Bloomsbury to Clerkenwell

14/02/2016 at 12:20 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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On a chilly night in February 2016, Phil took us on a walk from Bloomsbury to Clerkenwell.

We started out at the Queen’s Larder, a nice little corner pub tucked away behind the main roads in Queen’s Square, a Greene King pub serving the standard ales as well as GK’s more recent Yardbird, which was very good. The pub’s curious name comes from Queen Charlotte, who rented its cellar to store food and drink for her husband, ‘Mad’ King George III, who was being treated for his ‘madness’ by doctors in this square.

perseverance.jpgA walk along Great Ormond Street – home of the famous children’s hospital, which still benefits from the royalties of Peter Pan, bequeathed to them by author JM Barrie, and which cared for a childhood friend of mine as best they could – brought us to the Perseverance. We’ve visited this previously, but since then they’ve installed a brewing kit and brew their own beers, of which we mainly went for the Hoppy Ale, alongside a good selection of other craft beers.

Moving on, we headed next for the Blue Lion, not visited before on a crawl (though I have been here before, when cousin Russel hired it with Phil for their “leaving London” do!)  This is a busy pub with a large central servery, with some interesting beers on draught; I went with the majority and had the Penpont Cornish Coast, though the Moorhouse Blind Witch was also good.

Just across the road lies the Calthorpe Arms, a Good Beer Guide regular and three times winner of the local CAMRA branch’s Pub of the Year. Very popular by its reputation no doubt, it was standing room only.  The beers are well kept, with a couple of guests including Truman’s Blindside as well as Young’s standard beers, although we couldn’t help thinking that adding beers from another micro or two would be welcome to keep up the pace with the newest generation of pubs offering a wider range of beers.

From there the walk took us past the archaeological site where a 350,000 year old hand axe was found next to elephant bones, the “second” furthest point from a tube in zone 1 and the site of former public house Merlin’s Cave, the high point from which the crowd was addressed in the Spa Fields Riots almost 200 years ago.  Spa Fields was covered by Phil in an adjacent crawl a few years back.  The area was rapidly developed soon after and the views have gone in an attempt to stop such congregations and, as we walked down Merlin Street adjacent to Wilmington Square, our next pub was on the left.

Our next stop, the Old China Hand, was one of of the newer generation of pubs. While they have only a small bar, they have some interesting ales on draught, including Vale’s Lock Prop & Barrel (the second rugby-themed ale of the night, presumably as the Six Nations – or the World Cup Fifth Place Play-off as some antipodeans are calling it – has just started) and local brewery Hammerton’s N1. In fact, they make a point of selling only British beers, wines and spirits. But their bottled range also deserves a special mention, with a very large variety of beers; I went for a Citra Pale Ale from the London Beer Lab in Brixton, where I’ve brewed some very similar stuff myself, and it was excellent.

The next stop was the Easton, at the other end of the beer range spectrum. Well not quite, as they did at least have one ale on, Truman’s Runner (and on rare occasion we have been to places with no ales!), but this is a fairly large gastropub with a young crowd, rather like a sixth form common room.  The lack of a wider range of ales is surprising and we wouldn’t particularly rush back until they’ve upped the effort on sourcing beers.

brewdogHeading down towards Clerkenwell now, we stopped at the Bowler, also a gastropub but with a bit more of a choice of drinks. This also felt a bit cosier, as rather than a large single room it has a slightly more interesting layout.

Sadly the next pub on the list had closed by the time we got there, as had the next one, but fortunately the relatively recent addition to the BrewDog empire was still open, and while we got in a round of 5am Saint, I’m pleased to report that we did get out of there long before then!

And we even remembered to debate and vote for the pub and beer of the crawl…

So, the Pub of the Crawl for February was the Old China Hand, which also served up the Beer of the Crawl, Hammerton’s N1  – congratulations!

 

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Bloomsbury

14/12/2014 at 21:47 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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At the end of November 2014, Tim took us back to Bloomsbury for a pub crawl towards King’s Cross.

For the first time (I think) we met not in a pub but in a hotel bar, Bloomsbury being the heart of London’s hotel district. But the Tav Bar was a decent meeting point, easy to find (on Tavistock Square) and not at all crowded in the peak Friday evening time slot, so handy to nip to the bar as people arrived. The bar – turn right on entering the Tavistock Hotel – was actually built around 1950, but is in the Art Deco style, feeling very 1930s, as if Poirot might walk in at any moment. If he did he’d probably find a better selection of beer than he would have in that era, with London Pride, Courage Best and Young’s Winter Warmer on offer when we were there.

The next pub of the evening was one I’ve been past many times and never been tempted into, the London Pub. As if the name wasn’t clue enough, it sits on a busy road beneath a mammoth hotel and looks for all the world like a tourist trap. But to be fair, once inside it really did feel like a normal central London pub – busy, and yes plenty of tourists in there, but a fair few local workers too. The beer selection was the same as at the Tav, as both premises are managed by the same company, and we went out the back to drink them, where the pub’s terrace sits within a surprisingly large courtyard belonging to the hotel, where you can watch the hotel’s comings and goings out of earshot of the traffic on the other side of the pub.

PKS Architects

Image: PKS Architects

On the way to the next venue we paused to admire the former Daimler Hire garage in Herbrand Street, a classic Art Deco building from 1931. This was used as a base for Daimlers for hire, a business later bought out by Hertz, and included a ramp within the building to get cars up to its upper levels; urban legend has it that it is the inspiration for the Fisher Price car park! It has now been tastefully converted to offices, but with the ramp still clearly visible to the right.

Soon we came to the Marquis Cornwallis, a large and rather lovely corner pub on Marchmont Street with a gastro vibe. Some more interesting ales were on offer here, and we mainly went for the Exmoor Ale and Sharp’s Atlantic.

Passing by the blue plaque marking an early home of Kenneth Williams a few doors along, we headed next for the Lord John Russell, a smallish and busy pub with a few good ales on, the pick of which was Truman’s Gold. We sat at a table outside the pub in the small alleyway to the side, where a surprisingly vociferous debate raged as to whether this counts as a mews pub. For the sake of the peace I’ll sit on the fence on this one!

Next up, we headed past Kenneth Williams’s childhood home to McGlynn’s, a backstreet pub close to King’s Cross we’ve called at before, where the usual Courage Best was joined by New World from Fuller’s, which I’d seen in keg form before but not cask; very nice it was too.

Skinners ArmsThe penultimate stop was the Skinners Arms, a bustling corner pub close to the Euston Road. A very good range of ales was on offer here, with us mainly going for the Moor So’Hop and King’s Brewery’s seasonal Red River, which washed down a large pile of crisps, nuts and pork scratchings.

The final stop was a surprise, being the O’Neill’s opposite St Pancras station. It was a bit too rammed but was open suitably late (last orders being called elsewhere by now) and actually had some proper ales on in the form of Rev James, London Pride and Doom Bar.

Once we could hear ourselves think, it was time for the Pub of the Crawl vote. After last month’s three-way tie, there was a clear winner tonight by 7 votes to 1; the Skinners Arms. Congratulations!

 

Bloomsbury

27/01/2013 at 19:14 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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The first crawl of 2013 fell to Newty, who took us to Bloomsbury on a cold but dry night in January.

Old Red LionWe started out at the Old Red Lion, a Greene King on High Holborn about midway between Holborn and Chancery Lane station. The pub is fairly small and not surprisingly busy on a Friday after work, but there is a (fairly small) bar upstairs, and we were able to hold a table there while we assembled and supped the first pints, most of us on the Bath Ales Gem. The pub’s main claim to fame dates back to 1661, when the newly exhumed body of Oliver Cromwell was taken to the pub and held overnight before being taken down to Tyburn before being symbolically hanged.

We set out for the second pub via a corner of Gray’s Inn, one of the ancient Inns of Court, ending up at The Fulwood. Eight of us headed in and made for the bar only to find there was no ale on offer, and in a ‘zone 1 pub crawl’ first, we turned around and headed back out in search of some proper beer in the next pub!

enterpriseAnd what a lovely pub it was, the Enterprise, a new one on me and it was universally praised. It’s a pretty large pub not far from the Old Red Lion, with an attractive facade and interior decor with a somewhat arty and nautical theme with the original Victorian and the modern features working well together. The beer was good too, I went for the Ubu which was in fine form, and the Tribute and Doom Bar were both good too according to the others. Unlike the Fulwood, which was fairly quiet, the Enterprise was packed with a fairly young crowd, and we were lucky to find a perch near the bar when another group fortuitously left soon after our arrival.  Definitely one to come back to if I’m in the area again.

To a Shepherd Neame house now, in the form of the Rugby Tavern. Not surprisingly, there is a slight rugby flavour to the nick-knacks in the pub, despite the name deriving from the former landowner, the founder of Rugby School, rather than the sport. The corner pub, sitting in a very residential part of Bloomsbury on a section of pedestrianised street, feels very much like a local pub rather than a central London pub.

A couple of streets east now to a member of our favourite type of watering hole, the mews pub. “The Duke” (or more formally the Duke of York) is in Johns Mews, just behind John St and Doughty Street, beautiful Georgian streets, the latter of which was once home to Charles Dickens and still houses his museum. The Duke is slightly newer, being a rare Art Deco pub dating from 1938. It is Grade II listed and on CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors and serves a decent pint of Harvey’s (among other ales). So quite how this place has remained entirely off my radar until this evening remains a mystery!

Next up was a pub on the corner of the lovely John St itself, the Lady Ottoline. This fairly small pub reopened in this guise fairly recently and has a gastropub feel, but drinkers obviously welcome as well as those dining, and they had some decent ales on offer. One of my favourite session ales was on, Trinity by Redemption – I wish more pubs sold Trinity, especially when it’s a long night, as they somehow make a low strength ale pack in more flavour than the average pint.

To Gray’s Inn Road now, and a short walk uphill to the Calthorpe Arms. This Young’s pub is more traditional in style and atmosphere than most of the pubs we’d been in so far, and having come from work in a suit I felt a bit overdressed. A bonus of this pub was the sizeable room upstairs where we got a large table despite it being Friday evening.

The LambFor a final pint we headed westwards for the familiar surroundings of the Lamb, the famous Georgian pub on Lamb’s Conduit Street. This is another Grade II listed pub, and another on the National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. The inventory lists numerous features of interest, but among the best-known elements are its surviving “snob screens” above the bar, originally intended to provide privacy for customers who didn’t want to advertise their presence.

All in all a very good pub to top off a good evening’s crawling. Cheers!

Holborn Pub Crawls

24/01/2012 at 00:13 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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The first person to tap the rich Holborn area was Gerald.  There were some memorable moments on this one, we met at The Ship Tavern and then walked past the soup kitchen to the classic The Seven Stars.  It was there where we had a massive debate about Prncess Diana and Captain Cook.  Some local had claimed that Captain Cook was born in Essex, or something mad like that.  Gez recalled the story from his Australian days and remembered he was from the North East.  The pub itself is said to date back to before the Great Fire of London and the bar has a “front room”. Following this we went to (tucked away) The Blue Anchor and after that up to The Cittie of York (more on that later), The Enterprise, The Rugby Tavern and finished up in the sublime Lamb on Lamb’s Conduit Street.  This victorian-style Youngs pub still has snob screens that move and etched glass everywhere, a real pleasure I recall.

Holborn was visit again about a year later – Jimbo did this one – he was over from Australia on a six month trip but had participated in a few and deserved a turn.  He took us around this well-trodden area but some different pubs.  We went back to the huge the Cittie of York, not a problem, its medieval style room at the the rear of the pub is huge and it’s hard not to be impressed, even if the beer is the restrictive Samuel Smith.   Some of the other ones I remember were The Bountiful Cow (really did smell of cooked beef this one) and the Old Nick – we are still trying to remember the rest, perhaps another visit to the area will help jog the memory.

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