East London line pub crawl

East London line pub crawl - 42
A typical scene: Bearded barmen, retro clothes, pies – welcome to East London (photo: Sutcliffe)

IT was a bright October lunchtime when a group of regular pub crawlers congregated in south London lowlight New Cross.

The clocks would go back that night so there was still plenty of crisp daylight in which to attack their biggest challenge yet: 13 pubs in nine hours. The trendiest length of train track in the world. The East London line.

More than ever before organisation would need to be sharper than a Rotherhithe Stanley knife, swifter than a Whitechapel pickpocket, tighter than a pair of Dalston jeans.

So it was with relief that gathered among tipplers in the run down decor of the Amersham Arms were such crawl veterans as the Kenna League chairman, Vicky the bus spotter, BinksyPalts the Balt and last but not least Sutcliffe.

Under their steady guidance London’s edgiest dives and hangouts would be negotiated with as much aplomb as could be mustered after a pint for each station.

Dazza was ‘on hand’ to take analysis of dryers in the gents to unchartered levels.

Saturday 25 October 2014 at 12.30pm. The itinerary:

  1. New Cross – The Amersham Arms
  2. Surrey Quays – The Yellow House
  3. Canada Water – The Albion
  4. Rotherhithe – The Mayflower
  5. Wapping – Captain Kidd
  6. Shadwell – The George
  7. Whitechapel – The Blind Beggar
  8. Shoreditch High Street – The Owl and the Pussycat
  9. Hoxton – Howl at the Moon
  10. Haggerston – The Fox
  11. Dalston Junction – Farr’s School of Dancing
  12. Canonbury – The Snooty Fox
  13. Highbury & Islington – The Compton Arms

1. New Cross – The Amersham Arms

East London line pub crawl - 01
Dublin Porter: A pint of flat Coke (photo: Sutcliffe)

Aromas from the previous evening were still partying hard in this single-roomed boozer, giving the impression they were permanent guests. Fortunately, attentions were quickly diverted by tap of Guinness Dublin Porter at the bar, the Russian Premier League preview on the small flatscreen and the fake ‘tweed’ jacket Sutcliffe purchased from a charity shop that morning.

The Amersham was a solid place to start for a crawl of London’s most faddish neighbourhoods. It is also Sutcliffe’s manor. The area is a curious mix of gritty south London and art students from nearby Goldsmith’s College pretending to be gritty south London. Sutcliffe has problems relating to either group, as evidenced by the polyester tweed.

The Amersham’s interior looks like it was gutted by fire before someone stuck up a few posters at jaunty angles. The resulting mood and proximity of a major art college gives the impression that at any moment someone could walk in wearing green hair, a leather trench coat and knitted mittens or another angsty combination.

No doubt the Amersham warms up in the evening. It was definitely not a lunchtime pub. Crawlers left the bearded barman on his lonesome.

01 Amersham Arms anon
Photos and words: Dazza

2. Surrey Quays – The China Hall

East London line pub crawl - 05 anon
The China Hall: All smiles, thankfully no Chelsea smiles (photo: Sutcliffe)

Having made the short Overground ride to Surrey Quays, crawlers met the day’s first setback. The Yellow House was closed! Not to worry, just up Lower Road the welcoming chalk board of The China Hall beckoned the party to enter.

A part of south London in no danger of becoming trendy soon. A gaggle of shaved heads and calf tattoos greets the visitor. Crawlers were quick to order rounds and file into the beer garden. A low brick wall and several wooden picnic tables became their home for enough time to see off a Stella Artois.

It’s best to visit pubs like The China Hall early in the day, before Milwall lose and the local septum duster mixes with a few pints of short-dated wifebeater.

China Hall hand dryer
Words and photo: Dazza

3. Canada Water – The Albion (closed)

Silent threat from The China Hall stalked crawlers on the short walk up Lower Road to their next destination. Internet research had shown The Albion, the only pub within sensible distance of Canada Water station, was bedecked in St George’s flag bunting. It was with some relief the establishment was discovered to have closed down.

4. Rotherhithe – The Mayflower

East London line pub crawl - 11
The Mayflower: Plenty on the pull (photo: Sutcliffe)

Parched everyone dived into The Mayflower. At this stage of the route the party crossed the Greenwich to Tower Bridge crawl from 18 months previously, the first time crawlers would visit the same pub twice. Premonitions of torn dimensions or the day of judgement arriving with a Biblical thunderstorm were swept aside when the chairman announced the crawl would stop for two drinks to make up for the closed pub.

A mandatory pint of Black Maria was also decreed, the drink equivalent of a Caramac. The mixture proved too much for the bar’s resources and left the strange flavour of Guinness and Kahlua on the palate. A poor substitution.

The Mayflower is definitely worth a visit particularly if it’s clement enough to sit on the river terrace. The serious drinker should be warned: the pub’s history, twee architecture and proximity to the Thames make it a priority destination for tourists. Intent on finding hipsters, the East London line crawler is met instead by the rustling din of windjammers ordering coffees or halves of ale.

03 Mayflower anon
Words and photos: Dazza

5. Wapping – Captain Kidd

East London line pub crawl - 26 anon
Balloon dog whisperer: Soon after this photo was taken a parent demanded his son’s balloon dog be returned (photo: Sutcliffe)

There was a time when the warehouses of Wapping teemed with the Victorian activities of cheeky bootblacks, maritime swagger and tubby prostitutes. The streets retain their narrow dimensions and the buildings their towering capacity, but any human interaction is limited to yet more brightly-coloured windjammers as they explore the echoing thoroughfares. The neighbourhood is trendy, but the price per square foot is an investment banker’s weekday squeeze lair.

The Captain Kidd reflected both the area’s architecture and Saturday afternoon street traffic. Exposed brick and an excellent terrace over the River Thames are tempered by the Samuel Smith’s offer at the bar.

Many years of experimentation have demonstrated a Samuel Smiths pub doesn’t quite feel like any other boozer. Everything about Samuel Smith’s drinks tastes like a scientist tried to recreate the heritage and breweries of a normal pub using a Bunsen burner and 1930s laboratory ethics. The cheap beer tastes a few molecules away from the real thing, and has been known to induce a skull-crushing headache the next day.

Captain Kidd provided an excellent example of this lab rat approach. The concept, taste and after taste of ‘Chocolate Stout’ just goes to show what a bunch of chocolate starfish Samuel Smith’s descendants consider their punters to be.

Captain Kidd gents hand dryer review
Words and photo: Dazza


6. Shadwell – The George Tavern

East London line pub crawl - 37 anon
Great piss up: Dazza lays the foundations for another hand dryer test (photo: Sutcliffe)

One of the closest pubs to Shadwell Overground station is still a 10-minute walk away. The trip is worth it. The George has attracted customers from the stratosphere of musical celebrity, but now struggles against the tide of housing development in the area: ‘Save the George Tavern’.

Bowling in four pints to the good at that same hour in the afternoon, crawlers found the snug deserted save for a lone Irishman in a shell suit top at the bar. The cheery fellow proclaimed his colleague was in the cellar, it was not yet his shift but he was in a few hours early to get ‘warmed up’ for work. He decided to take the initiative and help pull a few pints for the unexpected rush. Obviously not a union man.

Like the Amersham Arms, this is certainly an interior best viewed in the evening when it could be politely called ‘heroin chic’. The windows are almost opaque and every single surface in the George is covered in graffiti, like a giant pub toilet. No surprise then that the theme was carried through to the facilities. There was no danger of an hourly cleaning rota, but who cares about hygiene when you’re shooting up with a rockstar?

05 George Tavern anon
Words and photo: Dazza

7. Whitechapel – The Blind Beggar

East London line pub crawl - 61 anon
Right in the boat race: The chairman demonstrates where the Krays would point their shooters should they have met today’s Blind Beggar regular (photo: Sutcliffe)

It’s impossible to mention the Blind Beggar without referring to the infamous murder of Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie by Reggie Kray, presumably for having the most unimaginative nickname in the East End. Even though it’s fanciful to think the pub is still a den of mobsters getting rubbed out and fenced goods, it does lend some much-needed charm to the grimy decor.

A sack of coin has been thrown at a beer garden refurb, and on a late Saturday afternoon it was bubbling with people and atmosphere. It’s uncertain which popular Spanish travel and lifestyle publication is to blame but Whitechapel seems to have a growing population of chattering Iberians who were very much in evidence here, sporting white or blaugrana colours. El Clásico was about to kick off on the screens.

As for the rest of the clientele, they’re not the prettiest but an all-female bar team made a not entirely unsuccessful attempt to brighten the place up. Plastic gangsters, down-on-their-luck app developers and, in keeping with the neighbourhood’s ethnicity, a few south Asians outnumber any genuine cockneys. It’s unlikely many people die of their gunshot wounds here anymore, if only because the pub now stands opposite one of the UK’s leading major trauma centres.

Blind Beggar gents hand dryer review
Words and photo: Dazza

8. Shoreditch High Street – The Owl and the Pussycat

East London line pub crawl - 69 anon
Site safety:

Leaving Shoreditch High Street station and passing under the tunnel, the visitor is greeted by Boxpark – shipping containers stacked upon each other, painted bright blue and turned into shopping outlets. An innovative concept or a mocking gesture? The sight of those imposing, windowless, steel boxes can only lead a minority of the local area’s high immigrant population to get painful flashbacks of their entry into UK.

Tucked away on Redchurch Street a couple of minutes walk from the station, the Owl and the Pussycat used to be one of the few remaining boozers in London to have a bar billiards table. This game of poise, skill and other qualities lacking in crawlers now seven rounds to the good is now sadly absent from the premises. What’s left is a pub that retains so much of its traditional character but is packed with the demographic influx of young people from all over the world to the trendiest neighbourhood in the country. The L-shaped snug was rammed early evening with patrons spilling out into the small courtyard beer garden at the back.

07 Owl and the Pussycat
Words and photos: Dazza

9. Hoxton – Howl at the Moon

East London line pub crawl - 72 anon
Back home: Katie is yet to fully explain this picture (photo: Sutcliffe)

Taking the Overground to Hoxton, it’s a 10-minute walk to Howl at the Moon. A decade ago, when Hoxton was already synonymous with ‘trendy’, this far up Hoxton Street was still Jamaican jerk chicken joints, Nigerian travel agents, Cockney saloons and Turkish members-only clubs. Over time the wave of gentrification has increased its foothold further north and Howl at the Moon is full of young white folk sitting around candled tables drinking craft beer.

Howl at the Moon gents hand dryer review

10. Haggerston – The Fox

East London line pub crawl - 74 anon
Double teapot cosy: The Fat Ladies manager, a Haggerston resident, ponders how to get his side off the bottom of the Kenna League table (photo: Sutcliffe)

There was a time when it’s isolated location halfway up Kingsland Road meant the Fox was an odd place ahead of its time, catering for young professionals who preferred to ride the few stops on the bus to Shoreditch of a Saturday evening. The Fat Ladies manager was once so moved to describe its clientele as ‘yourself, but on a bad day’.

Nowadays it’s rebranded itself into ‘The Fox Craft Beer House’. There was hardly room to move in the high-ceilinged bar as punters selected from an impressive range of pilsners and pale ales.

It was at this point circumstances became too much for Sutcliffe and his tweed jacket. The high volume of people north of the river who had migrated to their capital, tripped over in Beyond Retro and put on the airs of frustrated creativity incensed a genuine south Londoner with verified artistic credentials.

The Fox Craft Beer House gents hand dryer review
(words and photo: Dazza)

11. Dalston Junction – Farr’s School of Dancing

East London line pub crawl - 76 anon
Shrugging marvellous: The Hoxton Pirates manager tells crawlers what appeals to him most about his religious beliefs (photo: Sutcliffe)

Back in the naughties, hipsters began moving north from Shoreditch in search of lebensraum. The migration has seen trendy bars, restaurants and nightclubs spring up among the murky Irish pubs and Caribbean street market. Farr’s School of Dancing is one such ‘vintage chic’ example, full of ‘vintage chic’ people striking ‘vintage chic’ poses. Sutcliffe and his tweed jacket were furious.

Farr's School of Dancing gents hand dryer review
(words and photo: Dazza)

12. Canonbury – The Snooty Fox

East London line pub crawl - 75 anon
Flash jacket: Fox regulars are not too snooty about their hi vis (Sutcliffe)

Leaving behind the stressed furniture, pretension and craft beer of Hackney, the East London line winds on to one of Islington’s quiantest suburbs, Canonbury.

Unlike the venues visited before, the Snooty Fox is not a ‘destination’. Whereas a popular Home Counties teenager spends the week staring out of the classroom window daydreaming about such matters as a forthcoming night out on Kingsland Road and whether the online designer drugs order will be delivered in time, not even Andy from accounts has grand designs for pubs like the Snooty Fox. These residential boozers are instead the backbone of middle class London drinking. A stop gap, a local bar for a midweek catch up or somewhere for a quick one before heading ‘out out’. Of course, white-collar alcoholism being what it is, the ‘quick one’ can easily escalate into a full blown session, and encountering the bustle and honest laughter of the Snooty Fox mid evening crawlers chanced upon the latter phenomenon. It was a welcome change from the posturing of Dalston.

The Snooty Fox gents hand dryer review
(words and photo: Dazza)

13. Highbury and Islington – The Compton Arms

East London line pub crawl - 79 anon
Underground, Overground, bungling free: The rabble reaches its the final stop (photo: Sutcliffe)

The crawl ended in the most traditional pub of the day. A low-ceilinged, carpeted bar on a quiet street near Highbury Corner. The Compton is soon likely to lose the battle to retain its local feel and commitment against the tide of rising house prices and gastropub-itis. A fairy will die when it ends up with the flatpack marketing of The Canonbury nearby.

Everyone was left to enjoy their feat of 13 pints in 12 pubs in around nine hours. Well, everyone except Sutcliffe and his tweed jacket, who had taken themselves outside to cool off.

The Compton Arms gents hand dryer review
Words and photo: Dazza

Kenna League table week 14 – 9 December 2014

Kenna table week 14 - 9 December 2014Cup fixtures this weekend

Week Team 1 Score Score2 Team 2


Sporting Lesbian



Dynamo Charlton


Young Boys



Judean Peoples’ Front


Bala Rinas



Just Put Carles


KS West Green



Team Panda Rules OK


Cowley Casuals



Hoxton Pirates


Pikey Scum



Still Don’t Know Yet


St Reatham FC



Fat Ladies


Lokomotiv Leeds



FC Testiculadew

Weekly scores





Hairy Fadjeetas Aiden   71   5


Sporting Lesbian Ben M   68   3


KS West Green Stix   61   4


Cowley Casuals Stu   61   2


Bala Rinas Lewis   59   2


Just Put Carles Carles   56   4


Judean People’s Front Sholto   54   2


St Reatham FC Mike   47   1


Still Don’t Know Yet Pete   46   2


Lokomotiv Leeds Ben S   42   1


Walthamstow Reds Dudley   42   -00


FC Tescticuladew James N   42   -00


Dynamo Charlton Alex   40   1


Team Panda Rules OK George   39   -00


Pikey Scum Jack   38   1


Piedmonte Phil   36   1


Fat Ladies Ted   35   2


Headless Chickens John N   30   2


Young Boys Denney   28   1


Hoxton Pirates Abdi   13   -00


Player of the week


Carroll, A – WHM – STR


Just Put Carles



Share Button

Author: The chairman

Ascended to the chairmanship of the Jeff Kenna League Fantasy Football League in 2007 after co-founded the league in London in August 2005.

2 thoughts on “East London line pub crawl”

Comments are closed.