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!

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Marylebone and Maida Vale

17/08/2013 at 13:46 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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We returned to the Marylebone area in August 2013, for a crawl by Rich along the north-western periphery of zone 1.

Close to Baker Street station, we assembled at the Volunteer, a few doors up from the Sherlock Holmes museum and within sight of Regent’s Park. The pub has been refurbished and now sells itself as a speciality beer pub, although of the promised four cask ales, only two were on offer. Although a black IPA was unusual and tempting, for the start of a long evening we plumped for the slightly lower strength Doom Bar. Not sure whether the beer has changed or it’s something about this pub, but it felt quite heavy and I wasn’t overly impressed with it.

Anyway, moving on now to the Swan & Edgar, a very small backstreet pub towards Marylebone station. Although small, it has huge potential to be a wonderful little pub, but sadly it was let down by its beer range, if you can call it that, of just Becks Vier or Asahi. Seriously, that was it, without even any bottled beers. What a shame, give me the keys to the place and I’d turn it into London’s finest micropub.

Leaving the Swan & Edgar, we walked down Balcombe Street, scene of the famous 1975 siege, and through Dorset Square, site of the original Lord’s cricket ground, built in the rural fields of Marylebone by Thomas Lord for Islington’s White Conduit cricket club, which became the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). The first match played here was White Conduit v Middlesex in May 1787, with Middlesex playing Essex a few days later for a prize of 200 guineas.

Passing by the front of Marylebone station, possibly London’s most charming terminus, we crossed over to the Perseverance in Shroton Street. Just a couple of beers on offer, Doom Bar (again) and Harvey’s Best, which most of us opted for. And what a good choice, whether it was the disappointment of the previous drinks or whether it was genuinely well kept, the Best slipped down very nicely indeed. And top marks to the friendly barman and his home-cooked crisps, which were made on the premises and were excellent.

LordsFrom here we had a longish walk north along Lisson Grove, where there is a temporary departure from the genteel affluence of Marylebone. We paused to take pictures of the plaque marking the second, short-lived Lord’s cricket ground; as we did so some youths emerging from the estate behind suddenly scarpered back into the estate as a police van arrived, so we moved swiftly on, and were very soon  back in plush surroundings, dipping our toes slightly into St John’s Wood. This brought us, not coincidentally, to the Lord’s Tavern, famous pub in the corner of the “new” (since 1814) Lord’s cricket ground. It’s a nice pub, recently refurbished, and is accessible from the street as well as from inside the ground on matchdays. Its outside terrace to the front was quite busy, although it was surprisingly quiet inside, and we had the interior terrace (overlooking the back of the ground) pretty much to ourselves. Nice ales were on offer, most of us going for Thrashers’s. Cricket was showing on TV, and cricket fans would appreciate the wallpaper inside the pub, which comprises copies of numerous interesting historical objects from the Lord’s collection.

There followed another slightly longish walk west to the next pub, taking us from St Johns Wood into Maida Vale, but the destination was well worth it. The Warrington was originally built in 1857 as a plush hotel, and remains stunning, with many beautiful Victorian features preserved today. It lies on the corner of Randolph Crescent, a haunt in Victorian times of high-class ladies of the night, and apparently the origin of the word “randy”. Importantly the beer was good too, including Westerham’s Summer Perle, which was top notch.

A pleasant (if slightly roundabout) walk brought us next to the Truscott Arms. The Truscott was fairly busy but we still got a table, from which to enjoy some interesting beer; I had the local Moncada brewery’s Notting Hill Summer, which seemed appropriate and was very nice, while others enjoyed a summer seasonal beer from Truman’s.

We were thwarted at the next target, the Warwick Castle, as last orders had been called before we arrived. No matter, we were just a couple of minutes from Little Venice’s Bridge House, a very pleasant pub just across the Regent’s Canal, serving well kept ales including Landlord and Windsor & Eton’s Knights of the Garter. After much debate about whether we were still in zone 1 (no) and the names of Australian cheeses, we got down to the serious business of voting for the Pub of the Crawl.

There were some strong candidates tonight but prestigious Pub of the Crawl prize was eventually awarded to the Warrington. Congratulations!

Kensington mews pubs

25/05/2013 at 10:49 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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Following up on his article on mews pubs, in May 2013 Phil took us on a mews-themed crawl around Kensington.

To start the evening off, we met at the Crown, near South Kensington and just behind the Royal Brompton Hospital. It’s a smallish corner pub, so we occupied a free table outside, although the chilly breeze made it clear that Spring was late arriving this year (again!). It did strike me as ironic that we were somewhat engulfed in smoke from the next table despite sitting in the shadow of one of the country’s pre-eminent cancer hospitals; I hope they weren’t staff. Still the London Pride, Doom Bar and Brains all went down well and we soon headed off, by way of the adjacent backstreet (which I wouldn’t fancy walking down late at night, even if this is Kensington!).

A short walk took us to the Anglesea Arms, which we almost visited on an earlier crawl but we were too late on that occasion (they close at 11pm). But not tonight, and it was worth the wait. Passing through an enormous throng of smokers outside, the inside was a little less crowded and service very swift. We settled for a mixture of Wandle and Sharps Ice Ale and took up residence in a corner, where we watched the beautiful people of Kensington passing through the pub; one table of girls was getting stuck into a bottle of champagne!

ScrabbleHeading through some beautiful streets, we came next to the Drayton Arms, which boasts a theatre on its first floor. Downstairs though it is a normal pub, and a nice one too; wedge-shaped and with  the Oxford Gold and Proper Job in good condition, and there was a fair amount of space, despite being a Friday night. I think we benefitted by arriving just after the show in the theatre started mind you, so perhaps it would have been packed half an hour earlier. Getting a table, we enjoyed our first ever game of “Speed Scrabble” – one set of pieces, played face up, placed anywhere on the board. With a prompt from Artie, I lucked out with Quran – and the double letter and triple word gave me 72 points, which I think is probably about what I got in the whole game last time I actually played Scrabble!

Another wander through some lovely streets and mews brought us to the Hereford Arms. This was pretty busy, being located on a main road, but had a good range of ales on including an unusual Fuller’s beer Brewer’s Bragg – hadn’t heard of it before but it was nice.

Heading north now, our route took us through some lovely mews, including Elvaston Mews, where Dracula had a hideaway (The Satanic Rights of Dracula (1973) starring Peter Cushing) and led eventually to the Queens Arms, a quintessential mews pub not far from the Royal Albert Hall. Not only an attractive pub, the ales on offer were great, with some going for Thorn Valley Sticklebract, some for Proper Job, and I went with the majority and had Portobello VPA, which was lovely.

MewsMoving on, we passed through Queens Gate Mews to the Gloucester Arms, a Taylor Walker pub on Gloucester Road offering the usual Taylor Walker fare. Leaving the Gloucester we passed through more lovely mews where multiple films had been shot, including Damage (1993) the flat where Juliet Binoche lived,  The Big Sleep, The Black Windmill, Star!, Who Dares Wins and Scandalous.  One famous spot is an almost-secret staircase up from Kynance Mews into Victoria Road which we needed to escape the dead end of the western part of this mews.

We headed for the Builders Arms in Kensington Court Place. This is another great pub, another offering the lovely VPA as well as UBU and others, and it was nice to end up on a sofa for the last pint of the night!

Just one more call needed before heading to High Street Ken tube; a very posh Lebanese kebab from Ranoush, just what the doctor ordered!

Euston to King’s Cross

28/04/2013 at 11:41 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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It was Tim’s turn to take the lead for the April 2013 crawl, heading back to the railway terminal-dominated areas of Euston, Somers Town, St Pancras and King’s Cross areas.

As ever, we met at a station-handy first pub (although all pubs in this area are pretty station-handy) in the form of the Euston Tap, which is housed within a Grade II listed Portland stone lodge at the entrance to the station from Euston Road, a rare surviving relic of the original Euston station. It is a small, square building, most of the ground floor of which is taken up with the bar and its incredible range of craft beers. There’s a huge selection of craft keg beers, many imported from America, but also about eight cask ale taps offering an interesting selection of ales. We stuck with the session beers given the long night ahead, with most going for the Burton SPA, while I plumped for Fyne Jarl. None of us were disappointed with the beers, they were in tip-top condition, as you’d expect here, and we joined the crowds standing outside while we enjoyed this first drink.

Next up, the Royal George, just across from the station’s eastern entrance on Eversholt Street. It is a fairly standard pub now operating under the Taylor Walker brand; pretty decent and there were some interesting ales on when we were there, we had a mixture of Brit Hop and Spring Sprinter, the current seasonal offerings from Fuller’s.

An interesting walk north now along Eversholt Street to the Prince Arthur, taking care not to head into the wrong premises by mistake along the way. It’s a largish locals’ pub and was doing a fair trade without being too busy on a Friday night. My Landlord was fine although one or two others weren’t so keen on their guest ale.

Leaving the Prince Arthur we turned east into the heart of Somers Town and to the Somers Town Coffee House, which as you can probably guess is rather less a coffee house and more a pub.  And a very nice one it seems to be, too. It’s surprisingly large, and was lively without being too busy, and a decent selection of ales, although I can’t remember what any of them were at this point!

Back down to the Euston Road after this, and across to the Euston Flyer. It’s OK on paper, decent selection of beers to be had, but the premises entail a large modern rectangular box, so there’s not much character to the place, and by the time we were there it was somewhat bereft of atmosphere.

IMG_6529Never mind, onward an upward, and back across the Euston Road and into St Pancras, by way of the new hotel entrance (which the Spice Girls famously danced through in the video of their breakthrough single Wannabe). We passed through the beautiful lobby area of the hotel and turned right, through the lovely bar which was doing a lively trade. We carried on out to the station concourse, past John Betjeman’s statue, to the Betjeman Arms, tucked into the corner of the station. Excellent ales as ever, I went for the Redemption Trinity, a fantastic session beer at 3%, and we sat outside admiring the station’s vast train shed and watched a Eurostar arrive from the continent.

To round off the evening, a final station pub, the Parcel Yard, a new Fullers pub which opened with the new King’s Cross station concourse in 2012. It is fairly well concealed, accessed from the northern end of the concourse by way of an escalator, and looks small. But walking through it is amazing how far the place goes on, with a narrowish but very long interior split into many smaller spaces, and an upstairs area too. There was a range of ales on offer, with some seasonal offerings available alongside the regular Fullers fare. All in all a very good new station pub, and worth missing your train for!

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!

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