Thursday 15 January 2015

BRAPA - London City Slicker Tour Pt 1

A layer of snow had fallen in York overnight, but London was at least dry but freezing cold as I arrived about 11am, with the kind of sun that seemed to be forcing itself as high into the sky as possible, only to get so far up and decide the effort was too great and it'd retreat back into dusk as soon as it possibly could.

I'd arrived in comfort, free first class train on the way down (thanks Dad and his reward points), and despite expected delays on the Piccadilly line, I wasn't affected and was soon at Baron's Court, where I changed for the district line to get to my first stop, Stamford Brook.

553 - Mawson Arms/Fox & Hounds, Chiswick

After a pleasant walk along the Thames footpath (was that Nigel Havers I saw jogging?), I was soon in the shadow of Fullers brewery and the smell of malt hung in the cold air.  This pub is their flagship brewery pub, next to the gift shop, and sure enough, a group of chaps were being led by a tour guide out of the pub and into the brewery, which freed up some seats for me.  Note the unusual double name, this dates back to when you needed separate licences for beer and spirits.  It generally uses just the Mawson name now.  This was a wooden boarded pub, with two friendly barmaids who seemed to have total control over all aspects of the pub, as people came and went, including many brewery workers.  I sat near the door, I wasn't the only 'tourist' by any means and sat down to the Fuller's seasonal guest, a real winter warmer full of berries called Jack Frost.  Just the ticket after a cold walk.  There was a foody section in the raised back half of the pub, but save for one couple, everyone was here for the beer.  Overall, an impressive start and I now have kinder thoughts about Fullers ales since this experience.

Freezing Fullers fun in Chiswick, brewery central.

554 - Speaker, Westminster

A little TV screen in the last pub made me realise 'Prime Minister's Questions' was in full swing so I felt even more of an urgency to go to this next pub, direct on the District line to St James Park.  Maybe I could get BRAPA government funding?  Or maybe not.  The pub was busy when I arrived and sure enough, lots of political style people abound, a young woman who's complex order came to £27 (not that the landlord could work it out without help from his regulars!) explained she'd been given the opportunity to attend PMQ and found it "fascinating" as I tried to scowl at the idea of listening to that Cameron windbag for more than 5 mins.  All the seats were gone so I had to sit at the bar and drank my most disappointing ale of the day, some spin-off Wells & Young just didn't inspire.  A Scottish man on my left watched Silent Witness on his phone until his friend appeared (he told me it wasn't too gruesome) whilst to my right, the affable young barman with an element of Greg Rusedski tried a glitterberry J2O, found it disgusting, I mentioned that I'd heard it comes out "the other end" with the glitter still present (I think my sister told me that!) so this was my 15 seconds of fame in the Speaker.  It's good to sit at the bar sometimes though I'd rarely choose to, and by the time I left this ancient one roomed pub (fittingly built on an old slum called Devil's Acre), everyone said 'bye' to me which is always nice!

PMQ's finished, let's all pile into the Speaker!
555 - Old Tom's Bar, Gracechurch Street

I stayed on the district line to Monument, where I 'alighted' for this hidden gem, pub of the day in my opinion, under the ornate Leadenhall Market and down some steps.  Plenty of city workers were present here, having boards of meat & cheese washed down with one of three Young's Ales.  The bar reminded me of "Friends of Ham in Leeds with 18th century balls" and the free wi-fi allowed me to check in despite being deep underground.  "Old Tom" was apparently a goose who escaped this former slaughterhouse, and had become a local legend!  I had the taste for dark winter beers by now, so went for the Young's Winter Warmer at 5% which was a bit devillish of me at this stage of the day.  I sat in a cosy armchair hidden round the side of the bar, and admired the green and cream tiling which meant you could somehow imagine geese being slaughtered here, and the smell of cured meat and cheese in the air added something too.  I would really recommend a visit here, though it'd have to be a weekday of course.

Pub of the day hidden beneath Leadenhall Market

556 - Peacock, Minories 

A short walk became something of a complex meandering trail due to my stupid GBG App incorrectly identifying where this pub was, not next door to East India Arms would be a good start!  After the last two, I was very surprised to find an empty pub, unless you include the landlord overseeing a new, timid barmaid, and the occasional upstairs howls of excitement which turned out to be 4 men playing darts on one of the pub's SEVEN dartboards!  This is also what the landlord was doing when he wasn't overseeing.  So as you can imagine, hubbub was thin on the ground and it was slightly airy (I'd been spoilt by the last pub) so comfort wasn't great either,  Having said that, this was my pint of the day so far, the only guest of real interest from the always reliable Windsor & Eton, Guardsman which had a strange taste at first but I really warmed to it.  Fact of the day was that this pub would have become Gestapo HQ had we lost the Second World War.  I'd like to think dear old Adolf would have fitted some carpets and got a wood burner had he had the chance.

Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler?  Peacock, Minories.

557 - Dispensary, Aldgate

Another short walk took me to the edge of the East End, of course, my favourite part of London.  With tales of a bustling Victorian building treating the howling poor in days of old, and JW2's more recent tales of the pub being overrun with howling Christmas parties, I was shocked to find that I was the only customer in this grand, impressive building retaining many original features that my pub heritage book is no doubt proud of.  It also had the best range of ales I'd seen all day, served by friendly young bar staff so I had a very fruity Surrey Nirvana from Hogs Back brewery.  There were some pockets of cold air but warm fan heaters counteracting them so with the whole pub to aim at, I strategically moved around to achieve maximum warmth.  When I had amused myself with this little game, a bald man came in and it wasn't "my private pub" any more so with time ticking on, I drank up and took the first tube I saw from Aldgate East to Farringdon.

Customer alert at the Dispensary, time to drink up!

558 - Olde Mitre, Hatton Garden

My Dad specifically asked me to sample this pub.  He is a regular London midweek visitor for his pension bore stuff, and he's worried he's getting a bit too predictable going to the Craft so needs a change.  It is nearly 500 years old and felt like many York pubs, all wooden panelling, oak beams, creaking floorboards, an outdoor loo, snugs etc etc, in truth, your perfect pub of comfort.  Beer range was okay if a bit uninspirational but a Dark Star "Hophead" is always a winner of a beer for me, despite not being a new one.  It had an interesting 50/50 mix of tourists and locals, the atmosphere was jolly and lively as we moved towards evening and I soon found my eyes closing due to a mixture of the rigours of the day (i.e. beer) plus the warm, cosy atmosphere, and it took a barman asking if I knew anything about an unclaimed handbag to wake me from my reverie.  As I came round, I rang Dad for a live report of the pub and heard my games room move had all gone swimmingly.  So, all in all, a lovely old pub but I'd be hard pushed to say I prefer it to the Craft.  

Ancient beautiful pub Ye Olde Mitre at Hatton Garden

I took a quick tube back to Kings Cross and decided to forgo a swift one in Parcel Yard in favour of orange juice as I had dentist next morning, which is why I avoided York Tap too!  Sensible you see.  The train was heaving, but we got back about on time, I think York was the first stop as London had been on the way down.  

Still four of these "non-weekend" pubs to do, plus a couple with limited weekend hours, so I'll have to organise part two of the City Slicker tour later this year to get these done.


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