The weather was fair, the hangover manageable and because Cape Town Piotr had searched ‘Manchester hipster pubs’ the Kenna League chairman found himself standing in a 170-year-old basement filled with ping pong tables.
Phillipe Coutinho was putting the finishing touches on a decent shift for Two Goals One Cup, but members of the pub crawl were far from elite sport.
They were too busy doing a terrible impression of three people playing table tennis. At least the Brooklyn Lager was passable.
After a few minutes it became the clear the homemade quince vodka of the previous evening was not entirely shaken off. The group retired to the bar area.
What it lacked in ventilation, the Northern Quarter’s Twenty Twenty Two more than made up for in classic arcade games. House of the Dead 2 of particular note.
Quite what the founding pillars of the industrial revolution would make of four girls in short shorts playing beer pong remains moustache-bristling conjecture.
Pub number two was The Whiskey Jar, which appeared to be a popular venue for hen dos and Tinder dates.
Perhaps cheap dates. The early hour meant it was possible to get two whiskey sours for a tenner.
Now, there are two types of cocktail bar in the world.
There are cocktail bars that anticipate drinks and prepare accordingly and there are ones where the customer watches the barman fiddling around with paraphernalia for an interminable amount of time.
The Whiskey Jar was sadly the latter.
Although he didn’t express it in the usual fashion, Cape Town Chris was delighted to join the crawl just in time for a debate on whether a hipster restaurant was correct to serve pizza straight from MDF tables without a plate. Opinion was split.
Next up was the recently-opened pub of Seven Bro7hers Brewery. Split level exposed brickwork and a fantastic IPA.
Crawlers were pleased to learn from the barman there were two brewery tap rooms in the locale. What could be more hipster than drinking craft beer surrounded by pallets?
The crawl stopped by Manchester Piccadilly to pick up a late straggler. It was thirsty work and The Waldorf’s convenience was, in hindsight, all it had going for it.
Taking a cab to a rail arch on North Western Street, the party entered the alternative Beer Nouveau. A smattering of patrons, a friendly owner and large barrels where the beer is brewed on site were there to greet them.
One crawler – who through a second-language, workplace gaffe is known as ‘The Master of the Flaps’ – took great pleasure in sampling the local mead on offer.
A keen amateur mead maker, he also turned out to be The Master of the Put Downs, telling an enthusiastic beekeeper from the area he was only interested in Polish honey.
The crawl struck out in search of the Cloudwater tap room. A constant hazard of visiting craft breweries is drinkers can find themselves walking through deserted industrial estates looking daggers at the guy frowning at his smartphone’s location app.
Such was the case here, until it turned out the taproom had recently moved around the corner.
Cloudwater: what a find! Again a rail arch was the venue, this time underneath Manchester Piccadilly station.
A tremendous array of beer was on offer as were MDF tables you either could or couldn’t eat your pizza off of depending on your point of view.
The 11.5 per cent Imperial stout was served in halves, so wanting to soak in more of the atmosphere the crawl stopped for a second drink. The pilsner was gorgeous and much less dangerous.
By this time hunger was an issue. The party attempted to get a no-doubt-MDF table at Almost Famous burgers but the 90-minute waiting time was not agreeable.
In the face of adversity, all pretence this was still a hipster crawl crumbled.
Weatherspoon’s in the Printworks is not by any stretch of the imagination a trendy venue but it does have two clear benefits.
Lagunitas IPA is £1.79 a bottle and it’s a convenient place to wait for your table at the adjacent Nandos.
Say what you like about its unchallenging hot sauce, the Mozambican-themed restaurant does sell the excellent Super Bock.
Having lived in east London for half the noughties, it can be easy to dismiss another area’s attempts as hipsterism. The unrendered walls, beards and – you guessed it – MDF tables of the Northern Quarter can come across as forced at times.
But the lack of nonchalance is more than atoned by the fantastic beers and welcoming atmosphere.
It’s highly likely in future residents will spot the Kenna chairman slinking around the side of the train station on a Saturday afternoon.
As for the rest of Saturday evening, the crawl returned to Macclesfield for further tippling in the Red Willow.
Kenna League table – week 30
Narcozep Cup – last 16 first leg results
Thieving Magpies 21 – 19 Islington Sports Islam & Leisure
Cowley Casuals 28 – 26 Bala Rinas
FC Testiculadew 27 – 15 Lokomotiv Leeds
Team Panda 23 – 17 Sporting Lesbian
Walthamstow Reds 25 – 27 Judean Peoples’ Front
Young Boys 17 – 37 Adam Johnson Fan Club
Burqini Pool Party 20 – 20 Dynamo Charlton
So Good They Named Him Twice 39 – 23 Two Goals One Cup
THE first man to visit a pub for every tube station in London has recognised the Kenna League chairman for ‘providing wisdom and élan at crucial moments of the crawl’, according to the Kenna League chairman.
Sam Cullen completed the three-year odyssey of 270 London Underground stations last week, in the order they opened.
“I’m not one to brag,” said the chairman, micromanaging a Kenna HQ lackey hang a framed print off of the blog post on the wall of his executive office. “But I can say I’ve been instrumental in Sam’s journey, providing wisdom and élan at crucial moments of the crawl.”
Critics of the chairman, and there are many, claim he is trying to bask in the reflected glory of Cullen’s feat. They say the only advice he gave was to spam tweet links to his own meagre London pub crawl posts in an attempt to drive traffic to the site.
The chairman denied he was overplaying his role: “This is about pubs, not search engine optimisation, pubs, pub crawl, beer, bar, boozer, tavern, ale, saloon, inn, kenna, jeff kenna, fantasy football, premier league.
“And that’s all I have to say on the matter, underground, tube, transport, train, london, capital, big smoke, west end, east end, Mary Poppins.”
Cullen’s achievement drew a slew of media coverage, which included his own recommendations of London pubs based on his experience.
IF one tired of London pubs is tired of life, what of one tired of London pub crawls?
Having visited the capital’s ale houses along bus, boat, Tube, tram and train routes over the last three years, a change in the air was needed.
There are many shortcomings to the nation’s rail services, but they do open up a whole array of towns and pubs to the dedicated drinker. And what more zealous tippler could there be than Inspector Morse?
Crime fiction’s biggest pub lover was often seen doing his best ‘thinking’ in the charming boozers of Oxford.
The ancient university city is an hour by train from the capital, making eight bars in the environs of Jericho and the city centre a walkable target for the London day tripper.
Paddington station was the rendezvous for five regular crawlers on Saturday 14 November 2015: the Kenna League chairman, the Pirate, Lady Norman, Sutcliffe and Dazza – who was once again on gents hand dryer rating patrol.
Despite the gloomy weather at Oxford train station, crawlers felt refreshed from a journey in which fellow passengers on the 11.21 had engaged in both conversation and our supply of brandy and coke. Pub recommendations flowed with the chat, and at least one pub was added to the itinerary.
Making our way east towards the city, umbrellas were up. Moist from light rain, we entered the small cocktail bar of The Randolph Hotel. It was filled with a mix of tourists and older patrons who looked a regular feature.
The waiter baulked when we ordered five Morse cocktails. A fiddly drink to make for even the most skilled barkeep, our man persevered. After a brief interlude five tipplers were showing signs of either displeasure or enjoyment depending on their interpretation of champagne, vanilla spirit, bourbon and something else garnished with long strain of orange zest.
The drink divided opinion but the surroundings did not. The wood panelling and nod to the fictitious chief inspector hanging above the fireplace was by far the most salubrious snug this posse had found themselves on a crawl. At £66 for the round, it was a pity Sergeant Lewis wasn’t ‘in the chair’ to pick up the tab.
The whip decimated, we made our way into the neighbourhood of Jericho and The Olde Bookbinders Ale House. The rain had not yet let up, so it was with great pleasure we crowded into what would turn out to be one of the best pubs of any crawl.
Situated opposite ‘Canal Reach’, the murder scene from the first televised Morse The Dead of Jericho, the Bookbinders is a tremendous pub. Authentic, cosy and a fine selection of drinks, it seemed a pity to stay for just one. The French landlord was as welcoming as his pub. His bonhomie and hospitality was extended to the toilet artwork. Captivating.
It’s a short walk from the Bookbinders to The Jericho Tavern. A spacious, echoey pub with wooden floors, a high ceiling and according to the pin board a fine heritage as a live music venue.
Morse was seen disappearing into this establishment in the closing scenes of The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn. An adult film at the cinema next door proves crucial in solving the case. At the end of episode the chief inspector is disappointed to find the skin flick has been replaced by 101 Dalmatians, so he ducks into The Jericho Tavern instead. Classic Morse.
And a wise move. The beer selection was little short of outstanding. That is unless you’ve got the palette of Sutcliffe, whose customary resort to ‘the darkest thing on the menu’ – in ale, as well as life – was rewarded with the amber Doom Bar. He found little recompense in the balance-the-20p-on-the-bobbing-lemon-to-get-a-free-drink game, as did all crawlers.
A heated discussion on Stephen Fry’s value to society later, we cut east across a footpath through academic buildings. The brandy and coke, cocktails and beer manifested themselves in another debate: what constitutes an afro. In hindsight, how a man with a ginger beard offered a valid point on this matter was a mystery with which Morse would have wrestled longer than The Times crossword.
JRR Tolkein and other literary big hitters used to hang out at the Eagle & Child, but on our visit there was no more than tourists and wet umbrellas.
The pub is narrow and wood panelled. The number of tourists ordering mulled wine meant one could have read The Lord of the Rings trilogy while waiting to get served.
Finding a table in the conservatory area at the back, I can’t imagine anyone from Oxford wanting to visit this tourist snare. Indeed, the closest it came to the chief inspector it was dressed up as a background wine bar.
Taking advice from an Oxford graduate on the train that morning, crawlers traversed St Giles to the Lamb and Flag. This wasn’t in the original plan, but its proximity and the scholar’s conviction gave it a solid recommendation.
The Lamb and Flag is much preferable to the Eagle & Child. Open, warm and with beer options adequate rather than outstanding, crawlers saw for the first time that day some real students celebrating after their graduation ceremony. And I thought girls only wore bow ties in gentleman’s magazines.
Taking the Lamb and Flag passage from the pub, the crawl reached Parks Road and took at right. A few minutes walk through yet more sandstone university buildings and now the pubs come thick and fast.
The King’s Arms was up first. It was packed with more bow ties than the Playboy Mansion. By now the day’s repast was beginning to take it’s toll and events slid past with remarkable ease and conviviality.
Immersed in the academic world, for the Pirate it was time to put some of that Somali charm to work. While not disastrous, other audiences have been more receptive to his chat. Pity, with his prolific London Tinder history he could have found an ideal match in a freshly-graduated immunologist.
Undeterred, we bounded around the corner onto Broad Street and The White Horse. With three of the five crawlers standing over six feet tall, it’s a bit of a crouch from street level down the step and through the low doorway.
A corridor of a pub with bar one side and banquettes the other greets the visitor. Peroni was the pick of the lager in here, but we were straying dangerously close to the jaws of the tourist trap again.
It was with relief then, we piled into Turf Tavern 50 metres away. A firm favourite with Morse, this labyrinthine boozer appears to be built on the design of a rabbit warren. By now steady rain was falling, so we huddled under one of the giant umbrella squares erected to protect patio tipplers. The ebb and flow of the chatter was pleasant and effortless. If only I could remember what the hell was being discussed.
From here the crawl became unwieldy. Walking south on Catte Street and turning right at the High, crawlers made another bonus pub visit. I say pub, but The Mitre is a Beefeater.
Morse does happen into here in one of the books, but waiting for Sutcliffe’s bowl of chips while drinking over-commercialised pilsner fails to fire many synapses, or to inspire Sutcliffe to get his camera out. The chief inspector would have solved few crimes in such a setting.
Crossing the High and going down Alfred Street the crawl made it’s last official stop at The Bear Inn. This pub is old with dark beams and plenty of trade. After eight hours on the pop, other details are scant. We had something to drink. It was in a pint-shaped glass. Probably beer.
Having completed the crawl with at least 90 minutes until the 8.21 to London, it was a meandering path back to the station. We stopped at one of the many new new and characterless bars along the road back to the station to kill time.
We stocked up on Polish lager outside the station. The train ride home is a complete blank.
The spires and sandstone of Oxford were a welcome change from the suburban dives and city centre faux show of London. The pubs are by and large fantastic too, and one can see why Colin Dexter made Morse such a lover.
The proximity of the drinking houses means any able bodied drinker can stroll between them, and going at the customary 40-minutes-a-pub pace, we completed the objective in less than six and a half hours, including an additional three pubs.
Perhaps in hindsight it would do better to visit the older pubs (The Bear Inn, Turf Tavern etc) first, in order to better enjoy their historic environs. However, the direction of the crawl would be difficult to reverse. The Randolph Hotel doesn’t feel like somewhere one would be welcome 10 pubs to the good.
Even if one could negotiate the doorman with a skinful, consuming the Morse Cocktail would be a Pyrrhic victory.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
GODALMING became the centre of national scandal in 1726 when a local woman began giving birth to rabbits.
Mary Toft raised herself from obscurity by convincing even King George I’s own surgeon she was capable of delivering a bumper litter of 16 bunnies, as well as bits of other animals.
The deception was uncovered when Toft was found to have inserted woodland creatures inside herself before faking the births.
Fortunately, Vicki the bus spotter was not in such capricious mood 287 autumns later when a party of regular crawlers made the day trip from London Waterloo to sample the pubs in her new Surrey home. A deer was spotted in her garden though.
A couple of Binksy’s extremely fiery Bloody Marys were more than enough to warm their house on a Saturday lunchtime and the group – including the Kenna chairman, Palts the Balt, the Spartak Mogadishu manager and of course the irrepressible Sutcliffe in a shirt of questionable taste – ambled down the hill to sample four of Godalming’s ale houses.
The first town in the world to have a public electricity supply in 1881, it was fitting the day of the pub crawl would also see the people of Godalming throng the streets to see their Christmas lights switched on.
Tipplers were made to shuffle through thoroughfares tightly packed with market stalls, carol singers and wide-eyed locals around the town’s centrepiece – the Pepperpot – as Vicki assured everyone it was ‘never normally this busy. Just old people’.
Having fought through the crowd, crawlers filed into the first pub, which according to the badly-punctuated sign outside has stood on the site since the Eighteenth Century, and has retained much of it’s ‘Olde Worlde’ charm.
Inside the pub was a low-timbered place with one of those frustratingly small bar serving areas which cause a pseudo flash mob in one part of an otherwise quiet snug. Table service must have been the norm when people believed women were capable of siring quadrupeds.
Despite its size, the bar served an interesting array of obscure ciders. Sadly, a roll of the dice produced a vinegary snake eyes. The barman was only too happy to point out better choices afterwards.
Sutcliffe was reasonably impressed with the ale on offer, and his hypersensitive pretentiousness-o-meter, which strobes wildly in all but the most down to earth London pubs, didn’t even register. The pub was solid.
Outside the Rose and Crown looked like a charming old building perched on a hill. Inside it was all refitted wooden floors and Jeff Stelling’s face. The cosy bar area makes it difficult to stand somewhere that isn’t blocking someone’s view of the vidiprinter.
Committed lager drinkers looking for something more than Stella Artois or Kronenbourg would be disappointed here. Committed deviants would not – the barman looked like a 10-year-old boy.
Only because the toilets were located in a separate building out the back, was it discovered the boozer has a charming beer patio and a sizeable covered area to delight any smoker.
Christmas is a difficult time for any pub. Striving to maintain tradition while giving punters the flavour for buying a few more festive rounds leaves publicans with the singular choice of decorations. At the Richmond tinsel is bar sales.
After the pokey interior of the Rose and Crown, the Richmond was a red-carpeted grand hall. The front bar is a very welcoming room with a counter bulging out from the wall opposite the entrance. Again it was a trip to gents that afforded further exploration – a large function room at the rear was the find.
One imagines loyal regulars are this pub’s lifeblood. They most certainly enjoy well-kept beer.
Coming from the warmth and care of the Richmond, the Red Lion is in stark contrast. Sometimes it’s immediately apparent crossing the threshold that no one cares about a pub – not the punters, not the staff, not even its website. It’s just a set of numbers on a balance sheet in a brewery HQ hundreds of miles away. The landlord’s cutting his teeth and building his CV in the hope of moving on to a more illustrious tippler. That’s the Red Lion.
As a result this pub lacks charm, the beer’s dreadful and the only factor keeping it in the game is its size and location in the middle of town. There’s live music performed in the evenings, which appears to help give it all the character of a beer stand at the O2 Dome.
While crawlers made the best of the Red Lion’s inhospitable front bar the Godalming Christmas lights were turned on. Everyone doubled back to Vicki and Binksy’s for chilli and gin.
It was widely accepted the first boozer, The Star Inn, was the best. It did mean the rest of crawl was like a slow puncture of quality – with a small rally at the Richmond – ending in the flat Red Lion experience.
As Kenna pub crawls visit and assess more and more pubs, it’s clear that striking the delicate balance between running a business, keeping an imaginative array of beers and building an assembly of loyal regulars not too cliquey so strangers feel unwelcome is a complicated demand, and one publicans approach with varying degrees of success. A Kenna pub rating system is on the drawing board.
Taking on the whole network during licensed hours would be optimistic and unnecessary, so on Saturday 2 November 2013 just after 1pm tipplers gathered at Kennington underground station to visit a pub for each stop of the Charing Cross branch.
The route offers excellent highlights of London’s famous landmarks and includes a river crossing. As always, this review is provided to advise and entertain the prospective pub crawler, walker or tourist. Here’s the itinerary:
Kennington – The Prince of Wales
Waterloo – The Kings Arms
Embankment – The Princess of Wales
Charing Cross – The Harp
Leicester Square – The Porcupine
Tottenham Court Road – Bradleys Spanish Bar
Goodge Street – The Rising Sun
Warren Street – The Prince of Wales Feathers
Euston – The Crown and Anchor
Mornington Crescent – The Lyttleton Arms
Camden Town – The Worlds End
Each heading below links through to the pub profile page on the excellent Beerintheevening.com.
A gem anyone would be happy to call their local. The Prince of Wales is set in the corner of a quiet square with a couple of tables and chairs outside, and a cosy snug.
Sutcliffe, Binksy and the Kenna League chairman became the only three crawlers to continue their unblemished attendance record. They were joined by the Young Boys of Vauxhall manager, the Still Don’t Know Yet manager, Lady Norman and sundry others.
One pint down, the short walk to Kennington station was taken for the route’s only tube journey. Unlike the two previous crawls, the sun was out.
Sutcliffe: What can I say? Nice choice of carpet (matched my shirt). Quiet backstreet boozer. I think we shocked the locals.
Dazza: Nice area. Standard pub. Impressive carpet design like Sutcliffe’s shirt, although I think the shirt had more stains. People outside seemed confused why we were taking a photo.
There are many other pubs closer to Waterloo station but they cannot compete with this firm favourite, let down only by the lack of apostrophe in the signage.
The public bar and saloon bar are served by a central counter with a singular recruitment policy. The curious conservatory area out the back was closed and pieces of a fireplace blocked a door onto the Victorian splendour of Roupell Street.
An open fire roared in the public bar where Rounders and Simon were found Kenting it up. The former Wandsworth Window Lickers manager arrived and within minutes was telling his Nurburgring story to the first person who listened.
Drinks finished, the crowd walked back past Waterloo station, alongside the Royal Festival Hall and over the River Thames, where Simon’s story of investigating Kent dogging spots as a local reporter prompted Binksy to enlighten everyone with the phrase ‘seagulling‘. Car windscreens will never look the same again.
Sutcliffe: The ‘back’ was closed due to building work which meant we had to squeeze into the tiny public bar. Nice place with staff who are very understanding when you’re drunk (from experience). Unfortunately it’s usually full of rich local bankers and lawyers who wish they were working class (a la Jamie Oliver) complete with plummy mockney accents and flat caps from Harrods. Some of the team fitted right in here.
Dazza: Small and pokey. Quite dark and bloody hot in there.
The Wandsworth Window Lickers manager: A lovely pub, as always serving up some delicious beer. Shame about having a chimney by the front door.
Sutcliffe: I don’t really remember much about this one which is probably as good a description as it needs.
Dazza: Bit more trendy, very sporty. Expensive drinks. Steep stairway to the toilets, or maybe I was starting to feel drunk at that point, not sure. Michael Buble (not in person I hasten to add, that would be awesome) playing in the toilets which was nice to whistle to while taking a piss.
The Wandsworth manager: I believe that this was the introduction of the first 50p. Well done the chairman for seeing it off. Average pub, nothing to report.
Crossing the Strand, crawlers were treated to one of the West End’s more compelling pubs.
The Harp has a great range of beers, although patrons are made to enjoy them in a narrow, crowded atmosphere. Unusually for an Irish pub, singing is not allowed. The sour member of staff who ordered crawlers to stop made one wonder if, for a place named after a stringed musical instrument, the barmaids should not appear more regularly plucked.
Having claimed the chairman in the Princess, the 50p game struck the Still Don’t Know Yet manager, who was still complaining of a night shift and three hours’ sleep.
Sutcliffe: Cosy, little place (small and over-crowded) with an impressive collection of beer pump clips.
Dazza: Impressive collection of beer mats. Narrow pub with beer-goggle looking staff behind the bar. Lots of portraits on the wall, can’t remember who they were of though.
The Wandsworth manager: Interesting boozer with a seven per cent beer called Black Jesus, not for the faint-hearted, no-one manned up. I was given serious grief for drinking from a bottle. In hindsight I wish I had stuck to these.
The Porcupine sits halfway up Charing Cross Road in a swirl of tourism. Refraining from any jokes about the place being a bit pokey or full of pricks, more crawlers found themselves necking pints of ice cold, gassy lager because of the 50p coin dropped into the bottom.
Being part of the Nicholson’s chain, the décor goes for the ‘Olde London like Jack the Ripper used to take a drink there guv’nor’ that few of that pub franchise manage to pull off. The Porcupine is no exception.
Sutcliffe: Dull, touristy, but a reliable watering hole
Dazza: I think the Still Don’t Know Yet manager 50p’d me in there. I managed to pass it on to Martin’s mate. Sutcliffe has a photo of him holding the 50p. Sutcliffe got rather excited as it was really in focus!
The Wandsworth manager: Another 50p in play, goosed! Here starts the slippery slope, besides that not a bad boozer.
This bar’s website has a whole section dedicated to their ‘pride and joy and centrepiece’ – a jukebox that plays vinyl. As they crammed into the tiny bar area of Bradleys five pints down, many crawlers were rebuked by staff for knocking into the music box and causing it to skip.
Retreating outside to the quiet street just behind Tottenham Court Road station, a pint of Cruzcampo became the first casualty of the day when it smashed into the pavement.
This is a great bar, if you’re one of the five people in it.
Sutcliffe: Nice Spanish back street bar. I imagine it has character but I was getting too pissed to remember at this stage. I remember Dazza getting shouted at for repeatedly bumping into the vinyl jukebox. Someone dropped their pint. I think we disgraced ourselves.
Dazza: Wasn’t this one the Spanish bar? Really small. I fell against the jukebox and skipped the track which the locals didn’t like. Someone dropped a glass outside so I’m sure the regulars loved us frequenting their dark pit of a bar.
The Wandsworth manager: Classic “don’t touch the f*cking jukbox” I believe was heard as someone again made the record jump. First breakage of the night and 50ps flying round all over the place.
Calls throughout the day to watch the football were briefly met when crawlers filed into a packed Rising Sun. Several large screens high up on the walls of this airy pub transmitted events from Ashburton Grove to a sea of upturned faces.
Sutcliffe: Don’t remember this one. I think Dazza didn’t come in due to mounting drunkeness.
Dazza: Really crowded. Much bigger bar. Lots of sport on TV. Took me ages to find the toilets (which were right by the front door). Getting seriously pissed. Eyesight starting to blur.
The Wandsworth manager: Aresnal were on, the beer was a flowing and it was starting to get a little bit messy. Very windy outside.
The third and final pub of the day named after Welsh royalty, the Prince of Wales Feathers is an expansive place. It was still early in the evening and the party largely had the floor to themselves. Finding themselves ahead of schedule, everyone had a second drink.
It was there that the Young Boys manager paid for an ill-advised wager on Australia to beat England at rugby that afternoon. As an Englishman, there are few better sights than a Welshman having to down a glass of pink gin because your country won a match they shouldn’t have due to a controversial refereeing decision that infuriates Australians.
Sutcliffe: Posh and polished but I don’t remember any character. I do remember Dazza having to sit this one out and walk up and down the street outside to try and avoid throwing up. I was talking to him with the aid of a doorway’s support when I was subtly informed by the owner of the flat above to stop ringing his doorbell with my shoulder. Someone wussed out (Martin?) and bought themselves a cup of tea instead of beer. £3.75 for a cup of tea, £4 for a pint of Peroni.
Dazza: Can’t remember much about this one. Really drunk. Had to take a breather outside.
The Wandsworth manager: My usual piss stop on the way home, so good to have a pint in it for a change (the pub not the…). I believe that Barry White made an appearance here. It would have been a good idea to get some food in at this point.
On the other side of Euston Road, the Crown and Anchor offers a pleasant bar area. Apparently the place does good food, but if in Drummond Street it’s better to try one of its amazing traditional Indian restaurants.
A key lesson learned from the number 38 bus route pub crawl was that minimal time between pubs leads to shaky decision making later in the evening. By walking between each boozer, crawlers are given adequate opportunity to take some air and regulate their intake. The tactic was paying dividends at this point in the night. Except that no one remembers what happened in the Lyttelton.
Dazza: Sobered up a bit here. Didn’t take much notice of the pub. Crap report. Hit the lemonades!
The Wandsworth manager: Erm…not sure if I made this one, no memories….hhmmmmm.
The crawl had finished way ahead of schedule and presented the central committee with dilemma. Follow the Edgware line to the superb Enterprise in Chalk Farm or the High Barnet line to The Abbey in Kentish Town where Sutcliffe’s mates were having a party? The bearded wonder successfully pushed for the latter and the crowd traipsed up Kentish Town Road for shooters and dancing.
Sutcliffe: Bonus extra pub to join my friend’s birthday party. After the initial setback of Lady Norman farting (which cleared the room) and then blaming it on me, I warmed to this place. I vaguely remember someone losing a jacket and some very over the top Halloween costumes but I was quite far gone now. The chicken kebab in New Cross Gate made the long slog home worth it.
Dazza: Was this the bonus pub? Lady Norman lost her coat and Tim farted, which caused the back room to clear and many disgruntled people.
The Wandsworth manager: Vague recollections of dancing with the Pirate and attempting to chat to anything with boobs, skirt and a pulse.
Having organised three London transport-themed pub crawls in 12 months, the central committee patted themselves on the back at how simple and entertaining the Charing Cross branch event had been. Everyone was in good spirits, the crawl had finished way head of time and even the weather held out.
But there was something missing, and it wasn’t until the hangover had finally subsided a couple of days later that it became apparent. Blunder, or the lack of it, hadn’t visited itself on anyone. Nothing went wrong. No one truly disgraced themselves. No peculiar locals sharpened their pitchforks. The whole crawl was as functional and unobtrusive as most of the taverns visited. Even Sutcliffe lost interest in taking photos by the end.
Plans are afoot for a crawl of the Croydon tramlink in spring. The central committee can only hope the locale throws a few curved balls. Perhaps dropping into the New Addington pub where an infamous regular once turned up with a machete would be a start.
The Trafalgar sits like a fortress on the banks of the river. Fortunately, it was penetrable and offered wooden floors, views of the river and what an estate agent would call a ‘well-appointed’ interior.
Lots of photos of an historic British naval theme inside. Admiral Nelson features heavily. A French provincial would enjoy this place as much as Nick Griffin would enjoy taking Napolean in his mouth.
The epicentre of Greenwich? The throng of people in here probably more due to its location between the market and the rebuilt Cutty Sark rather than its strengths as a pub.
Walk through the front bar and it opens out into semi-conservatory style area.
It’s a pity to think this kind of boozer is the image of a traditional London pub many tourists take home.
Crawlers’ pub comments
Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Pretentious (i.e. small) macaroni cheese.”
Vicki the bus spotter said: “Binksy had to go on to the bloody Mary the cure the hangover.”
The boat queue, Greenwich
Thames Clippers run regularly, but as the mantra goes ‘no one every plans to fail, they only fail to plan’. It turned out rather than bowling on board, London Oyster cards had to be used to buy tickets from a booth.
To cut a long story short, a 20-minute wait in the drizzle was overcome with the boat drinks.
The boat, River Thames
The boat trip from Greenwich to Greenland Pier takes around 10 minutes. Ample time to have a drink and hack off all the other passengers…
If a sign outside a pub says ‘No work wear’ then it’s safe to assume there are building sites nearby. So what conclusions can be drawn of the surrounding community’s socio-economic make up if the sign says ‘Tops must be kept on inside the bar’?
The growing inclemency of the weather meant all tops were on, but did little to dampen the spirits in this welcoming boozer on board a boat moored in Surrey Quays.
The ceiling around the bar was covered in foreign currency, Binksy’s cue to show off his exotic trillion dollar bill. The barmaid smiled for the camera and afterwards asked him to pay in sterling.
Crawlers’ pub comments
Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Nice Cockney boozer. Probably best to avoid on Millwall match days.
Vicki the bus spotter said: “Nice maps on the ceiling! Rough as hell but very amusing. We all kept our tops on.”
When a pub plays Heart radio from a late 90s television, one can expect all the other trappings of a proper London locals’ boozer, such as a man in a flat cap playing the fruit machine and the dip in conversation when a bunch of half-cut strangers enter.
Plenty of regulars were in early doors and a convivial atmosphere quickly resumed.
The Spartak Mogadishu manager finally arrived with an excuse that will go down in the annals of history: “I forgot where south London was.” Quite how his fellow countrymen command such terror on the high seas is anyone’s guess.
Crawlers’ pub comments
Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Fags behind the bar for £8.50. Don’t look anyone in the eye.”
Vicki the bus spotter said: “Dodgy pub – nice maroon carpet. A bit like the Duke of Sussex in Waterloo. The Spartak Mogadishu manager finally managed to grace us with his presence.”
When it turned out the Angel had a fireplace and wand-like poker, one crawler’s scarf was pressed into action for Harry Potter impressions. Don’t judge, if it wasn’t for the photos no one would have remembered it.
Lord alone knows what the assembled locals thought, but when the Spartak Mogadishu manager spilled his drink everywhere the landlord made him clean it up, much to general amusement.
Crawlers’ pub comments
Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Sam Smith’s and landlord makes the Spartak Mogadishu manager clean up his own spillages.”
Vicki the bus spotter said: “Do like a Sammy Smith’s pub!
On the Sunday morning recce a few weeks beforehand the Old Justice had looked shut for years, but as crawlers stumbled along the river towards Tower Bridge it was open and it seemed churlish not to pop in for one.
Without a doubt the strangest pub all day. The staff consisted of a landlord and hoardes of Asian women, who served our drinks and then gave us plates and plates of battered seafood and a free shot of rice wine.
No one was entirely sure what was happening, but everyone was glad to move on.
Crawlers’ pub comments
Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Oriental money laundering front with hookers out back on request (POA). Free room temperature scampi, onion rings and salmonella washed down by nasty rice wine.”
Vicki the bus spotter said: “Cold battered fish and odd sake!”
Forever dedicated to exploring new pubs the crawlers went on to enjoy more cheer at Village East on Bermondsey Street.
Recollection is sparse. Afterwards it was marveled at how we got into this marginally upmarket bar.
Life tasted good. We were pioneers of the first ever recorded pub crawl from Greenwich to Tower Bridge, and it included a maritime adventure. We were proud descendants of our country’s finest naval heroes. We were Sir Francis Drake singeing the King of Spain’s beard at Cadiz. We were Admiral Nelson smashing through the French at Trafalgar. We were… desperately trying not to fall asleep on the night bus home.
CHANCES of a debut manager winning the Kenna league and cup double for the second season in a row came to an end today.
Sporting Lesbian, who have dominated this season’s league campaign since before anyone can remember, were found to have been dumped out of the Canesten Combi Cup quarter finals after a goal recount.
The Lesbians were initially thought to have progressed to the semi finals last week at the expense of Just Put Carles. It emerged that goals from JPC’s Mikel Arteta and Jordan Henderson were overlooked.
Known across the Kenna as ‘the tactical Brambler‘ for his underhand gamesmanship, the FCT manager is also looking to defend his league crown, but faces an uphill struggle as he attempts to claw back a 72-point lead from Sporting Lesbian in just six weeks.