Crowns and Chairmen

10/01/2016 at 09:27 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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For the end of 2015, Tim planned a pub name-themed walk rather than our usual neighbourhood themes, in a walk stretching from St James’s Park to Soho.

The evening started out, as it often does, with some stomach-lining at the excellent Regency Café, scene of many a film and TV moment, and incredibly for a greasy spoon café, voted London’s 5th best restaurant. The first official stop was the Two Chairmen, on Dartmouth Street, a pub I walk past virtually every morning but rarely visit. It’s a small and busy pub, at least it is busy during the post-work rush, tucked away on a lovely quiet backstreet in the heart of Westminster. Although it was the end of November it was mild enough that we were able to escape the crowds and drink outside in the street.

Just a few metres from the pub lie the Cockpit Steps, bringing us down to Birdcage Walk and into the gaslit St James’s Park. We crossed the park and its lake and got a brief history of the park, including the bizarre coterie of animals that were kept here under James I, including crocodiles! Heading out of the park we crossed the Mall, passed St James’s Palace and Marlborough House, and into St James proper, and on to the next pub, the Blue Posts. This is another Taylor Walker pub, but unlike the previous venue, this one is almost brand new, the block it sits on having been recently rebuilt, but fortunately with the pub reinstated on this corner. This new version is smarter than the old incarnation of the pub, and is bright, airy and busy.

Next, we followed London’s traditional centre of gentlemen’s shirts and other high-end tailoring Jermyn Street, to the Three Crowns. This was pretty busy, though fortunately much deeper than it is wide, and we found some space to stand down the side of the pub, though it was too busy to linger in comfort.

xmas lightsSo we fairly quickly drank up and left, heading via Vine Street, of Monopoly fame, and across Regent Street, into Soho for the Crown, on the appropriately named Brewer Street. Like the previous pub, this was very busy indeed in the bar area and wouldn’t have been much fun, if it hadn’t been for some very fortuitous timing which allowed us a whole table towards the rear, next to the bookshelf with some interesting beer tomes on it.

Heading north across Golden Square, we came to Kingly Street, visited previously, and headed for the Blue Posts. This is a busy (again!) corner pub in the Greene King family, but again we were lucky and managed to grab a table upstairs.

billabongBack across Soho now and past some lovely Christmas lights and the huge murals on Broadwick Street, to The Blue Posts. Yes, it’s another Blue Posts, complete with a ‘The’ this time, and for a change for the West End it has avoided becoming branded by a brewery/chain/pubco and still has a very traditional feel, complete with sticky carpets and small (but perfectly fine) choice of ales.

A short walk further east, including passage along Meard Street with its unusual sign on the door formerly belonging to Sebastian Horsley, brought us to the final stop of the night. If the theme of the walk hadn’t been clear enough already, The Crown and Two Chairmen perfectly ended the crawl, bringing together the clutch of Crown and Chairmen-themed pubs.

So, to the pub of the crawl, and the beer of the crawl…

Not influenced by the venue of the vote I’m sure, as it stood out as a great, lively place with good beers on, The Crown and Two Chairmen was voted the Pub of the Crawl – congratulations! They also supplied the Beer of the CrawlBillabong, a lovely Aussie Pale Ale from Tiny Rebel!

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Piccadilly Circus

17/01/2014 at 19:16 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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Having ended 2013 with a walk around Oxford Circus, we started 2014 with a walk around nearby Piccadilly Circus and the fringes of Soho, led by Tim.

The meeting point tonight was the Glassblower, a Taylor Walker branded pub just to the north of Piccadilly Circus. The pub is -, forming the corner of Glasshouse and Brewer Streets, and was unsurprisingly fairly busy. Rumours of a discount for CAMRA members turned out to be false unfortunately, and the 6X ran out as we got to it, but the Landlord and Trumans Runner were both perfectly decent.

A short walk along the appropriately named Brewer Street brought us to the Crown, a Nicholsons pub and much as you’d expect from a Nicholsons, a traditional interior in good order and some decent ales on tap, and quite a throng around the bar on a Friday evening. The surprise ale was Fullers Steel, a limited edition collaboration brew between Fullers and Sheffield’s Steel City Brewing (motto: “Craft beer from the Grim North”), a very drinkable pale ale, which we were able to enjoy in reasonable peace towards the rear of the pub.

Piccadilly A very short walk now down to the Queens Head, a free house tucked under the Piccadilly Theatre. This is a small pub and just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus, yet we still managed to get a table to enjoy our lovely pints of Moncada Notting Hill Blonde, possibly we were lucky in doing this crawl around a busy area just when half the population is de-toxing after Christmas and New Year. Genuinely surprising to find such a decent, normal pub so close to the epicentre of the West End tourist economy.

We went back down Sherwood Street, which used to be a fairly depressing backstreet still sadly typical of this part of central London but has recently been pedestrianised and completely transformed, to the central pivot of the crawl and indeed probably the epicentre of the West End, Piccadilly Circus, where Tim regaled us with assorted trivia which I can’t relay here in sufficient detail to compete with Wikipedia, but suffice to say it’s an interesting place!

We soon arrived at the St James Tavern, “the best managed pub of 2013”, as proclaimed by a banner out the front of its prime position on a corner of Shaftesbury Avenue as it leads into Soho. Despite this prime location and apparent high management standards, it wasn’t at all busy for a Friday night, suggesting all is not well. Once past the bouncer on the door – not a good sign – we had a pick of tables to choose from, but the same choice didn’t extend to the beers, with just two on offer – Firkin Good and Adnams Gunhill. Sadly neither were actually much good, though in this they did at least match the atmosphere. With almost everybody else being a tourist and the pub winning a national award, I don’t know what message the industry is trying to send about British pubs and beers but they need to stop it. Incidentally they didn’t make up the award, I googled it – incredible.

LyricOn a much lighter note, just a little further up Great Windmill Street, we came to the Lyric. This small Victorian corner pub has been recently relaunched as a craft beer pub, with six handpumps and ten keg taps, all offering decent beers. My Crack of Dawn from South East London’s own Late Knights was lovely, meanwhile a couple of the others went for the Williams Bros Alloa 80/ and pronounced it “amazing” – high praise indeed. All this, and room to stand next to the fire. Very nice place, best enjoyed, I imagine, by day, when there are fewer people around to fill the place up.

Back to the bright lights of Shaftesbury Avenue now, passing the fringes of Chinatown at Wardour Street and into Rupert Street, to arrive at the back entrance of the Blue Posts, another of which we visited on our last crawl. However unlike the beer fail in the last pub of the same name, in this one we had a mixture of Woodfords Wherry, Summer Lightning, and Tim Taylor’s Landlord – between us, that is, not in the same glass – at a table in the upstairs room.

Our arrival at our next and final pub was interesting, a row was going on outside the entrance which involved a drunk woman shouting “shut up you slaaaag!” Appropriately enough this was the Comedy Pub. As far as we could tell the scene at the entrance wasn’t some sort of immersive improv act, although as the name implies, the venue does host comedy gigs. We were there for the beer though, and we went for Rev James, Doom Bar and Resolution.  The ground floor bar was large and not unlike many lively central London pubs, though a trip to the loos in the basement level revealed more of a club area, but unsurprisingly we stuck it out upstairs until last orders.

The final business of the evening was agreeing on the Pub of the Crawl. On account of its excellent beers and atmosphere, we agreed that the Lyceum was a very fitting winner, congratulations!

Soho

24/01/2012 at 00:32 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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Soho – 12 Jun 2009
A fabulous summer evening crawl weaving in and out of famous and infamous haunts in the very heart of London.  We started in the Dog and Duck – “I’m sure we had 2 pints here as about 12 of us gathered for the crawl…!” recalls Jules with slight exaggeration.  Next the Ship on Wardour Street, which has a great interior (although we were outside near the entrance to a trendy Soho hotel) and I read somewhrere this is the only Fullers pub in Soho.  This was follwed by The Endurance featuring stuffed animals around the walls including a bear in the corner…!  Triv inlcuded the Trident recording studio on St Anne’s Court where Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust, Transformer and several tracks by The Beatles including Hey Jude, not to mention the street in “Whats the Story, Morning Glory” (Berwick Street).
Next the Star and Garter on Poland Street after listening to the story of John Snow, former newsreader (not really…!) turned local physician who in 1854 made the connection between Cholera and water supply and removed the handle from the water pump in Broadwick St.  Then onto Glasshouse Stores and the bar billiards table in the back room, that we never played on.
Last but not least the Old Coffeehouse – Full of old pub mirrors – on reflection, a perfect end to the night!

St Giles

24/01/2012 at 00:23 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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Gerald led a crawl in the historic area of St Giles with pubs stretching from Holborn to Soho.  It wasn’t the first one where Jez had smuggled in a softback book with pub crawls listed out (see St James – Westminster) .  It included the vast Princess Louise (as it had re-opened by then – on previous Holborn crawls it was closed and not included).  The mirrors and period features were so memorable (before they closed it).  Also included was the Bloomsbury Tavern, a great looking pub on a corner site overlooking the busy streets around Centre Point; The Angel, an absolute gem with three separate bars, if you like period deco, next to St Giles Church; the pub near Soho Square where Guy Ritchie used to take Madonna (I think) who’s name escapes the memory and The Newman Arms on Rathbone Street (the pie shoppe – serving only pies at lunchtimes).  The stone floor and the well kept Fullers London Pride is worth a detour for.  This pub featured on the Fitzfovia crawl.  For a better description of the rest you need to find the book he was using because a great time was had by all !!

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