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LONDON PUB OF THE YEAR 2019: ROGER’S BLOG
This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of the SPBW. In addition, my thoughts and opinions change from time to time. I consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind.
This weblog is intended to provide a semi-permanent point in time snapshot and manifestation of the various memes running around my brain, and as such any thoughts and opinions expressed within out-of-date posts may not the same, nor even similar, to those I may hold today.
The Day after our judging session on 19th September, we learned of the tragic and unexpected death of Bill English. Bill was one of the nicest and most enthusiastic blokes you can ever hope to meet and I dedicate this blog to his memory.
Having been lured back on to the judging panel, and the SPBW Web site being recited, I’ve been persuaded to inflict my indulgent ramblings on anyone who’s bothered to read.
This year, 14 pubs have been nominated, 6 of which are previous winners and 3 are not known to me. Once again Bill English organised the judging schedule. The first judging session was on Saturday 18th of August taking in 3 pubs in South East London. I couldn’t make it so I was obliged to play catch up.
Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Decision
WEDNESDAY 22ND AUGUST.
Only one pub to be visited this evening, The Hope in Carshalton. So I decide to begin with a visit to one of the pubs I missed on Saturday. Destination is Petts Wood, way out between Chislehurst and Orpington. I take the DLR to Lewisham and join the homeward bound commuters on the train. At Petts Wood Station there are two exits and I took the wrong one, allowing myself a good look around the area. For those planning a visit, turn right at the top of the steps off the platform and bear left and right to find The One Inn the Wood.
This former wine bar is one of the ever-growing number of micropubs in this area and is fairly typical of its ilk. Seating is on benches and high stools and there is a small bar counter in one corner, behind which is a cool room where the beers are stored. 4 or 5 beers are served by gravity; Tonbridge brewery provides a house beer and the others are mostly from Kent. I confess I wasn’t taking notes so I don’t recall exactly what it was that I consumed. But they were all in fine condition and sensibly priced. The pub was quite busy when I arrived soon after 5pm and, and as you come to expect from such establishments, there was a friendly buzz about the place.
One Inn the Wood, 209 Petts Wood Road, Petts Wood; www.oneinnthewood.co.uk
From here to Carshalton involves a trek across the complicated rail network in South London I decided to change at Herne Hill; there would be a 20-minute wait for the connection but a GBG listed pub by the station provided the opportunity for bladder relief. As it was, there was a convenient convenience on the platform at Herne Hill but I went to the pub anyway. The Commercial provided an excellent pint of Five Points Pale from Hackney, but as its not been nominated I shall say no more.
So I got to Carshalton shortly before 8pm and made the short walk to the Hope. The bar was very busy and John Rooth was just ahead of me. Having finally procured my pint I joined John and the other judges – Peter, Aiden and Gary in the marquee out back. We were soon joined by Alasdair who took great exception to Peters jocular greeting and responded with a volley of abuse and physical threat. Once Mr Boyd had been sedated we sat back to enjoy the fine selection of beers on offer (whatever they were! actually there were a couple of excellent ones from Redwillow of Macclesfield).
The Hope won this award in 2016 and is a traditional community pub owned by a consortium of locals with 7 beers on tap at all times. There are regular beer festivals and live music. The pub is managed by our old mate Rodger Molyneux-Roberts who came over for a chat.
The Hope, 48 West Street, Carshalton SM5 2PR; www.hopecarshalton.co.uk
I left the Hope quite early and got the train back to Blackfriars. Needing a pee break I popped into the Blackfriar for a last pint. I sat down with my beer just in time to hear the last orders bell on the dot of 10.30pm. Several potential customers came in and were turned away, possibly bewildered by not being able to get a drink in a pub full of people drinking! Strange world.
TUESDAY 4TH SEPTEMBER
Second bit of catching up, this time at the Ivy House in Nunhead. The GBG lists a micropub not far away so I decide to visit here first. My planned route is by Overground to Peckham Rye followed by a short walk. Alas for my cunning scheme, that route was scuppered by a points failure. My plan B was train to Brockley and head sort of South West and follow my nose. Sadly my nose was not fully clued up and led me astray, bound for Peckham. Finally working out where I was, and I got on the right road and ended up at Nunhead Green where I found the Beer Shop. Only one cask beer here, Brockley Bitter, which was most refreshing after a much longer than expected walk. Payment is by card only by the way. .
Finally deciding to take advantage of the map app on my phone, I discovered an interesting short cut along a narrow footpath next to Nun head cemetery. And so I found myself at the Ivy House. This is a large 1930’s former Truman pub with wood panelled walls. There are 3 separate rooms, one of which has a stage which hosts regular live music. Back in the 1970’s,in its former guise as the Newlands Tavern, this was a notable outpost on the pub rock scene. Like the Hope, the the Ivy House was s community owned after a campaign to save it from development. I saw at least 5 cask beers on and I tried 3 from local breweries:Brick, Southwark and Brockwell and enjoyed the lot! The pub was fairly quiet early evening but the bar staff were friendly and I imagined I’d be a regular punter if I lived locally.
Ivy House, 40 Stuart Road,Se15 3BE; www.ivyhousenunhead.com
WEDNESDAY 5TH SEPTEMBER
Back on the regular judging circuit and I’m on my home turf. Having been party to nominating both pubs, one as an individual and one with my Wantz branch hat on, it’s possibly difficult to be impartial but I’ll try my best.
As a regular customer of the Eleanor Arms I have no problem in finding my way there. As is my custom in the warmer months, I take the waterside route, along the Lea Navigation and Hertford Union canals. On arrival I find Peter and visitor Dave sitting by the door, so I ignore them and exchange some friendly banter with some of the regulars. Before long, the rest of the panel arrive plus fellow member Paul who lives locally in Hackney.
The Ellie is a Shepherd Neame house which has been run by Frankie, Lesley and Keilly for 10 1/2 years now. Staple beers are Master Brew, Whitstable Pale and Midnight Sun, a very pleasant brew originally brewed as a collaboration with a Swedish brewery for a Wetherspoon beer festival. Shep’s occasionally allow a guest beer, which tends to go down well here. Frankie and Co ensure the beer is always in prime condition. There is a wide selection of whiskys and gins; no food but a wide selection of snacks.
This is very much a local’s pub, although a warm welcome is made to all new customers (unless they look like low-life, a species not entirely unknown in this area). It’s handy not just for the canal but for Victoria Park and Queen Elizabeth Park and the London Stadium. There is live jazz every Sunday evening and a charity quiz first Thursday of each month.
Eleanor Arms, 460 Old Ford Road E3 5JP; www.eleanorarms.co.uk
The party became fragmented as we relocated to pub number 2.i went with Aiden and John and took the 276 bus to Morning Lane, whence it was just a few minutes walk to the Chesham Arms. This was the pub of the year before last and is another favourite of mine. I used to come here occasionally in the mid 80’s since then it fell into decline and was under threat of closure and conversion to residential use. An excellent and ultimately successful, campaign was launched to save the pub which reopened under the current ownership in 2015.
There is one room, effectively split into 2 areas, plus an outside patio and a large garden under the shadow of the railway embankment. There are 5 handpumps, one serving cider, the others providing beers from all manner of independents, often one or two from local breweries. If you want to eat you can order takeaway pizza for delivery to the pub. The Chesham is deservedly popular and is generally bustling with discerning customers. Note that both here and the Eleanor Arms don’t open until 4pm on weekdays.
Chesham Arms, 15 Mehetabel Road, E9 6DU; www.cheshamarms.com
THURSDAY 6TH SEPTEMBER
Once you get the judging bug you just can’t stop! Given my heavy social whirl this month I’m keen to catch up on the pubs I missed so this afternoon I’m bound for Greenwich. I rarely go straight to a pub if there’s the opportunity for a good walk, so I take the DLR to Canary Wharf. The I take the Thames path down the Isle of dogs, and through the foot tunnel, the on to the main road at Greenwich heading east for a mile until I reach the River ALE House.
This is the newest pub on the list, having opened in September 2017 in the former lingerie business. The are two rooms, one just beyond the bar (toilets are at the far end). This pub offers a wider selection of ales than most micros, 9 being available on my visit. A drinks menu on each table offered helpful descriptions of the beers on offer. The beers were served by gravity and there is a discount for members of a beer campaigning body based in St Albans. I saw a notice on the wall inviting customers to join its cribbage team in a local league and I discovered later that a friend of mine helped set this up. There is also a large screen TV, A far from typical micropub feature. But, it was well worth the walk, even though I wimped out by getting the bus back to Greenwich.
River Ale House, 131 Woolwich Road, East Greenwich SE10 0RJ.
WEDNESDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER
This evening we have to head out to the far North of London. Winchmore Hill is just south of Enfield, about 30 minutes by train from Moorgate. Our pub target is about 15 minutes walk from the station and before we get there I find that Aiden and Garry were also on the train. We avoided each other on the journey but arrive together at the Little Green Dragon. This is a micropub in a former hairdressers salon; having opened in August 2017 and it is already the local CAMRA pub of the year. Its named after a long closed pub named the Green Dragon. Richard, the owner, has a great enthusiasm for his beers, which are dispensed direct from the cask in the cool room. The pub has an assortment of furniture and somehow manages to host live music on occasion.
You’ll be glad to know I was taking notes so I can report that I sampled Great Heck Voodo Mild and Enfield bitter. Also on tap were Hawkshead Windermere Pale (an excellent beer but I’ve tried it many times in Cumbria), Nethergate Old Growler and the champion beer of Britain, Siren Broken Dream Breakfast Stout. Say, Aiden and Garry drained the cask (a half a piece) so I missed the opportunity to sample it. Patrick and John were already in attendance and Alastair arrived, fashionably late as ever.
Little Green Dragon, 928 Green Lanes,N21 2AD; www.littlegreendragonenfield.com
Aiden and I headed back to the station for our train back to town (Garry followed too late and had a long wait for the next one). From Moorgate a tube to Farringdon by which time I needed bladder relief; the nearby Wetherspoon provided the required convenience. I had left Aiden behind long before this and I walked the last few minutes to Ye Olde Mitre in comfort.
Arriving in the back bar spied the estimable Rob Shacklock standing at the other bar, so I went to join him. Rob is down from Tyneside for the NEC meeting and Tony Littler Trophy this week and has been making the most of his visit. My first pint was a pale ale from Dancing Duck brewery in Derby (sorry, my notebook had been put away) which was very pleasant. In time the others, bar Patrick caught up and we had a jolly session.
The Mitre is genuinely historic and mostly dates from the 18th century. Both bars are nicely wood-panelled; downstairs is a cosy snug area which can be hired and up the steep stairs is a function room which SPBW uses for its annual Beer and Buffet event. Although the pub is owned by Fullers, there is always a decent range of non Chiswick beers available. Judith, the manager, is an SPBW member and a very charming young lady indeed. Show an SPBW membership card and you’ll get a generous 20% discount.
Most if us stayed chatting to Judith long past closing time and she kept insisting we had more beer. Around midnight I decided it might be a good idea to drag myself home. An excellent pub, best to avoid lunchtime and early evening when it can get very busy. And it’s not open at weekends. This (the 2013Lpoty) was always one of Bill’s favourite pubs……
Ye Olde Mitre, Ely Court (between Hatton Garden and Ely Place).
WEDNESDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER
Back on the commuter trail to South London. DLR to Lewisham and s crowded train to Catford Bridge. I’m standing in close proximity to a buxom young lady wearing a low-cut top which rather distracted me from the Guardian crossword! Off the train, turn right and a 10 minute walk towards Forest Hill and the Blythe Hill Tavern. This pub won the award in 2015 and is a classic community pub, expertly and efficiently run by Con O’Riordan and his team. A Victorian pub with 3 drinking areas, there are up to 6 handpumped ales (Dark Star Hop head, Harvey’s Best and Courage Best are regulars) and a wide range of ciders. There is an Irish theme to the décor (and Irish live music on Thursdays) and the TV was showing QPR v Millwall, but with the sound turned down. Aiden, John, Patrick, Alasdair and Roger Warhurst also made the journey down and we were briefly joined by John O’connor, who had nominated the pub and was running a meeting for a local charity in the function room upstairs. Very much an ‘old school’ type of pub and well worth the journey.
Blythe Hill Tavern, 319 Stanstead Road, SE23 1JB; wwwblythehilltavern.org.uk
We decide to catch the 8.49 train back to Charing Cross, although Patrick leaves us at Waterloo East, preferring an early night. From the station its just a few minutes across the Strand to the Harp (2008)winner). This excellent pub ought to be known to all discerning pub goers who live in, or visit, London. A narrow, one bar pub, the Harp has long been known for the range and quality of its ales. Like the Old Mitre, it was acquired by Fullers
In recent years (for47 million!) but only London Pride represented the Griffin Brewery – unless you count Dark Star whose beers have long been regular fixtures here.
The pub was not too crowded when we arrived and we found a corner to rest our beers. I began with Bexley bitter, which was very pleasant, and I find it hard to resist DS American Pale Ale. While we were there, a new beer was put on which turned out to be Siren Broken Dream, so I was finally able to sample it. I can report that it’s a very fine ale indeed, smooth and mellow and perhaps not revealing it’s 6.5% abv. Because of its proximity to Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square and the art galleries, Covent Garden and theatre land, its no wonder the Harp can get very busy. But the service here is always top class and the beers are excellent.
Harp, 47 Chandos Place, WC2N 4HS; www.harpcoventgarden.com
WEDNESDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER
The penultimate judging session was the day after Bill’s funeral, which meant another trek across London for me. Since it was a very nice day an I didn’t fancy stuffing into a commuter train, I instead left early. Train to Kew Bridge and then a walk up the river, a very pleasant 7 mile hike on a sunny late summer afternoon. Eventually I reached Teddington Lock, crossed by thr footbridge and headed into deepest Teddington and the Mason’s Arms. Tucked away in a back street just off the main drag, this is a superb community pub. The lady behind the bar gave a very warm welcome as I surveyed the handpumped. The beers on offer were Salcombe Gold, Peerless La’al, Hop Back Citra, and and Sambrooks Junction which I didn’t try. All were reasonably priced and in fine condition.
The Mason’s is essentially one large room, albeit split into a few areas. The pub is liberally decorated with all manner of beeriana – old bottles, pump clips, bottle labels, plus a few Watney Party Seven (under 50’s ask your parents) cans behind the bar. There was a nice buzz of conversation and a juke box playing in the background; thankfully I arrived too late to hear John Rooth’s left field selections. Patrick, Alasdair and Aiden were also on parade.
The Mason’s Arms was nominated two years ago and I enjoyed this visit every bit as much as the last time. Exactly what a pub should be, to my mind.
Mason’s Arms, 41 Walpole Road, TW11 8 JP; www.the-masons-arms.co.uk
Leaving the pub we had a short walk to the bus stop and a 10 minute ride into Twickenham, then another short walk to the Sussex Arms. This is Patrick’s local and his nomination. This is a fairly large pub with a room at the front and one round the back. The long bar counter fairly groans with handpumps; on the left are the ciders and the rest are beers from a variety of small breweries. Unfortunately for our comfort, it was quiz night so the place was packed and not a spare seat was had to be had. Even so, the beers went down well from our vertical position.
The Sussex is a sister pub to the Express at Kew Bridge (first ever Lpoty winner) where’s one of us had ended up the previous evening. The pubs offer a loyalty card – buy 9 pints and the next is free. (hic! Ed) This means I need another journey to fill my card! (or give it to Patrick Ed). Its a little outside Twickenham town centre but various bus routes pass close by if you don’t fancy a walk. Definitely worth it for the range of beers.
Sussex Arms, 15 Staines Road TW2 5BG; www.thesussexarmstwickenham.co.uk
WEDNESDAY 10TH OCTOBER
And so we reach the final judging session, two pubs in Clerkenwell, conveniently close together. Pub number one is the Clathorpe Arms, a regular venue for the Tony Littler Trophy and expertly run by Adrian Larner for many years. There are pubs calling themselves micro pubs that have more floor space than here;it’s a cosy community pub gathering its clientele from Mount Pleasent sorting office and other local businesses plus locals and the likes of us lot. London Welsh RUFC is based across the road and I can recall being serenaded by their choir.
When I arrive, Aiden and John are getting into it; RogerW, Alasdair and Gary following soon after. Sadly, Patrick has to cry off, fearing an oncoming migraine. The Clathorpe is a Youngs pub – and or is it? I’ve heard one or two conflicting theories about the actual ownership. Whatever, ordinary and special are on tap, the plus Sharps Atlantic and Sambrooks Battersea Rye. All were deemed to be in good condition. Messrs Boyd and Warhurst sampled the Chicken Gumbo and voted it very filling and tasty – food is good value here.
The Clathorpe is very much a ‘conversation pub’, no background music, the TV in the corner having the sound kept down. The upstairs room now hosts Regular folk and other live music. Pretty much what every pub (IMHO) should be (I’m with you Ed),plus Adrian is a top bloke.
Clathorpe Arms, 252 Grays Inn Road, WC1X 8JR
We moved in dribs and drabs (not a pretty sight) (I bet! Ed) to the final pub of the whole shebang, the Lamb. There had been some doubt about whether we would be able to visit Robs nomination, since it had been closed for a week or two due to ‘minor structural repairs’. (my spy tells me it was more of a hygiene problem).
The Lamb is a genuine historic pub, dating back more than 150 years. It was a cider house before Youngs bought it in 1956. The pub is now opened up and the old ‘snob screens’ have been removed on the front bar. (?Ed). Also gone is the polyphony and the old type of music box that was a long time feature. As well as Youngs Ordinary, Special and London Gold, there was a house beer from Sharps (probably cornish coaster – afar better bet than Doomed Bah!), Adnams Ghost Ship and Purity Mad Goose. I’ll be honest and say that the welcome from behind the bar left much to be desired (and this pub is on the tourist trail – welcome to London!) and all the beers were £4.50 and up a pint (about 50p more than the Clathorpe). Having said that, I do rather like the pub.
Lamb, 94 Lambs Conduit Street, WC1N 3LZ; www.thelamblondon.com
Final judging will be on Saturday afternoon, 20th October 3pm, at the Broken Drum, Blackfen. Beer from the wood has bee promised, so come along and see which is the new Lpoty!
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