10th Anniversary crawl around Marylebone

18/12/2016 at 10:54 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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In November 2016 the crawl celebrated its 10th anniversary, and Phil marked the occasion by retracing (almost) the route of the very first crawl back in 2006.

We met at the Masons Arms, close to Regent Street, which was pretty busy with the whole ‘Black Friday’ thing in full swing in the West End. The pub was busy too, and very warm, and perhaps would be better visited at a time other than 6 in the evening on Black Friday! It’s a fairly small and cosy Greene King pub with the familiar GK ales on tap (including one badged for this establishment).

After a little background info on the history of Mayfair, we headed next to the Iron Duke, a Fullers pub selling their standard beers plus the odd guest, with a nice Cascadian pale ale on offer when we visited.

As we left we heard a brief history of the River Tyburn, one of London’s lost rivers, which flows beneath the street and whose course we would roughly follow for the evening.

We continued past the neighbouring former homes of Jimi Hendrix and George Handel, marked by blue plaques and now subject of a small museum, to the Spread Eagle. This is a fairly standard West End Taylor Walker pub, busy with some decent ales (such as Old Hooky) but nothing too exciting.

We crossed a very busy Oxford Street and past the showroom of Steinway pianos, to the Cock & Lion, visited on the first crawl a decade ago, where we found a very handy table in the nicely appointed upstairs room, with some interesting old cricket and football pictures on the walls.

A short stroll up Marylebone Lane brought us to the Coach Makers, which was also visited on the first crawl but which was then called the O’Conor Don, and has since been nicely refurbished, and upped its beer range to include more interesting ales such as Canberra, Lubricant and Truman’s Zephyr.

Outside the pub, Phil surprised us all with a set of T-shirts commemorating the 1o years of these crawls, which was a lovely gesture.

10 year crawl

We next moved onto the inspiration for the crawls, the Golden Eagle. When Phil first found the Golden Eagle, and its piano singalongs, he thought he should bring people here, and find new pubs – and so the crawls were born. The singalong is still going strong, although is perhaps a victim of its own success – it was rammed when we called in, although perhaps that was the ‘Black Friday’ effect. It’s certainly worth visiting, but perhaps try the Tuesday or Thursday if you want to be able to enjoy it without the crowds.

A few minutes north and we reached the King’s Head, where a lovely ‘then and now’ map on the wall highlighted our route along the River Tyburn, both as it would have looked about three centuries ago when the area was still rural, and how it looks today; pretty different, to be sure, but with a few constants, including the path of Marylebone Lane which still follows the river.

The Pub of the Crawl has to be the one which inspired 10 years of crawling… the home of the piano singalong, the Golden Eagle. Congratulations!

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Leicester Square

27/08/2016 at 20:55 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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On a very warm evening in August, Tim took us on a short crawl around Leicester Square, in the heart of London’s tourist West End.

We started out at the London Beer House, a fairly new craft beer joint at the top of the Royal Opera Arcade, off Haymarket. The pub is the beer outlet of Pall Mall Fine Wine, a little further down the arcade, which opened in 1818 and is the world’s oldest enclosed shopping arcade. It’s also home to the Stephen Wiltshire Gallery, an incredibly talented autistic artist who came to fame as a child.

The pub itself is small, but benefits from plenty of room to sit or stand in the arcade or street. As for the beers, there were 9 craft beers on keg, and a wide selection of bottles and cans in the fridge. We had a mixture of beers from Time & Tide and Two Tribes breweries, which were all very tasty, although I should note that prices are above average (a two-thirds glass goes for about the going rate for a pint in an average pub) – although the quality is very high.

We walked next via Haymarket – once a hay market for the village of Charing before London extended this far – to the Tom Cribb, a small corner Shepherd Neame pub offering standard Shep ales and strangely incongruous music. Tom was a boxer, and the pub retains some interesting boxing artefacts on its walls.

A short walk via the Swiss Glockenspiel, just in time to catch the hourly chimes, took us to the Imperial, a pretty standard central London Taylor Walker pub. Fortunately we were able to bag a table out front to enjoy the summer’s evening before retracing our last steps to Leicester Square, and past the site of Thurston’s Hall, an early snooker and billiards venue, to the Moon Under Water.

This large Wetherspoon has been a West End feature since the 1990s, and although it was busy there was  room inside, we were able to find a table near the bar, where we had a George Orwell-themed quiz about the attributes of his favourite pub, the mythical Moon Under Water, after which this pub is named.

Another short walk – the pubs come thick and fast around here! – and we came to the Brewmaster, sitting atop Leicester Square tube station. This was the first time I’d been in here, though I’d admired the refit from the outside and wanted to check it out. Greene King have done a very nice job refurbishing this and turning it into something which looks a lot like a modern craft beer bar, which is obviously the market they’re trying to tap into.

Sadly they haven’t followed through with the beer or staffing; there were only four handpumps, two of them GK standards IPA and and Abbott. The only slightly interesting one was from Brentwood Brewery, which we all ordered. These were all poured one-handed by someone who’s clearly never been taught how to pull a pint of beer properly. Worse still, as soon as we tasted it, it was very apparent that the beer was on the turn, with a distinct vinegar taste.

Very poor Greene King, very poor indeed – and this is how you serve our national drink to visitors??

wisdenWe left soon for the final stop, the Porcupine, pausing on the way to admire the Wisden tiling in the terracotta tiles above the tube station, marking their former offices. The Porcupine is a Nicholson’s pub, where we mainly went for the ever reliable Tim Taylor’s Landlord.

Finally we got to discussing the Pub of the Crawl, which is often quite a lengthy process, but not tonight; the London Beer House won unanimously. Congratulations!

 

 

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!

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!

Edgware Road

01/11/2014 at 13:26 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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As the dark evenings of Autumn 2014 arrived, Artie took us for a crawl around the Edgware Road area.

We met at the Portman, formerly the Masons Arms, close to Marble Arch. It is now a gastropub, retaining some decent ales on its central bar including Timothy Taylor’s Landlord as well as a much lesser-spotted Havercake Ale.  We stood outside watching the world, or at least a small but wealthy part of it, go by. It is a strikingly urban if genteel scene, with fairly narrow streets in a grid pattern, so I take the pub’s description of itself being in “Portman Village” with a large pinch of salt!

Once Phil had customarily joined us at the end of the first beer, we headed west, across Edgware Road for the first time, past the police guarding Tony Blair’s house, to the Duke of Kendal. This triangular pub forms the wedge between two roads, and is a traditional pub, with a small dining area on the Connaught Road side. The beers were decent but unexceptional, Greene King standard fare.

We soon left by the Kendal Street door (except for one who went to the wrong street) and headed back towards and across Edgware Road to the next duke, this time the Duke of York on Harrowby Street. This also had just some standard GK ales on, and was a bit lacking in atmosphere for a Friday night.

WargraveThat couldn’t be said of the next pitstop, the Lord Wargrave, formerly the Wargrave Arms but now a modern pub, specialising in whisky, with a choice of around 200 from around the world. The beer selection it pretty special too, with a wide range of ales as well as some interesting craft keg beers, including the tasty Hackney Hopster from London Fields. The formula is obviously working, the place was certainly pulling in the punters compared with the previous couple of places, and was very lively.

Around the corner we paused for Phil to tell us about the Cato Street Conspiracy, an 1820 plot to assassinate the British cabinet, which was broken up when the conspirators were arrested in this alleyway.

Just across the street now for the Windsor Castle, an oldie but a goodie, visited on a previous occasion but worth the return, as this pub is a classic old London pub, full of memorabilia, especially royal stuff, to attract visitors but nevertheless retaining its traditional pub atmosphere. The beers were traditional too, and we had a nice mixture of 6X, Bombardier and Broadside.

Just across the road lies the Larrick, which was fairly empty by this time of the evening. The Bombardier Burning Gold slipped down nicely but we had to move swiftly on to the next and final venue to get another in before closing time.

ISISThe Thornbury Castle, just off the busy Euston Road, had the best ale range of the evening, and between us we drank a wide range of ales including Westerham’s General Wolfe, ELB Pale Ale, Rebellion Photo Finish and others – very impressive, and a high note to end the evening, though West Berkshire’s ISIS Pilsner was an unfortunate choice of name to pick this year.

Finally, it was time for the Pub of the Crawl debate, which was finely balanced this time with a three-way tie! However, there can only be one winner, so after a hearty debate and second vote, the Windsor Castle was declared the winner. Congratulations!

 

Marylebone revisited

23/08/2014 at 12:05 | Posted in Crawls | 1 Comment
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It was time for Alan to take the lead in August 2014, with a return visit to the Marylebone area.

We gathered outside the front of the Beehive, a mid-terrace pub tucked just off Baker Street. There was a smallish-range of beers, with Loddon’s Gravesend Shrimper the only ale on offer; I enjoyed it but without a paler ale on offer some took advantage of the Meantime beers on tap, including their tasty London Pale Ale.

Next up, the Barley Mow, a cracking heritage pub, which I think has somehow managed to fall between the cracks of previous local crawls.  It is famous – and indeed listed on CAMRA‘s National Inventory of Pub Interiors – on account of its unique drinking boxes, small compartments adjacent to the bar allowing for very discreet liaisons while still being alongside the bar to order fresh drinks. On this occasion, arriving as we were on a Friday evening, the boxes were unsurprisingly already taken, but we took our delicious beers – all Dark Star Golden Gate – to the back room, where Dimo proceeded to reveal a surprising talent for hustling people at chess.

A short walk down Manchester Street brought us to the Tudor Rose, a fairly old-school pub which has so far definitely escaped the gastropub trend, still offering such 1970s delights as spam fritter burgers! The ale was good enough if a bit unadventurous, with Pride, Rev James and Adnams on cask.

gunmakersWe called next at the Gunmakers, overlooking the car park-cum-farmers market behind Marylebone High Street. This is an attractive pub, with some interesting ales on offer, including a couple of offerings from London Fields brewery, their IPA, and Love Not War, which seemed appropriate given the current strife in the Middle East.

Continuing east, we skipped a possible venue on the High Street as it seemed pretty rammed, and arrived at a pub with the opposite problem, the Dover Castle, which was pretty deserted by the time we arrived. As with most Sam Smiths pubs, it’s a great place, in this case a little mews pub which was frequented by the Who ‘back in the day’ when they used a recording studio opposite.

Not far away lies the Stag’s Head, a nice little corner pub below an art deco building, which we sat outside while we enjoyed some Tring Side Pocket.

albany

From here, we headed back towards the tube, and the Albany, opposite Great Portland Street. We visited this recently and it’s still a lovely pub, and I love it’s modest self-declared as ‘one of the best pubs in Great Portland Street’!

But which pub deserves to be the Pub of the Crawl this time?

As ever a lively debate was had to pick the winner, but in the end the wonderful unique interior won it for the Barley Mow, congratulations!

Great Portland Street to Euston

05/04/2014 at 18:32 | Posted in Crawls | 2 Comments
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Dimo was back in the lead for April 2014, with a crawl along the northern edge of central London from Great Portland Street to Euston.

We met at the Green Man opposite Great Portland Street tube station, a pub I haven’t been in since 1994, and now a Taylor Walker branded venue. It is fairly large and had a few ales on offer, a couple of standards and a couple of interesting guest ales. Very tempted to try the Shoreditch Triangle IPA but at 6% that was a bit much to start a long session with so we largely went for the rugby themed Old Hooker (cue lots of hooker double entendres). It is a handy meeting point but nothing special, and was rather too full of loud people knocking back some post-work beers. The large but fairly dark interior (only the front has any windows) would be difficult to imbue with much character.

Almost next door though, the Albany – which rather modestly describes itself as ‘one of the best pubs in Great Portland Street’ – was much more bright and open, with large windows on two sides and a gastropub feel. Quite a different crowd in here too, much younger, trendy beards pretty much compulsory. Good rotating selection of ales, of which we mainly went for Windsor & Eton’s Knights of the Garter, with a couple of Doom Bars thrown in.

artichokeCrossing north now and heading away from the busy Euston Road, the next pitstop was the Queens Head & Artichoke, a smallish wood-panelled Victorian corner pub. Its pedigree is much older though, originally being a ‘ramshackle old tavern’ which was one of a number of old pubs pulled down when Regent’s Park was built, and relocated onto this site in 1811 (and later rebuilt again). Though it was small and quite busy inside, we were able to enjoy the beginning of spring at an outside table.

A few minutes walk to the east and down an unpromising-looking alley we found the Square Tavern, a Young’s pub tucked away on the ground floor of a 1970/1980s development. Although they handily stocked London Drinker magazine, the ale range was poor when we visited, there were a couple of ales off and only Eagle IPA on offer. The clientele seemed to consist largely of local office workers celebrating the end of the working week. It wasn’t too busy when we visited, but there was a large courtyard/square outside to spill into if it is busy.

A couple of minutes away on Drummond Street (north London’s best street for a curry) we came to the Crown & Anchor, very nice and well decorated with subtle pop art, and a great selection of ales on the bar;  we had a mixture of Ilkley’s Mary Jane, Woodforde’s Flagondry, George Gale’s Spring Sprinter, and Adnams’ new Mosaic Pale Ale. All of these were good but the Mosaic Pale Ale was the best beer of the night, with a beautiful aroma.

Around the corner lies the Exmouth Arms; it broke poor Dimo’s heart when he learnt that we had been here once before, on a crawl which predates this website and isn’t fully recorded! This is a traditional pub with friendly bar staff, fairly quiet by the time we arrived, and we whiled away our time losing money on the quiz machine.

breeThe final (and longest) stop of the evening was the Bree Louise, a well known and well respected pub which not only has several good ales on draught, but also several racked in casks for ultimate quality. The wooden cask 6X wasn’t a hit, but the others were great, and the landlord (ex Harlequins player Craig Douglas) was very chatty and joined us for a pint. We stayed here for a second final round, and before we left were kindly given some free beer to take away from Brains’s experimental craft brewery.

The final business of the evening (apart from grabbing a burger in the station and catching the last tube!) was voting for the Pub of the Crawl. There was a close vote but in the end the wonderful Bree Louise took the honour, congratulations!

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!

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!

Mayfair revisited

26/02/2012 at 20:11 | Posted in Crawls | Leave a comment
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For the first crawl of 2012 Alan took us back to Mayfair, carving out a new crawl in an area visited once before.

A short walk from Green Park tube amongst the beautiful people of Mayfair brought us to this month’s starting point, the Only Running Footman on Charles Street. I’d wanted to try this well-known pub for some time, indeed since when it had its original name I Am The Only Running Footman, but sadly it was something of a let down; rather full of boorish men and with some very poor quality Greene King IPA.

From here it was a very short hop indeed to the first Coach & Horses of the night, this one a Shepherd Neame pub, where sadly the beer let down what is a pretty attractive and cosy pub.

The next pub is probably the most famous in the area, the Punch Bowl. It’s one of the oldest pubs in Mayfair and is pretty decent inside, but is most famous today on account of its part-owner Guy Ritchie. Unfortunately, the pub has upset its neighbours with its noise, so everyone was crammed inside by the doorman (in the picture) despite the mild February weather. As a result it felt a bit like drinking in a lift, despite the fact that the beer was an eye-watering £4.40 for a pint of Deuchars of dubious quality. Nevertheless, I’m pleased I’ve now been to this well-known pub.

A short walk later, past a lamp post formerly used by the KGB as a marker for a dead letter drop during the Cold War, we came across the first egg hunt egg of the evening. There are currently 200 of these scattered around central London, some of them quite beautiful, and quite a few seem to be clustered around Mayfair.

I was already familiar with the next pub, the very grand Audley. This is a lovely pub, and my favourite of the evening. While most of the pubs in Mayfair were built for the ‘downstairs’ staff of the wealthy houses in the area, this one is aimed at the gentlefolk, and sports a plush late victorian interior in lovely condition.
A few minutes walk east now, through Berkeley Square and along Bruton Street where the Queen was born in 1926, brings us to the second Coach & Horses of the evening. It’s a pretty small place,

but room enough for us by this time of the evening. Despite being small, it offered the beer of the evening – Galaxy, Marston’s seasonal Single Hop beer for February 2012. It’s flavoured with Australian hops and was the beery highlight of the evening. I’d recommend coming back to try the others in the series, I’m already getting thirsty thinking about the Citra brew coming in October!

Onward now past Savile Row, the home of the tailored suit, to the Windmill on Mill Street. It’s evidently aiming high on the food stakes but we were only here for the beer, which was fine once it was finally poured. Why do some bar staff need the whole order before they start pulling the first drink? Anyway it was a pleasant pub, and large enough to allow us to get off our feet for the first time this evening. Well worth a visit if you need a break from shopping in nearby Regent Street or Oxford Street and want to sit down with a pint.

Almost across the road now to the final stop of the evening, the Masons Arms. This had the youngest crowd of any of this evening’s pubs, so much so that a barman came over to check the IDs of the people on the next table (they passed muster). Despite Rich’s best efforts, he declined to check our ID, another sad reminder that those days are long past! Being past closing and with Westminster’s dodgy licensing policies in mind, we didn’t risk hitting the next pub past 11pm so stayed at the Mason’s for a final nightcap of IPA before dashing for the last tube home.

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