‘And yet, Lady Alice, even pigs have feelings.’

Quick bleg: That London.

Yes, I know it’s a big place (see above). But for this trip, just to make things more interesting, I’m working under a set of arbitrarily-imposed* constraints, viz. and to wit:

  1. Nowhere that doesn’t serve cask, I don’t care who you are.
  2. And I’m not going to bloody Hoxton. (Let’s face it, I wouldn’t like it, it wouldn’t like me.)
  3. In fact, let’s think central. Bloomsbury, West End, South Bank, that kind of manor.
  4. Only not the City. Tried drinking in the City. Didn’t like it. (Great scrums of Agent Smiths outside every single pub.) Ended up in a Spoons.
  5. Oh, and (IMPORTANT) I’ll have three non- or occasional drinkers in tow, one of whom is aged 14 & gets uncomfortable in predominantly male environments (see previous).
  6. And (ALSO IMPORTANT) we’ll be looking for food, more often than not.
  7. And we don’t want to end up in Spoons, again.

Have at it in comments, you who know these things.

*Not really.

Update We’re back. Where did we get to? Glad you asked. We got to

The Holborn Whippet. Wow. Saved the best for, er, first. I had a fair-to-middling winter ale whose name I forget and a Redemption Trinity, which was fab. This was from a choice of eight cask and as many keg beers, which I could have happily worked my way through had time allowed. We were there for lunch & had a 16″ pizza and a plate of chips between the three of us; it was all good. Great beer, great food – reasonably priced, too (the beer was cheaper than at some of the pubs in Chorlton, which is quite something for central London). I’ll go there again as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Many thanks to Reading Tom in comments for this recommendation.

The Grafton Arms was the next day’s lunchtime destination, chosen (a) because it was there and (b) because it didn’t look rammed (a cursory search for pubs on Tottenham Court Road had been called off the previous night for lack of (b) qualifiers). The food came 35 minutes after ordering – not particularly remarkable, except that we’d been warned that it would take an hour; not sure if this was inefficiency or cunning expectations management. I had Portobello Star, which was fine if not especially memorable, and Meantime Pale (keg), which was a bit thin (and fizzy). The food was good and, again, cheaper than we’d expected. (The G. A. is a Taylor Walker pub; not a chain I’d seen before, but there seem to be a few of them in That London, complete with identical food menus. I think you could do a lot worse.)

The next day’s early-afternoon stop was the Elgin, which is now run by a chain called Geronimo, although at one time (according to Somebody On The Net) it was “the second dodgiest pub in Ladbroke Grove”. Whatever – it’s a big place with what look like some genuinely old fixtures and fittings; the overall effect is somewhere between a junkshop and a small stately home. We weren’t lunching that day (two words: Premier Inn), but I had a Young’s Special, which once again has failed to make any noticeable imprint on my memory (I ought to make notes, really).

And then there was the near-obligatory station stop, which in our case means the Doric Arch. Bengal Lancer was on draught, and very nice it was too.

Summing up: some nice pubs, some good food, some oddly unmemorable beers. And the Holborn Whippet.


  1. Posted 19 February, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink | Reply

    Considering London’s size and the sheer number of pubs, this shouldn’t be as difficult as it is.

    Do you have any objections to Cask in Pimlico? Food (burgers mostly, though); not overwhelmingly macho; big cask range. Bit pricy, maybe.

    If you like Fuller’s, their central London pubs are reliably good in a chain-pub kind of way. Jugged Hare on Vauxhall Bridge Road, Parcel Yard at King’s Cross and Mad Hatter at Black Friar’s all large with decent food, though a bit pricy. (This is London, though.)

    Not been for a while, but the Fitzroy on Charlotte Street is a good Sam Smith’s which *used* to have a very reasonably priced pub grub menu. Also the Lyceum on the Strand. Worth getting a map of all the Sam Smith pubs, in fact. (Ach! Not much proper cask, though.)

    Again, not been lately, but you might like the Edgar Wallace near the Royal Courts of Justice: an old skool ‘real ale’ pub, cosy, and brown. Can get quite lawyer-y in the evening.

    You could try Tap East at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, 15 mins from Oxford Street on the Central Line. (DISCLOSURE: Boak’s little brother works behind the bar.) It has a very decent cask range (including Oakham, usually) with interesting beers brewed on site (often including mild) at very reasonable prices. Atmosphere not remotely intimidating, though perhaps a bit ‘plastic’. Only snacks usually on offer, but lots of ‘casual dining’ cafes and restaurants in the ‘Great Eastern Market’ nearby.

  2. DaveS
    Posted 19 February, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

    OTTOMH –
    The Edgar Wallace is definitely nice.
    The Princess Louise is a nice Sam Smiths pub with a massively impressive restored high-Victorian interior.
    The Jerusalem in Clerkenwell – lots of St Peters beers but no food.
    The Peasant (a bit further north in Clerkenwell, on Percival Street). Nice fairly posh food.
    The Harp in Covent Garden – great beer pub, not much food.
    the Bree Louise near Euston (does food or you can wander over to Drummond Street for curry…)
    The Seven Stars on Carey Street (near Chancery Lane) – a bit marmite, slightly quirky, traditional in a posh way, most people either want to stay there for ever or firebomb the place. Nice food.
    Further out west, the Star in Belgravia and the Queen’s Arms in South Ken are both good.

    All this is from when we used to live there a few years ago so some stuff might have changed. Our local was the Salisbury in Harringay, which had actually the best kept Fullers beers you can get anywhere (including at the Dove), but is a bit of a pain to get to.

    I think the trouble in London is that nice “pubby” pubs with good food are a bit hard to come by. Places that aren’t fully upmarket gastropubs tend not to bother with food much if at all. I think part of the problem is that there are such a lot of good places to get excellent cheap food that aren’t pubs…

  3. Reading Tom
    Posted 19 February, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    The Edgar Wallace has gone downhill a bit recently (think landlord has changed), much less variety and choice than it used to have (still lots of lawyers though !), but, on the other hand, The George just round the corner has improved considerably.

    Along with the Fullers pubs Bailey mentions, as good a bet as anything if your wandering around central London is to just pick any of the many Nicholsons pubs, they usually have a decent enough line up of cask, especially if your around during one of their seasonal festivals, reasonable pub-grub and a number of them are quite characterful pubs – eg The Coal Hole on the Strand or The Argyll Arms up near Oxford Circus,. They usually have a map available identifying where their pubs are, or look on-line.

    More “Crafty” is The Lyric, near Piccadilly Circus which does pretty decent food though its small and gets crowded, or the Holborn Whippet in, er, Holborn (usual craft-accompanying food – burgers,pizzas, pulled pork etc). Or there’s The Old Coffee Shop in Soho if you wants some Brodies – food’s not great there though.

    For Real Ale, best is the Harp near Charing Cross, as already mentioned – just a wonderful, wonderful pub. Great Sausages in a Bun at lunchtimes too.

    On line, take a look at Des De Moor’s site or Londonbeerguide.com


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