09/10/2017 at 19:56 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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At the end of September 2017, Phil took us on a walk around Chelsea.

We met up at the Fox & Hounds close to Sloane Square, a surprisingly small traditional corner local which feels a long way from zone 1. It’s a Young’s pub, and was selling just Young’s Bitter and a guest on the evening we visited, but given how cramped the bar area is, they don’t have the capacity of a large specialist bar, but what it had in spades was character and a friendly welcome from the staff. Very nice start, and we were grateful that it was still warm enough (just about!) to stand outside, as it would probably have been rather cosy had everyone been indoors.

Fox and HoundsAround the corner next to another surprising find, the Rose & Crown. This was larger than the Fox & Hounds and was also traditional in its own way, but with more of a 1980s feel, being a friendly neighbourhood pub, probably one of the last unmodernised pubs in Chelsea, with a couple of real ales on offer including London Pride.

We walked to the King’s Road now, where Phil gave us a potted history of the street, and particularly its lost pubs and its trendy heyday of the 60s and 70s, including the famous Chelsea Drugstore (Now a McDonalds) which featured in a Rolling Stones song, and The Pheasantry with its chequered history, including a narrow escape from the law for Eric Clapton and where a new band Queen played one of it’s first gigs in 1972.  After a few stops we arrived, appropriately enough, at the Chelsea Potter. We’d visited here once before, a few years ago now, but then it was the last call of the evening, and my memory is fairly hazy, so it was good to see it in all its glory! It was a pretty large and modern pub, with a few interesting ales on, and space to bag a table even on a Friday night.

Just behind the King’s Road we came to the Builders Arms, a self-proclaimed ‘trendy gastro pub’, but one which has revived a very pleasant drinking bar on one side, with a good range of beers as you’d expect from Geronimo.

After pausing to admire one of London’s smallest houses across the street, which sold recently for over £700k, we went into the Sydney Arms, at the end of the street. This was pleasantly lively, and we were lucky to bag a table under a TV showing the Friday night football.  On Sydney Street we walked past the incredibly large St Luke’s church with it’s flying buttresses and neo-gothic exterior.  When it was built in the 1820s it marked the expansion of Chelsea; away from its origin on the sunny Thames bank; to the north of the King’s Road, which was opened to the public at around that time.

Phil gave us a rundown of the sad tale of the many lost pubs of Chelsea we passed on the walk to the next pub, until we arrived at one of the few surviving hostelries, the Admiral Codrington, where apparently Fergie was amongst the famous faces that used to be spotted here. We didn’t clock any celebrities, but had an enjoyable pint in pleasant surroundings, and they even stocked our favourite crisps (OK I can’t speak for everyone on that point, but at least some of us!), though it was surprising that it wasn’t busier, especially given the number of closures nearby.

Our next target had already closed its doors by this time, so we ended up at the Hoop & Toy, a busy Taylor Walker branded pub in South Kensington, still busy with a mix of tourists and locals enjoying the ales (such as Sambrook’s, which we went for) and some other craft beers. The pub has roots going back to 1760, and its name relates to the clobber associated with stabling customers’ horses on site, but sadly the area was badly bombed during the last war, and the current building feels somewhat lacking in character to me.

And so to the Pub of the Crawl. After some debate, the Sydney Arms was voted pub of the crawl, helped I’m sure by the warm feelings that seeing Fulham’s win engendered amongst certain voters… 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!


23/06/2012 at 12:40 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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Elvis Costello may not want to go to Chelsea, but Phil took a few of us for a crawl around it in June 2012 and we found some lovely pubs.

We met up at the Phoenix on Smith Street, just off the King’s Road. It’s a small corner pub, but being Chelsea this is no old fashioned neighbourhood local but a smart revamped pub run by Geronimo Inns. It’s got a lovely interior, only spoilt somewhat by the fact that half the tables were empty and reserved. It’s a pub on Friday evening, first come first served surely? Anyway there was room to sit outside and luckily it was warm enough to do so. There were two good ales on, including Sharp’s very Cornish Atlantic IPA, which was so nice we stayed for a couple of pints before setting out.

From here we took a slightly roundabout walk to take in the Royal Hospital, built by Sir Christopher Wren and world famous for its Chelsea Pensioner residents and the Chelsea Flower Show, as well as the National Army Museum and Tite Street, home of many artistic types over the years including Oscar Wilde.

The next pub can be found tucked away down a very quiet street and was something of a surprise, being called The Surprise – that’s a new name on me, and I suspect quite unique! This is another modern-flavoured Geronimo pub,and until we arrived and lowered the tone was wall to wall with the beautiful people of Chelsea! This is a bit larger than the Phoenix, with two bar areas and a central servery, with a couple of ales on. They did have a TV though and we caught the start of the Germany v Greece Euro 2012 match here.

A short stroll from the Surprise is the Coopers Arms on Flood Street, a Young’s pub which is probably bigger than the previous two pubs combined despite its relatively modest corner location, and also has a small garden. It’s similar in decor, in the modern pub fashion – lots of wood, and very bright with large windows making the most of the midsummer evening. The Young’s and Sambrooks Wandle slipped down nicely.  The football was on but again was very unobtrusive, and the first goalscorer sweepstake cash changed hands as Germany took the lead.

Another short stroll through some gorgeous Chelsea streets brought us to the famous Phene. When it was a more traditional pub George Best was one of its regular patrons, but he probably wouldn’t recognise it today, it’s been thoroughly modernised and the beer garden has to be seen to be believed; it feels more a bar than a pub.

There’s a doorman now, so it’s a good job we were a small group this month or we may not have passed muster. On the bar was a large range of bar drinks but no handpumps, so we had to forego real ale for this round; a keg version of London Pride was as close as we could get! The football was on again, but not dominating the place, and we enjoyed sitting next to the bevy of young German ladies on the next table who were there to see Germany progress to the next round! All in all while it wasn’t as traditional as our usual places and there’s no real ale, they’ve done a good job with it and it’s certainly pulling in the punters.

We headed past a few pieces of old Chelsea next, with Phil pointing out delights including the old courthouse and Chelsea Old Church, once the parish church for the village of Chelsea and home church of Sir Thomas More, who planned to be buried here but ended up instead with his head on a spike on London Bridge. It’s also where my wife did a reading at her cousin’s marriage, so I have nice memories of the church, which retains its traditional interior following its 1950s reconstruction (it was destroyed by bombing in WW2).

Our next port of call was the venue of our pre-wedding drinks a couple of years previously, the Pig’s Ear. I’m pleased to say it’s not as foodie as it looks on the website, it is a proper pub and they too were serving Sambrooks ales, brewed not far away across the Thames in Battersea.

Heading away from the Thames now, we called next at the Cadogan Arms on the King’s Road. This is yet another pub decorated in the modern upmarket way with a bit of a food focus, as well as a posh pool room. They did decent ales, and the place was nice and lively without being boisterous.

Heading north again we called at the Anglesea Arms but found that we had missed last orders, so continued on towards South Ken tube station and went for our final beer in the Zetland Arms. The last pub of the evening was the first to be decorated in the more normal unmodernised late Victorian style, under the Taylor Walker branding. We were pleased to find them serving the Marstons Single Hop seasonal beers, with this month’s offering being Maryinka, brewed with Polish hops.

Greece were knocked out of Euro 2012 but we gave a little salute to their valiant but unsuccessful efforts with our delicious anglo-polish beers. Cheers!

South Kensington

24/01/2012 at 00:20 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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Richard remembers this one as “becoming rather messy after bumping in to a number of people working for London Fashion week and the arrival of Alan’s other half (and friends).  As such I think we only managed a handful of the pubs on my list.”

We met in the Hoop and Toy, buying enough beer in maybe even 3 rounds to qualify for a free t-shirt, not that anyone would have wanted it.  To be fair there aren’t that many decent pubs near South Ken station but this one is the best of the rest.  This was followed by the Drayton Arms, the Bunch of Grapes (on Brompton Rd) before heading up to Tea Clipper (on Montpelier Street) where we met Jessica.  And that was it.  Everyone left for home happy but soon got lost looking for a kebab shop in clearly the wrong neighbourhood.

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