Wednesday 15 December 2021

BRAPA in .... LONDON CAULIN' (NOT to faraway towns)


When Daddy BRAPA revealed that more engineering works on that York-London line meant we wouldn't arrive in Kings Cross until 11:30am, I decided remaining in London for a days ticking made most sense.  Especially as we were back out on the 19:00.  Yes, I had to make the 'painful' decision to turn my back on the current brapple of my eye, Hertfordshire, and keep it simpler.

More happily (brappily?), of my EIGHT required Central London ticks, six actual opened on a Saturday.  A surprising stat for the City, from past experience.  Only the Deveraux at Temple and the Jackalope at Marylebone were letting me down on this score.

We hopped straight on a Tube, and were still a way off noon when we hit Old Street.  Tempted by a pre-emptive?

Like that thing in Birkenhead?

Sadly, it was all hair and no ale.  Not even a pint of Trim Taylor's.  Thanks, I'm here all week.

Daddy BRAPA had just finished reading the 800+ page epic that is My Mutual Friend, had loved it, and I could tell he was still immersed in a Dickensian world (he'd been quoting it on the journey down etc.), so a day like this had added fascination for him.  Particularly opposite our first pub, where we had a quick totter around Bunhill (formerly Bonehill) Fields burial ground.

Although it ceased to be a burial ground ten years before Our Mutual Friend was written, it still felt atmospheric.  Oh look at the time! 11:59am, time to put a bit of pressure on the pub.  An old man stopped to eat his sandwiches on the window sill (I thought he was looking in through the window), and a couple with pushchairs loitered, got in the way, apologised, and wheeled off to somewhere more rubbish.

Artillery Arms, Old Street (1964 / 3527) was, as it turned out, pub of the day, despite my protestations to Dad at the time that it might just be a 'sign of things to come'.  True, every pub today was strong.  But this was the best.  And as is so often the case in 12 noon Central London boozers, benefitting greatly from the lack of hustle and bustle, you could appreciate the perfectly formed interior, from the stained glass windows, to the wonky wooden bar top, to the old hooks under the bar to hang your Dickensian garments on, it was a fabulous place.  Our barmaid had a distinctive Yorkshire accent (she didn't utter enough vowels to predict exactly where, I'd guess 'West'), and a Happy Eater badge, which Dad admired on the way out, but she looked confused, as though she'd always wondered what that orange faced lunatic with his finger in his mouth was all about.  She also enthused over our ale choice, a Fullers winter ale called Jack Frost.  A nice ale I've had before down at their Chiswick Brewery Tap, but in true Central London tradition, it lacked condition and was approaching tired.  This can be the only reason this gem of a boozer hasn't been in a previous GBG in BRAPA memory.  But it wasn't enough to stop me recommending this pub to you now in the most enthusiastic way possible.

Dad knocking over the Christmas decoration when removing his coat was a 'moment of drama'

Onto pub two, a short stop back to Farringdon where I'd recently hopped off to visit the Hand & Shears, another famous pub I'd only just seen in the GBG.  

Dropped this year in favour of our next pub, any pub ticker will tell you the Central London 'churn' is particularly high, yet it isn't due to the usual emergence of brewhouses, taps and canteens, they generally manage to magic street corner boozers out of thin air that have been there for centuries.  Rewarding for the poor souls who've done 90%+ of the GBG who must feel starved when it comes to traditional entries.  Pub two was a great example of this .....

Dad's monstrous expression (caused by weird bench man) would set scene for many future outdoor poses today

Sutton Arms, Farringdon (1965 / 3528) was another strong pub, hanging nonchalantly off a street corner with a fag in its mouth uttering 'what of it' like Central London pubs love to do.  A surprisingly long carpetted interior took us on to the bar, where I start telling the friendly barman it is too early for me to be having a 6% Victorian Mild (plus ESB is always in the back of my mind).  But with his current Dickensian mindset, Daddy BRAPA only goes and bloody orders it.  #PubMan   Okay, so I end up helping him finish it, and by gum, nowt much mild about this mild, blow your socks off mild!  The atmosphere is fairly boisterous, a little bit 'oi oi mi' cockney sparra' as West Ham are playing Chelsea on a big screen above our heads.  The pub as one seems to be on the side of the Hammers, and isn't it nice to see how Hull City's training methods didn't manage to ruin Jarod Bowen as a player whilst he was with us.  Good boozer this one, it lacked something that the Artillery Arms had which has hard to define, but in its own right, very solid. 

BRAG can absolutely bugger off.  They'll be hearing from my lawyers. 

Back at Farringdon underground, time for the bladder wrenching Circle line train round to Temple.  

Fear not though, the cogs were whirring in Daddy BRAPA's mind - I could feel a joke coming on.

He waits until we are at the relevant station to unleash his humour.  "Why can't Ken dance at the disco?" he asks.  "Why can't Ken dance at the disco, Dad?" I reply, suddenly feeling as tired as my pint in the Artillery.  

"I dunno, but Barbi-can".

Even I was temporarily lost for words.

A short walk took us to the Strand, which is on the Monopoly board so it must be popular.  As Dad predicts, our peace and calm is over, even if the next pub is next door to Twinings Tea.  Everything stops for tea?  Not around here it bloody doesn't.  It is also opposite the Royal Courts of Justice they are always stood outside on the BBC news.  To the left, a group of protestors have placards.  

We nearly miss the pub in all the kerfuffle, with its black and white timbered frontage, Dad does well to get a decent photo with no one walking in front of me.

George, Temple (1966 / 3529) is an absolute heaving throng of tourists n over indulged Londoners.  But let's not forget the witch like crone hiding behind the entrance door who winked at us on arrival, she was like something from a film!  A paid extra?  Dad goes to the back of the pub in the hope of finding some kind of seat, whilst I use my elbows Shearer style to muscle in at the bar.  The embattled barmaid landlady sets her jaw square and tells me "you'll need to speak up, dear!" as I get two 4.8% porters in, not wise strength but not many of the other beers grab me.  I can tell she's quite a character, she makes a joke about the name 'Powerhouse Porter' but it is my turn to want her to 'speak up dear' but I chicken out!  After waiting for a procession of poxy, ruddy faced well fed tossers to eff off, I carry our jugs of ale through to a side perching area, where Dad has done miraculously to get anything in the way of seating.  Behind him, a young lady watches a film on her tablet, headphones in, totally motionless.  A bit too motionless for Dad, who has to edge her back so we have enough room.  A trip to the gravity defying drop which is the loos (always a feature of central London ticking), a staff member asks a placard lady what it's all about.  "Stop the tyranny in Australia!" she cries, and if it is about Channel 5 not letting the UK catch up with Australia on Neighbours, I'd heartily concur, but it is EVEN heavier than that, something about genocide against Aborigine tribes.  "Ooo 'eck" I contribute, Penfold style, before dashing off to the loo, leaving the staff guy stood there looking like a stunned mullet.

This next pub, a short walk away, stirred some vague memories in the recesses of the BRAPA brain.

A dark, rainy winter's midweek evening many years ago, I remember feeling drunk, and a procession of commuter brollies close to stabbing me in the eye, I'd decided to try and get two late 'ticks' in despite my state, before a train back to York.

A grand interior, full of pillars and a very impressive ceiling, no seats so I had to perch on a ledge in the centre with my pint.  Was it this next place?  Thing is, I've scoured the BRAPA spreadsheets, and the blogs, and there is absolutely no mention of this moment! How odd. 

He must be a Clydesdale man

As a banker, who no longer has even an office to visit, I always like coming to fabulous former banks, and they don't get any more jaw dropping than this.  From an age where if you said you were a banker, you'd be afforded a bit of respect.  Not have some snotty wheezing sweaty Notts taxi driver at 5am say "oh!" and then press a button so the fare is going up in increments of 20p instead of the previous 10p.  Old Bank of England, Temple (1967 / 3530) ladies and gentlemen, lighter, brighter, but not shiter than the George.  McMullens of Hertford knew what they were doing when they bagged this place.  It is an absolute farce at the bar, that puts me in mind of my Dec '19 trip to Manchester's Pilcrow.  A poor ginger guy in a woollen sweater is feeling the heat, as the woman before me keeps adding to her order.  "Oh, and a jug of water".  "Oh, and another lager".  "Oh, and some nuts".  "I'm really sorry about this" whispers ginger guy.  "Not your fault mate!" I say, just relieved he's clocked me and he's serving me next out of about ten thirsty people.  £48 her round finally comes to!   Dad's again played a blinder re grabbing us a seat, to the rear, lovely old coins built into the table, and gives us a different perspective of a very grand place.  The bogs are the piece de resistance, green tiling immaculate, better than 90% of actual pubs you'll go to.  I later find our ginger hero (not Tom) in there, shaking at a urinal (not like that, actual stressed shaking!) Poor chap.  Who'd work in a bar?  Not me.  

Just when you thought our London day was all out of surprises, a short trip to Charing Cross / Embankment found us another famous gem, not on the BRAPA radar til the 2022 Guide. 

Funnily enough, back in September when I visited Stoke's bod and commented on the split bar, someone on my Twitter mentioned this 'similar' experience.  It meant nothing to me at the time as this pub wasn't in the Guide, but now at is, whilst bod has been (rightly IMO) dropped for the Glebe.  Funny old game ain't it Saint? 

So this'll blow your minds and I'm sorry I couldn't get a wider angled shot to do it justice, but Ship & Shovell, Charing Cross (1968 / 3531) is a pub on both sides of the road, connected by an underground tunnel!  A BRAPA first.  I think.  Not sure if the tunnel is for public use, my mind was too addled to be curious by pub five.  We went in the larger side which we suspected was the Shovell (or is it the Ship?  OR are both sides both?  Who knows).  Not often you get Badger ales on cask either, Dad and I both opted for a strong delicious Tanglefoot, exorcising the ghosts of a past dreadful pint of it pre-Tottenham 2008 just outside Gospel Oak station.  One bloke was well excited by the Badger range, he dialled his Untappd up to 11, and asked for a bottle of everything, including bottles they didn't have.  He looked like he was going to cry.  Not often you see Untappd experts drinking outside their homes.  I needed a wee and worked out it was quicker to go across the street, a snugger, probably better but even more packed space in here, but at least I got to witness it.  Was standing room only too, even in the large side, hence our bar observation.  Unique, and I must say, quality stuff.  One pub to go!

The one piece of evidence I went to the smaller 'pub'

A few stops on the Bakerloo line followed.  Baker Street / Marylebone, we hopped off at one of the two.  Don't ask me, now wasn't the time for intricate details. 

Considering the posh location, Barley Mow, Marylebone (1969 / 3532) was probably the most community feeling belts n' braces pub of the day.  A perfect pint of Tim Taylor Landlord was served to us by a perky chap who looked like every Irish player who played for Hull City between 2005-2015.  I asked if we could sit on some stools near the Christmas tree, and share these blokes table, but all I got was a lot of dissenting cockney noise, so we had to stand around the corner, near the pub darts league / tribute to some bloke who died young.  I notice a star in the GBG signifies it is a heritage pub too, not always the sign of a good pub, always the sign of a good building, luckily this was both.  In some ways, it was a return to the kind of atmosphere we'd started with at the Artillery, and I like it when BRAPA achieves a certain perfect symmetry.   Eventually, a couple buggered off so we got sat down for the final third of our pints.  Top end to a top day.

And always nice to finish your drinking session just when the rest of the world are starting theirs.  This group of Santa's seemed fairly well behaved I thought, but I bet they weren't by 10pm, and where was Rudolph to get them over the ticket barrier for free anyway?

Of course, there was one final cherry to apply to the icing atop the cake of London pub goodness before we got the train home.  

It rhymes with BSE and makes me mad as a cow .....


Col high fiving a pint of ESB - #PubCaul

I really enjoyed writing that one.  London truly is great if you do it right.

I'm Thirsty Thursdaying tomorrow, but as things are hotting up in the run up to Christmas, I'm still going to aim to release last week's Thirsty Thursday blog when I get back like 10-11pm!

Take care, Si 

1 comment:

  1. I simply refuse to believe the Ship & Shovell hasn't been in the Guide on any of your trips over the last two decades, Simon. It's been one of the constants along with the Harp and the Lamb and the Star. In fact, I only visited it this summer because it WASN'T in the Guide for the first time in living memory !

    By the way, I got the full Old School Guvnor treatment at that Sutton Arms last week and loved it. London pubs have been great this year, haven't they ?