City fringe pub crawl

02/04/2018 at 18:19 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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Dimo led the group East this time on a cold winter’s night (well, March) in 2018 and chose Kill the Cat as the starting point on Brick Lane, which is a funky bottle shop that also sells draft and does take-outs. Not sure if there was any HCl present and the only crackling was pig fat rather than a Geiger Counter. Artie had a Small Citra Ekuanot Pale from America to start the night.  In terms of further descriptions Schrodinger would argue, you have to see it to know what state it’s in. And not-so-curious latecomers Phil and Tim will have to go back one day….

Next up was the latest sensation, the Tank and Paddle, round the corner and along a bit from Liverpool Street station. It is a modern concept bar which focuses on real and craft ales plus pizza and is a winning formula, as our previous crawl will testify featuring tanks of Meantime ale. The session IPA we had was very tasty.  The place was busy early on a Friday night, but round the corner with the “Beast from the East” behind us suddenly we were on a street away from the crowds. It was like someone had switched off zone one and we were in some run-down industrial quarter.

It’s hard to believe in today’s city hinterland there used to be Shakespeare’s theatre on Curtain Road and on Worship Street/ Hog Lane the Old Bard himself is reputed to have once lived here. It was the second crawl in a row to feature Shakespearean trivia. And not unlike most of our crawls an evening that had started out as A Winter’s Tale not surprisingly ended up with Much Ado About Nothing.

The pub chosen next was the Long Arm Pub and Brewery, it had neo-classic features, such as ceramic tiling on the walls, its own brewery to the side, high ceilings, pipework visible and a long bar capable of serving quite a few different beers. On this occasion, in the heart of London on a Friday night it was surprisingly only half empty. The beer was good, continuing the IPA run most of us had the Jucy Pale or the Lucky Penny  and we were in awe of the place.

The next bar we went to Finch’s (a Young’s pub) was already tarted up for St. Patrick’s day that weekend – and we ended up sitting outside under the heaters overlooking Finsbury Square, most notably an underground car park. The Chelsea Blonde was cloudy but in this new unfiltered age some tourists were happy to accept. Credit to them they changed it on request.

On the corner nearby was the Singer Tavern, with more tiling than a swimming pool but a name taken from a old sewing machine, one of the ale choices we made was in fact cider and the way the taps were displayed it was confusing.

We finished the evening by Old Street roundabout in the newly opened Craft Beer Company , a huge improvement on its predecessor establishment and a veritable heaven for beer lovers, and there was much to choose from. The conversation flowed, the pub of the crawl was given to the Long Arm Pub and Brewery and this was followed by a metaphorical battle between beer hunter and bar fly, won by the former, with so many beers to choose from, albeit controversially, we stayed for a second round of drinks. By that time we had forgotten what we were drinking, mine had a fashionable permahaze, probably the Styrian Dragon, we also tried the Werrd! and the Little Things That Kill by Weird Beard…..with so many to wacky names to choose from it’s very much As You Like It.

We discussed the evening’s choices and Dimo explained that he had gone for a sextet of nontraditional pubs/beer outlets – and it was true that was not any dark wood panelling, etched window or Doom Bar badge present at any stage tonight. In fact Dimo had perfectly addressed Tony’s existential question at the end of the last crawl, whether Schrodinger would agree is another matter.

Tanks, tiles, tattle, taps, tastes and trivia, what more was there to like?

City & Spitalfields

18/02/2017 at 12:36 | Posted in pub reviews | 1 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!


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 | 1 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.


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!

Fleet Street

29/09/2013 at 23:05 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In September 2013 we returned to the Fleet Street area, visited previously but with so many good pubs well worth a second explore.

We met at the Devereux Arms, in an alleyway just outside the gates of the Middle Temple, a small legal enclave which is well worth an explore (though beware, most of the gates to it – indeed most of these pubs too – are closed at weekends). It is a Taylor Walker branded pub with a few beers on, including Wainright which was good, but a pint of Martsons EPA was off and had to be replaced. (Had to send my pint back last time I was there too, so the beer isn’t kept in the same standards as the nearby excellent Edgar Wallace.)

Once we were all present, if not quite correct, we made for the second port of call, the Old White Horse tucked into a small street behind the LSE (London School of Economics). This was busier than the first, with the street outside trebling the capacity of the pub and providing ample standing space for the young crowd – fortunately we didn’t have the customary rain this time. The pub itself is fairly small and traditional, with the high ceilings and red colour scheme giving it a Victorian feel. The beers were interesting, with Holt’s Two Hoots and LW Lees’s Bitter amongst more common ales such as Landlord, and all slipped down very nicely.

We next went past the Old Curiosity Shop – reputedly the inspiration for the 1841 Charles Dickens novel of the same name and long the southern side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and the home of the Hunterian Museum, which is within the Royal College of Surgeons and well worth a visit (and it’s free). Passing the entrance to Lincoln’s Inn, we headed to the wonderful Seven Stars. (If you’re doing this on a weekday you can cut through the Inn and exit onto Carey Street, but it’s closed at night and weekends).

Seven StarsThe Seven Stars is a wonderful old pub, opened in 1602. So wonderful in fact that this visit gave it the unique distinction of being the only pub visited on these crawls three times (albeit only one person was on all three crawls!) Sadly since we last visited, the gorgeous pub cat Thomas Paine has passed away, although apparently he has a replacement (although we didn’t see him on this visit). Four ales were on offer, and we split between Truman’s Runner and Sambrooks Wandle.

The next stop was the Castle, which was originally established even earlier than the Seven Stars (in 1541) but was rebuilt into its current form in 1901. It is a smallish corner pub typical of the era, and being tucked away in an office area largely caters for the local workers. It is part of the Redcar pub estate and as such has a great range of beers; we largely went for the Umbel Ale, Everards Beacon ale and Oxfordshire’s Harvest Moon.

Exiting the Castle, we passed by the Jewish Chronicle (the last surviving newspaper in this area which until the 1980s was the beating heart of the industry) and down across Fleet Street itself into Whitefriars Street, and the Coach & Horses. This pub looked fairly bare on arrival, high ceilings making it feel large and a deficit of other customers by the time we arrived. Nevertheless, the welcome was friendly, the snacks were good, and while the beer range was fairly small in comparison to some places, it more than made up for it in quality. The Redemption Hopspur went down beautifully I’m told, as as for my Moor Hop – wow, delicious, best beer I’ve drunk in quite a while.

The shortest walk of the evening brought us a few doors downhill to the Harrow. This is a Fullers pub with an upmarket feel, and when we visited it was a lot busier than the Coach & Horses up the road, giving it a much livelier atmosphere. The beer here was excellent too; on Artie’s recommendation I tried the Fuller’s autumn beer Red Fox and it was delicious.

HoopGrapesThe next stop was due to be the St Brides Tavern but we’d missed last orders, so headed a little way north to the Hoop & Grapes, which we knew was open late. This has a fairly small frontage onto Farringdon Street but extends quite a way back, and has a small beer garden out back, and another bar upstairs with an outdoor terrace, which is where we retreated with our beers, including a nice autumn ale from Shepherd Neame, Queen Court harvest ale.

Finally on to the business of the Pub of the Crawl. There were a few good candidates but Artie nominated the Castle for its range of beers and friendly staff and I can’t disagree!

Tower Gateway-Aldgate

10/08/2013 at 13:49 | Posted in Crawls | 2 Comments
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For July 2013, it was my turn to lead, and as with Dimo last month, I targetted the City Fringe, this time around Tower Gateway / Aldgate.

The meeting point was virtually underneath Fenchurch Street station at the Crutched Friar, on the street of the same name, itself named after a 12th century Catholic order which settled in the street in 1249. The pub has a surprising entrance, enclosed but with the feel of entering a yard, with comfortable areas off to each side.  Despite its central location, it wasn’t too busy, with quick service and several ales on offer, although one of the milds wasn’t to anyone’s taste.

Heading east, we began our movement away from the City, stopping first at the Three Lords. This has recently been pleasantly modernised by Youngs and has the look of the new generation of craft ale pubs, but without the large range of beers, and also, surprisingly for its location, without very many customers. The beers we did have were perfectly respectable if not from a stellar range (standard Youngs / Wells range).

Heading south along the Minories now, we came to to Ibex House, built in the late 1930s in the modernist Art Deco style, it was rumoured to have been earmarked by the Gestapo as a London headquarters in the event of an occupation of the UK. Tucked in its corner is the Peacock, a comfortable split-level pub, with the feel of a normal neighbourhood pub rather than a City watering hole. Limited selection of ales but what they had (Hackney Best) was good.

From the Peacock we headed east and across the City boundary to Tower Hamlets and the East End. Along Prescot Street we soon came to the Princess of Prussia, a Shepherd Neame pub with a very narrow frontage but which is quite deep and surprisingly houses a beer garden to the rear. The standard Sheps beers were available, the staff were friendly and there was plenty of room inside to sit down. For future reference the food appears to be very good value for so central a location but we didn’t stop to sample it.

Eastward again after this to the site of the famous Battle of Cable Street in 1936, where a planned march by the British Union of Fascists was prevented from entering the East End and forced back down Royal Mint Street.

Very close by lies Wilton’s Music Hall and its Mahogany Bar. This wonderful Grade II* listed building was built as a pub around 1743 but since underwent several transformations, most famously to a music hall in the mid-19th century, when it played host to famous music hall names including the original Champagne Charlie. After a long period as a church and then lying derelict, it was slated for demolition but was saved this fate by a campaign including figures such as Sir John Betjeman, Peter Sellars and Spike Milligan. In recent years the building has been undergoing structural repairs which have saved the fabric of the building while retaining its ‘shabby chic’ appearance. Although the main auditorium is generaly closed (except for perfomances), you may recognise the interior from one of its many appearances on screen, in films including Sherlock Holmes, Interview with a Vampire, Dorian Gray, Chaplin, and music videos including Annie Lennox’s No More I Love Yous, and the original banned videos for Duran Duran’s Girls on Film, and Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (neither of those are safe for work!).

Getting back onto the subject of beer, its Mahogany Bar is a wonderful addition to the music hall which has been doing great business of late. While they have some good bottles (including Kernel) its draught offer is a little short, but there’s always a couple on. Well, except sadly on this occasion, when the Trumans Runner ran out after a single pint, and most of us had to settle for a keg beer (which admittedly was Meantime so pretty good, but we do always try for real ales when we can). But despite this small disappointment, I still love the place!


Beginning to move back towards the tube now, we headed up Leman Street to the Oliver Conquest. This was very nice and wasn’t too busy, and we were able to bag a couple of sofas to enjoy a few quickfire rounds with the pub’s box of Trivial Pursuit!

We would have gone to the White Swan next but it was already closed, although this may have been a blessing in disguise going by the experiences of a couple of our number. Instead we went to the late-closing Duke of Somerset for a final one. This is rather large and barn-like, and at this stage of the evening was home to the last hangers-on from an office party, trying to dance to the very loud music on the small dance floor. Luckily we could escape to the beer garden and enjoy our final pints in relative peace!

Fleet Valley

06/11/2012 at 20:59 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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For November 2012, Rich took us back to the City, for a walk up the Fleet Valley through Hatton Garden and Clerkenwell to Islington.

We met up at the Cockpit, a small corner pub in the back alleys of the City, between Blackfriars and St Paul’s. It is a traditional pub, popular with local office workers and we enjoyed the Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.

Once assembled we head through the alleys to the west and down the the Blackfriar, opposite the newly re-opened Blackfriars station. This pub appears to occupy a small site from the outside, but cunningly stretches under the adjacent railway arches to add space for quite  few more tables. This could have been a dingy alcove, but the interior was decorated in a glorious arts and crafts style, particularly under the arches, and when it was (unbelievably) threatened with demolition, Sir John Betjeman helped to campaign to save it. Well worth a visit, and my pint from the Liverpool Organic Brewery wasn’t bad either.

Quite a walk from here, as we started north along New Bridge Street and Farringdon Street towards Holborn Viaduct, following the route of the River Fleet, which once flowed along the surface here and now runs in a tunnel below the road. Eventually we ended up at the wonderful Ye Old Mitre, tucked away in the alleys off Hatton Garden (and previously visited on Dimo’s crawl). The pub sits on land once occupied by the Bishop of Ely and as such used to be officially a part of Ely rather than London, although this is no longer the case today. The pub has a good range of ales, as well as good honest pub fare – such as toasties for just £1.99.

The next pub is another of my favourites but not yet visited on one of these crawls – the Craft Beer Company, just the other side of Hatton Garden on Leather Lane. This high-ceilinged corner pub is a sister of the lovely Cask in Pimlico (and a couple of newer pubs in their growing chain), and packs an astounding range of both ales and keg/bottled beers. I had a gorgeous pint from Magic Rock but was spoilt for choice; we each had something different and all were superb.

We could have happily lingered longer but that would be against the rules, there were other good pubs to find! Heading north again, we crossed over Clerkenwell Road to the Gunmakers on Eyre Street Hill. Although the observant will have noticed how partial I am to the lighter ales, I went for the Exmoor Dark here, which slipped down very nicely; others enjoyed their Landlord, Nightwatchman and Harveys. The pub looks small at the front but is quite deep, with a room which appears once to have been the back yard. One curiosity is that the home seems to be something of a home of Ben Sherman, sitting as it does opposite their HQ.

Onward again, and Rich teased us by passing the Coach and Horses and making a beeline for Shepherd Neame’s Betsey Trotwood. One of the great things about these crawls is going into pubs you’ve always meant to try; the Betsey is one of those for me, I’ve been past many times on work business but had never set foot in side before. I’m glad to have done so now, the Betsey was a lively place, and though I’m not always a fan of Shep’s staple ales, the Kent’s Best was rather good. The pub sits virtually on top of both the River Fleet as it flows underfoot down Farringdon Road.

Heading north again, and this time heading to a pub just on the eastern side of the old river, the Exmouth Arms, sitting on the corner of Exmouth Market. It’s a traditional looking pub with lovely old Courage tiling, but inside sports the decor of the new breed of beery-not-quite-gastro-pub. The beer list is pretty outstanding, with a huge bottled list and craft beers on tap (including the local Camden Town brewery), but we settled for the ales, and loved both the Aussie Blonde and Joshua Jane.

Finally, we headed north east from here along Rosebery Avenue to another great pub which Dimo first took us to before, the Harlequin. We couldn’t resist getting stuck into the old box of Trivial Pursuit as we did before; although with incredible timing given the news of the past week, two questions on the very first page related to Jimmy Savile! On that bombshell we suddenly found that it was about 10 minutes to the last Northern line train, so made a hasty exit for Angel tube and a date with a slightly fuzzy Saturday morning.

City pub crawl

04/06/2011 at 16:34 | Posted in Crawls, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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For October 2009, I took a crawl around the heart of the City of London. (Note that if you are tempted to visit these pubs, most are only open Monday to Friday)

We started at the Old Watling near Mansion House station, a busy pub on the delightful pedestrianised street of Bow Lane, and very close to St Paul’s Cathedral. This is a busy corner post-work pub, fairly small but with a back room to spill into if need be. The pub is so named as it lies on Watling Street – not to be confused with the old Roman road of the same name, which passed London further up the river close to Lambeth Palace.
A very short walk up Bow Lane brought us to Williamson’s Tavern, tucked down a side alley to the left. The tavern was once the residence of the Lord Mayor of London – the gates to the pub from Bow Lane bear the WM symbol of former monarchs William & Mary who used to visit. The pub has been rebuilt since though, and is deceptively large – it opens out considerably at the back.
After some good beers here, we continued to the top of Bow Lane, reaching Bow Church, home of the famous Bow Bells – birth within the sound of which made you a cockney, and whose peals allegedly made Dick Whittington turn back to London to seek his fortune.
We continue past the Guildhall, home of the City of London’s local government for over 800 years, and formerly the site of Roman London’d amphitheatre, the edge of which is designated today in the paving in the Guildhall’s forecourt.
The next stop was nearby, the Old Doctor Butler’s Head. After this, took a short walk through the Royal Exchange – now an upmarket shopping mall – and down into the alleys to the Jamaica Wine House. This was the site of London’s first coffee house in 1652, established just a few years before the Great Fire of London wiped almost the whole city out. It is now a smallish pub divided into a couple of rooms, and even later into the evening was packed full of City workers.
Another walk through the alleys and into the rear entrance of the Crosse Keys. This is a Wetherspoons, which we tend to avoid – no offence to Wetherspoons, but we like the lesser discovered places overall. But I thought this was worth marvelling at – it’s huge, the former bank having been converted into the largest pub by far that I know of, and with a stellar range of ales on tap.
Exiting out the front we crossed over to the magnificent Leadenhall Market, and the pub in the centre, the Lamb Tavern, for a final pint of the night.

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