sticks.

With a whole Saturday evening left in front of us, we headed to the local craft beer pub the Dean Swift, where some more fine ales were consumed before topping the day off with a curry.

All in all a highly recommended day out in Bermondsey.

Mews Pubs of London

15/05/2013 at 23:50 | Posted in Articles, pub reviews | 3 Comments
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IMG_20130519_142834_cropFor some people in London the term mews pub probably means a pub lost down some alleyway but for others less interested in high street corner offerings the London mews is a hidden world where time forgot.

For an explorer like Archie his desire to explore the more hidden pubs of london was no more exemplified than the night we went to the Grenadier. Phil had almost scrabbled his way around via some gardens and, at one point, it looked like we would have to turn back, perhaps with the sounds of a disgruntled neighbour in our ears. But the red sign of the pub under a distant light, glowing in the distance like the star of Bethlehem was a sight to behold (coupled with a few disbelieving “no way”s). 

There are very few “hidden” pubs in central London like this which makes it such a special occurrence to encounter the Grenadier, but the mews pubs of London offer these sunken havens and the potential for sequestered pub.  So is that the Grenadier a mews pub? Actually, no.

Definition of a mews

In the english language a mews is a singular word used originally to describe a row of stables, usually with carriage houses below and living quarters above, built around a cobble-stoned yard or court, or along a street, behind large city houses, of which there are many in London, and date back as far as the 17th and 18th centuries. The word now may also refer to the lane, alley or back street onto which such stables used to open. It can also now be applied to rows or groups of garages and not all lead to pubs or houses at all.IMG_20130519_162406

Be careful as there may be a right of way but it doesn’t mean it leads to anything and, of course, some are private. Today most mews stables have been converted into dwellings, some greatly modernised and considered highly desirable residences. Certainly The Horse and Groom and The Star Tavern on Archie’s Belgravia crawl were classic examples of hidden gems and walking down a mews in any neighbourhood has that potential magic – the fact that a lot of them are back yards and, with lots of right angle turns, it’s hard to know like in any maze whether the effort is worthwhile – or time to turn back.

Horse and Groom

The Horse and Groom (7 Groom Place SW1X 7BA) is a small difficult to find pub in a quiet mews in Belgravia with wood panelling dating back to 1864. Aapparently it was not allowed to serve liquor on account of the local employers who would not want their servants falling into ruin. No such problem these days and proudly serving Shepherd Neame and entered in the GBG 2013.

However, if there ever was a definition of a mews pub then The Dover Castle (Weymouth Mews, parallel to Portland Place) is a beautiful example not far from Harley Street, tucked away on another dark cobbled street, perhaps dating back to the 18th century.  dover-castleAgain wood panelling throughout, packed full of original features, a real fire in the winter and some evidence of partitioning.  Altogether a fine example in the Sam Smiths estate, meaning the pricing is unusually low for such a nice pub.  Apparently The Who came here regularly while recording Tommy in 1969, a perfect backstreet hideaway; or probably because it was the nearest to the famous IBC studios.  Many more rock legends could have found the secretive pub to their liking.

The Dover Castle is a classic but the main area for mews these days is South West London, for example the aforementioned Belgravia, a pre-requisite is usually big houses and cobbled streets behind.  Sometimes the pubs are accessed via a connected mews, drowning on how you approach then, best to have a satnav in the other hand.

Yet to feature on one of the crawls is The Queens Arms, on a corner in Queen’s Gate Mews. Here many a thirsty punter has come away from the Royal Albert Hall looking for replenishment and missing this gem.  But for how long this pub escapes the zone 1 pub crawl compendium can’t be certain.  Many of the mews in this rich area have featured in film sets and it’s easy to see why, there’s something romantic about a mews like Queen’s Gate Mews, with its cobblestones and winding wysteria.

IMG_20130519_134612

More good mews

Archie favours the Cleveland Arms, featured on the Lancaster Gate crawl and in fact the pub is at the entrance to a mews (Upbrook Mews), so I am calling this pub a “coach inn” later on.  He has spent over 3 years touring the world solo, checking out some of the most fascinating roads less travelled.  From The Silk Route of Central Asia to bagging peaks in Bolivia, he makes a habit of leaving tourists not only behind but they’re already on the air conditioned bus going back to their hotel.  So mews pubs are right up his, er, street!

cleveland-arms-crop

Archie was born in Melbourne where he has spent most his life. It is unusual to come across an Aussie with a vast knowledge of London streets, most of his compatriots in fact do not stay much longer than the standard two year visa. And an evening on the beer in Melbourne is more typically in pubs with less history and character and are more trendy affairs with true locals few and far between. “Nothing like the time we have discovering remarkable new parts of London every month”, commented Archie

“Sometimes you go through an arch to enter the mews, others you need a map to find, and you have to be brave to enter some of them”,  he said.  “But the beauty of seeking out these places it’s that you avoid the tourist places.  The most hidden ones are more hardcore local, secret, hidden, elusive, the ones tourists couldn’t ever see, because they’ll never have the time or inclination”.

The term “mews” can be traced back to 1377 when king’s falconry birds were kept in the King’s Mews at Charing Cross. They later became stables before Trafalgar Square was built on the site. The term became more widely known for stables but only when accompanying large city houses and generally not country estates. So why should pubs be found in effectively stables?

Mews territory

The answer could be signposted by Archie’s second crawl which began near Sloane Square and headed towards the wealthy neighbourhood of Belgravia.  It’s here where mews houses can go for millions of pounds -still a fraction of the adjacent white buildings – and their owners would say that their mews houses are cosy cottages; after all, most have no rear aspect and they make the most of their modest frontage.

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Belgravia is typical of what West London housing for wealthy people would have been like 200 years ago, streets of large terraced houses with stables at the back, which opened onto a small service street. The mews would originally have horse stalls and a carriage house on the ground floor, and stable servants living accommodation above, often mirrored by another row of stables on the opposite side backing onto another row of terraced houses facing outward into the next street. Sometimes there were variations such as small courtyards behind pubs, but these I refer to as coach inns*. Most mews are real streets named after one of the principal streets which they back onto, for example Stanhope Mews West and East adjacent to Stanhope Gardens in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

The classic Star Tavern, where allegedly the Great Train Robbery was planned

Take The Star Tavern (6 Belgrave Mews West, Belgravia, London SW1X 8HT); a classic pub with hanging baskets serving Fullers on a cobbled Mews, which can be traced back to 1848 and has appeared in every edition of the GBG. From it’s impressive exterior, which you could imagine has not changed much, you enter an open bar which would have been divided into rooms.  Upstairs allegedly the Great Train Robbery was plotted.  One can see how easy it might have been to be secretive here – if you are looking for it then it’s best to approach from Halkin Street to the North, it’s not easy to get it right first time!

The Star is an example of a community pub in a mews established at a time when mainly servants and farriers would frequent such establishments and one could imagine how unpopular it would have been to the upper echelons of Belgravia society.  Belgrave Mews might well have been the main service street for nearby Belgravia Square and the arched entrance to the street is a compliment to it’s more celebrated surroundings

The fact that very few genuine mews pubs have survived might actually be due to the fact that they simply did not exist in large quantities. South Kensington is rich with backstreets, some leading to pubs, but the pubs are not in the mews itself. This fact is lost on Archie, who loves exploring these streets and would claim he has discovered a news pub after emerging from some zig zagging alley way. Such was the case on the Earls Court crawl.

Noise inversionIMG_20130519_162243

So quiet are some mews that you forget that you are in a busy capital city; the advantage they have is no through traffic and, in the past, the sounds and smells of the stables were away from the main owners when they were not using the horses. It’s hard to imagine what these back streets would have been like back then, really quite the opposite of today.  In some cases it is curious to find facades, purpose built arches and doorways, such must have been the need to keep these alleyways invisible.  The archway at the entrance to Elvaston Mews is so ornate it is Grade II listed. IMG_20130519_133924

They were not so quiet in the past with all the horses coming in and out.  Where nowadays horseless carriages are parked outside the main entrance, you simply couldn’t do that with horses.  Now the large adjacent buildings tend to block out the noise of the traffic.  Of course mews lost their equestrian function in the early 20th century when motor cars were introduced. Stables became garages and, as is widely practiced, the garage becomes an extra room.  And over time, when it became less affordable to own large houses, the mews properties themselves became houses, relatively more affordable and certainly erstwhile fashionable.  Many have their own distinctive style and you can see the hideaway appeal of some private residential mews units.

And so we end our feature on hidden mews pubs in Zone 1.  The Mitre, well hidden of course, is not in this small list as we have been careful with the definition.  Pubs in the areas worthy of a visit if you wanted to experience something similar, feature in a number of crawls already – The Wilton Arms, The Grenadier, The Nags Head.  But the relative tranquility of a London mews is a special local phenomenon, a contrast, a sanctum.

We have also omitted The Duke of York (7 Roger Street, London) often referred to as a mews pub due to its proximity to John’s Mews and Doughty Mews.  Paddington is full of mews like the one below, all mainly residential.  Although there are around 700 “mews” in London if you are lucky enough to come across a mews pub in zone 1 worth an inclusion, you are (with Archie) probably in a very small group.

See also: Have We Got Mews For You

have we got mews for you?

*Note on Coach inn for the purposes of this article – Some examples of pubs with a preserved adjacent courtyard in Soho, if you want to look – The Wheatsheaf, The Black Horse, and The Pillars of Hercules,  These are old coaching inns and not strictly mews in the same way as whole service streets, but no doubt readers will have their own interpretation.

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