City & Spitalfields

18/02/2017 at 12:36 | Posted in pub reviews | Leave a comment
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In February 2017, I took the crawlers on a short walk around the City, starting on its boundary with Spitalfields and ending up in its centre.

We met at the Williams Ale & Cider House, close to Liverpool Street station, which has a beer-led bar at the front and a cider-led bar further back. Service wasn’t great, but we did eventually manage to buy some Signature Roadies, which we took outside to enjoy in the February evening air. The pub is on Artillery Lane, the name betraying its origins as part of  the site of the artillery grounds which used to be found here, just outside the City, until 1682.

Around the corner in Sandy’s Row, where one side of the street is in the City and the other in Spitalfields, we passed the Sandy’s Row Synagogue, the last surviving Spitalfields synagogue. The building was originally built as a church in 1766 by the Huguenot community, and named L’Eglise de l’Artillerie. It later became a baptist chapel, before becoming a synagogue in 1854.

A few steps further on, next to the former Jewish bakery Levy Bros, which was established in 1710 and whose bakers can still be seen toiling away on the building’s exterior, we came to the King’s Stores. This has been modernised recently and has several decent ales on tap, and I had two Signature beers in a row, the cask Pale this time, while some went for the Dark Star Partridge. All were very nice, and we took them outside to enjoy in the attractive street outside.

We kept on following the City boundary along Middlesex Street, so named because the street was the first in Middlesex on leaving the City of London, whose boundary runs along the western kerb. It is better known though as Petticoat Lane, and has been home to a thriving Sunday market since the 17th century.

We took a very slight detour to see the site of the infamous Goulston Street Graffito, before heading into the Bell, a pleasingly traditional pub, with Landlord, Atlantic, TEA and Doom Bar on the bar.

We crossed back into the City on leaving, and came to Houndsditch, which was originally a defensive ditch outside the City walls, but became a popular dumping ground for dead dogs, amongst other refuse. In 1910 it was the scene of the Houndsditch Murders, in which three police officers were shot dead by a Latvian gang, and which subsequently ended a few weeks later in the famous Siege of Sidney Street.

We also crossed over Bevis Marks, home of the eponymous synagogue, which was built by London’s Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community in 1701 and is the only synagogue in Europe to have held services continuously for over 300 years, despite being damaged by bombing in the blitz, and again in 1992 and 1993.

craftbeercoWe passed through Mitre Square, where one of Jack the Ripper’s victims was found, to the Craft Beer Company. As usual for this chain, the pub is excellent, with some interesting ales on draught, keg and in the fridge; we went for Dark Star’s Art of Darkness, a lovely malty black beer, and Kernel’s light table beer. We had nice seats in the window, and watched the extraordinary number of walking groups passing by, drawn by the seemingly insatiable Ripper industry.

We next went just around the corner to the Old Tea Warehouse, but unfortunately all of their ales had finished, so we left without a drink and headed to Old Tom’s, the basement bar of the Lamb in the beautiful Leadenhall Market. This is a cosy space, where we enjoyed some Common Pale Ale from Wimbledon.

standrewgherkinOn the way we passed some of London’s most interesting architecture, where the ancient and modern rub shoulders; churches such as St Katharine Kree (founded 1280, with the present tower dating from 1504) and St Andrew Undershaft (dating from 1147, present building dating from 1532) sit alongside iconic modern towers such as the Gherkin, Leadenhall Building and the Lloyd’s Building.

Next up, we headed to the Counting House, which was built in 1893 as a banking hall, beautifully converted by Fullers, and serving their range of ales; the pub’s foundations rest on the wall of a 2,000 year old Roman basilica, according to the pub’s website.

map.jpgFor the final stop of the evening, we headed to the Arbitrager, a tiny craft beer place serving only beer, cider and spirits from London; we went for the excellent Neckstamper APA, from a new brewery in Leyton, while we admired the beautiful map on one wall, showing the location of London’s breweries overlayed on a mid-19th century map of the capital.

As to the Pub of the Crawl, we have to give it to the final place for breaking the mould with its London-only range and wonderful wall map. Congratulations The Arbitrager!

Smithfield-Clerkenwell

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!

Moorgate

01/02/2015 at 17:36 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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To kick off 2015, Dave’s debut crawl started in the heart of the City, at the Telegraph, a Fuller’s pub between Moorgate and Bank.

 

The Telegraph proved to be a fairly typical modern City pub – large, busy, and full of men and women in suits who’ve spent the day yelling “buy, buy” or “sell, sell” etc. – well at least that’s what I’m led to believe anyway, although there is a chance that my stereotype is a little too much based on 1980s yuppie television dramas. Anyway the Telegraph was disconcertingly busy when we arrived on a Friday evening, although to be fair to the staff they were very efficient and obviously well used to the busy post-work period. The Butcombe was sadly not available but there was Pride, Chiswick and Seafarers, all of which were served efficiently and were perfectly OK, if nothing out of the ordinary. The pub itself was pretty busy, probably not helped by temperatures of around zero limiting the appetite to drink in the alleyway outside, though quite a few were braving the cold.

The second pub of the evening was a few minutes away on Liverpool Street – the George, a corner pub carved out of the Great Eastern Hotel and appropriately grand inside and out. The interior consists of one main room, very square and beautifully decorated, with a lovely high ceiling and a painting of Bishopsgate from some centuries ago, as well as a smaller side room. Sadly the beer lets it down; there are some ales, but only a couple, and the Deuchars was poor – I couldn’t finish mine, and the only other time I’ve been in I had to send both my pints back as the beer was off. So sadly I have to recommend against trying the ales in here – indeed according to the blackboard the George thinks Strongbow and Symonds are beers rather than ciders, so clearly they have given rather less attention to their drinks than their decor.

Back onto Bishopsgate now, and down a narrow alleyway with the interesting name of Catherine Wheel Alley, named after an old pub, the Catherine Wheel, sadly long gone now, itself named after a medieval instrument of torture (as is the firework of the same name). This brought us out close to the Shooting Star, another Fullers pub but with a more classical Victorian feel than the Telegraph earlier, with the same house drinks on offer as well as a couple of other Fuller’s beers, ESB and HSB.

View from the White HorseNext up, we headed back across Bishopsgate to the lovely hidden public square behind and above Liverpool Street station, where a temporary skating rink had been set up, and into the White Horse, another large modern pub on the lower level of a large office building. Looks very much like a fancy wine bar-type of venue but actually the beers were a pleasant surprise, with Truman’s Attaboy among a few interesting options on the bar which also stretched to better known ales from the likes of Adnams, Sharps Doom Bar and Young’s. Most of us plumped for the Attaboy and it was a delight, the best Truman’s beer we’ve had.

Despite the low temperatures we did actually go and drink outside to get away from the crowds, where we could admire the view of the station and the City skyline, so this must be a popular spot in summer.

flying horseWe headed to the west now, and in just a couple of short streets had crossed the boundary between the corporate City and more workaday surrounds, and in Wilson Street came to the Flying Horse. For the first time we were in what felt like a ‘normal’ local pub. It was as busy as the City pubs we’d been to already, but the crowd was more diverse, and the pub was very friendly with good service. There was a great range of ales on too, with most of us going for the Hackney ale with NZ hops, with a host of other beers available including a Flying Horse Ale.

Just a short hop from the Flying Horse to the Red Lion, a smallish traditional late Victorian corner pub at the bottom of Wilson Street now under the Taylor Walker banner. Although probably packed after work, by this time there was plenty of room for us, and a table for our large selection of crisps and pork scratchings, and the Truman’s Attaboy made another appearance alongside their Swift.

A short walk back across Moorgate brought us to the final pit stop of the evening, the Rack and Tenter. This is another large modern pub on the ground floor of an office building, probably heaving at lunchtime and after work, but somewhat emptier at the end of the evening, though still pretty noisy. Some decent ales and a table were all available, but the pub’s strongest card is probably the large pedestrian square out the front, which must be a huge boon in summer but was rather too cold to take advantage of in January!

And so for the awards, now separating the beer of the crawl from the pub of the crawl, given the arguments which have raged in the past about which is the more important criteria!

AttaboyThe Beer of the Crawl was unanimous – so congratulations to Truman’s for Attaboy, beer of the crawl.

And congratulations to the Flying Horse, also unanimous in winning this month’s Pub of the Crawl. Cheers!

 

 

Cannon Street

20/07/2014 at 13:22 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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For my crawl in July 2014, I felt it was high time to pay another visit to the City of London, with an evening centred on Cannon Street.

The first port of call was directly under Cannon Street railway station, and a few short steps from the Underground, in the shape of the Pelt Trader. This new (2013) pub has one of the best beer ranges in the City, and is run by the same people as the better-known Euston Tap. From the outside you wouldn’t necessarily suspect it is a beer oasis, the entrance is modest and little of the interior can be seen, but once inside, and your eyes acclimatise, a beer wall is revealed behind the bar, with a very wide range of interesting beers, both craft keg and real ales on draught, and a cracking range of bottles. We had quite a variety of drinks between us, but the best of the bunch was a delicious Kent Elderflower Saison; I was a little jealous that I only had a taste of someone else’s rather than a pint to myself, as this was the best beer of the evening.

WhittingtonOn leaving the Pelt Trader, we crossed into College Street, passing Innholders Hall, home of the Worshipful Company of Innholders, a traditional City livery company for the pub trade, this year celebrating 500 years since its first charter was granted by King Henry VIII. Turning up College Hill we passed the site of the house Lord Mayor Richard Whittington – he of Dick Whittington and his cat folklore fame – lived in, and the church he founded and was buried in, in 1423.

Soon we came to the Hatchet, the most traditional pub of the evening, a classic City watering hole, tucked down a narrow side street with a snug front bar and another room behind, although we joined the throngs outside in the street, enjoying the balmy evening and the view down Garlick Hill to St James Garlickhythe, with the street and church named after the wharf where garlic was imported from France in medieval times. This is a small Greene King pub, so there was only IPA and Abbot to choose from, which were not quite as cool as they could have been.

Next up, a much more modern pub in the form of the Sea Horse, on a corner site on Queen Victoria Street. This had a slightly larger beer range to choose from, with most of us going for Landlord or Doom Bar, and despite the generous outside drinking space, we opted to stay indoors this time and enjoy the lovely cool air conditioning, while some of us had a very amateur a game of darts!

Just along from the Sea Horse I paused at St Nicholas Cole Abbey to pass on a bit of family trivia; to cut a long story short, if you’d been in this church on 3rd May 1689, you’d have seen some of my ancestors here, for the wedding of Jan Lieftinck, or as he was now Anglicising his name to, John Lofting. Recently arrived from Holland, John was a prolific businessman and inventor, who industrialised manufacturing (his thimble factory turned out 2 million thimbles a year), was the successful plaintiff in the first legal case to establish the principle of “no taxation without representation” in the American colonies, and invented a mechanical fire engine.

London Gazette 1691However amongst his many achievements was a scaled down version of his fire engine; the beer engine, and as a result, he had invented draught beer. Patented in 1691 and described in the London Gazette on 14 March 1691 as “a very useful Engine for Starting of Beer, and other Liquors, which will deliver from 20 to 30 Barrels an hour, which are compleatly fixed with Brass Joynts and Scrues, at reasonable Rates.” Lofting’s beer engine revolutionised the serving of beer in pubs, allowing staff in the main room to serve beer without running down to the cellar each time to tap the cask/barrel. As a result, the bar, and the modern pub as we would recognise it, was born.

After this digression, we headed downhill to the river and the Samuel Pepys pub, tucked incongruously down an unpromising-looking dead-end alleyway. The pub is modern, being situated within a building which was recently rebuilt. The beer range was limited to Tribute and Doom Bar, both fine if a little unexciting these days, but the real selling point of this place is its riverside location and views. There are tables inside with lovely views, but arriving after the main wave of post-work drinkers had already left, we were able to go out onto the narrow balcony overlooking the Thames. Our timing was perfect, because what had been a very hot day was changing fast as a storm rolled in, and we had a prime view of the dramatic black clouds and thunderstorms moving in.

Pepys

A short walk east along the river from here, past the Little Ship Club where I got married, brought us to the Banker, a larger and rather busier Fullers pub, tucked into the arches under Cannon Street station, also with river views, although they are looking out under the bridge so are lacking the aspect enjoyed by the Samuel Pepys. There was a nice light summer ale on, which was a bit bland but well suited to the muggy weather.

Leaving the Banker we walked along the passage under the station which has been very brilliantly improved in recent years with sound and lighting to brighten up what could be a dark passageway. The station was built on the site of the Steelyard, formerly the London trading post of the Hanseatic League, a middle ages trading league and at one time a walled German enclave. The land was only sold by its owners, the cities of Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg, in 1853.

Around the next corner lies the Oyster Shed, a new pub very unlike the traditional City pubs. Traditionally City pubs were small, dark buildings on narrow streets, full of men in suits imbibing liquid lunches and knocking back pints after work. The Oyster Shed feels nothing like this at all, being a large, bright airy space with a large outdoor space with wonderful views over the River Thames. Approaching 11pm most City pubs are down to the last few besuited workers, who’ve ended up having several more beers than they planned. This one was still very lively, full of a much younger crowd, and felt much more like a city centre pub than a City pub. The beer range was very limited, but what was on offer was interesting; we all opted for the Cronx Kotchin, a very nice hoppy ale.

As 11pm approached we knew we wouldn’t get to the next target in time, so opted to stay here for a final one; however, annoyingly, having started to order before 11pm, by the time the barman had established that the beer we wanted had run out and we’d have to choose something else, he suddenly decided we were too late, so we missed out on a final round despite ordering before 11pm and before last orders had been called. Poor show, Geronimo, poor show.

Post-11pm options are a bit limited locally, as most City workers have already fled for their trains by now, so in a bit of a break from tradition we returned to one we had already visited but which I knew was open late, the Sea Horse, for a final leisurely pint before calling it a night.

A final heated debate ensued for the vote for the Pub of the Crawl, a difficult choice tonight with such a wide variety of pubs, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Finally the vote was won on the basis of the balcony view where we watched the storm rolling in, so congratulations to the Samuel Pepys!

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