Sunday, 1 January 2012

Christmas Crawl - Field Report

With one of the party hors de combat, due to a broken ankle and other complications, it was left to Dr B and myself to seek out pubs and pints this Festivetide. All pubs and pints have been more fully reviewed through RateBeer . The map can be found here

Starting at the Bree Louise, we settled down to a couple of fine pints, and some hearty fare. This is a grand pub; unpretentious, relatively cheap, and in a good central location. A discount with your CAMRA card, too, which is a real bonus. With such a choice on offer we sampled Kent Brewery's Black Gold, Downton's Qhadhop, Saltaire's Elderflower Blonde and Nethergate Old Growler. All were good, well kept, with the Saltaire disappointing most, which surprised me. On reflection, we should/could have stayed here, but the Christmas Crawl is all about discovering, so we pressed on.

The Lord John Russell was but ten minutes away, and a half decent boozer. It didn't have the beery charm of the Bree, but it did its job well. A one room pub opening on to the main street, it sold a variety of beers....we could have even had a Brains Bitter if we were brave. But my recommendation had been for Dark Budvar, a nice roasty but refreshing pint....but rather pricey...damn that import duty! The place seemed friendly enough, and would definitely go back.

A slightly longer walk saw us in the Lamb in a part of the city I had not really walked through before. A dark, warm pub this, with oak and green leatherette the design motif. Quiet, but a good pint of Youngs Winter Warmer was most welcome. The theatre memorabilia made for an interesting conversation piece, and we supped our pints steeling ourselves for the walk into mainstream London.

We eventually found ourselves on High Holborn, but avoided the detour toward the Cittie of Yorke and pubs down at Chancery. Instead, we turned right and found the Princess Louise. I must have walked past this pub in the past, but will not do so again. What a great characterful place this is. Lots of Victorian glass and tile work, interior decor, and a well priced pint of Sam Smiths, which helped Dr B balance his budget (he being the poor sod that had to buy the Budvar earlier!). As you might have expected, this was busy, and, as the day (be it shopping or working) was drawing to the end, folk were hitting the pubs.

Then the most disappointing part of the trip.....a left and dogleg saw us walking down Shaftesbury Avenue to Seven Dials and a little beyond to The Harp. CAMRA pub of the year this year, I was looking forward to visiting. What greeted me was a pub virtually devoid of seats, processing custom at rapid, but efficient, pace. The standing drinker was treated to good beer, my Dark Star Over The Moon was lovely, the keeping bring out the good balance of mild malt and fruity hop. However, my natural inclination against standing in pubs was further exacerbated by Dr B getting involved in 'words' with several members of the clientele who thought obstructing a perfectly pleasant request to allow passage was a bit of fun. My understanding is that The Harp is always this rammed, so I doubt I'll be back.

Frustrated we turned left and a longish walk down The Strand, Aldwych, and onto Fleet Street found us at a favourite hideaway pub, the Crown and Sugar Loaf. This pub seems so unknown that it was shutting as we arrived, at 7pm!!. This forced Us into the second option of the very busy, very touristy Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. This pub is worth visiting if you've never been, just for the history. The Sam Smiths OBB is still cheap and tasty, but the place gets very full.

We were now within striking range of an evening closer in Ye Olde Mitre, another hidden away place, just off Hatton Gardens. This place feels like you are entering a secret world down alleyways of Victorian London. Always pleasantly full, yet rarely squashed for a place to sit, the pub seems to have gone all Fullers on us, although that may be my memory. An OK pint of seafarers, as the guest was off (this place IS tiny, it can probably only accommodate one guest!). The evening drew to a close, with the nasty taste of The Harp in our mouths - albeit not a beer related taste!

Taking the long walk back North to St Pancras to see Dr B off, and then back to Euston to get the tube to Waterloo, I felt my 8 hour, 8 pint, 7 (and a half) pub, 6 mile crawl had been a good one. Certainly a few more venues to add to me map of decent pubs I've tried in town.

The only downside? Well I slept through my stop at Southampton Central, and ended up in Brockenhurst!! Fortunately, I had but 10 mins to wait for the last train back East!

1 comment:

Steve Lamond said...

Sounds like the Harp is a victim of its own success, but in these times of many pub closures I wouldn't want to bemoan a full pub!
A lucky end there I assume a taxi would have been pricey at that hour!