London Bridge & Bermondsey

30/05/2015 at 12:12 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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Following this month’s update to the Bermondsey Beer Mile information, including the news that a couple of the breweries were now open on Friday evenings, Paul took us back to familiar territory around London Bridge and Bermondsey for the first Friday crawl to take in a brewery.

After some pre-crawl sustenance/stomach lining in the local late night kebabery of choice, the Cafe Rossi just by the Borough High St part of London Bridge tube, we started out at the Britannia, tucked away in the slightly strange environs of the estate behind Guy’s Hospital where flats, pubs, car parks and medical and educational institutions sit cheek by jowl in a surprisingly quiet area only a couple of minutes form the bustle around London Bridge. The Britannia, which we visited a while ago, specialises in whiskies, with a list of over 130 malt whiskies and a classic water tap built into the bar – a very rare feature these days. We skipped on the spirits though, opting instead for the cask beer fare of Ringwood’s Forty Niner or Fuller’s New World.

Having assembled here, convenient for the tube, we had a longish walk to the next venue – but it was important to get there before closing, as the Southwark Brewing taproom is only open until 8pm on Fridays. As part of the Bermondsey Beer Mile this place is thriving on a Saturday, but rather quieter on the Friday evening with just a few of us there, free to spread out, chat and try the ales brewed on site, including the London Pale Ale, Harvard, Gold and Best.

AHA bit further down Druid Street brought us to the other beer mile venue experimenting with longer taproom hours, Anspach and Hobday. Quite a few people had made it down this far, it was pretty busy inside and out, and again we had a range of their beers between us. A couple of people gambled on a new beer, launched that evening, based only on its intriguing name, The Arch-House. This turned out to be “a sour ale fermented with yeast and bacteria that inhabit our archway”; full marks for experimentation, but thinking about the bacteria didn’t help this slip down quite as easily as their other ales!

To Shad Thames now and an old favourite of mine, the Dean Swift. This smallish corner pub has been serving an excellent range of beers for several years now, and we had ELB’s Orchid, Otley’s Hop Angeles and various other beers while we watched Lancashire getting a tonking in the T20 cricket on the telly.

Next up, a slightly controversially long walk to the next venue, another beer specialist, the Rake. This very small pub – thankfully with plenty of spill-out space in the market – has a huge range of exotic bottled beers, and an interesting range of beers on draught. Although the small bar limits how many beers they can have on draught at any one time, the Oakham Citra and JHB were lovely.

MPNext up, the Wheatsheaf, a classic Borough Market pub once threatened with demolition for the new Thameslink railway viaduct which would have ploughed through the building. Thankfully it was saved, with only the top of the building being sliced open, and after a lengthy closure it has reopened, nicely refurbished indoors, but better yet, with a beautiful new beer garden out the side, underneath the new railway viaduct. A range of Youngs and Sambrooks ales were available indoors; an outside bar is also available but without cask ales (though some decent kegs including Meantime).

Back next to another old classic venue a few doors away, the Market Porter. This is another pub which has specialised in offering a very wide range of quality ales for a long time now, long before it became trendy to do so. Although Borough Market is known now as a major tourist attraction, which doubtless pulls in a good chunk of business today, it also keeps its traditional market hours, opening at 6am on weekdays to serve the overnight market workers coming off shift, who can enjoy its excellent range of real ales available on two sides of the bar, including a bitter brewed in Borough.

Finally, on account of its 1am licence, we decamped to the Southwark Tavern for the final beers of the evening, including Liberation Blonde from the Channel Islands and Andwell’s Five Little Fishes.

So in the Southwark Tavern’s cracking basement area we debated the critical vote of May 2015 – no not the election, the pub and beer of the evening.

After heated debate and a very wide spread of votes, the Britannia was named Pub of the Crawl, and Southwark Brewing’s London Pale Ale was crowned the Beer of the Crawl. Congratulations!



Bermondsey revisited

02/06/2014 at 20:54 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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We recently toured Bermondsey’s fine collection of craft breweries on the Bermondsey Beer Mile, and in May 2014 Paul took us back to some of the local pubs we haven’t been to in previous trips.

We started, though, by revisiting the Lord Clyde pub, just off Southwark Bridge Road and close to Borough station. This time we stood outside, enjoying the long Spring evening, the beautiful old Truman’s tiled exterior, and pints of TEA (the traditional English ale, that is).

The next stop was another familiar venue, Harvey’s London outpost the Royal Oak, still in Borough. The last couple of arrivals met up with us in the back room of this very well preserved two-bar Victorian corner local, and we struck out for Bermondsey.

The walk is not, in all honesty, a very glamorous one compared with posher parts of zone 1, with a lot of post-war council housing in this area, but interesting to see the old Hartley’s jam factory shortly before arriving at Tower Bridge Road for the next stop, the George. This is an old-school locals pub, not gentrified or gastro’d, but offering a friendly welcome and a nicely preserved (or just left-alone) Truman’s interior. No trendy ales here, just Courage Best and Greene King IPA, but they were decent enough and served with a smile. Sadly no £2.50 toasties available in the evenings though!

Pub of the YearAnother short walk through an estate brought us to the next pub, the Victoria. I was very pleased to try this place, I’d chatted to the very friendly landlord once when I’d admired the beautiful exterior on my way to the Mandela Way sorting office early one morning but hadn’t been back for a beer.  It was very quiet inside when we were there, though evidently the Evening Standard’s journos have made the trip in the past, as the pub is still proudly displaying its 1972 Pub of the Year plaque. I didn’t realise the competition went back that far, nor that it had now been discontinued, but through the magic of Wikipedia a full list exists for anyone keen to visit them all! (I think we’ve done seven of these winners, most of which lie outside zone 1 – it’s certainly giving me an idea of a some themed trips to see how they are all faring today!) We all went for the Ubu Mad Goose, which was delicious, and sat outside.

MarigoldAfter the Victoria we moved back towards central London, crossing Tower Bridge Road again to visit the Marigold, at the bottom end of Bermondsey Street. This was somewhat short of beer choice (just Doom Bar), but was a nice place, fairly cosy and lively enough without being too busy. And I imagine a lovely place to while away an afternoon, judging by the huge array of board games available (though not, as far as I could see, our favourite – late 1980s Trivial Pursuit…)

Next up, the Rose, close to London Bridge station. We tried to go here once before and found that most of it had been demolished, but it reopened last year under the same management as the Simon the Tanner nearby (and which we just passed). This is a lot larger than its sibling though, and more upmarket, with lots of large tables for dining. The beer choice was surprisingly small, just a couple of ales, though interesting in the shape of Mister Squirrel and Signature Dark Heart, and there was some interesting craft beer among the keg offer.

MillerOur final stop was one that I passed on when plotting my own crawl around these parts. The Miller doesn’t look all that inspiring from the outside, and the bouncers on the door and loud music meant things weren’t looking too promising. But Paul always does his research thoroughly (!) so what could go wrong? Besides it was past closing time for many pubs, so in we went. Looked like the beer choice was going to be slim pickings on first glance, just Otter ale on the bar; not that there’s anything wrong with Otter, but we’re getting spoilt for choice these days and getting used to a row of shiny pumps offering a range of ales. But on close inspection, there was a long beer list on a blackboard behind the bar, and some very tempting looking bottles in the fridges from a host of London craft breweries, including local favourites Kernel, Brew By Numbers, Partizan, and FourPure. The excellent range of beers made for a later night than was sensible!

Fortunately we did remember to vote for the Pub of the Crawl, with the backstreet local the Victoria winning tonight, congratulations!

Notting Hill

12/05/2012 at 19:29 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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It was Artie’s turn to lead us again at the start of May, and we headed west to Notting Hill, and it was great for me to revisit an old stomping ground of mine, having worked there for several years. Fortunately, as usual, there was some new pub territory for me mixed in with some old favourites.

The meeting point was the Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street, a great little pub chock full of knick-knacks, and indeed of punters too, a short stroll from Notting Hill Gate station. This is a very popular Fuller’s pub, with a Thai restaurant at the back.

Once we were all assembled, we made the very short walk  to the Hillgate (although far enough for three of our number to lose us en route). This place brings back happy memories for me of many a Friday team lunch here, although things have somewhat changed since then. Not only has our team dispersed and moved on, so has the pub, with the old landlord long gone, and the pub moving upmarket in the meantime. The old internal walls, carpet and furniture have all gone, and it’s all large bare wood tables now in place of the cosier feel of the place a few years ago. A couple of people opted for the Sambrooks Junction but found it was off, though the barman happily replaced the pints with the Wandle.

From we made the very short walk through the pastel “Hillgate Village” to the Uxbridge Arms. Unlike the Hillgate, this one hasn’t changed a bit, and still serves a great pint (and stocks the London Drinker).

From here we headed uphill to the Windsor Castle, a classic pub with both a lovely interior and large garden, where we were fortunate to bag a large table. This must be one of the largest beer gardens in zone 1, and is highly sought after in the summer months.

The longest walk of the night followed this, taking us north to the Cock & Bottle, where everyone else promptly disappeared ito the gents after an increasingly uncomfortable walk, as the three preceding pints began to work their way through the plumbing! This is a lovely traditional late Victorian pub, with beautiful etched windows, as can be seen in the slightly Hopper-esque view on the left. In here Rich whipped out a cryptic tube station quiz for us, which we all enjoyed despite one or two dubious answers! (I’m looking at you, Finchley Central)

The Prince Edward was the next port of call, another late Victorian pub in a quiet corner of Bayswater, this one a bit larger and busier, and part of the Hall & Woodhouse estate.

Back toward Notting Hill now and the Champion, which is quite a lively and modern pub with good draft beers. I had some lovely Sumerland Gold from Moor and others went for the Copper Dragon Black Gold, both well kept.

From here it’s just a short stroll back to Notting Hill Gate tube for the last trains (beware, the Champion is open later than the tube!)

Lambeth to Borough

03/04/2012 at 21:24 | Posted in Crawls | 3 Comments
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In March 2012, I led the crawlers back to south London for a walk from Lambeth North to Borough.

As ever, we met up at a pub handy for a zone 1 station, or in this case at least a couple. The Crown & Cushion doesn’t look or feel like it’s in central London, but not only is it about 100 metres from Lambeth North, it’s also a short hop from Waterloo, and not far from Westminster. It’s something of an Irish pub, with old signs on the walls, but serves ales and is a perfect meeting point, lively but without the crowds usually found at 6pm on a Friday.

The pub’s almost next door to the former London Necropolis Railway station, and its first class entrance on Westminster Bridge Road. A short walk east brings us to Hercules Road – where Passport to Pimlico was filmed in 1949, and the former Century House, home to MI6 during the Cold War.

The Three Stags formed the next stop, which has been nicely renovated and sits just across the road from the Imperial War Museum, once the Bethlehem insane asylum, first founded in the City in 1247 and origin of the word Bedlam.

Heading east again, we came to the Albert Arms, a Brakspear pub tucked away in a lovely knot of Victorian houses behind the Bakerloo line depot. This is a lovely little two-bar corner pub, smartly kept and with several interesting and well-kept ales on the bar.

Onward again, via St George’s Circus – where the roads to Lambeth, Westminster, Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges meet – to the Duke of York. In 1979 this was the birthplace of the Firkin chain of pubs, when it became the Goose & Firkin microbrewery. The Firkin empire grew rapidly until the 1990s and has since been broken up, with this one now part of the Shepherd Neame’s growing London pub estate. We bagged a comfy corner for ourselves here, but there was no danger of us flouting the “No petting” rule!

A very short hop now to The Ship, on the corner of Borough High Street, a friendly local where I spent New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago.

East again, through the gorgeous Trinity Square conservation area to the Roebuck. This is a cracking pub serving good ales, and probably my pick of the crawl. With the clock past 11 by this time, we headed back towards Borough tube station for the final call of the evening, the Trinity next to the station, a very convenient pub if perhaps lacking some of the killer charm of some of the area’s other cracking drinking options.

London Bridge / Borough

24/01/2012 at 00:18 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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Dimo’s first ever pub crawl in the series went down the Borough High Street and back again.  The following list of pubs featured but the order is fairly uncertain

  • the bunch of grapes
  • the globe
  • the wheatsheaf (old one underneath the bridge, before it moved)
  • the market porter
  • southwark tavern
  • Old King’s Head
  • the george inn
  • southwark tavern (ended here as it was opposite a tube entrance)

Borough pub crawl

04/06/2011 at 16:53 | Posted in Crawls, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A recent Friday evening crawl led by yours truly took us around the Borough area. Borough High Street is well-trodden and has been covered before, so I took the opportunity to go around some of the more hidden gems. We met at the Libertine, which was a good level of busy when I did a dry run a couple of weeks earlier but was rammed on this occasion; couldn’t work out what had brought everyone here, but I think it’s not normally quite that busy!

From here to the Lord Clyde, a marvellous old tiles Trumans pub  and still performing its role admirably, very nice local. Then to the Gladstone, an unusual pub, quite small but with regular live music downstairs. We headed upstairs and took the last remaining table – a Moroccan-style low table which required us to sit around it on rugs. Very good fun at first, but I think we’d have struggled to stay in that position for more than one round!

Then off round the corner to the Royal Oak, a well-known Harvey’s pub, with a deservedly good reputation. Next stop was the Britannia, home to over 100 whiskies but also some decent beers, and then on to the Horseshoe, and specifically to its roof terrace to admire the rising Shard of Glass, London’s 310m tower now under construction at London Bridge.

A dingy walk through the railway arches brought us out to Tooley Street and the Kings Arms, with a quick late one after they closed in the Pommelers Rest Wetherspoon.

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