Wednesday, 12 March 2014

BRAPA Pre-Season Tour Part 2 - London : The Northern Line

Springtime is here!  Or so I thought as I arrived in a surprisingly mild London on Sat 8th March to tick off some more pubs all in the BRAPA cause.  This time, I had the added complication of a fellow traveler (Tom) potentially hijacking my day, but was secretly glad of the companionship.

Last time out en route to Brighton, I'd forgotten my Oyster Card which was a silly oversight.  Although I didn't make the same mistake twice, it had zero balance on it so was practically useless as I arrived at a heaving Kings Cross, and after a short walk, an equally heaving Euston to queue for what seemed like an eternity at the ticket machines.

Lessons learned: make sure I'm topped up during the preceding week and if not, top up online on - and if I do need to use a machine at peak times, try Euston Square - so Tom n Dad advised after the event.
I did say these early BRAPA trips were about fine-tuning, luckily this was as bad as the day got.

Highgate (pronounced High-gut apparantly) when i finally got there, really was the deepest underground as I'd been told, the escalator up, the number of stairs, the uphill walk to Highgate village was absolutely knackering and when I finally arrived at the GATEHOUSE Wetherspoons at approx 11:15am, I really was in need of a pint.  After making that schoolboy error of choosing a beer "coming soon" (Why do Wetherspoons do this?  And why is it always the most tempting beer? ), I was kind of forced into a 4.8%, totally unsuitable for that time of day.

It was served by a female fronted brigade of bar staff, a bit of a scary bunch and reminded me rather fittingly that it was International Women's Day.  It was with some trepidation that I smuggled a Scotch Egg from my bag, but that strong ale on an empty stomach was murder.  Am i really too pikey to even buy a Wetherspoons breakfast?  You'd better believe it.

Lovely pub though, all old beams and historical feel, a theatre upstairs - very un-Wethers - but I have nothing against the chain (I might when I've finished BRAPA and visited shitloads of them!!)

It was time to find Tom (who had been doing his own micro-gricing or whatever the dickens he calls it) and I was relieved both the walk back to Highgate tube and the journey to my next pub in East Finchley were effortless.

So much so that the BALD FACED STAG (reportedly an 11am opener) was still shut come 12noon - you can never trust opening times in the beer guide, the one thing I wouldn't take as gospel from it - but after a short wait in the garden, they opened and I had a very convivial chat with a barman who had that bohemian London air about him, and after explaining BRAPA, he offered me a sample of all 4 real ales without me even asking!

This was a lighter, airier pub but nice nonetheless, and Tom soon was in tow.  I quickly nipped in the bud that I wanted to stay on the Northern line regardless (the Edgware branch was closed) and despite limitations, I still had plenty to go on between here, High Barnet and Kings Cross.  Between us with all our pub and train "literature" splayed out on the tables, a barmaid knew we were planning a pubby day out.

Pub 3 was the ELEPHANT INN at North Finchley after some doubt whether one called 'Bohemia' was still in the guide or not.  This was a Fullers Pub and for some reason, I'd had a hankering for my first London Pride in ages and here seemed like the best bet, and I wasn't disappointed.

I was twittering away to my small band of followers about the pubs, and putting the beers on Untappd, Tom got us sitting in this front patio area in the sun, I was totally in my element, despite the proximity to a busy road.

Pub 4 took us to the end of the line, excitement for Tom no doubt as he pointlessly moved us from carriage to carriage (but I'm a pub geek so can't really talk).  I think he was ticking off carriage numbers or something but I didn't really ask!  So High Barnet it was, and after the sad news Barnet are no longer at Underhill (which we could see), we were soon in the award winning OLDE MITRE INNE.  Beer range was good but felt a bit tied, it had a lovely olde worlde interior but again we sat out, at the back patio, but less of a suntrap than the last pub.  Still, when Hull City are back in the non-league away at Barnet, I'd recommend here before bussing it to their new Edgware home!

Our 5th pub was my pub of the day, but we had to work for it.  After a fairly long jaunt back down the line to Archway, we had to wait til 4:30pm for the CHARLOTTE DESPARD to open - the staff were apologetic and kept us informed through the window, while I had a sly pee down a subway.  It sobered me up all this waiting around, but at least it was sunny.  Tom was loving it.

This pub was a lovely old one roomer, serving great beers and I had a Redemption one that was only 3% but you'd never have known.  The experience was made by "Legs" the three legged cat who we played ping pong with and got a brief rundown of his background from the friendly staff.  They even re-tweeted my photo and comment - wow, fame at last!  Suddenly, Twitter felt worthwhile but as we were still in the pub when they did it, maybe a note to only write kind things about your experiences!

Our final pub, Tom assured me we had time, was the PINEAPPLE at Kentish Town, pretty much equidistant between this tube station and another one whose name escapes me.  Smallish but another contender for pub of the day, great range of unusual ales and a lovely back bar sign and mirror type thing.  I wanted to savour the experience but Tom was on an earlier train out of Kings Cross and wanted noodles so I tried my best to down it, reminding me of my last pint on X&Y day at the Jolly Judge, Edinburgh where I had to rush on a bloated beer belly, thanks a bunch!

I needn't have rushed as my train was 25 mins late out of KX, so snuck into Parcel Yard for half an Ossett Red, decent quality, before the Grand Central took me (and a load of celebrating York City fans) home, where I'm glad I this time resisted last orders in York Tap.

A very successful day again, 6 pubs ticked off, not too drunk, a couple of lessons learned, onwards and upwards to the next big day.  Boom!


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