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!


Paddington & Edgware Road

29/01/2017 at 10:42 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dave led our first crawl of 2017 (and of the eleventh year of the crawl!) from Paddington to Edgware Road on a chilly Friday evening.

Our meeting point was The Victoria, a corner pub built in the 1830s with a very traditional feel to it thanks to the dark wood, wallpaper and ample supply of books.  This wasn’t the first time the group had visited, it previously featured on a crawl in 2010, (the pub website has more trivia about an alleged visit by Queen Vic herself!)though it seems little has changed.  It wasn’t too busy for a Friday evening.  We stood along the narrow bar which can feel like you are in the way at times but a minor point.  The beers on offer were the usual Fullers plus one guest ale, the very session-able Windsor Knot from Windsor & Eton Brewery, which most of us went for.

We looped around Gloucester Square towards the next pub, past the former homes of Violet Bonham Carter, perhaps now a name more recognisable for her acting granddaughter Helena, and also given our proximity to Paddington Station, Robert Stephenson, the railway engineer responsible for the ‘Rocket’ locomotive.  Sidestepping the really dodgy-looking Sussex Arms, we ended up in The Sawyers Arms on London Street, a pleasant and roomy Greene King pub split over two levels.  In what was to become a theme for the evening, the pub had its own ale, which several of us chose and turned out to be quite drinkable.  Old Speckled Hen and Belhaven’s Robert Burns Brown Ale were the other choices.   Although this is a mainline station terminus hinterland, the area has a mix of tourist pubs with classic features and more modern styled pubs aimed at a contemporary crowd.  In the Sawyers Arms we encountered a tidy, smartly decorated interior over split levels, well worth another visit.

Our next stop The Pride of Paddington had a more modern feel to it, lots of lighter wood and flags on the ceiling catering for longer distance commuters perhaps, there was a smell of hot food throughout, The beer choice was good, with five hand pumps including again the pub’s own ale!  The Caledonian Golden XPA it served had a bitter taste, with slight fruit afters.


We then made the short walk across Praed Street into Paddington Station itself.  Tucked away on the second level above the shops is The Mad Bishop & Bear, the name referring to a former land owner and a legendary resident from Darkest Peru.  The interior feels like many a nice Fuller’s pub though with the less common option of being able to sit outside just above a station concourse.  Although it is like a fake pub in the roof rather like a film set, it really is a surreal sanctimonious addition to a station forecourt with a full range of Fullers beers from Pride, HSB to Oliver Island.  Here the designers had the roof space to work with and have done a superb job; the interior is smart with high ceilings and every inch the replica of a early 20th century pub.  Outside, the terrace, still on the mezzanine level, had chairs and tables laid out until gradually the station building took over with its grid like vista and vanishing points; we drank our beer in the setting of a surrealist painting.


We left the station though an option to stay would have been The Beer House, a smallish place on the station concourse itself.  Turning left we soon reached the Alexander Fleming Laboratory and the site of the discovery of penicillin in 1928.  For our purposes, even more significant was the discovery of  Fountains Abbey opposite!  I counted nine hand pumps in this Taylor Walker pub, of course one of which was the obligatory house beer ‘Fountains Abbey Ale’!  (had the Cistercian monks approved it by any chance?)  It wasn’t crowded at around 9.30pm but all the tables were taken so it was doing good business, perhaps because of its location near the station, it was well laid out with a spacious area for standing, decking and seating near the windows, and the customary mix of chalk and dark wood so typical of pub interiors these days

Heading next towards Edgware Road station after a five minute walk we reached The Green Man.  This place has a large ‘burger craft’ sign outside which initially made me think it was mainly a restaurant but fear not it is still a pub.  The beers on offer had not travelled too far: Sambrook’s, Twickenham Fine Ales and Hogs Back.  The Winter Star, a rich old ale, from TFA was good.

Our final stop of the evening was The Chapel a very nice pub which felt more of a local place than the others we visited during the evening.  Alan was looking to jump on the tube early but he would be thankful that we persuaded him to come t o the Chapel, a slightly more off-the-beaten-track pub and well worth a detour. Most of us opted for Black Sheep, though one person made the mistake of ordering Tetley’s Christmas Cracker!  It had been a night where most of the pubs had been trying to get rid of their Xmas stock/winter ale and The Christmas Cracker received the unofficial award of the worst beer of the night – a real sweet and sour fruit blend, almost liquefied Christmas pudding, surely not even meeting the definition of beer, unable to be drunk by any of our number and quite rightly poured away.

The vote for Pub of the Crawl was hotly debated with our first venue, The Victoria, being the winner.  Congratulations!

Craft beer in Athens

11/06/2016 at 16:30 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Visitors to Greece will appreciate that is a country whose drinking culture is based more around wine and ouzo, and while beer is plentiful, much of it seems to be fairly bland international brands such as Amstel.

However, as elsewhere, craft beer is emerging in Greece, and if you’re visiting there are quite a few interesting microbrews worth seeking out.

I was lucky enough to be in Athens this week, and here are some bars around the centre of the city that I recommend checking out.

Athens-026First up is Athens Beer, a bar/restaurant on Nikis, just a few minutes from the heart of the Plaka district and close to Syntagma metro, with a terrace on the street for warm days/nights. There are four beers on draught, which is better than the typical venue in Greece, although the only Greek beer on draught was Alfa (Άλφα), a standard pale pilsner, together with some imports from Belgium (Vivem Imperial IPA), Germany (Erdinger) and the Czech Republic (Krušovice Imperial).

Athens-027.jpgBut the bar specialises in bottled beers, which allows it to offer a huge range of beers, both Greek and foreign. The bar staff were very helpful and knowledgeable, able to describe the beers and their styles very well in English, and able to recommend some good beers to try.
They stock a range of beers from the Septem microbrewery, based on the island of Evia, including a delicious Pale Ale called Friday. Other Greek microbrews I sampled included Corfu Special Red Ale, and a Volcan Black, a dunkel brewed in Santorini.

Athens-063.jpgStill on the northern edge of the city centre, Beertime can be found in Iroon Square in Psiri, close to Monastiraki metro. There are several tables on the pavement and the whole façade opens up, to make the best of the warm weather.

Beertime has several draught beers, including at the time of my visit Greek microbrews such as Septem IPA, EZA Odyssey Red Rhapsody, and Siris Voreira Wit. The bottled range was extensive, and also focussed on Greek microbreweries,with a wide range of beers from across the country. My drinks came with some complementary mezé.

Another modern venue is Hops Beer and Burgers, on pedestrianised Drakou a stone’s throw from Syngrou-Fix metro station and a few minutes’ walk south of the Acropolis museum.

Athens-079.jpgAs the name suggests, this bar/restaurant focussed both on craft beer and on burgers, although other food is available! The venue is modern with a large number of tables out on the pavement.

The draught range is quite small and includes only one Greek beer, although this was my first beer from the city itself, a very tasty pale ale from Athineo (ΑΘΗΝΕΟ). The bottled range was large, extending to around 20 Greek microbreweries and a similar number of international beers.

I hope that gives you some options for tasting Greek beers on a visit to Athens, enjoy!

Information correct in June 2016.

Vauxhall & Stockwell

05/04/2016 at 20:10 | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

For March 2016, Paul took us back to Vauxhall area for a walk via Stockwell.

We met at the Black Dog, a busy gastropub close to the edge of Vauxhall Gardens with some interesting ales on. After some confusion on the part of the bar staff we think we ended up with some Wimbledon Pale Ale and Spring Top from Old Dairy brewery.

A typical Paul pub interiorA short walk brought us to the Pilgrim on Kennington Lane. Sadly, this being Paul’s crawl, the place was closed, seemingly for refurbishment – allegedly it had been open and very nice just a couple of weeks earlier! It has probably reopened before you read this.

So a longer than planned walk to pub 2, which took us past a worksite for the new Northern Line Extension to Battersea, and the famous listed 1853 gasholder behind the Oval Cricket Ground.

The Oval is one of the most historic sports grounds in the world; it is the home of Surrey County Cricket Club and regular host of England matches, and hosted the famous 1882 test match between England and Australia which gave birth to the Ashes contest.

However it’s not just cricket; it hosted the world first international football match in 1870 between representative sides of England and Scotland, the first FA Cup Final in 1872, England home rugby internationals in 1872, and in more recent times exhibition matches of baseball, Aussie Rules football and has served as a training base for an NFL team.

Just to the south of the Oval lies the Fentiman Arms, a well regarded gastropub which was serving some very good beers from small London breweries; we had a combnination of London Beer Factory’s Chelsea Blonde, Truman’s Blindside, and Sambrook’s Pumphouse.

We headed south from here, and in the finest Paul tradition found the next pub, the Canton Arms, closed for Good Friday… so onward into Stockwell, new territory for the crawls, and through Landsdowne Gardens, a conservation area containing some surprisingly beautiful 1840s houses.

We also passed Stockwell bus garage – an unusual point of interest, but it is in fact an impressive piece of architecture, a listed building which in 1952 was Europe’s largest unsupported structure, its concrete roof spanning a width of 59 m over a length of 120 m.

Nearby lies the Priory Arms, a superb corner local with a focus on craft beer. A wide range of interesting beers on handpump included ales from Brightside, Thornbridge, Dark Star, Kent, Great Heck and Crouch Vale, as well as interesting beers on tap and in bottles. The food looks to be good value, and there’s a good range of pub games on offer to keep us occupied; I’ll skate quickly over my Jenga defeat…

Cavendish Arms candleThe shortest walk of the night next, to the very nearby Cavendish Arms. Sadly the only ale on was past its best, with quite a vinegary flavour. With no other options we tried to drink them but largely gave up, and moved on fairly quickly after admiring their lax attitude to candle placement.

The next stop was the Mawbey Arms, very much an old-school backstreet local with sports on TV. No huge range of unusual beers here, but the solid offering of well-kept Young’s.

A short walk past the construction site for the future Nine Elms tube station brought us to the Vauxhall Griffin, a good pub with some interesting ales on, including West Berkshire Skiff and Kent KGB. It takes its name from the Vauxhall Iron Works, which used to be at the end of the road where the new tube station is taking shape; it used a Griffin and its logo and later became Vauxhall Motors, moving to Luton where it became one of the UK’s largest car manufacturers.

The final stop of the night was the late-to-close Royal Oak, another old-school pub on Kennington Lane close to the starting point, serving Cornish Coaster and Doom Bar.

As ever, we debated the merits of the evening’s establishments, or at least, being Paul’s crawl the open ones.. and the Pub of the Crawl was the Priory Arms. Congratulations!


12/07/2015 at 18:39 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In June 2015, it was my turn to take the crawl, and we headed for the northern edge of the City for a walk around Smithfield and Clerkenwell.

After a bit of stomach lining in the Piccolo Bar cafe, we started at the Lord Raglan. From the outside this looks like a typical small City pub with as many people drinking on the pavement outside as inside the pub. But in fact it’s far larger than it looks, extending a long way back and with a large upstairs bar, which even has room for pool tables. The beers were fine if standard fare, most of us settling for the Taylor Walker house beer 1730.

We left fairly sharpish, as the first point of interest, Postman’s Park, closes at 7pm. But it’s well worth the visit, as it contains a fabulous monument to ordinary people who lost their lives trying to save others, the Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. The park is named after the many postal workers who used the park, given its location adjacent to the former General Post Office, on the southern side of the park, from where Marconi sent the world’s first public radio signal.

We passed now through St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London’s oldest, dating from 1123, and the place where Sherlock Holmes first meets Doctor Watson in the novels, exiting onto West Smithfield. Long the home of London’s meat markets, Smithfield has a long history which is well worth reading more about, including jousting tournaments, many executions (including Sir William Wallace of Braveheart fame), the annual Bartholomew’s Fair, and the murder of Wat Tyler, leader of the Peasant’s Revolt, in 1381. According to English Heritage’s excellent Played in London book, it was also the site of the first recorded football match, on Shrove Tuesday 1174.

Passing through the medieval St Bartholomew the Great church, scene of the Hugh Grant wedding in Four Weddings, and where Benjamin Frankin once worked as a printer, we headed to the Hand and Shears. This pub was traditionally the venue for the opening ceremony of the Bartholomew’s Fair, a cloth fair, and for which a sample of cloth was cut to open the fair, a tradition lasting to this day in the form of cutting a ribbon. The pub is not resting on its historical laurels, offering some very good beers, and on our visit we drank a combination of Old Hooky, Landlord and Cocky Blonde.

Just across the street (and just behind where the Dick Whittington once stood) we found the Old Red Cow, a slightly smaller sister pub to one of my favourites the Dean Swift. This has a good selection of beers, and we had a mixture of Siren Oatmeal X, Liverpool IPA and Firebrand Pacific.

Fox and AnchorNext we took a walk around Charterhouse Square, past the site of the famous school founded in 1611 and Hercule Poirot’s fictional home, to the Fox & Anchor. As per the local tradition, this is a market pub, opening early in the morning to service the market’s night-time workforce, but it has been sensitively refurbished recently and has a lovely interior, narrow but deep. However given the warm weather, we stood outside in the street with our Young’s and Truman’s beers, looking at some fascinating old photos and maps of the area and pub.

Leaving the Fox we turned into St John Street, formerly a key entry to the City of London from the north, and accordingly for many years it comprised a great many pubs and inns, serving effectively as a medieval coach station for the Midlands and counties to the north of England. The inns are now long gone, although the architecture gives away the location of many, including the Cross Keys. The traffic island in the middle marks the previous site of Hicks’s Hall, once the Middlesex Sessions House. Much more information here and on associated pages.

Having previously visited the White Bear, we continued north through St John’s Arch and St John’s Square to the Sekforde Arms. This nice wedge-shaped early 19th century pub is larger than it looks, although given the weather we found a table outside to enjoy our Youngs beers. Disturbingly, as we left we saw a sign that the pub would shortly be closing – we sincerely hope that this is only temporary.

Slaughtered LambNearby we passed along Brewery Square, through what was once the Cannon Brewery, signs of which remain including the old Brewery Yard Office with its hop-topped columns, to the Slaughtered Lamb, a large corner modern pub. There were some interesting beers on, including Yorkshire Pale Ale, Great Heck Navigator and Windsor & Eton Conqueror, which again we consumed out in the street.

The final stop was just across the road, the Sutton Arms. This is a smallish traditional corner pub, offering some decent well known ales including Landlord and London Pride. The landlord was a bit over keen to usher us out, and here ended the crawl.

We did, though, first vote for the Pub of the Crawl, which was the Fox & Anchor. Congratulations!


17/05/2015 at 16:06 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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In April 2015, we revisited Islington at the hands of Dimo.

The meeting point close to Angel station was a place we’ve visited before when it was a Hobgoblin, but is now the Three Johns, named after some 18th century radicals. Now something of a craft beer pub, there were some interesting ales on including Arbor J Bomb, XT No.1 and the rather better known Dark Star’s lovely Hophead.

Just a short stroll along White Lion Street brought us to the Craft Beer Co‘s Islington outlet, which on the night we visited was hosting a vintage ales weekend, confusing those of us who live in hipster territory who thought the staff were wearing 1940s outfits ironically rather than as a contribution to the retro theme of the day. As ever there was a great range of beers on draught, with our party drinking the Thornbridge Wild Side, Franklin 1066, and East End IPA.

Be here nowJust around the corner next to the Joker, at the end of Chapel Market. A gastropub with a difference, this one has the archetypal kitchen behind the bar (in the mould of the first gastropub, the Eagle) but with a focus on burgers and hot dogs. We didn’t try the food (and nor did anyone else while we were there – a drawback to having such a visible kitchen), but the beers were decent, with Windsor & Eton’s Kohinoor IPA and Kings Evolution Northern Lights keeping everyone happy. The walls are bedecked with famous comedians, and we had some good pub trivia too… the oversized clock in the pub was a stage prop on Oasis’s Be Here Now tour.

A slightly longer walk now to the next venue, though with streets as beautiful as Cloudesley Road it’s hard to mind. Set in this gorgeous part of town is the Crown, a Fullers pub with a traditional layout of different spaces around a central bar. Ales were standard Fullers beers with the seasonal Spring Sprinter making a welcome reappearance.

A few minutes’ walk brought us close to Tony Blair’s former home and we arrived at the Hop & Berry, a pub specialising in London craft beers. It was certainly busier than the last time I was here when we were the only customers (though that was Christmas Eve to be fair!) and a fair number of people besides us were enjoying local beers. I couldn’t resist going slightly outside London for my beer though, Dark Star’s delicious American Pale Ale from Sussex.

jengaA first on the way to the next pub, as half the group managed to get lost after bizarrely declining to follow us down an alleyway en route to the Drapers Arms. This is a bright, spacious pub is located in a lovely residential street, which may explain its somewhat traditional opening hours – so beware on timing your visit, it closes at 10:30. But it’s well worth calling in, they have a range of beers including, on our visit, Truman’s Runner and Sambrook’s Wandle. We also discovered just how bad some of our members are at Jenga, though perhaps it would have been more successful a few pints earlier.

A longish walk to the next pub, though with the benefit of crossing over Lofting Road – named after a distant ancestor of mine who invented the beer engine/handpump (bloody immigrants, coming over here and inventing draught beer!), and who once had a factory nearby. A few minutes on is the Hemingford Arms, or the Hemmy, a traditional lively red-hued pub, with live music and a lively atmosphere. While we’d strayed into zone 2 by this point, it’s pretty close to stations for getting back into town afterwards. We largely drank the Purity Ubu while alternating between the quiz machine and voting on the Pub of the Crawl.

I’m sure the venue of the vote had no bearing on the result, but the final pub, the Hemingford Arms, was duly elected this month’s Pub of the Crawl. Congratulations!


18/04/2015 at 13:39 | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Madrid’s famous bar scene centres around tapas, and no visit to Madrid is complete without spending some time drinking a few cañas and eating some tapas in the late night bars along La Latina’s Calle Cava Baja or in Huertas.

But having done that, is there more interesting beer to be found in the city? Well yes, there is, if you look carefully. In a break from tradition of sticking rigidly to London’s zone 1 (central area), here’s a report on a crawl around some of the best craft beer bars in Madrid, undertaken in April 2015.

Note: if you’re in Madrid this week, 20 to 26 April 2015, don’t miss ArtesanaWeek, a craft beer festival around Lavapiés!

Fábrica Maravillas. We started in Malasaña, a slightly scruffy but definitely fun district just on the northern side of the city centre and close to the Gran Via, where the Fábrica Maravillas brewpub opened its doors late in 2012. This small bar, at 29 Calle Valverde, is quite easy to miss if you’re not careful, but well worth seeking out. They brew a range of beer styles on site; we tried the West Coast IPA and the Red Ale (neither on the website but definitely on draught in the pub) and both were lovely, and available by the pint if desired rather than a more local smaller serving. As with the other bars listed (except Ardosa) drinks are accompanied by small snacks such as olives, nuts or crisps.

Fábrica Maravillas is open Mon – Fri 6pm – Midnight, weekends 1pm to Midnight

ArdosaBogoda de la Ardosa. From here, a very short walk to 13 Calle Colón brings us to the Bogeda de la Ardosa. A local institution since 1892, this cerveceria has a beautiful interior, seemingly only a single small bar. However stand to the right of the bar and you’ll soon realise you’re in the way of people passing under the fixed bar to access the small back room, not to mention the loo and staff scurrying back and forth with drinks and food.

A striking feature on the outside of the bar was advertising for two of Britain’s great craft breweries of today, Kernel (of Bermondsey, London) and Brew Dog (Aberdeenshire, Scotland), and the bar featured the only handpumps we saw in Madrid, four of them no less, although sadly they were not in use. While some interesting bottles, including the aforementioned Kernel, were available, the draught range was slightly disappointing, with Brewdog Punk IPA fortunately on offer but otherwise led by international stalwarts Pilsner Urquell and Guinness. Which is a shame, as this place clearly has huge potential to combine its historic pub setting with the new craft beers becoming available locally. Nevertheless, well worth a stop.

Bogeda de la Ardosa is open 8:30am to 2am every day

Irreale. A few minutes walk now across Malasaña to Irreale, at 20 Calle de Manuela Malasaña. This pub serves an excellent rotating range of local and imported craft beers, changing very regularly; while Pilsner Urquell was on offer here too, here it was the limited edition (outside the Czech Republic) unfiltered cask version, which illustrates their passion for quality beer. We tried another brewed a few streets away by the Fábrica Maravillas, the Malasaña Ale, and Jack’s Abby Leisure Time Lager, all the way from Massachussetts. Both were excellent, but by the time you’re reading this (indeed by the time I’m writing it) they’ll probably have been changed for some other equally excellent beers.

Irreale is open Tues – Fri 12pm to 2am, Sat 6pm to 12am, Mon closed

La TapeLa Tape. Just 100 metres down the road at 88 Calle San Bernardo lies La Tape. This corner bar is a little more upmarket and modern than the preceding venues, and a little more restauranty. Drinkers are clearly welcome, though at the time we visited most people were eating, as did we. But not before getting the beers in; and La Tape’s speciality is locally brewed beers, with a choice of beers from around Spain. We tried the Sevebraue Castua pale ale from Badajoz, and the La Virgen lager from Madrid; both were excellent, and accompanied by delicious tapas, all served by very friendly staff. An excellent find.

La Tape is open every day 9am to 2am.

El PedalEl Pedal. The final stop involved a short hop on Line 1 of the Madrid Metro from Bilbao to Atocha, to reach El Pedal, tucked away close to the Museo Reina Sofia. El Pedal has a very small interior with something of a punky feel, in keeping with the slightly bohemian nature of its Lavapiés neighbourhood, but does most of its business from its outside tables on the wide pavement. While we were there, the crowd constantly shifted as different people came and went. El Pedal has a wide range of beers, and we tried the Jahonera pale ale from Madrid and a Citra/Mosaic IPA from Toledo, which was predictably delicious.

El Pedal is open Tues – Fri 6pm to 2am, Sat 12pm – 2am, Sun 12pm – 1am, Mon closed.

Earls Court & Chelsea

12/04/2015 at 20:28 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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For March 2015, Phil took us back to the Earls Court area, our first visit since 2011, taking us on a circular walk through Chelsea and back to Earls Court.

We met up at The Bolton, a large corner pub where Earls Court Road meets Old Brompton Road, and until recently branded as an O’Neil’s. No longer however, it’s now a rather smart airy pub with a few ales on offer, though surprisingly empty for a Friday evening. We mainly went for one from the Channel Islands, Liberation Blonde, although it turned out to be rather bland.

We soon moved on, just across the Old Brompton Road to the Pembroke Arms. Another corner pub, this one was much busier, certainly around the bar – some of the ground floor was reserved for dining – though there is more room upstairs. The beers were reasonable, most going for an Essex Blonde, but more interesting was the pub’s history. Before turning into the Pembroke gastropub, it was the Coleherne, a gay pub since at least the 1950s which counted Freddie Mercury, Kenny Everett, Rudolf Nureyev, and Ian McKellen amongst its regulars.

finboroughAfter a short* walk past the flat from An American Werewolf in London we arrived at the Finborough Arms. Recently subject of a feature in CAMRA‘s Beer magazine, this attractive wedge-shaped Victorian pub only recently emerged newly refurbished after years of closure, and has done so with an excellent range of beers; I had a lovely Portobello VPA, others generally had the same or UBU. We learnt that one of the pub’s previous regulars was one Thomas Crapper, of flushing toilet fame, who used to drink champagne in the Finborough before going to work! Sadly there were not many customers when we were in, though the pub is somewhat out of the way; however it has a theatre upstairs so can probably be quite variable depending whether or not there is a play on. Indeed by the time we moved on it was already getting busier.

*Well it should have been a short walk, and that’s how it’s shown on the map above; no-one need know the route Phil actually took! 

On now to the smallest pub of the night, the Fox and Pheasant, tucked down into a very small side road near the Chelsea FC ground. It’s so small, in fact, that Phil thought we might not be welcome if about eight of us arrived together, so decided we should split into two groups so as not to be too overbearing. This turned out not only to be unnecessary but only seemed to make the landlord and customers at the bar suspicious of our motives, as they clearly twigged that we knew each other. Anyway the landlord was very chatty about football – evidently this is a major matchday pub when Chelsea are at home with up to 300 fans crammed in and out in the street, so big groups are clearly not a problem. The pub is very traditional and hasn’t been changed in years, with two simple bars either side of a central servery, a great survivor in an area somewhat overrun by chain or gastropubs, though for ale drinkers there’s only Greene King IPA and Abbott on draught.

clockWe doubled back towards Chelsea now and passed the famous World’s End without pausing for a drink – it looked busy and we were behind schedule – but we did stop at 484 King’s Road to hear how the building used to house Led Zepellin’s Swan Song record label, and at 430 King’s Road, famous as Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s SEX boutique in the 1970s, pioneer of punk fashion, and former employer of shop assistants Glen Matlock, Chrissie Hynde and Sid Vicious. Still owned by Vivienne Westwood, it’s been called the World’s End since 1980, with its iconic backwards-running clock.

The next stop was just around the corner, the Sporting Page on Camera Place. This was a bright, modern and busy pub, but with efficient service of some good ales, including Hopfest, Truman’s Swift and Blindside, Doom Bar and Wandle. The atmosphere was fun and lively though we were able to find a table.

Next, to the Fulham Road, and Geronimo’s King’s Arms. This is an upmarket single bar pub in the shabby chic style, with a decent selection of ales and tables available on a Friday night. They could though usefully add Gents/Ladies signs or pictograms to the toilet signs, which would have saved one of our number from “accidentally” using the ladies.

boltonschurchFrom here we walked back through the beautiful Boltons, home of some of the most expensive property in London, to Earls Court. The crawl officially ended here as the last tube trains east were to run shortly so most of us headed off, though a hardy few stayed for a final one in the Blackbird.

All in all a very fun crawl. A wide range of views were aired on the Pub of the Crawl, but the winner was the Sporting Page. Congratulations!


10/06/2013 at 20:56 | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Finally Spring has arrived, and for the first warm-weather crawl of the year, Dimo took us back to Shoreditch, with a great, short walk around some great pubs around the City’s northern fringe sprinkled with some good local trivia.

We assembled at the Commercial Tavern on Commercial Street, very close to Shoreditch High Street station and a few minutes from Liverpool Street. The only pub of the evening I’d been to before, it’s a quirky pub, decorated in a style which could best be described as unfinished – lots of bare wood and chintzy old knick-knacks, and shutters over the windows despite the sunny day. It was busy with the typical crowd for this area nowadays, young and veering to hipster style! It is fairly small inside but there is a fair amount of room outside on the pavement which was being well used. We all went for a the Two Cocks Brewery’s Cavalier, a very pale ale which went down very nicely indeed.

City boundaryCrossing over to Fleur de Lys Street we crossed into the former territory of the Liberty of Norton Folgate, after which Madness named their 2009 album, and through to Shoreditch High Street and the Crown & Shuttle. This is an old pub which lay derelict for at least ten years but reopened last month, and what an amazing job they have done. The very first impression was not ideal, bouncers on the door and thumping music, but I became very pleasantly surprised. We naturally went to the bar near the door, where there was a fairly decent range of beers, some craft on tap and three ales. We settled for a mixture of Doom Bar, Redemption Urban Dusk and Trumans Runner. Taking our beers towards the back we came upon another bar with several more ales and even a racked cask, so well done on the beer front. Out back we found a huge beer garden which must have contained a couple of hundred people – the place was packed but still had room for a table tennis table, table football and a burger van! Very impressive, and fortunately the loud music wasn’t relayed out here either. A great find, and I’ll be back.

Despite the very short walk to the next pub, we touched on another world, as Worship Street stands on a very physical boundary with the City of London, with the slightly shabby Victorian Shoreditch High Street/Norton Folgate coming up against a wall of modern skyscrapers. But we didn’t plunge into the City but kept just to the north, and headed to the Horse & Groom on Curtain Road. It felt pretty small and dark after the Crown & Shuttle, but was somewhat more relaxed with quite a few punters drinking outside on the pavement (as did we). Far smaller beer range here, the only working pump being without a clip but we were told it was Ale Fresco, and it was very drinkable. As we were only there for a beer we didn’t experience the live music they also host.

Horse & GroomJust around the corner from the Horse & Groom is Hewett Street. A short industrial cul-de-sac today, it was once the site of the Curtain Theatre, which opened at this site in 1577, just 200 metres from the first theatre which opened the year before. It was home to Shakespeare’s company until he relocated to the Globe in Southwark, and was the first theatre to host Romeo & Juliet. It closed in 1622 but its remains were rediscovered in 2012.

Next up, the Fox, a corner pub on Paul Street. As with many pubs in the area, it has been modernised to an extent, but retains its large central servery, which is a lovely feature although it seems a bit oversized compared with the seating areas. As it was a warm day this wasn’t a problem, as we again took our pints outside. There was just the one ale on when we visited, Doom Bar, but it was perfectly decent and the bar staff were notably relaxed and friendly.

Further up Paul Street we found the Princess of Shoreditch, nothing to do with pearly kings but a modern gastropub. It was very nice and very busy, but we managed to get served from a good range of ales including local offerings Hackney Hopster (very tasty), Redemption Trinity and Sambrooks Lavender Hill. There was also a decent selection of craft beers in the fridge. We obviously didn’t stop to eat, but their food has won them awards from Michelin and Time Out so I’ll take their word for it. All in all a very nice place.

GriffinClose by, tucked down Ravey Street, lies the Griffin, a long, narrow pub in a strangely atmospheric street. The street used to be home to Boy George, who in 2008 was sentenced to 15 months after kidnapping a male escort in his Ravey Street flat. Anyway back to the pub, it was busy but not overly so, with a DJ using vinyls creating an atmosphere without deafening everyone. There were some interesting ales on, with East London Brewery’s Jamboree, Truman’s Runner and Twickenham’s Naked Ladies.

Up now to the heart of the Shoreditch Triangle, and a pair of pubs on Rivington Street. The Bricklayers Arms first; I’ve walked past numerous times and once or tried though about going in but it’s often looked pretty full. It looked full this time too, but once we’d got our beers in (decent but standard ales – Deuchar’s IPA, London Pride, Abbott Ale, Adnams Bitter) we headed for the back where there wa more space, and actually found a table upstairs. Its Gents surprised me – covered in graffiti, making it feel like a really dodgy dive (though I think it’s there by design!). All in all a decent pub.

The final stop of the night was the Barley Mow, a stone’s throw from the Bricklayers. Another small and busy pub, we were quite lucky to get a small table on which to rest our pints of Wild River and attend to the final task – voting for the inaugural Pub of the Crawl Award.

After a long debate about how the voting was going to work, we just had time to cast our votes, and the winner was…. The Griffin. Congratulations!

Mayflower update

13/08/2011 at 12:03 | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I have just updated my Mayflower page, in light of the fact that it has new management; previously the beer offer was poor, and the landlord somewhat grumpy. But the new management have now installed some rather more interesting beers, so hopefully this excellent pub will now begin to really live up to its potential!

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