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!

 

 

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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!

 

West End

04/06/2011 at 17:47 | Posted in Crawls, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Phil took this West End Friday evening crawl, although the closure of Oxford Circus station in the rush hour threatened the quorum at first!

The starting point was very close to Oxford Circus at the Clachan, with a second stop just down the road at Sam Smith’s Red Lion. From here Phil gave us the history of the Bag O’Nails, with just the odd correction by the shop’s owner who was standing outside it at the time!

From here to the Leicester Arms – where I watched the barman pour drip tray slops into someone’s pint, so don’t recommend you stop there – and across Regent Street and Piccadilly to St James’s. Went to several good pubs (mainly with a Lion theme!) in St James’s, before ending at The Clarence, off Piccadilly.

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