Fitzrovia revisited

07/10/2015 at 19:47 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In September 2015, Artie took us back to Fitzrovia for a tour of some pubs largely missed on previous excursions in the area.

Several people were missing or running late tonight so just three of us met at the Smugglers Tavern on Warren Street for the first drink. I’ve been past this place a few times but this was my first visit inside, and I was pleasantly surprised; despite the narrow frontage, the pub is larger inside than I expected. The bar is small and only had a couple of ales on, but they were good Cornish ales from Tribute – wonder if that’s a deliberate link to the smuggling reference in the pub’s name? Either way, they were good and we were lucky to nab a table outside despite the large number of people enjoying a sunny evening in the street outside.

BanksyNext we headed south towards the BT Tower and the Tower Tavern, presumably named after is skyscraping near neighbour. This 60s pub doesn’t have the kerb appeal of an older pub, but I was again pleasantly surprised inside; the pub was spacious, had efficient staff, and several good beers on; we tried the My Generation and Sadlers One Stop Hop, both were good. On leaving we saw a Banksy on the wall opposite, protected now by a perspex sheet to hopefully keep it there for some time.

Next stop, we were welcomed aboard The Ship, which was yet another surprise, as it seems not  to have changed in 30 years (in a good way – if it ain’t broke, etc.). There was a Cornish slant to the beers here too, with some distinctly average Doom Bar but some delicious Atlantic.

The next stop, the Crown and Sceptre, was a more modern gastropub, very large and very busy, though with enough room at the back to find a table to drink our very decent ales including Ilkely’s Rosa Ostara made with rose petals, and Wood’s rugby world cup special Tight Head.

Like the Ship, the next stop, the King’s Arms, is another traditional non-gastroed pub, part of the McMullan empire and a refreshingly normal pub just a few minutes from Oxford Street.

A few short steps away lies the next stop, the Green Man, another smallish corner pub, a little more in the modern gastro style, which is evidently working for it, because it was rather too busy when we arrived, and a bit of a struggle to find space to stand without being bumped into the whole time by people passing (and all the more difficult for those amongst us clinging onto a 1 kg tin of Milo for dear life…).  I’d certainly go back to the Green Man, but hopefully when it’s not quite so busy.

A slightly longer walk now to the Newman Arms, an older pub than most on this walk, dating from 1730 and rumoured to be the model for the “prole’s pub” in George Orwell’s 1984. There is a Cornish theme to the food and drinks, with some nice beers fro the Tintagel brewery.

We were thwarted in our final target for the evening, which was already closing by the time we arrived, so we headed instead for the still-serving One Tun, a part of the Young’s empire and serving its usual beers.

As ever, the last job of the evening is to choose a Pub of the Crawl. This month we thought that the Crown and Sceptre deserved the honour; congratulations!


Oxford Circus Circular

30/11/2013 at 17:00 | Posted in Crawls | 2 Comments
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As the chill of winter returned in November 2013, we headed for the West End, with a crawl starting and ending at Oxford Circus.

We gathered in fits and starts at the Old Explorer, a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus. This busy Greene King pub was doing a swift trade with shoppers and workers, but we didn’t linger long, and once assembled we started heading east, across Portland Place and along the lively Eastcastle Street.

ChampionThe first stop was the Champion, on the corner of Wells Street. It’s a busy Sam Smiths pub, with, as usual, a wonderful interior. The stained glass windows depict an eclectic mix of subjects, all deemed to be champions in their field. Sadly there was no ale on offer, with only the keg version of Old Brewery. These we drank, just about, but they were very poor value despite the £2.90/pint price tag.

We moved a little further down Eastcastle Street to the next venue, the Blue Posts. There are several pubs of this name, the most likely explanation being that the blue posts which originally stood outside were markers for the hire of sedan chairs. Inside, we found another Sam Smiths pub, and were pleased to see handpumps in this one. Sadly, however, our beers came in plastic glasses (even though we were standing at the bar), and the beer was just as foul as at the previous pub. I managed about the top 2cm of mine and left the rest, not making the £2.90 seem like such a bargain. We’d all rather pay another £1 and get a drinkable guest ale, it’s a mystery why they sell such poor beer in such lovely buildings.

From here we headed north and east, through the alleyway past the Newman Arms, and over to the Wheatsheaf, a smallish pub with an alley alongside. Back in the 1930s it was a haunt of such characters as George Orwell and Dylan Thomas. They were doing a good trade, possibly helped by the England match on at the time, and fortunately had some decent ales on too.

The next stop was a pub with great bohemian heritage, the Fitzroy Tavern, another 1930s literary hangout. It’s a great pub inside and out, dominating its surroundings and large and well appointed inside. However, spotting that only Old Brewery was the only beer on offer – yes, we’d wandered into another Sam Smiths – we decided that after our earlier poor experiences, we would pass and move on.

And next up was the first pub which felt like a local pub, rather than a central London pub – the King & Queen. It was also a free house, and served the first interesting beer of the night, The World’s Biggest Liar by Jennings, a nice dark bitter – we normally tend to go for lighter styles but this was very good.

Beginning to head back to the west again, we came next to the Green Man on Riding House Street. This was thriving, and had a much livelier atmosphere, louder music, younger crowd, and was a way from the main tourist streets. Good beer too, can’t in all honesty remember what we went for in the end, but there were three decent ales on handpump, and fairly sure I had a Tribute.

Next up, the Yorkshire Grey, a handsome pub on the corner of an alley in Foley Street. Unfortunately we strode in to be confronted by Sam Smiths Old Brewery again – so headed back out into the night for the next venue.

Back towards Oxford Circus for the final stop of the night, the George on Great Portland Street. Is is a decent if fairly standard Greene King pub in a busy location, so not one for  a quiet contemplative pint, but not at all bad if you want to escape Oxford Street for a swift half. Decent array of GK and some guest ales, decent service, and got a table, where Phil regaled us with some 1980s Geordie jokes…

We also had time to vote for the Pub of the Crawl. We agreed by consensus that the Green Man was the best pub on the crawl, congratulations!

Fitzrovia South

27/02/2012 at 13:54 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In 2008 Phil took a small party around media-land taking in some old favourites, including the classic Newman Arms, which features on the St Giles pub crawl.  One of our “unwritten” rules is that there has to be a minimum of 4 persons to make it an official crawl (otherwise we’d all be lonely legends at this), hence this is one of our lesser known routes.

We began in The Jack Horner, a fantastic corner pub true to its Young’s tradition of real ales.  If you end up around Centre Point and can’t find a pub this is the easiest to find on Tottenham Court Road on the right going north.  From here it was a short walk to The Rising Sun (in the setting sun – as this was a sunny June evening!), followed by The Fitzroy Tavern (drinking outside) and then through an alleyway to the Newman Arms.

From her we strolled to another nearby hidden pub, The Duke of York, where Rod Stewart is known to have sunk one or two.  Onto Goodge Street for the One Tun, our second Young’s Pub of the evening.  We had made little progress westward at this point and the final two pubs became more of a punt as time was moving on.  We ended up in the Green Man, which was packed with students and finally The Cock Tavern, on Great Portland Street, well after 11pm.  We missed last orders at The Yorkshire Grey, and there was not time to do the majestic Crown and Sceptre, or even the King’s Arms but there’s always another time!


26/11/2011 at 15:54 | Posted in Crawls | 2 Comments
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This month it was Richard’s turn to lead, and he spotted a gap in our coverage of zone 1 around the northern half of Fitzrovia.

We met at the Prince of Wales Feathers, virtually opposite Warren Street station on Warren Street itself (although to be honest three of us did meet by chance in the neighbouring McDonald’s a few minutes earlier).

As well as being conveniently located, the pub does a nice line in beers; on our visit we generally went for UBU. It was very busy inside but despite the cold wind we joined the many pavement drinkers to get some space. Phil arrived last and popped inside to get in a quick beer for himself and another for Paul. Sadly he tripped over a stray bag on the floor on the way out, and the picture shows how much beer was left in the glasses by the time he returned from the bar with the drinks!

The Grafton Arms was the next call, just a short stroll around the corner, where most of us went for a Black Dog mild, which we enjoyed up on the rooftop terrace, despite the nip in the air with Christmas just a month away.

A short walk south now towards the BT Tower (which surpassed St Paul’s as the tallest building in the UK until 1980) and the halls of residence where Coldplay formed, to the Lukin. This small pub in the shadow of the BT Tower sports a modern look and was busy inside, but still sold some decent ales.

Another short hop via Fitzroy Square to the George & Dragon next, a smallish Greene King corner pub, and as busy as the previous pubs. Another zig-zag brought us to the Masons Arms, which I thought was very nice indeed and with great service.

Still heading generally west, we soon crossed from Fitzrovia into Marylebone on the other side of Portland Place, and into the Dover Castle, a well-hidden mews pub tucked away in Weymouth Mews.  As ever for Sam Smiths, a lovely pub with low prices, but also below average beer in my view. In this case, also below average seating, with Dimo falling through a broken bench seat in the back room.

The final leg of the evening took us to Marylebone Lane, and where it all began – the Golden Eagle. This was a prime target of the first crawl, almost exactly five years ago; it’s relatively well hidden, despite being within 500m of Oxford Street; its friendly staff serve decent ales; and the extra surprise up its sleeve is the thrice weekly sing-along, in which the small pub’s punters belt out the songs to accompany the pianist, Tony “Fingers” Pearson. There are not many places you can still find this traditional experience, which was once a very common feature of London pubs in the days before jukeboxes and Sky Sports, and long may it last!

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