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BITE user comments - RogerB

Comments by RogerB

The Royal Victoria and Bull, Dartford

I’m afraid that contrary to keepthechange’s comments, the recent refurbishments were more out of necessity than anything I may have conjured up but having just made my first post refurbishment visit, it appears to have been money well spent. The interior is looking in fine shape with many of the features restored to their best, in particularly the wonderful old fireplaces and the glazed courtyard. The introduction of additional furnishings where floors were once bare is a welcome improvement and even the pool room has taken on a new found attractiveness that was previously lost on me. There are several new, and in some cases bizarre old photos of the town and the pub itself dotted between the various rooms, my personal favourite being of the converted double decker bus that was used to transport bicycles through the tunnel. Many of the rooms and side bars have now been named giving them a bit of identity (the Royal Room, Games Room, the Nook etc). There is also more emphasis on the life of Richard Trevithick who lived and died here with several portraits taking prominent positions and a detailed display of the pub’s history can also be found.

The multiple TV’s and disco lights are still very much to the fore and if there is a drive to make the place more user friendly to those of us now beyond the first flushes of youth I doubt it will catch on as the place has an inbuilt reputation for clubbers, loud music, scantily clad nubiles, plentiful bouncers and all the baggage that goes with it. Mondays will be the new live band indie and metal evenings so that just leaves Tues to Thurs for the oldies to enjoy the improvements and I just can’t see the place getting busy mid week without anything specific to attract people away from their living rooms.

One final bit of good(ish) news - for all the fresh paint, new glazing, restored features and general tarting up of the place, nothing is more welcome than the 3 new handpumps that have sneeked their way onto one tucked away corner of the bar. I say this a bit loosely as, despite the clips showing Adnams Bitter and Broadside (on 2 pumps), none were available this afternoon but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt regarding the lack of availability since today is the first full working day after Christmas and they had a metal all dayer gig yesterday so stocks may have been a bit low (you just know how these death metal fans love to knock back their Real Ales). At least it is a large step in the right direction and there is now hopefully a much better reason to make more use of the place in the future and wallow in the expenditure.

29 Dec 2009 16:00

The Bay Horse, Masham

In a town that boasts not one but two fairly major breweries, it seems ironic that I managed to find the one pub in town that doesn’t come under either brewery’s wings. With Black Sheep & Theakston dominating the Dales area, I suppose if anyone was going to stick their nose in it would be Greene King and the Bay Horse is their representative. Situated just off the town’s Market Place (England’s biggest) it does look quite appealing from outside and, as Greene King pubs go, it is certainly one of their better outlets with couple of ales from the better end of their range (St Edmunds & Speckled Hen) although both Black Sheep Best and Theakston Best do also make an appearance so on the whole it is Dales Ales business as usual.

The interior is divided into 2 equal halves with a smaller room at the rear. One section was largely for diners although it is more of an extended pub snack menu rather than anything pretentious and fancy with most main dishes around the £8 mark which is about par for pub grub in the Dales. Both sections contain open fires and have similar décor, nothing fancy but some interesting furnishings such as tree trunk stools and long tables. The rear lounge bar has a dart board and softer furnishings and to the rear is an attractive patio with several benches.

There is clearly a close knit customer base with one wall containing several obituaries with photos and comments of some of the regulars that have passed to the great pub in the sky although, far from being gloomy, the pub does present itself as openly welcoming with plenty of humour on show and personal touches from the hand written menus to the sign inviting the visitor to feel free to stoke the fires. The unobtrusive music featured an eclectic mix that ranged from Bing Crosby to the Buzzcocks and they also have Sky and free WiFi.

The notice outside says that this is a Real Pub with real food, real ale, real fires and real chips. I’d pretty much go along with that. Oh, and watch out for Hank the dog, a real cutie.

27 Dec 2009 15:55

The Bailey, Highbury

This decent sized Victorian corner pub has probably seen better days and certainly feels a bit rough around the edges but it is still preferable to some of the other posey pubs and bars in the area. The interior is a bit tired and can feel rather empty and cavernous when there are only a handful of people inside with lots of bare floor and unused space. The interior wraps itself around a large island bar with half paneled walls and dim lighting, scarcely enhanced by candles on the tables that are now almost a standard pub feature. Just 2 rather mundane ales, London Pride & Greene King IPA, with the former being a fairly reasonably priced (for the area) £3 and surprisingly decent quality for a pub that doesn’t initilally promise much. At the rear is a table football game as well as a Big Screen Projecter that projects the image direct onto the bare wall rather than having anything of novelty value like a screen. The food looked quite good although I didn’t try any but it is worth noting for future visits and now that the Garage music venue opposite has reopened, I dare say I will be back in the area more than I have for some time. Other than that, there isn’t really much else to make a visit essential.

27 Dec 2009 14:26

Slug and Lettuce, Canary Wharf

I once had the dubious pleasure of having to kill half an hour waiting for someone at Canary Wharf and, not knowing the area very well, just happened to see the S&L. I’m not a fan of modern plastic pubs especially when they have a no ale policy for no other obvious reason than they presumably can't be arsed to sell anything that involves making an effort, but needs are needs and I needed a pint. The loud interior (both decor and music) was so painful it drove me to the seats outside where I watched the share prices revolving around the dot matrix on the Reuters building above. My share portfolio went down about £200 in the 20 minutes or so that I sat there but it still wasn’t as painful as the price of the pint of Guiness. I have since discovered a couple of awful bars in the area that are much better than this.

27 Dec 2009 08:25

The Antelope, Belgravia

Traditional old fashioned style Fullers Pub in a highly desirable area but it does manage to escape any sense of elitism in its well heeled neighbourhood. The décor and interior is quite basic and sturdy with an island bar, patterned windows and good solid furnishings although it does pamper to the sofa fraternity in the homely rear section. There is also a small paneled side room and a separate upstairs bar / function room. There is a slight cricket theme (the Prince’s Cricket Ground was situated nearby until being built over in the 1880’s) and the regulars have an annual friendly cricket match against the Churchill Arms in Kensington – a list of the scores since the game’s inception in 1991 is recorded on a board along with other cricketing memorabilia. The old pub sign can also be found inside.

A good range of Fullers ales available on my visit; Pride, Discovery, Chiswick, ESB and Porter with prices pretty reasonable for the area. It is sad to read the comments regarding the poor food standards though; I used to know the chef here 25 or so years ago and I know from experience it was pretty good in those days! Despite being quite tucked away, the pub does appear to be as popular as I always remembered and it is also quite handy for the nearby Cadogan Hall, now being increasingly more used as a music venue. My recent visit was the first for many years and I’m glad to see that it hasn’t succumbed to any trendy modernization prgramme like so many of my old haunts in the area. I hope it won’t be another 20 odd years before I make use of the place again.

26 Dec 2009 17:39

The Green Dragon Inn, Hardraw

After many years absence I finally returned to what I have always considered one of the finest pub experiences in the country. My past memories of the pub were rather faded and I was a bit concerned with some of the comments regarding the recent changes but I needn’t have worried. This is still one amazing place and probably in my Top 4 or 5 pubs in the country.

The pub itself is bigger than I remembered with a central corridor that has the main (Parlour) bar off to the left (which itself has 3 distinct divides) and another 2 smaller rooms of to the right. The main bar is a museum piece, choc-a-bloc with antique furniture, stone floors, rag rugs, low beamed ceilings, a magnificent range with a wood burning fire and even a clothes drying rack suspended over the top. Beyond is a smaller but equally stunning room with more antique furnishings, plate racks and another range. Lighting throughout is quite dim with just the glow of a few lanterns and the fires giving it a real 13th century charm that befits the age of the building. Dotted around are numerous old pictures of the village and local group gatherings, old posters (some original, some sadly duplicates) including an 1885 poster advertising the local Brass Band Competition showing prize money of £42 and admission of 1/- (Premier League money for those days).

To the right of the bar is a small courtyard that has now been enclosed making a light and airy conservatory with more collectables including an old bicycle, mounted animal heads, old tools, a piano and even one of the old doors mounted on the wall (complete with an effigy on my visit – be very afraid of upsetting people – you never know what they do with a few pins in this place!).

The 2 other side rooms are quite small with an interconnecting doorway and each has its own individual character whether it be the stone floors, old portraits and some interesting barrel seats. Note also the numbered doorways, a relic of the old licencing laws when each room had to be specifically recorded along with its purpose.

The beers are all locally sourced – 5 ales on my visit; 2 from Theakston (Best & Old Peculiar), 2 Timothy Taylor (Landlord & Golden Best) and Yorkshire Dales Dragon’s Tale. Tasting notes are on display next to the bar should you need them. There is also an antique “Kerching” till which is still used although a more modern flat screen version is also on hand to the back of the bar.

The food appeared to be reasonably priced compared to other pubs we had encountered although we didn’t get round to eating (which we would have done had the nearby Tan Hill Inn not already catered for our needs).

Most people will be drawn here by the magnificent waterfall 200 yards upstream from the pub. Entry can only be gained through the pub (admission currently £2 – worth every penny) so they have a captive audience with regard to visitors. As you walk through what must be the most impressive beer garden in the country you will see the circular band stand where the annual competitions take place. A few minutes further on and you will arrive at the waterfall, a magical place especially after heavy rain although care should be taken – it is wet, muddy and slippery. Sadly you can no longer walk round the back and the path to the top is no longer passable but this doesn’t detract from the spectacle.

I may have always looked at the Green Dragon with more than a hint of nostalgia and it may have possibly clouded my judgment but I remain totally overwhelmed by the place. There are some minor grievances but in the scheme of things they are so trivial they aren’t worth mentioning and certainly not significant enough to prevent the pub being a long standing firm favourite of mine.

23 Dec 2009 16:00

The George and Vulture, Hoxton

Tucked away in the trendy Hoxton back streets, this Fullers pub has a bit of an up-market foody feel to it and whilst it does have the typically modern trendy approach that so many pubs have now taken on board, I did actually feel that it has been tastefully refurbished and has a decent bit of character.

The dimly lit single room interior has all the stripped back furniture, bare floors and table candles that are generally associated with trendy makeovers but the G&V goes one step further by having a grand piano as a centerpiece. Modern artwork is mixed in with old black and white photos and be sure not to miss the gents cubicle which is papered with old comic strips. (I can’t speak for the ladies of course!). Another little rarity is the old fashioned table top arcade game, part and parcel of any decent pub in the days of Space Invaders.

Not a very extensive range of Ales with just ESB, Pride and Discovery on my visit but well kept and reasonably priced. On the food front, they do excellent and inexpensive pizza and pasta.

The ambient dance music is not loud but does get annoyingly repetitive after an hour of it but you can always hope someone will jump on the old Joanna and knock out a few East End choruses to drown it out. This kind of pub isn’t generally my cup of tea but I did quite enjoy my pizza and beer session here and would certainly return if the need arose.

23 Dec 2009 14:09

The Fountain, Hawes

Not much to choose between this and the Crown next door for the best pub in town although with only 4 to choose from, Hawes isn’t exactly bursting with strong competition.

The ambience of the Fountain is of a typical small town pub with no thrills or fancies, a solid local’s pub without any pretence but closer inspection reveals more cultural leanings. The main body of the pub gives more than a passing nod towards the local Operatic Society with multiple posters (some signed) neatly aligned around the walls accompanied by the appropriate cast photos going back over the last 20 odd years. The pub also appears to do various fund raising for the Society. The décor is pretty standard pub fare, comfortable but unassuming although the quirky little single seat snug just inside the front door appears to be quite cosy for the lone drinker.

Having done all 4 of the town’s pubs, the Fountain appeared to be the most popular with the locals, most of whom were either glued to the tennis on the 2 TV’s or warming themselves by the log burning fire, almost a pre-requisite for any Dales pub. There were also 2 dartboards in the main bar and a pool table in the large rear function / dining room that also has its own bar (presumably used only for functions).

As for the beers, a decent if fairly typical Dales selection of ales – 2 from Black Sheep (Best and Special), John Smiths and Copper Dragon Scotts 1816, reasonably priced and quality fine. Overall, not a spectacular place that would stick in your mind to any degree but it is friendly enough and certainly worthy of a couple of pints if passing by.

23 Dec 2009 13:33

The Crown, Hawes

Situated in the heart of picturesque Hawes, the Crown was the only Theakston tied pub we visited on our week of travels and it did at least offer an opportunity to try the Black Bull and XB ales that were available alongside the ubiquitous Best and occasional Old Peculiar that we seemed to encounter elsewhere. The quality was decent enough but a bit pricey compared to other pubs we visited in the area.

The 2 bar interior is inviting enough and quite spacious. The lounge bar has fires at each end, high back settles and a few antique firearms among the nick nacks. The rear (main?) bar was slightly more basic but pleasing on the eye with a selection of antiques, old tools and kitchen implemnents plus one wall in homage to everything Theakston; mirrors, newspaper cuttings, history snippets and a guide to Theakston’s home town of Masham (also worth a visit).

Traditional pub games in evidence included darts and shove ha’penny and a notice outside mentioned bar billiards however it has either gone or there is another room somewhere that I didn’t notice. There was also a small but basic TV in one corner. To the rear is a beer garden, apparently with good views of the surrounding hills, but since it was dark and wet I didn’t get a chance to reap the benefits.

It was fairly quiet on my visit apart from a pocket of excessively loud townsfolk airing a local grievance that became quite intrusive. The barman wasn’t exactly Mr Personality either but of the 4 pubs in town, the Crown would probably be my pick if I only ahd time to do one.

23 Dec 2009 11:35

The Cask and Glass, Victoria

There is much debate over London’s smallest pub and this is one of the usual suspects although the Swan & Edgar in Marylebone I believe is current incumbent of the title. It is however worth noting that the Cask & Glass did used to be much smaller than it now is – a metal pillar by the bar was apparently once the extent of the bar. The single room, carpeted interior does have an element of charm and despite the lack of bar space they do a good range of Shepherd Neame beers (Spitfire, Master Brew, Bishop’s Finger & the seasonal ale) at quite reasonable prices. On the walls are an assorted collection of prints, cartoons, portraits, old letters, clay pipes, mirrors etc and there is still room for a small plasma screen at one end. There isn’t a great deal of room to sit with a row of built in setaing down one side and a ledge and a few stools down the other. You would need to get there early to bag either although there is some seating outside when the weather allows.

Whilst the pub appears to be well tucked away, it should be remembered that the modern buildings opposite stand on the site of the old Stag Brewery (closed 1959) and many of the surrounding buildings around here were either brewery buildings or workers cottages so its location doesn’t seem so odd when taking the area’s history into account. One little quirk that is sadly no longer relevant was that until just a few years ago they would only sell beer in half pint glasses. The reasons are open to conjecture – some say it was because they didn’t want to get the nearby Palace staff and guards getting drunk, others say there were no toilets on the premises so people had to keep going to the pub opposite to use their facilities. Whatever the reason, they now do pints and there is certainly somewhere to recycle them. Yes the place does get infuriatingly busy but it is nevertheless well worth a detour as it really is quite a neat little place.

21 Dec 2009 16:07

The Burn Bullock, Mitcham

Originally the Kings Head, this pub has historically had many cricketing connections with Mitcham Cricket club little more than a large 6 hit away. The pub was run by former Surrey cricketer and Mitcham Vice President Burn Bullock until his death in the 50’s and the pub was named in his honour in the 70’s. The Association of Cricket Umpires was also formed here. Unfortunately the bails came off the pub many years ago and there have been many forced closures in recent years due to anti-social behaviour, most recently in September when the pub was forced to shut for a month – whether it is now open again I have no idea and I’m not in any hurry to find out. The fact that there is little quality competition nearby means that it has not had to set its standards very high to compete with its neighbours and that was certainly evident on my one and only visit after a match at nearby Tooting & Mitcham.

The interior is a large knocked through L-Shape with a dark and dingy feel to it. The multi-screens, fed a diet of Premiership football to a small but vocally aggressive sounding customer base although to be fair it was probably no worse than I have encountered in many similar pubs but, whilst I didn’t feel personally intimidated, I can imagine what the place would be like had I stayed for longer than necessary.

Of the 3 handpumps, no ales were available (Speckled Hen and Broadside were the options with 1 pump unclipped) which displayed poor management given that this was early on a Saturday night however I suspect that there aren’t too many ale drinkers that would frequent the place enough to be particularly bothered. Not really much else to say about the place other than I don’t give it too many recommendations and I would expect it to become a full time victim of Britain’s closed pubs problem very soon if it hasn’t already done so.

21 Dec 2009 13:54

The Bear and Staff, Leicester Square

Part of the Nicholson’s chain that seems to be quite dominant in the area although in my opinion, they are one of the better chains. The current pub dates from 1878 however they can apparently trace the continuous licencees back to original pub which was built in 1714. A history of the pub, the local area and some of the people associated with it can be found on various displays around the pub.

The interior is fairly small and quite typical of many of the pubs in the West End. The bare floor main bar has been knocked through into one room slightly extended to a raised area at one end with a collection of old West End theatre stars. Service is also typical West End, impersonal and functional European staff who generally prefer to talk to each other whilst serving than concentrate on the customers in front of them. The piped music is safe and bland but the big plus is that they do have a fairly decent beer selection, the 6 ales on my last visit being Jennings Cumberland, Landlord, Spitfire, Doom Bar, Pride and Bitter & Twisted. Prices are very reasonable (as they usually are with Nicholsons) and taster notes, strengths, prices etc are displayed on each pump, another nice Nicholsons touch. Food is standard pub fare with a few special meal deals. A separate restaurant can be found upstairs, named after Charlie Chaplin who apparently used the pub when performing in the West End. There is some seating outside with a couple of barrel tables but the road is a constant stream of buses, taxis and tourists so not exactly a peaceful option.

If the pub were anywhere else it would probably have more general appeal but in the heart of the West End it is a pub that is easy to dismiss as just an average London tourist pub which is a bit of a shame, because it does have enough to merit more than a passing glance.

21 Dec 2009 12:57

The Bath Hotel, Sheffield

Despite the “hotel” label, the Bath has the feel of a local’s back street pub rather than anything to do with tourism. It was last materially altered in the 1930’s and has earned a place on the CAMRA inventory for historic pub interiors. By rights the pub should not exist as, according to the pub history on display, the initial 1867 lease stipulated that the building must not be used as a pub or a beerhouse. Despite being granted a licence in the early 20th century, the lease and its covenant are still valid although I suspect not many people have found it necessary to enforce the rule.

The interior is divided 2 bars. The decent sized main bar has a striking chessboard tiled floor, brick chiney breasts, built in padded pews and a simplistic approach. A large personalized Bath Hotel mirror has pride of place on the wall and there is a darts area but no other distractions like TV’s, jukeboxes, pool tables etc although there appears to be a small but thriving music scene going by the flyers on the tables. A tiled lobby leads to a quaint but quite small, carpeted snug bar at the rear with a predominatly blue colour scheme its own small service hatch.

There were 5 hand pumps – 3 Ales, 1 Porter and a Scrumpy albeit my visit was some time ago and I made no notes other than one of them was Anchor Steam Beer. The lunchtime food was quite basic but very cheap and good for a quick snack. I could have happily spent more time there than I had available but would certainly look to seek the place out again next time I am in town even if it is a bit tucked away off the beaten track.

21 Dec 2009 12:44

The Angel Hotel, Lavenham

Lavenham is one of the most unspolit medieval towns in Britain and the Angel occupies a prime location at the heart of the central market square. For some reason though I have never really warmed to the place, probably because it has more of a hotel / restaurant ambience than a pub and also because you expect the interior to be more Ye Olde Worlde given the building’s age (it is thought to date from the 13th century but is known to have been first licenced in 1420). There are a couple of fine fireplaces and some slender but slightly knarled pillars and wonky beams in the main bar but overall it is quite featureless with very standard and ordinary décor that really stands out as quite mundane in a town crammed with so many fantastic Tudor buildings. The old Pub Sign is mounted on the wall in the main bar but there is generally little of interest visible. Half the main bar was set up for diners and a small small room to the rear also appeared to be diners only. Admittedly all my visits have only been during the daytime so how much is reclaimed by drinkers in the evening I cannot say. To the rear is a pleasant beer garden.

On the beer front there are 4 Ales, 2 quite ordinary (Adnams + Greene King IPA) plus Woodford Wherry (fairly common for the area) and, on my last visit a guest (presumably) I have noted as Maypole (didn’t note the brewery). Overall it is a decent enough place and certainly worthy of popping in if you are visiting the town (highly recommended) but most of the reviews so far revolve around the food and accommodation (which is fine) but as a pub experience, drinkers may find it a bit disappointing given its current rating (8.6). A sign outside reminds the visitor that it was the Good Pub Guide Pub of the Year 1997 – trading on a few past glories perhaps.

21 Dec 2009 10:07

The Coach and Horses, Shrewsbury

This was one of the Shrewsbury pubs that had been highly recommended to me and it is not hard to see why. The smallish main bar is a cosy affair with a brick inglenook fireplace and an extremely inviting open fire, especially on the wet night of our visit. A screened snug bar with its large Bass mirror is one of the remnants of its Victorian features. The people came over as very accommodating and it didn’t take long for us to be chatting about the beers, the fortunes of Shrewsbury Town FC and the topical subject of the time, the rising flood waters. To the rear is a larger lounge bar and restaurant with plenty exposed brickwork and a few more welcoming fireplaces. An upstairs patio caters for the smoking contingent.

An excellent selection of locally sourced ales including local microbreweries served by (on my visit) welcoming and knowledgeable staff. The 7 ales noted were Salopian Darwin Original, Shropshire Gold & Firkin Freezing, Three Tuns XXX, Oxford Pride, Wye Valley HBA and a Cheddar Valley cider of indeterminate strength (there was a big ? on the board next to its ABV but they assured me it was at least 6% - subsequent research reveals they were spot on). Not all the clips are shown in each bar so it is worth checking the boards for the full list of what’s on. Regular curry and quiz nights are held and there is live acoustic music Sunday nights. The C&H needs no hype, pretentions or fancy gimmicks - it simply sells itself as a well run, welcoming pub and should be near the top of any Shrewsbury visiters list

PS - Just noticed that I have mirrored much of John Bonser's comments (I'm sure he won't mind) but then again, an advert for a good pub is always worth repeating.

16 Dec 2009 16:12

The Barley Mow, Shepperton

A wonderful local’s pub situated in a relatively quiet residential area that, despite being on few people’s road to anywhere, is well worth seeking out (my brother lives down the road which is the usual excuse for my occasional visit). 5 Ales, usually local (they are part of the LocAle scheme), with Summer Lightning and T.E.A. being the regulars supplemented by 3 guests (a Triple FFF brace of Moondance and Comfortably Numb as well as Hepworth Old Ale being last weekend’s selection). The landlord always gives me the impression he really cares for his beers and I have never had any reason to complain about the quality. The pub is usually busy even when you don’t expect it which is always a good sign although one end of the pub is set out for diners during the day and if I have any complaints it is that I sometimes struggle to get a seat or table. There are plenty of displays, antiques, portraits, old style telephones, typewriters and collections of cigarette cards, bottles and pump clips. A small basic TV suggests that live Sport and the X Factor are not big priorities on the entertainment front however there is a bar billiards table that comes as a surprise. Music obviously plays a big part with a large music themed mural set across a couple of walls and a diet of piped 60’s soul, blues and jazz that feels just right with the relaxed ambience during the day although there is a programme of live music ranging from jazz evenings to rock covers bands which may be a bit intrusive if you aren’t expecting it. The pub is very dog friendly with many slouched pooches evident every time I visit. For an off the beaten track local’s pub, I would quite fancy it as mine!

15 Dec 2009 15:55

The Castle Hotel, Bishop's Castle

This very sedate Hotel bar is situated at the top end of town and whilst it does seem more geared towards diners, it does still have a few merits to justify a visit although it is somewhat overshadowed by its 2 brewpub neighbours. The hotel is to the right whilst the squeaky door to the left leads to the first of 3 sections in the pub side, a rather quaint paneled room with a small bar area and open fire but laid out for diners on my visit. The next room is slightly larger and a bit more pubby in décor but this too was laid out for diners. The main bar area is at the rear but you cannot fail to escape from that subdued hotel bar feel and the seemingly large proportion of bare floor space makes it a appear a bit empty and hollow. One corner is dedicated to the local cricket club and among the bits and bobs is an interesting 1833 inventory of the stock. The current stock included 3 ales, Hobson’s Twisted Spire, Hobson’s Best and Six Bells Big Nev from down the road. Given the number of customers, 3 ales is probably as much as you would want to see in order to retain the quality. One big plus is the presence of a bar billiards table and there are also various traditional board games, dominoes and flat screen TV, albeit quite badly positioned. The old time piped music is probably enough to ensure that the customer base is largely mature and civilised although for a Friday night, the place was alarmingly bereft of people altogether. I gather the garden is something to behold but as it was dark I couldn’t see much beyond the initial patio and small pond. The Castle is certainly worth popping into but I wouldn’t particularly make an evening of the place although in the summer, it may be amore appealing thanks to its garden.

14 Dec 2009 16:20

The Church Inn, Ludlow

This cosy town centre pub was historically known as the Cross Keyes, the current name dating from 1979 A history of the pub on the wall lists all the leaseholders since 1439 and reveals that the premises has been used as a barbers, surgeons, blacksmiths and a saddlers as well as a pub. It is currently run by the town’s former mayor and displays certificates for more awards than an Oscar ceremony. They refer not just to their ales but extend to their fruitcakes, pates and all kinds of obscure pub produce but it is the ales that will obviously appeal to most. 8 hand pumps with mainly local beers – I didn’t note them all but they included Ludlow Boiling Well, Salopian Shropshire Gold, Wye Valley Butty Bach, Hobson’s Mild and Wye Valley Stout. A full list hangs over the main bar if you don’t wish to traverse the bar poking in between the customers. The main door opens into a small reception area (the pub is also a small hotel) and the main bar wraps itself around to the sides and rear with traditional straight forward furnishings, pew seating and a few nick nacks. A collection of pump clips decorate the front ceiling beams and the bar is decorated with hops but on the whole the interior is quite restrained and unpretentious. The atmosphere was quite relaxed and whilst I didn’t get a chance to visit any other pubs in town, I can imagine that this would certainly be amongst the best.

14 Dec 2009 15:42

Belle Vue, Low Fell

According to an advert in the Gateshead FC programme, the Belle Vue refers to itself as Low Fell’s No. 1 pub, a claim that will certainly keep anyone out of any other pubs in the area.

A small but brightly lit front bar has multiple TVs showing Rugby, Football and whatever else is on, all at the same time, which was fine for us as we were specifically targeting somewhere to watch the recent Villa v Spurs game although one suspects that the transmissions shown aren’t exactly above board (unless Eurosport 2 have suddenly started showing live Premiership games!). Football memorabilia (including an Italia ‘90 England shirt signed by Bobby Robson) gives the place more of a sports bar theme than a pub although there was a lounge bar at the rear where we headed to find some breathing space. A further 4 screens (including a bizarrely placed big screen in front of the perfectly adequate flat screen) with a multitude of channels, some with sound, others without, but all irrelevant due to the pounding music that increased in volume the more people began to shout to get themselves heard over it until such time it became totally unbearable.

Unfortunately, Low Fells No. 1 pub only has keg beers so a night of John Smiths smooth rather rubbed the salt into the wounds. Despite all the negative elements, I didn’t feel at all threatened or intimidated like previous posters, just deafened and partly embarrassed by the shocking sight and sound of middle aged women 20 years too old for their dresses screeching Pussycat’s Mississippi - not a sound or image I wish to convey in any great detail suffice to say this was all before 7.30pm. As pub experiences go, this was just about as bad as it gets. Shame I didn’t know about the nearby Aletaster, presumably Low Fells No 2. pub. I can see what they’re doing wrong.

10 Dec 2009 15:30

The Bull Inn, Shrewsbury

This 17th century town centre pub promises more from the outside than it delivers within. The L shaped interior is very plain and featureless and almost has a Smith & Jones feel to it. There were 4 pumps with Banks Bitter, Ringwood 49er, Brakspear Oxford Gold (+ 1 unused pump) at relatively bargain prices but our Saturday lunchtime visit was overwhelmed by foodies and their admittedly hearty looking dinners making it impossible to bag a seat or table. There is a dart board in one corner, a Big Screen for sport and regular live music so you need to pick your time if you intend to have a peaceful visit. The “charm and quaintness” mentioned in its advertising wasn’t terribly obvious to me and the “beautiful beer garden” appeared to be little more than a patch of decking with umbrella covering unless I missed something. It isn’t the worst place in town by a long shot and there are a couple of decent ales but, despite its obvious popularity, I get the impression that most people come for its cheap and cheerful approach rather than anything of great substance.

10 Dec 2009 13:59

Buck Hotel, Richmond

An 18th century Coaching Inn with more of a hotel feel than a pub although it does do a job and ticks a few boxes without leaving any great overall impression.. The carpeted main bar centres on an arched brick fireplace but overall, apart from a few token old local photos (including one of the pub in 1922) there isn’t a great deal of character about the place. There is a dartboard in the main bar and a separate open room with pool table, flat screen TV and pictures of the local football team and brass bands. The noise from this section (both people and TV) does intrude into the main bar but to be frank, the place is a bit on the sedate side at this time of the year so it did at least add a bit of life and colour. One can imagine that the summer months see a different picture regarding usage and I would think it would be tricky getting a seat or table when it gets busy with ramblers. I am assuming that the full ale range isn’t available during the off peak months as 2 of the 6 pumps were unused. The ubiquitous Black Sheep Best was complimented by Hambleton Best (a new one on me and not seen anywhere else on my travels during the week) and Old Rosie cider. A further pump had a reversed Copper Dragon clip but I gather they do always have one stocked. As the beers go it is probably the best of Reeth’s pubs and certainly worth dropping by for but by contrast it was also probably my least favourite for character and ambience.

10 Dec 2009 13:37

The Borough Arms, Gateshead

A recent (but not recent enough given my experience) Good Beer Guide describes the Borough as being the place to go in Gateshead for Ales. Someone must have pulled out the plug as, despite 6 hand pumps, only 1 was operational, a very ordinary Bombardier. 1 clip was reversed (no idea what it was) and the 4 others stood unused. This was first thing on a Saturday night when I would have expected everything to be ready for peak time action. Since we were looking for somewhere local showing ESPN and they didn’t have any live Sports (“too expensive”) we only stayed for a brief in and out exercise so not really much to go on as far as ambience goes. The interior was fairly plain with a dated looking side section containing TV and darts. A few old pictures looked like a token gesture to make the place look a bit more eye catching but overall there wasn’t much to get excited over and I get the impression that the place has gone a bit downhill since my guide was published (2007). Barman was welcoming enough, the ale quality fine (what there was) and prices seemed pretty reasonable. Hopefully I just caught them on a bad day as from what I could gather, Gateshead isn’t a hot bed for decent pubs.

10 Dec 2009 10:30

The Orange Brewery, Belgravia

£4 for a pint of Deuchers. Get real.

8 Dec 2009 09:14

Bridge Inn, Grinton

The Bridge Inn is probably the pick of the pubs in the immediate Reeth area. It is a 15 minute stroll from from the centre of Reeth but many of the local published walking trails pass it so if the doors are open, there isn’t really an excuse not to pop in. A warm, cosy and civilized pub but it does admittedly lean towards the dining end of the pub spectrum. It is also a bit of a magnet for dog walkers and you can expect to trip over at least 3 slumped canines as you work your way to the bar.

The interior is split into 3. The main bar in the centre has beamed ceilings, open fire, old local pictures and brewery mirrors. The bar area is awash with with pump clips, postcards, banknotes and tankards. To the right of the bar is a pool room with some overspill seating when things get busy (and it is a very popular place). To the left of the main bar is a restaurant with a sofa section containing chess sets, an aquarium and an old wind up “His Masters Voice” gramophone. Outside on the roof is a life size model of a swaledale sheep with a horn - not sure what that’s all about. Beerwise, there were 4 Ales on hand pump – Jennings Cumberland (it is a Jennings pub), Hobgoblin, Ringwood Best and Banks Bitter, a selection that does at least differ from the ubiquitous Black Sheep and Theakstons that dominate all the pubs for miles around although I would like to have seen an ale from one of the other local breweries.

No TV’s, music or mobile phones (you’ll be lucky to get a signal anyway) so it’s a pretty relaxed and peaceful place to spend an evening. On the downside, some of the seating in the main bar is awkwardly placed near doors but if there was anything that annoyed me about the place it was the number of diners in the bar. One (very pleasant) couple even asked to share our table despite there being plenty of room in the adjacent restaurant. Maybe I’m missing something but there was space in the restaurant all evening so it wasn’t as if they were fully booked. I presume there is a reason behind it but it certainly escapes me. Although we didn’t eat here the food did look (and smell) very good and the prices were very reasonable for what you were getting.

Despite its diners in the bar problem, the Bridge was certainly one of the best pubs we visited in our Dales week and is well worth stopping by. The “Cathedral of the Dales” opposite is also worth a quick visit.

6 Dec 2009 15:44

Board Hotel, Hawes

The first (or last, depending which way you are walking) of 3 pubs in the Market Place next door to each other. The Board comes over as an unpretentious place with no great luxuries or thrills. There is a slight railway theme with a few train and viaduct pictures on the walls but overall the interior is quite plain and straightforward. The small fire at one end was fairly welcoming on the cold wet evening we called in and the place had quite a homely feel. 4 hand pumps - Black Sheep Best, John Smiths, Theakstons Best and Dent Aviator but only the latter 2 were available although my pint of Aviator was decent enough quality. An interesting package of entertainment according to posters ranging from guess the baby weight , games nights and more traditional darts although the board is rather awkwardly placed. There is a tiny flat screen TV which appears to be quite insufficient to be of much use. As per most Dales pubs, expect piped 80’s music. Not the worst place in town but certainly not the best either although you probably wouldn’t want to stay for any great legth of time.

6 Dec 2009 14:38

The Black Bull, Reeth

Probably the best known pub in town thanks to its infamous upside down sign above the front door, a visual protest resulting from a dispute between the previous charismatic landlord Black Bob and the local Dales authorities over external “improvements” that didn’t meet their approval. The landlord has moved on but I didn’t get the impression that too much in the pub has changed.

The L shaped interior has a main bar with a large inglenook fireplace and high backed settles, a pool and darts (2 boards) area at the rear and a separate restaurant / dining section. There are some interesting articles (namely the “dispute”) and interesting old local photos (note the Reeth in flood pics), brewery mirrors and usual pub paraphernalia but overall it seems to be more of a locals pad than anything touristy.

5 ales on offer, most of them fairly regular for the area - Black Sheep Best, Theakston Black Bull, Old Peculiar & Best and Old Speckled Hen, decent enough quality on my visit and reasonable prices. The food was also decent enough (there aren’t many places to eat round here in winter) but fairly pricey for what it was. A perfectly decent place to unwind and certainly worth calling in but it just lacks that bit extra to make it an essential stop.

6 Dec 2009 14:07

The Armoury, Shrewsbury

One of my favourite Shrewsbury pubs that I managed to cram in over the course of a long weekend. The building was apparently moved from its original site in 1922 and was used as a bakery and a warehouse before becoming a pub in 1995. The interior does seem quite cavernous (the restaurant used to be separate but now everything is knocked through) but despite the barn like ambience, there was a good civilized buzz about the place. I didn’t find it as in your face gastro as others have intimated and by having it more open it does mean the diners and drinkers are well mixed together. I didn’t feel uncomfortable sitting amongst people who were specifically there for the dining which can sometimes be a bit unsettling in such places. There are plenty of old pictures and photos around the walls but they seem to be very random and not particularly relevant or localized. The 2 ends contain laden bookcases and there are a few ad hoc antique collectables dotted about. Note also the old air pressure message tubes. The main reason for my visit was naturally the excellent beer selection which, getting towards the end of a long day I didn’t actually make a note of suffice to say there were several local ales on (I think) 8 hand pumps. If you really need to know, check the place out for yourself – it certainly gets my recommendation.

6 Dec 2009 13:50

The Angel, Old Street

The Angel is a fairly traditional style pub that will fill a gap if you have a gap that needs filling but won’t leave you with any great lasting impressions. The beers are rather mainstream (Bombardier, Pride and Greene King IPA) and not particularly cheap - Bombardier at £3.20 is at the stretching it end of pricing, even for London. The interior is neat and tidy with leather backed built in seating and a semi circular bar but the (I counted 3) plasma screens seem to be a bit too dominating. The patterned windows display Taylor Walker symbols which always remind me too much of Arsenal which isn’t good. The background music was also incredibly dull. There was a bar upstairs but I didn’t feel any great inspiration to explore the place that far. On the whole, a very average place, not one to avoid but certainly not one to make any great effort to seek out.

6 Dec 2009 13:47

The Admiral Benbow, Shrewsbury

Situated just off the main drag, the Admiral Benbow certainly offers one of the best ale selections in town but that cannot disguise the fact that the pub itself is fairly plain and quite dull. The main bar is divided into 2 areas with an underplayed nautical theme. The right hand side has a bit of a wine bar feel with candle lit tables that seem to beckon romancing couples. The other side is a bit more pubish but overall there is little that catches the eye. The place was deserted on my Thursday evening visit in contrast to the Coach & Horses a few doors down that had a healthily bustle. To the rear is a glazed walkway that now alleviates what would have originally been a wet and windy walk to the outside bogs. A small back room contains a dart board and has its own serving hatch to the main bar. The beer garden is a pleasant bonus but the main draw is the ales, all from local(ish) breweries. Shropshire Pride, HPA, Ludlow Gold, Gertie Sweet, Old Recumbant and the pubs own Benbow ale, certainly a few unusual beers in there worth exploring. In addition there were 2 Yarlington ciders (7.5% and 7.8%). Well worth a visit for the beers alone but don’t expect a pub brimming with atmosphere or ambience.

6 Dec 2009 13:44

The Castle Tavern, Richmond

Still closed. Lots of work going on when I walked past recently.

3 Dec 2009 22:31

The Bishop Blaize, Richmond

Currently closed

3 Dec 2009 22:28

The Masque Haunt, Old Street

Is this a pub or a beer clip exhibition centre? Trying to get a pint from any of the 12 badged pumps turned into a bit of a lottery with each request answered with “it’s an old festival beer – they are all finished”. When I did finally come up with a winning choice, my pint was woefully short measured and attempts to get a top up were scorned by the most arrogant and rudest staff member whose lack of manners were matched only by his initial incompetence. A Cask Marque rep or Wetherspoon mystery shopper (they do have them) would have an absolute field day. I rearranged my early evening plans and went down the pub instead.

24 Nov 2009 10:33

The Villagers Inn, Blackheath

The Villagers is situated in a pretty village but is a bit tucked away and the “This Way/That Way/Somewhere Else” signpost at the main junction doesn’t offer too much guidance – you need to take the unmarked direction.

The interior is divided into a public bar with a modern inglenook style fireplace, flag stoned floors, a new stone cladded bar (with an awkwardly placed TV) and low beamed ceilings which can be a bit challenging to the darts players. The larger main bar is mainly for dining with a rear section of soft furnishings. To the rear is a large but scruffy garden area with a covered patio containing an outdoor pool table although the cheap plastic furniture doesn’t didn’t do it any favours.

We found the landlord quite accommodating – we were organizing an event and he opened specially for us late one afternoon although, as others have mentioned, opening times tend to vary, especially in Summer when the ramblers are around so best check beforehand. The beers on my visits (which were admittedly several months ago) were from Weltons and Horsham breweries but they were a bit of a mixed bag regarding quality. On the whole, whilst we weren’t over impressed with the pub in general, the place did cater for our needs at the time. It seems to be a pub that either pleases or frustrates and at the moment it appears to be weighing on the latter. The potential is certainly there but it really needs someone to make an effort to bring it out.

13 Nov 2009 12:40

Paper Moon, Dartford

Since the Flying Boat opened down the road 6 months ago, I assumed that the Paper Moon would be firmly relegated to Dartford’s No 2 ‘Spoons (a disparaging title if ever there was one) however over the recent months I have found myself using it far more now than I ever did in the past

A minor refurbishment has given it a fresher feel although it still has that unmistakable ‘Spoons stamp of uniformity about it. Despite being a former Bank, it doesn’t have any of the opulent touches normally prevalent in such buildings and there is little to make it stand out although one interesting fact about the place is that it was designed by Sir Edward Maufe who later built Guildford Cathedral.

The main reason it is currently preferred over the FB is that it has a far superior approach to its ales. Where the FB will often have 1 or, if you’re lucky, 2 guest ales (rarely more apart from the Festival), the PM regularly has a minimum of 3 and sometimes 4 or 5 although it has to be said, the “available soon” clips can sometimes be frustrating. A recent tie-up with the local Nelson Brewery in Chatham has led to regular Nelson’s beers among the usual guests, an excellent recent Brewery trip and a forthcoming Ale that has been specially brewed for the pub (which I believe will also be available in the FB).

The customer base doesn’t seem as unappealing as it has in the past although there are still a few annoying people to be found at certain times (this is, after all, a Wetherspoons so it goes with the territory). I would concur that service can be frustrating at times but the team are at least friendly and chatty once you have their attention. If the FB can improve on its ale record, the town could potentially have one of the best brace of ‘Spoons pubs around and from my recent experiences, the much improved PM is far from being the poor relation to the FB that I initially expected.

13 Nov 2009 10:53

The White House, Guildford

This town centre Fullers pub is attractively situated on the riverside next to the Town Bridge. There is usually a decent range of Ales on offer (HSB / ESB / Discovery / Pride / Chiswick) at competitive prices and decent quality whenever I have been there. There are plenty of interesting historic maps and photos, in particular of the floods that devastated the town in 1907 (taking the bridge with it). Much if the interior has been knocked through and extended with a conservatory tacked on one side that leads to the riverside terrace but overall it feels quite light, airy and reasonably homely with enough walls remaining inside to make clear divisions and break the openness. Upstairs there is some additional seating and also a roof terrace. The outside riverside terrace has plenty of cover and can be quite idyllic on a warm day although it naturally can get pretty busy. I have found service friendly and efficient and the customer base relatively civilised. I certainly have no qualms on popping in on my occasional visits to the city.

4 Nov 2009 18:26

The Kings Tun, Kingston Upon Thames

A huge Wetherspoons in what was originally the Empire cinema although I remember it from the days that I lived in the area as the Reject Shop (remember them?). There isn’t much inside to remind you of its former guises and it is for the most part a typically branded ‘Spoons albeit covering a large area over 2 floors. The downstairs main bar is essentially the old cinema foyer and fairly open with the usual run of screened off snugs down a couple of sides. One interesting addition to the silent fruit machines and multiple plasma screens is an electronic table top poker game.

The main bar has 12 hand pumps however as it is currently Ale Festival time, I cannot for certain say how many guest beers they normally offer but on top of the 7 Festival Beers on Monday, they also had 3 additional guest beers so I am assuming that the selection is better than average even outside of the Festival dates.

An open staircase winds its way to the even more spacious upper floor which has its own self contained bar albeit with just the 3 hand pumps. Due to sheer size of the place, I would assume that grabbing a table is pretty easy even at the busiest of times however some of the customer base were a bit charmless to put it politely. The same cannot be said of the staff who were pleasant, efficient and were never without a smile. They were also patient and tactful when I witnessed them having to deal with some particularly demanding characters.

The old pictures of town are of personal interest since I can relate to the days when Kingston wasn’t just a seemingly series of chain shops, refurbished bars and mass market consumerism. I no longer know the town centre well enough to determine where the Kings Tun fits in with the competition but for Ales, it would certainly be a front runner even if the pub itself lacks any great intrinsic charm.

4 Nov 2009 16:12

The Bricklayers Arms, Kingston Upon Thames

Another pub I have revisited after an absence of about 5 years to find it has undergone a recent makeover (did someone in Kingston offer a job lot?). Situated on the edge of a large Estate, it is not destined to attract anyone other than a few locals but for all my infrequent visits over the years I have actually found it a fairly comfortable and generally welcoming pub. That said, I can’t say that the recent makeover does anything for the place and it still appears to be just another edge of town, dull and plain local’s pub, harmless but ultimately uninspiring. 3 hand pumps but just Greene King IPA available although quality was very good and it was almost a giveaway price (Pint & Mrs B’s diet coke still left change from £3). It was good to see some traditional features like the piano and board games and the secure beer garden with its covered decking patio is a big plus when conditions allow. Overall another pub I had better memories of in the past and there seems to be some mixed feelings about the place. I may have been unlucky with the ale choices (I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt) and, for now, would just about rate it as worthy of a quick pint if passing by but nothing to go out of the way for.

4 Nov 2009 14:08

The Marlborough, Kingston Upon Thames

Not been here for many years but was attracted by recent reports of improvements although I don’t recall having any bad impressions about the place from when I lived in the area. It is obvious as soon as you walk in that it has undergone a recent makeover but, to be honest, the interior displays very little character as a result. There is an odd mix of battered stripped back floors with fresh exposed modern brickwork and token pictures and nick nacks which really don’t look at home. It all looks very contrived and nondescript with no real focus or wow factor. Given that it was previously a Badger’s pub, the beers nowadays are pretty run of the mill – Courage Best and Deuchers (another clip was reversed but possibly Directers) with prices reasonable. The beer garden is one of the better features but not such an attraction heading into the winter months. Overall a disappointing pub but there are far worse around and, given that it was previously closed and boarded up, we should at least be thankful that it has survived and will hopefully continue to do so.

4 Nov 2009 13:29

The Robert Peel, Kingston Upon Thames

This 300 capacity toilet circuit music pub is without doubt one of the best of its kind although nestled in between unattractive estate tower blocks on the outskirts of town, it hardly hits any immediately welcoming trigger points.

The 2 room interior consists of the main bar with the stage area and a rear room with pool table and plasma TV. The pool table is pushed aside when major(ish) bands play here to accommodate the merchandise stall. The walls are dark and dingy as befits a place of this ilk and posters and flyers dominate.

Two ales are generally available (Adnams and Spitfire) of surprisingly decent quality and excellent value at £2.85 & £2.90 a pint respectively. Service is efficient and friendly even when busy (I recently saw Ash play here to a heaving crowd and managed to get served promptly every time). Beers are served in coloured polycarbonate glasses so you can have fun waving them at the ultra violet lights and watch the contents magically turn into some interesting shades of reds, blues and greens.

For the music side of things, the stage is a good size with good sight lines (a small raised area behind the mixing desk is an ideal vantage point away from the mosh area) and decent sound and lighting. They do attract some decent names to play here and if you like live music pubs, the Peel is pretty hard to fault, apart from the customary flooded toilets of course.

4 Nov 2009 12:44

The Salisbury, Leicester Square

The Salisbury is one of the most ornate and richly preserved of London’s pubs and a fine example of why the late Victorian era is widely regarded as the golden age of pub building. The current building dates from 1898 and was named after the Prime Minister of the time. It stands on the site of a previous tavern called the Ben Gaunts Head and later the Coach & Horses. Historically the pub has had a fairly seedy past when it was originally at the forefront of the bare knuckle boxing scene. In more recent times, serial killer Dennis Nielson used the place to stalk out some of his victims and at the time it had the reputation as a rather seedy gay haunt.

The interior is a palatial collection of Victorian indulgence with a multitude of the finest quality etched glass and mirrors all magnificently brought to life by the tasteful lighting and richly upholstered furnishings beneath a burgundy ceiling. The island bar covers quite a large area and at one end is a small snug bar with a handsome fireplace and fine etched glass screen dividing it from the main bar. A sweeping staircase leads up to a private area whilst a narrow set of stairs plastered with theatre posters leads down to toilets. At the very rear of the pub is a small room with large ornate patterned mirrors. Getting a seat is difficult as it seems to be busy at any time of the day so you may end up on a stool at the front ledge where you can watch the world pass by outside. There are no TV’s (it proudly proclaims itself to be a Sports free pub) and the unobtrusive piped music is a bit bland.

Despite being an obvious tourist target, it is easy to forget that apart from its exquisite interior, they do a healthy range of decent quality beers although service can be a bit faceless and the regular short measures need to be addressed. There are usually 3 regular ales (Youngs, Bombardier and Deuchars) and 3 guest ales (Doom Bar, Landlord & Cornish Buccaneer on my most recent visit) although expect West End prices. The pub grup menu is fairly reasonably priced considering the surroundings.

I have always found the Salisbury a little impersonal and tourist driven but as a pub spectacle, it really is must visit pub for anyone in the West End.

2 Nov 2009 15:47

The Kings Head, Islington

Not to be confused with the Kings Head in nearby Essex Road, there has been a Kings Head here since the mid 16th century although the current Victorian pub’s main claim to fame came in 1970 when it opened Britain’s first Pub Theatre in a small room to the rear. Today the Theatre’s Patrons and Presidents make an impressive role call; Joana Lumley, Tom Stoppard, Maureen Lipman and Victoria Wood to name just a few. Whether any of them can be seen regularly knocking back the Guinness’s on a Saturday night is debatable but as far as the pub side of things go, it is quite a bustling, lively and interesting little joint.

Furnishings appear quite Spartan and with its dark polished bare floor it comes across s a bit dim and dingy but there are many interesting features such as the marble fireplace (with laden coal scuttles ready and waiting), double bay window frontage and working gas lights. As one would expect, there is a strong Theatre theme to the pub with walls plastered with thespian pictures (many of whom have appeared in the pub), old theatre seats running down each side, posters and selection of stage lights hanging from the high ceiling. Note also the old photo from the 1900’s taken inside the pub of the (presumably) land lord and wife. At the rear to ne side is a dart board and in one corner, a small stage where live bands play at weekends. Things can be noisy and music at high volume when the DJ’s are at full pelt so it isn’t a place fir a quiet evening out.

The beers are a bit pricey but it is worth paying the extra just to soak up the ambience of the place. 4 Ales available on my recent visit; Youngs, Adnams, Abbott and 6X. One useless fact about the place is that a previous owner was against the introduction of decimal currency and the prices were all shown in shillings and pence until the early ‘90’s.

The pub won’t appeal to everyone (how many do?) but it is certainly an interesting and historic part of London’s pub circuit and for that alone, worth paying a visit.

30 Oct 2009 16:22

The Kings Head, Islington

The Kings Head (that appears to have been lopped off in the page title) is a pretty basic no thrills pub which has fortunately remained relatively unscathed from any fancy makeovers or trendy seating invasions. At the front is a small raised area with fireplace and window seats to gaze at the passing traffic and to the rear is an extended area with stone floors, some ancient looking exposed brickwork, dart board and jukebox. There are a few TVs dotted around geared towards sports and the piped radio music wasn’t too intrusive. A spacious patio garden with gazebo caters for warmer days and smokers. The beer selection is unfortunately very mundane with no ales available on my recent trip (Pride clip was reversed) and just standard kegs / lagers. Prices appeared to be below the average for the area. The pubs lack of pretence and footie and darts approach give it a bit of a down market feel but in places like Islington it can be a breath of fresh air among a tide of ubiquitous chain pubs and lounge bars. When I worked in the area several years ago I only gave the Kings Head the occasional fleeting visit and whilst there isn’t anything adverse about the place, there are far better pubs around if you know where to look.

30 Oct 2009 15:29

The Hope and Anchor, Islington

This legendary London music pub has been integral to the live music scene since the early 70’s when pub rock and then punk rock ruled supreme. Whilst today it still hosts many an upcoming band (Keane apparently played their first ever gig here) it doesn’t really have the same aura that it did during its peak years to the mid 80’s. Fortunately it doesn’t try to be anything trendy or pretentious and, given its rich musical heritage, they do not tend to dwell on its past glories in any great way. The pub sign is aptly depicted in “Never Mind The Bollocks” style lettering and there are a couple of Specials posters, a copy of Ian Dury’s New Boots LP and a few flyers for the current events but nothing over the top or touristy.

The main bar is split into a carpeted but fairly basic lounge area and a rough and ready bare floored section adjoining it. A flyer encrusted pillar separates the two. The “rough” end also houses a pinball machine and plasma TV and there are pool tables upstairs although I have never ventured further than the main bar and music venue in the basement. I was a bit surprised to find 2 Greene King ales (IPA and Speckled Hen) so it’s just as well spitting at gigs is no longer in fashion otherwise IPA sales would double overnight. Prices were surprisingly reasonable for the area.

The music venue is downstairs and any live music fan of a certain age should try and catch a gig here at least once n their lives. It is tiny with a virtually non-existent stage and trying to picture bands like the Pistols, the Stranglers and, er Dire Straits (yep, really), playing here gives you a real insight into those early days of punk. It is a few years since I have seen any bands here but from memory there was a small self contained bar in the music venue and some superb photos of some of the legendary bands playing there.

It is certainly not the best pub you will ever visit and is more of a place for reflection than worthy of going out of the way for (unless you plan to take in a gig) but it is a piece of London’s pub heritage and no-one can take that away from the place.

29 Oct 2009 15:42

The Rifleman, Sevenoaks

A relatively appealing Greene King pub on the outskirts of Sevenoaks but more of a local’s pad than anything worth going out of the way for. I have been lured here a couple of times in the past year by my nephew who occasionally plays in a band that performs here although it really isn’t a place conducive to live music with cramped bars and poor sight lines. The front bar has a darts area and is generally inhabited with bar huggers. The rear bar is equally cramped but does have extended areas containing a pool table one way and bar billiards the other. Décor and furnishings are pretty standard with a few beamed ceilings, military pictures, a log fire (that belts out enough heat to make the place a bit of a sweatbox) and the old pub sign now displayed by the pool table. To the rear is an attractive rear garden with covered decked patio.

One huge bonus is that despite being a Greene King pub, it does offer a guest ale to supplement the 2 GK beers (my recent visit saw the excellent Davenport Highland Whisky Ale). Prices are reasonable, staff and customers quite welcoming and it is generally a pretty civilized place albeit off the beaten track to most people.

25 Oct 2009 13:56

Great Harry, Woolwich

Not a great advert for Wetherspoons or Woolwich. A modern glass fronted building named after Henry VIII’s flagship that was built a short stagger away in Woolwich Dockyard. The bland interior has very little aesthetic value even by ‘Spoons normal formulaic standards and the customer base at peak times leaves very little to be desired. The number of guest ales various – on my most recent visit there was just 1 guest ale and a host of “Available Soon” labels although for some inexplicable reason we returned a couple of hours later (no, I don’t know why either) and found 3 on so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one. Very much a ‘Spoons to be used in desperation although in Woolwich you may just find yourself using it more than you would like to.

23 Oct 2009 15:58

The Globe, London Bridge

The potential for this place is enormous. The building dates from 1872 and has a wonderfully basic and dingy interior of the kind that would actually be enhanced by clouds of cigarette smoke. There are several nice touches worth noting; the ornate trimmings of the bar, patterned windows, even the narrow doorway that is always a squeeze to get through. The walls contain many nostalgic adverts and the beams and high shelves are loaded with artifacts and antiques. There are just a few tables with most of the drinking here of a vertical nature at various ledges around the pub. There is a dart board at one end and a series of screened off areas down one side but again just stools at a ledge. The music can be very loud and was probably a constant annoyance for Bridget Jones whose flat was situated above the pub in the movies.

The Globe’s big problem is that it appears to make no effort to compete with its neigbours although, to be fair, it is up against some very strong competition. Selling 3 standard ales (Adnams, Bombardier and Youngs) isn’t going to make me pop in before a session at the Market Porter or the Wheatsheaf. The beer quality is, at best drinkable but generally very poor. Prices are OK, Bombardier was £3 on my visit this week which is less than a lot of pubs around here but with poor quality and choice, is it really good value? I have tried hard to like this place but unless it makes more of an effort it is hard to find a reason to return.

23 Oct 2009 15:47

The Fox and Hounds, Carshalton

This is probably the most disappointing pub in town and a place desperately in need of some TLC. There are a few redeeming features and with a bit of effort it could become a half decent place. The exterior displays plenty of neglect with peeling paint and decaying woodwork which is hardly a good advert to start with. The interior has been knocked through but still retains hints of character like the old paneling and latticed windows but generally it comes across as a gloomy and uncared for pub. There are a couple of areas that are tucked away from the main body of the pub but no matter where you go you cannot escape the TV’s that intrude into every corner. The front area contains a piano and a range in the old fireplace and an interesting display case with old bottles of ales and stouts bearing the inscription of King Gearge V. A darts area to one side of the bar isn’t quite so intrusive. There is a huge potential for ales but of the 10 hand pumps, only 1 was operational (Pride), 2 were off (Youngs and Bombardier), 5 were redundant and 2 pumps were completely broken off. The ale quality was drinkable but certainly not sufficient to warrant Cask Marque accreditation. With a decent facelift and an overhaul of the ales, it could have a better future but until such time, it is probably the one pub to miss in town if you have to miss any.

23 Oct 2009 15:13

The Devonshire Arms, Camden

A.K.A. the Hobgoblin, the Devonshire is basically a rock / goth / indie pub along the lines of the Intrepid Fox but with a far more battered and grubby appearance. Battered furnishings, black walls and a thousand and one posters of Marilyn Mansun eyeballing you from every angle won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and the fake cobwebs and gothic fake flickering lighting is more London Dungeon than trendy Camden. You almost expect a rubber spider to crawl out of a crack in the floor. 3 hand pumps but all off on my visit – Hobgoblin seems to be the only ale that they do but I had to resort to Guinness which was a lucky choice as it was during happy hour (that seems to last 3 days) where selected “beers” are all £2.20. A raised corner doubles up as a stage for live bands and there is a DJ stall which presumably pumps out a diet of AC/DC at ear shattering volume when the need arises. Not sure how this place has missed my radar for so long but I do like a good grubby venue now and again and I need to return at some point as I sadly missed out on the toilet experience.

23 Oct 2009 11:31

The Castle, Angel, Islington

The Castle seems to attract a mix bag of reviews but I have many good memories of this place when it was the Pint Pot including the watching the infamous England v Brazil World Cup match with its 7.30am kick off that tested the resolve licencing laws in those days before all day opening! Bacon Butties and copious pints for breakfast wasn’t the best start to a working day! These days it has been given a new name (thankfully still traditional rather than trendy) and a bit of an upmarket makeover which has given it more of a gastro edge but not in a way that detracts it from being a pub first and foremost. The décor may now be full of trendy shades of grey and bare floors and stripped back tables but I didn’t find it unappealing.

There are 2 hand pumps with ales sourced from Sharps and Hogs Back breweries. Sharps Betjeman Ale (which is actually Cornish Coaster in disguise) has been on for both my recent visits and Garden Gold and more recently T.E.A. have been the Hogs Back selections. There are also a range of top end lagers. I found prices to be quite reasonable given the sort of place it is and its location. The popular roof terrace gets extremely busy on warm days – there is a small bar upstairs but with a limited selection. I have found the staff quite welcoming and the barman on my recent visit was actually quite chatty about the beers, which makes a change from the usual faceless novices that I frequently come across. I am not usually drawn to pubs like the Castle, especially when I remember them prior to being tarted up, but I do feel quite comfortable here even and would certainly continue to use the place when I am in the area.

22 Oct 2009 16:02

The Camden Head, Islington

The Camden Head is situated at the end of a narrow pedestrian alley lined with quaint antique shops, a little spot of London that has changed little since the likes of Dickins was rambling around looking for inspiration. Fortunately the pub remains one of the best preserved Victorian pubs in London with many outstanding features even if it has had a few knocks down the years. Some of the larger windows have sadly been replaced with plain glass but there is enough beautifully etched glass, both inside and out, for you to realise just how effort the Victorians put into their pubs.

The interior is now a single room with an Island bar (complete with impressive central bar back and clock) but still retains much of its Victorian splendour. Note the water taps on the bar (no longer functional) and even a call bell (the only one I have seen in London pub) from the days when the pub would have been divided into smaller rooms. Screens divide the seating areas and there is a cosy recess by the stairs with a couple of tables. On the Ale front, only London Pride survives from my previous visit with the ubiquitous Bombardier and GK IPA now thankfully replaced by Doom Bar and Tribute. Prices are very good (Pride was £2.50 and change from £3 for the others). The pub grub menu was also reasonably priced (the all too familiar burger and a pint was £7) and several people were eating which was a good sign. There were 2 TV’s but not too intrusive and a large outside patio area. Additional seating can be found upstairs which is also home to regular Comedy evenings and where the Kinks played some of their early gigs. For me this, historic and attractive pub is one of the first places to head for when in the area, especially now the ale selection has improved.

22 Oct 2009 12:57

The Glass Works, Angel, Islington

This modern shopping mall Lloyds Bar has, on the face of it, very little appeal. It is generally fairly quiet by day but gets more clubby in the evenings when the loud music kicks in. The faceless interior has a sunken level at the front with the now obligatory sofas, low tables and modern artwork although it looks like the multiple TV’s have been toned down as they were not as “in your face” as I recall from previous visits. The big plus on my recent trip is that they have doubled the number of hand pumps to 6 with 3 guests alongside the staple Ruddles County, Abbott and Marcle Hill Cider. Unfortunately it is a lucky draw as to how many will have the “Available Soon” clip attached. Prices are cheaper than most central London ‘Spoons (guest ales £1.89 – most are over £2 including the nearby Angel). Whilst it may have shown some signs of improvement, the music is still annoyingly rubbish and overall it is still a pretty dull place to visit. I certainly couldn’t make a long night of the place.

22 Oct 2009 12:04

The Coach and Horses, Carshalton

A traditional style corner pub with fine green tiled exterior and a comfortable enough single room interior. I can’t really speak for any local misgivings as it was a fairly quiet lunchtime visit but I certainly didn’t get any feelings of intimidation or unfriendliness. The interior has a certain charm with patterned diamond lattice windows, pint pots hanging from the ceiling, bottles and plates around the walls, old historical snippets and a large collection of clocks. 2 reasonably priced (for Surrey) ales (Adnams and Rev James) as well as 4 unusual ciders (2 on hand pump, 2 poured direct from barrels behind the bar). No realcomplaints about quality from my entourage. Regular bingo and quiz nights and a weekly darts discount (pick a number from a hat, throw a single dart and if you hit that number you get the drink for a quid - well it’s certainly different!). To the rear is a small patio garden which is probably only of interest to smokers and gnome enthusiasts. Overall I found it an above average and slightly quirky place, a decent enough stop on a local pub crawl (as we were) but it does have some quite healthy competition in the neighbourhood.

20 Oct 2009 16:15

The Chandos, Trafalgar Square

I don’t know how it has taken me so many years to get round to commenting on this place. Apart from the occasional lick of paint, the pub hasn’t changed a jot since my first visit over 25 years ago. The main downstairs bar is fairly basic with 6 snugs of varying capacity lined along the window side. The plainness of the décor, bare floors and unremarkable furnishings is offset by some attractive coloured glass latticed windows. Tucked away at the back next to the stairs to the rather pungent loos is a darts room that is easily overlooked and a bit of a rarity in the West End. Thanks to the pub’s location things can be very busy with seating at a premium but service has always been first rate and I have rarely had to wait to be served. Being a Sam Smiths pub, the prices are dirt cheap, currently £1.90 for a pint of Old Brewery Bitter and, unlike some Sam Smiths pubs in London, the Ale is on hand pump. Obviously the downside of any Sam Smiths pub is the lack of choice and the beers will not be to everyone’s taste.

Upstairs is the Opera bar that, far from being an extra room used as an overspill, actually functions as a fully operational pub with its own character and ambience. Unusually, there is a bar that is as fully stocked as the main bar downstairs. The Opera bar is roughly split into 3 areas, a large sofa laden lounge bar with multiple Chesterfields and some interesting little window seats, a smaller central split level area with a more pubby feel and a more homely bit at the other end with a mix between the two. Whilst it can be equally as busy, the Opera Bar is less easily overlooked and tends to get a bit quieter as the evening goes on. So basically the Chandos is 2 pubs for the price of one, cheap and busy but lacking in drink choice. There are numerous pubs and bars within spitting distance of the Chandos coming in all shapes, sizes and styles but the Chandos has always been a long standing and solid servant to my requirements.

20 Oct 2009 15:27

Belushi's, Shepherds Bush

Not so much a pub as a backpackers sports bar along the lines of a Walkabout but certainly less offensive. The single room interior is mainly open plan with a small more secluded area off to the right of the bar. At one end is a raised area that presumably doubles as a stage given the proximity of the spotlights above. The décor is modern but is clean and tidy although bits are probably a bit too lounge like for some tastes (like me). Multiple screens offer a diet of Aussie sports. Murals adorn the walls with one end taken over by the Foo Fighters. On the beer front they only offer kegs and lagers, no ales, and prices are above what I would expect. Aussies and Kiwis will inevitably love it as a meeting up point but for me, a bit like an Irish pub, it is of little interest to anyone other than those who it is specifically aimed at.

20 Oct 2009 13:13

The Rose and Crown, Huish Episcopi

Because, Dr P, it needs a minimum of 35 ratings before it becomes eligible. It is many years since I have been to the Rose & Crown and is very high on my must return list! Glad to see it is still going strong.

16 Oct 2009 19:32

The Glass House, St Albans

I came in here once at the end of a pub crawl some time ago for no reason other than we had 15 minutes to spare before catching a train. It was a pretty grim place, horribly modernized with little character and a rather dull, depressing feel to it. When a pubs redeeming feature is that it sells Greene King IPA you know it doesn’t have a lot going for it although even that particular mispleasure seemed to be lacking from the more recent reviews. Apart from my already half cut mate trying to chat up some tarted up bird, my Glass House experience was pretty forgetful. Why we didn’t go in the Robin Hood instead is one of life’s little mysteries.

7 Oct 2009 14:05

Hart & Spool, Borehamwood

Typically plastic ‘Spoons that wouldn’t be particularly memorable for me had it not been the pub where I spent most of the day that I was made redundant after 25 years (well there is bugger all else about in Borehamwood). The proximity of the film studios virtually next door and the BBC not far away means there is always a good chance of spotting a celebrity (I’m sure even the rich and famous have to resort to Wetherspoons at some time) or, if you are really lucky, maybe a legion of Roman centurians or Star Wars Stormtroopers may pop in on their lunch break. There are plenty of Hand Pumps although my last visit was during the ale festival so I can’t speak for normal selections. It’s very much a ‘Spoons by numbers but the local competition is so dismal that it does serve a more than worthwhile purpose. Note – the Elstree Inn prominently displayed on the frontage refers to the hotel above the pub, not the pub itself.

19 Sep 2009 10:03

The Compton Arms, Islington

Probably the most visually appealing of all the pubs in the immediate area with a village feel to it although being a Greene King pub takes off a bit of the gloss. The quaint interior is fairly compact and navigating around the bar can be a bit of an ordeal when it is busy (and the pub usually is). The walls have several interesting old photos of the area (spot the Hope & Anchor in its previous guise as Rackstraws) and a selection of pump clips from the various guest ales. The low beams have plenty of slogans bigging up Greene King which may cause a few ripples among the breweries many detractors. Finding a seat can be tricky. There is a small room to the rear that looks twice the size thanks to a large mirror on the rear wall a but you will inevitably find yourself in the small decked, partly covered patio garden if you need any space. There are generally 2 standard Greene King Ales (IPA and Abbott) plus a seasonal Greene King (currently Royal London) and a “proper” guest (currently Everards Tiger). The major downside is the exorbitant prices. The guest ale last night cost a whopping £3.50 a pint (a Greene King guest ale at that!) and for that reason alone I can’t see myself hanging around in the future which is a shame as I have often made the Compton my default pub for the area. Should I return I think I will be supping my pint very slowly.

19 Sep 2009 09:46

The Famous Cock Tavern, Islington

What exactly is the Famous Cock famous for? As a pub it is distinctly ordinary with unadventurous beers (London Pride, Adnams Broadside and Greene King IPA), Bland décor (don’t you just love the deckchair carpeting), little in the way of architectural merit (a drab block next to the tube station), dull layout (train carriage seating down one side, high tables down the middle and a couple of off centre sections), run of the mill entertainment (3 TV’s + Big screen for sport, fruit machines, quiz machine, Dusty Springfield music), automaton imported bar staff and no discernable history of any merit whatsoever. I can only conclude that the Famous Cock is famous for being famous which is, I suppose, better than just being Cock.

19 Sep 2009 09:45

The White Swan, Islington

Whilst it looks like a cinema from the outside, the White Swan was built in 1962 as the HQ for the Working Mans Club Institution Union. The previous shops and offices on the site were destroyed by a V2 in 1944 killing 266 and injuring 155. Wetherspoons opened here in 2000 under the name of a pub that originally stood nearby. It is certainly one of the more interesting interiors, a sort of cinema / factory hybrid with large frosted floor to ceiling side windows, an unusual balcony that is open on both side and an eye catching is slightly nauseous amount of inlaid wooden tiling. Above the bar are portholes housing wine bottles and a few modern art prints are dotted about. The front has a sofa area and there are more loungey bits with tub chairs further back and upstairs on the balcony. Alongside the usual ‘Spoons fare were an above average 4 guest ales (Mordue Five Bridges, Batemans Combined Harvest, Wooden Hand Black Pearl and Salopian Shropshire Gold) at the usual cheap (but slightly higher than average) prices and decent quality. It has take some time for me to be won over by the place after many previous visits but for some reason I do like its quirkiness which although not particularly attractive, does come over as something new and original.

19 Sep 2009 09:42

The Buck's Head, Camden

383. The Bucks Head - Camden
I must have walked past the Bucks Head hundreds of times without ever feeling any great desire to enter. The exterior proudly displays its heritage as part of the Truman, Hanbury Buxton & Co empire but sadly that is about all that is left of its features. Inside is a typically designer orientated retro style pub with hints of an art deco reproduction. The beers were mainstream beers and lagers with 3 hand pumps; London Pride, Adnams Broadside (which was off) and one unused. Prices were pretty hefty with nothing on the price list being below £3.30 a pint). Measures were woeful and the imported barman didn’t really grasp the concept of topping up. My pint was still way short AFTER it had been supposedly topped up (at my request). For foodies, there was a reasonably priced chain pub grub menu but nothing you can’t get anywhere else in pretty much any Camden pub. The main attraction of the place is probably the small roof terrace that overlooks the bustling and lively Camden Market but, having now made the effort to pop inside and being distinctly underwhelmed, I think I will continue to carry on walking past in the future.

19 Sep 2009 09:39

The Barking Dog, Barking

Situated next to Barking tube station, the inventive pub name is one of the better aspects of this run of the mill Wetherspoons. A throng of intimidating smokers will more than likely greet you at the doorway and should you have the desire to pass them you will hardly be inspired by the rather mundane interior. A sectioned central area contains a few snugs and a couple of TV screens but generally it is all formulaic ‘Spoons.. The only thing that really catches the eye is the sculpture of a dog chasing its tale that wraps itself around a central pillar. Despite the generally uncomfortable feel of the place, it was incredibly busy for an early evening which must say something about the lack of any local competition (and it wasn’t as if West Ham were at home either). Surprisingly the beer selection had an above average choice of 4 guest ales (Grafton Lady Mary, Elgoods Mad Dog, Evan Evan Warrior and Nethergate Essex Beast) which did at least offer me some compensation for my efforts in travelling through East London when the tubes are all buggered up. Certainly not an essential stop even for the most devoted ‘Spoons fan but there is little else in the immediate vicinity.

19 Sep 2009 09:37

The Windmill, Upminster

I have been past here a few times on my way to footie at nearby AFC Hornchurch without feeling any great desire to pop in. Arriving particularly early prior to a recent match I thought it was time to test the waters, especially given the recent reports of fairly major changes, not least of all the pub name. Whilst it certainly appears to have had a fairly extensive makeover, it cannot disguise the fact that the interior comes over as bland and soulless. The main bar is knocked through into one with a series of pillars down the spine and drab colour schemes. The furnishings are a mix of the now standard modern loungey areas with tub chairs and a smattering of dining tables. In one corner there is a small conservatory type section but on the whole it is all very safe and sanitized apart from the small paneled room behind the bar which does at least retain a bit of character. At the rear is a neat and tidy, newly fenced in patio garden although it is quite small in relation to the pub. There is more outside seating at the front of the pub although the river that runs by isn’t exactly tranquil or picturesque.

Being a Greene King pub, don’t expect anything earth shattering from the hand pumps; IPA and Abbott being the choices although at £2.35 and £2.60 respectively, they are at least reasonably priced as was the pub grub menu. Whilst the pub appears a friendly enough place, I cannot imagine using it for any more than a pre-match pint and I doubt too many people would be attracted here out of choice unless the local competition is worse.

19 Sep 2009 09:35

Ounce & Ivy Bush, East Grinstead

A Wetherspoons housed in the ground floor of a modern cinema complex isn’t the most endearing image and to be honest, this isn’t one of the chains more appealing branches. The pub name is one of the more interesting aspects, an Ounce apparently being a Wild Cat and and the Ivy Bush being the symbol of (don’t laugh at this point) a high class Inn. Throw in a few bits about an old pub and the Sackville Coat of Arms and you get probably the most convoluted pub name in the country. Who said a trip to Wetherspoons wasn’t educational! The interior feels very closed in and a mass of ugly air conditioning pipes hovering below the lowish ceilings hardly adds to the aesthetics. Despite having areas of raised seating and lounge bits in from of bookcases it all feels very open and lacking any intimacy. The only draw is the usual run of beers, ales and food which are all trademark Wetherspoons but the lack of ambience and such dull surroundings probably aren’t enough to warrant any second visits from me in the near future.

19 Sep 2009 09:33

The Lincoln Lounge, Kings Cross

Like many of the pubs that I used to frequent when I worked in the area, the Lincoln barely resembles any of my old memories of the place. The old Lincoln Arms name may still be depicted in the ironwork over the old entrance but the Lounge for Arms replacement in the name pretty much sums up what has happened to this and a large percentage of the traditional pubs in Kings Cross. The old basic boozer that I remember now has the oh so familiar sofa and coffee table wine bar type setting that is beginning to overtake the pub world. That said, this is one of the more endearing efforts and whilst I wouldn’t come here by choice, I wouldn’t necessarily steer away from it either. The interior is fairly small and has a certain quirky randomness about it. The rear courtyard with its large pub mural has been integrated into the pub so it is a bit larger than it once was and there are still remnants of the original features although for the most part they appear to be obscured by tables and bookcases. Candles are a big thing; big ones, small ones, long ones, wax encrusted bottled ones, enough to keep Swan Vesta in business for years. Not really much on the beer front. Upmarket lagers and just 1 ale - Bombardier on both hand pumps although more reasonably priced than some of its more upmarket neigbours. Most of the Kings Cross pubs that I knew has now disappeared beyond recognition but, despite the changes, this is one that I would revisit, albeit at a push.

19 Sep 2009 09:30

The Jugged Hare, Pimlico

Being a former Bank worker, there is nothing more enjoyable than seeing one my previous potential workhouses turning itself into a pub. Fullers have done a pretty good job this former (I think it was a) NatWest in that they have retained much of the building’s character despite the obvious internal alterations. The main bar has tiled flooring, a grand brass chandelier and a large (if rather fading) portrait dominating the far wall. The rear (where the the old Manager’s offices would have been situated), has been opened out but still retains a separate identity to the main body of the pub. Stairs lead up to a balcony bar with additional seating. My recent visit was the first for some time but the range and quality of the ales was excellent (they were awarded Fullers Cellar of the Year in 2006, about the time of my only previous visit). 5 hand pumps with ESB, HSB, Discovery, Pride and Chiswick. There is not a great deal of competition in the immediate area and it was comfortably busy for a Thursday evening with a civilised and mixed crowd of people. It isn’t an area that tends to attract people from afar but it is certainly one of the few pubs in the area I would be happy to make a venue for a decent session.

19 Sep 2009 09:26

The William IV, Leyton

Ever since Brodies Ales starting popping up on my travels I have had the Wiiliam IV as psrt of my “must do” portfolio. It can now, not just be ticked off, but added to the list of “must returns”.

A large traditional style East End boozer, the interior is divided into the main bar and rear bar although the general décor and ambience is the same between the two. The main bar itself is quite eyecatching feature and unusual with its severe curves that make it twice the length it would be it were straight as one would normally expect it to be. There are several artifcats dotted around the walls or hanging from the ceilings including petrol pumps, antique prams, musical instruments, an antique clocking-in machine and a good collection of old pictures, photos and some splendid large brewery mirrors. The rear section has its own bar with an Ind Coope mirror back. A brick fireplace is overlooked by stuffed buffalo and deer heads and note the unusual high barrel ceiling. A piano sits in the corner, at least I assume that’s what it was as it was covered up but if any East End pub has a piano (and they all should) it would be this one. A small walled courtyard houses the microbrewery and if you are not lucky enough to be shown around, you can at least peer through the windows at the equipment.

As for the beers, naturally Briodies takes centre stage although with 16 hand pumps there is scope to cater for whatever they fancy. There were 5 Bridies on during my visit, all at £1.99 a pint (Red, Ginger, English Best, Special and Gold) with 2 (IPA and Porter) with reversed clips. No other guest beers on offer but an interesting choice of Dabinetts cider and Ross perry made up 2 of the remaining pumps.

I wouldn’t ordinarily go into the food side of things but the English & Thai menu had enough selection to suit even Mrs B’ fastidious veggie tastes. Virtually every Thai dish came with a veggie option, prices were very good (most dishes under a fiver) and portions generous.

Although my visit was on a Saturday night, there were plenty of tables available although there was still a healthy crowd of people. It must also be mentioned that, despite some people maybe having reservations about venturing into the area, there was no sign of any unsavoury customers to the extent that I didn’t even hear any swearing all night (apart from me). The bar staff were chatty, attentive and very approachable, happy to steer you through what beers may suit your taste if you are new to ales or just Brodies beers. The only gripes are relatively minor; the music / TV balance is never going to keep everyone happy and, although not exactly a fault of the pub, parking in the area is a problem which makes it a bit of a personal issue as we only ever go anywhere Leyton in the car on the way to/from watching Spurs.

4 years ago Silk Tork (who knows a thing or two about beers and pubs) mentioned that if the brewery were restarted it would be one of the best pubs in London. It has and it is.

15 Sep 2009 19:09

The Tut 'N' Shive, Doncaster

This is one of the livelier town centre pubs with a grungy feel that you would normally expect with a small music venue. A subsequent read through previous reviews suggests that they have put on live bands in the past but I didn’t note anything to suggest that this is still the case although there is a raised area in front corner that would presumably double up as a stage. The general furnishings and decor are quite basic with stone floors, solid seats, graffiti laden tables (some made from old barrels), old posters and a backdrop of indie and rock music played at an intrusive but not overbearing volume. Good to see a pinball machine present, now a rarity of pub features. An old pub sign for the Turks Head is on display and whilst I assume this was the pubs previous name I cannot find anything to confirm it. At the rear is a small courtyard with some artwork and huddle of smokers! The Tut isn’t the sort of place you would expect to find anything like a half decent range of ales abut there were 5 on offer; Greene King IPA, Abbot, Black Sheep, Batemans Summer Swallow and Brewster Decadence in order of mundane to interesting. Despite its student / rock fan approach, there was a comfortable early evening mix of people and on the whole I found it a pretty good if rather brief stop in our pre-Donny v Spurs jaunt around town.

15 Sep 2009 15:55

Red Lion, Doncaster

The Red Lion is certainly one of the more appealing Wetherspoons, helped by the fact that it was already a pub with a 260 year history to start with as opposed to being a converted carpet shop or bike showroom. Situated on the historic market place, the interior is deceptively large and quite spacious. The front bar has a loungey section around a cosy fireplace with the now ubiquitous tub chairs whilst the rest of the pub has a more traditional ‘Spoonslike feel although with a bit more character than most. Given the depth of the rear section you would expect it to be a bit dark and claustrophobic but a sunken skylight gives it a welcome burst of natural light. The usual history snippets make interesting reading and the town’s horse racing connections are represented by a board listing post war winning runners and riders of the St Leger. The pub excels with its guest ales (usually 5 available) which are all sourced from local brewers as evidenced from the labeled map on the pillar by the bar. The 5 on offer on my visit included York Centurian, Thornbridge Wild Swan, Daleside Pride Of England, Elland Savannah and Acorn Old Moor Porter. One minor gripe is that the hand pumps are spread across the length of the bar so it is better to check the barely noticeable board listing the ales rather than attempt to eye up the pump clips (which I prefer). The place can also proudly boast being the local Pub of the Year for 2009 and for that alone, is well worth a visit even for non Spoons fans.

14 Sep 2009 13:57

The Red Hart, Blyth

It is a miracle that 4 pubs so close together have managed to survive in today’s climate in such a small town (or large village). We only visited as we were too early for our room at the nearby Travelodge and the Red Hart was the only one that appeared to be open. Since we virtually had the place to ourselves I can’t really comment on the previous poster’s experiences of the pub’s usual incumbents. The lady behind the bar seemed pleasant enough as did as the pub’s dog who was quick to get acquainted with a couple of strangers.

The main body of the pub is divided into 2 bars, a lounge bar and a public bar (labeled the Tap Room). The lounge bar seemed to be totally set out for diners and it is quite a cozy room with plenty of brasses and plates on display to keep the cleaner in a job. A central brick fireplace divides the room itself into a smaller more intimate setting. I would like to think that in the evenings the room reverts to a normal lounge bar for drinkers, especially as there was what seemed to be an extension of dining facilities in a room at the rear of the pub but given that the lack of lunchtime business during our visit it does make you wonder why so much of the pub is laid out for people eating. The Tap Room would be far more comfortable if it were not for the intrusive pool table that dominates the room. There is also a dart board, an upright piano, TV and big screen and one can’t help thinking how congested things would get if everything was being used at the same time. The fireplace contains an old stove and photos of the regulars are plastered all over the chimney breast.

On the beer front 3 ales were available; Ossett Elizabeth Rose, Cottage HMS Ajax and the more standard Marstens Pedigree. Prices were very reasonable and quality was fine.

Whilst the place is pleasant enough to kill a bit of time, it doesn’t have any great lure but its main advantage is that the pub (and its neighbours) are easily walkable from the motorway Travelodge and I would have no qualms in using the place again at some time on my travels.

14 Sep 2009 13:55

Railway Hotel, Doncaster

A rather basic, dated and rather dull pub near the main station. Naturally it has a Railway theme with a few photos of steam locomotives and Doncaster station of yesteryear but the efforts do seem a little underwhelming. The main bar contains 2 large arcs of built in seating with a sports based TV in the corner whilst at the rear is a pool and darts area. The 3 ales on offer were disappointing and unadventurous – John Smiths, John Smiths Magnet and Tetley. That said I have never had Magnet before although I wish I could still say the same. Ironically the makeshift pump clip consisted of an old beer mat sellotaped onto a Deuchers clip which would have been a far more worthwhile pint. Not too much of interest in the general scheme of things but it was friendly enough and they have probably the smallest barman this side of the Hobbit House in Manila. The sort of pub that is handy for a missed train but that’s really about it

14 Sep 2009 13:54

The Plough, Doncaster

This welcoming town centre local’s pub looks fairly unassuming from the outside but the pub does have the distinction of being on the CAMRA inventory of unspoilt interiors. The plans for the last major alteration in 1934 can be seen in the corridor between the 2 bars and show what is now the main bar divided into a “Dram Shop” and “Kitchen” whilst the rear “Smoke Room” appears to have been left virtually untouched. Evidence of the main bar’s division can be seen by the presence of 2 pretty tiled fireplaces and despite the expansion, it still has a cosy, intimate, old fashioned feel to it. A collection of bottles winds its way around the top shelves and an old Donny Rovers picture tells you where the local’s loyalties lie. The 2 TV’s are pretty basic affairs rather than the fancy mod con flat screens that you now take for granted. Note also the unusual tables. The rear smoke room centres on a tiled coal fireplace and the room has some fine coloured glass windows as well as the original call bells and a service hatch. Collectables include plates, an old radio, and some fancy teapots. A small courtyard keeps the smokers happy and also leads to the gents which you almost expect to be open air!

3 Ales on offer - Acorn Yorkshire Pride & Barnsley Bitter (both £2 a pint) and Bass (£2.40), the Yorkshire Pride being the pick of the bunch for me. The local’s were very friendly and welcoming with a bit of football banter after they “threatened” not to serve me in my Spurs shirt! A terrific little pub that is part of a dying breed in town centres.

14 Sep 2009 13:53

Corner Pin Inn, Doncaster

A taditional local’s corner pub with patterned windows and a fairly straight forward, functional but cosy enough interior. The décor has a dated 70’s feel to it but doesn’t lack anything for it (the piped Elton John’s Greatest Hits probably aided my perception). To the left of the bar is a lounge bar with stone walls and fake beams, brewery mirror and trophy cabinet (they run successful darts, domino and football teams). The other side of the pub is a bit more basic and has a darts area at one end. A good selection of beers included Copper Dragon Golden Pippen, Batemans XB, Saltaire Texas Brown and the less interesting John Smiths. Prices were very reasonable, the customer base friendly and the pub was doing good trade despite being very late on a wet Tuesday evening which says something about its reputation among the local pubs, the rest of which were barely inhabited.. Very much a no thrills and nothing fancy sort of place but worthy of a visit, especially since I read somewhere that its future is in some doubt. I hope not.

14 Sep 2009 13:51

The Leopard, Doncaster

This decent sized corner pub near the station has a very dated but tradition style. Above the classic glazed tile exterior, the bold lettering depicts the former owners Warwick & Richardson Brewery and their Newark Ales & Stouts. The interior still retains the old fashioned Lounge / Public Bar set up. The carpeted lounge bar has a very tired and slightly tatty feel to it with a few bits of bric a brac spread around and those nicotine coloured walls that were popular to mask the residues of cigarette smoke. In fairness, any attempt to brighten it up or modernise it would probably spoil its dated and lived in character. The public bar is equally drab in an interesting kind of way with a stone tiled floor, heavy drape curtains, Pool area, juke box and a couple of TV’s. Beyond is a small patio area. It was fairly quiet on my post match evening and the bar was mainly populated by Spurs fans having a quick celebratory pint after caning the locals 5-1.

Upstairs is a 200 capacity music venue with live bands on Fridays and Saturdays. A few notable bands such as Travis and Kasabian have passed through on their way to stardom and the place seems to do an admiral job showcasing local acts as well as hosting a few regulars of the “toilet” circuit.

The place does have a good reputation for ales on my visit the 3 consisted of RCH Steam Silver, Glentworth Summer Rain and the rather more mundane John Smiths. It’s fair to say the Leopard won’t be to everyone’s taste and probably has more of a nostalgic appeal to people who drank in pubs in the 60’s and 70’s. That said the beers were good, it is handy for the station and you may just spot the next big thing on the music scene. If you just fancy brief stop, there are a selection of pubs nearby so it does make a decent stop as part of a pub crawl

14 Sep 2009 13:50

The Dominie Cross, Retford

This modern style Wetherspoons is a little offputtng from the front, especially being situated opposite the more alluring Turks Head. As others have pointed out, it is far more interesting inside than one would expect although it still has many of the Wetherspoon hallmarks.

The interior can be divided into 3 sections, the front being fairly ordinary with low ceiling, half paneled walls and a large selection of pictures. The main bar in the centre of the building has a high modern vaulted ceiling, a few semi-partitions and some unusual lighting fixtures brought to the fore in the subdued light. Note the unusual golden patterned canopy over the bar, the eyecatching chandeliers and the large “Valhalla” artwork that dominates the walls on 3 sides. Opposite the bar is a raised section centred on a brick fireplace with a couple of sofas, a fancy paneled ceiling and various modern sculptures in the niches. Through an arch at the rear of the pub is a drawing room / library style area with bookcases at each end, paneled walls, tub chairs and some subtle modern lighting. The large windows give the place a more light and airy feel than the rest of the pub and outside is a large secure paved patio with a central shelter and some rather litter strewn shrubs.

The usual ‘Spoons fare on offer though only 2 guest ales (Cathedral Eight Bells & Caledonian Top Banana) on my visit although to be fair it was early on a Thursday morning, hardly peak time and we were there more for a late breakfast / early pint. Certainly one of the more interesting of the modern ‘Spoons and obviously they have taken a bit of thought than usual when planning the interior. If you have an open mind regarding ‘Spoons then it is worthy of having a look in.

7 Sep 2009 21:07

Black Horse Inn, Castle Rising

The main attraction in Castle Rising is of course the 12th Century castle and a stop at the nearby Black Horse makes a decent enough contribution to the visit without leaving you with any great desire to return.

The side entrance from the spacious car park leads to a lobby and has some old fashioned coloured glass in the doors spelling out the pub’s name. The interior is quite pubby despite the place being listed as a dining pub on other websites. To the right of the lobby is a mock Tudor extension that serves as the restaurant and is far enough away from the main pub not to interfere with the pub atmosphere. On the other side of the lobby is the main bar, presumably 2 bars originally but now knocked through to a single walkaround bar, albeit the lounge / public bar is still distinguishable either side of the front entrance. The carpeted lounge bar area has an interesting fireplace cum display section bearing several trophys whilst the public bar area has a more basic approach with bare floors, beams and dart board. Lots of old pictures adorn the walls and safe piped music doesn’t interfere with the relatively sedate atmosphere.

The 5 Ales available aren’t particularly exciting for the area: Green King IPA, Abbott, Marsdens Pedigree, Adnams and Woodforde Wherry. If you don’t mind having Greene King IPA, you can experiment with the north/south pouring contraption that came in a couple of years ago with a blaze of publicity but is rarely seen.

Overall, the Black Horse is an above average country pub and a safe bet for a pleasant drink or meal if passing by but not really a place that you will deem necessary to go well out of the way for.

7 Sep 2009 20:52

The Lattice House, Kings Lynn

The Lattice House is possibly as idyllic as things get for a Wetherspoons pub. Unlike the usual plastic ‘Spoons by numbers, the Lattice House is a wonderful intimate 15th century building complete with many original internal and external features. It was first used as a pub in 1714 (known as Ye Olde Lattice Inn) but closed in 1924. Spoons have done an excellent job in retaining the character of the building and there are plenty of interesting photos and snippets on the walls regarding the building’s history. The pub doesn’t initially appear to be very big but it does have several small rooms and hidey holes although it does get a bit cramped and bottlenecked in places. There is a second bar upstairs that is also worth exploring with equally intimate seating and a small balcony overlooking the main bar under the wonderful vaulted roof. Unusually there is a full set of Ales in the upstairs bar as there is downstairs so Ale fans don’t need to keep going up and down with pints in your hand like in most other split level pubs. That said, just 2 guest beers were available on our visit (Oldershaw Best and Wolf “Granny Wouldn’t Like It” and both ran out during the course of the evening but just as I was resigning myself to a pint of Abbot they put on a new barrel of Nethergate Drunken Monkey. The general atmosphere was far more welcoming than its sister pub the Globe and, depsite being a Saturday night, the place was comfortably busy without being overwhelming although service was a bit slow at times. There is also a small beer garden at the rear which I didn’t actually notice until we left. There isn’t much to recommend in Kings Lynn on the pub front but the Lattice House is certainly worthy of attention, even if you are not a Wetherspoons fan

7 Sep 2009 13:31

The Globe Hotel, Kings Lynn

Probably the most Jeckyl & Hyde Wetherspoons I have experienced. The initial signs were not good. We were actually staying in the hotel and I popped down for a quick pint at about 7pm, all calm and peaceful. We left to meet some friends at the Lattice House and then made our way to the Crown & Mitre at 8.30pm. There were already police vans outside the Globe and one person spreadeagled on the floor with a copper’s foot firmly entrenched on his back. Welcome to Saturday night in Kings Lynn. At gone midnight we returned but with a healthy throng of police cars eyeballing the place I had no desire to set foot in the bar, even for a desperate last pint amongst the ear shattering music. Luckily we were staying in a “quiet” room which did manage to reduce the noise to a mild earthquake.

I half expected to wake up Sunday morning to find the windows boarded up but Sunday breakfast was taken amid a serenity that made the previous evening seem quite surreal. We did a round of the town before a lunch time meet up back at the Globe and the place was now packed with families out to make the most of the Sunday roast (they don’t have the usual Sunday club dinners here but have their own carvery which judging by the queues inside is very popular).

As for the pub itself, it is huge and seems to go on forever but the décor etc is pretty formulaic throughout. There are a few high backed pews for a bit of intimacy but generally it is all quite open and impersonal. There were 2 guest beers over the weekend of our stay, neither of them anything to write home about (Nethergate Holy Smoke and Bath Spa). The blandness of the interior is in contrast to the massive but well maintained beer garden that stretches down to the Great Ouse where the waders and gulls dip for food as the tide recedes. From the riverside terrace, it is actually quicker to hop over the wall and get a pint in the Crown & Mitre than it is to do a round trip to the Globe’s bar.

The bottom line is that if it is a sunny day, the Globe is worth a visit to enjoy the views from the garden. If it is the evening, especially the weekend, the place is not even worthy of a peep through the window.

On the non pub side of things for those who are planning to stay at the Globe, we did found its facilities clean and tidy and as good as any other budget hotel. Service and reception was very good and if a rowdy Saturday night is what you are after, you get a card that lets you into the bar from the hotel area so you will avoid the queues and bouncers!

7 Sep 2009 12:38

The Crown and Mitre, Kings Lynn

At the time of writing the Crown & Mitre stands on the threshold of a No 1 slot in the BITE Top 40 and fully deserving it will be. Situated on the quay just a short stagger from Tuesday Market you may need to dodge the police vans and bodies outside the Globe Hotel before you get there but it is certainly worth the effort.

The front door leads into a small lobby containing a large anchor and dozens of beer pump clips which is a pretty good introduction on what to expect. The pub is simply a museum of nautical trinkets with every shelf, wall and ledge containing a selection of model boats, ropes, oars, tide tables, maps, charts, intruments, photos, anchors and even a cannon that threatens to wipe out the bar should anyone try to use it in anger. The corridor to the loos contatins an old lathe and yet more bits and bobs and even the footrail of the bar is made from an old ship’s chain. Mixed in with all the paraphernalia are pump clips by the hundred, clear evidence of the pub’s reputation as the No. 1 Ale choice in King’s Lynn (and probably for miles around). A separate room had a roaring fireplace and appeared to be more for dining. I was hoping to eat here but the veggie choice wasn’t to Mrs B’s taste so we gave it a miss. Outside is a partly glazed, decked verandah with picturesque views across the river where you can watch the wading birds picking at the crabs as the tide goes out. This was probably not a good place to be in 1953 according to the flood level marker situated high on a beam in the main bar.

Whilst you sit and contemplate on who does all the dusting, there are 6 hand pumps to work your way through. Actually there were only 5 available my visit; Tydd Steam Piston Bob, Keltek Golden Lance, Tom Woods Best, Littlestone Will Scarlet and Humpty Dumpty Little Sharpie with the 6th pump (Tom Wood Shepherds Delight) not ready. Service was top rate to the extent that our pints were even topped up despite the immediate measure looking perfectly acceptable. Unfortunately, Roger, the local legend of a landlord, was not in the best of health and whilst I could have happily sat there all night, his condition deteriorated to the point that he was beginning to resemble an extra from Night of the Living Dead and was forced to shut the pub doors at 9.30pm when we were still 3 ales short! Sadly, especially for a Saturday night, there were only a dozen or so punters in at the time which suggests that most of the town’s drinkers either have poor taste or have been subjected to Roger’s no nonsense approach and all been banned.

I understand that the intention is to attach a micro brewery to the pub and there is a sign outside proclaiming the Anchor Brewery but when it becomes operational I am not sure (and Roger wasn’t in any condition to ask!). When and if it becomes a reality, a great pub will be even better. Kings Lynn certainly isn’t the best place for pubs but it does have some interesting spots for a day trip and the Crown & Mitre should be central to any visit. Having been forced out early I will certainly need to return to complete my unfinished business!

NB – No doubt the 0/10 spoiler brigade will take hold of the place once it comes to prominance so for the record the current rating is a well deserved 8.9 from 24 ratings.

7 Sep 2009 10:21

Half Moon, Retford

This place was closed and boarded up on my recent visit! Shame as it has a commanding site on the market square and looked fairly inviting.

4 Sep 2009 15:57

The Sherlock Holmes, Charing Cross

As a footnote to tanky's experience, the Press Pack available on the Cask Marque website states that all such accredited pubs must offer a "try before you buy service" so their accreditation could be at risk if they no longer operate this policy.

25 Aug 2009 13:33

White Rock Hotel, Hastings

Situated opposite the town’s pier, the White Rock looks like any other seasfront hotel and for the most part, that is exactly what you get. The entrance leads straight to the reception with the bar leading off to the right. The first impressions are of a typically genteel hotel bar, largely laid out for hotel guests ready to sit down for dinner or afternoon teas. The style is modern with dull shades and the zero ambiences that normally go with drinking in a hotel bar. Despite feeling a bit uncomfortable wandering in wearing a football shirt I was warmly greeted by the uniformed French brman and studied the 4 pumps which enticed me here in the first place. They admirably support local breweries and on my visit Harveys Olympia, King & Co Mallard and 2 Dark Star Ales (Hophead and Sunburst) were available and easily justified the visit. The lagars were of the premium top of the range variety and prices did not seem to be as steep as I would have expected in such surroundings. Along the front of the hotel is a decked terrace that overlooks the seafront and the pier which, fortunately for us, had a few seats available so I could enjoy the beers (and they were most enjoyable) without having to suffer the blandness of the bar itself. Sadly the traffic noise all but drowns out the seagulls and the waves crashing onto the beach. The bottom line is that this is a wonderful spot for a sunny Saturday in August but not really a place for a wet Tuesday in November and without the quality beers it wouldn’t pass for much at all.

25 Aug 2009 13:12

Ye Olde Pump House, Hastings

It’s not really hard to miss Ye Olde Pump House. Its medieval frontage is prominent in the picturesque Old Town High Street and just begs to be visited. Much is said about the pub’s origins and whether the building is original or just a marvellous recreation and I’m not really going to get into the debate other than to say that there is very little regarding its history that I could trawl up which suggests that it leans more towards the latter. Fake or not, there is no doubt that it ticks all the boxes when it comes to all the charm of an Olde Worlde pub. Plenty of heavy low beamed ceilings, bare floors, off centre walls, latticed windows, old (looking) brick fireplaces, lanterns, pretty much a tourists impression of what a medieval building should be and very impressive it is.

The downstairs consists of a small “smugglers” bar, a dark but atmospheric snug with old fishing nets and ship wheels to emphasise the nautical theme. It should be noted that there did not appear to be any hand pumps in this bar. The larger main bar is upstairs and is divided into a couple of rooms across the length of the pub.There are plenty of old photos, theatre posters and brewery mirrors and an interesting section at one end of the bar (labelled “bullshit corner”) has a collection of photos and caricatures of some of the regulars. A couple of flat screens were showing athletics on my recent visit and are presumably geared for sport in general. To the rear is an unobtrusive pool room and there is also a rather tiny patio with limited table space.

The beers are a bit of a let down; 3 Shepherd Neame Ales available on my recent visit (Master Brew, Bishops Finger and Spitfire) but quality can be a bit hit and miss (more miss than hit on my visits) and the prices between £2.90 and £3.10 seem a bit high for ales that are not consistently well kept.

The pub is certainly worth a visit to marvel at its interior and decide how much is real and how much is fake but it would need a good shake up on the beer front before it can claim any great reputation for anything else.

25 Aug 2009 12:53

The John Logie Baird, Hastings

One of the dingiest and unappealing ‘Spoons I have encountered. Hideous from the outside, depressing on the inside, the large interior has all the usual formulaic Wetherspoon traits but somehow it just all seems so much bleaker than even the most mundane ‘Spoons with its low ceilings, dark walls and generally dull ambience. Tables had been shunted aside to create open floorspace ahead of the Saturday night crowds and I shudder to think what it would have been like had I stayed for more than my fleeting visit. The tiny patio at the rear is of little use other than for those wanting a quick fag. The beers are as decent as usual with good 3 guest ales but they count for little in such dull surroundings. If JLB were still around to visit the pub that bears his name, I dare say he would consider it to be more at the black & white portable end of the market than High Definition flat screen.

24 Aug 2009 22:16

The Jenny Lind, Hastings

The Jenny Lind wasn’t on our radar of “to do” pubs for our Hastings mini crawl but a quick glimpse of the 5 hand pumps through the window deemed it worthy of a lucky dip visit. The interior consists of 2 bars, the fairly straight forward main bar at the front and a smaller paneled bar at the rear. The place has a slightly scruffy feel with random furnishings and features that include an old upright piano, open log fire and, for some reason, an American petrol pump. Music flyers and promotional cards are dotted about across the window sills advertising whats on in the pub (live music often a feature) and the town in general. Stairs lead up to a surprisingly attractive split level beer patio with probably the world’s largest pub umbrella. There are views of the cliffs in the distance and I could happily spend a few hours here listening to the seagulls. The aforementioned 5 pumps offered Courage Directors, Deuchers, Doom Bar, Youngs and Old Peculiar which probably as good a range of Ales as you will find in town. Quality was fine and the prices were a bit more reasonable than some of its competitors. For a warm August Saturday night it wasn’t too busy or rowdy and all in all, it was a bit of an unexpected bonus. Certainly a place I would add to my Hastings recommendations.

24 Aug 2009 22:13

The Filo (First In Last Out), Hastings

The FILO is tucked away down a picturesque street in the Old Town and is probably the first pub on the list for many of Hastings more discerning pub tourists. The building itself dates to the 1500’s although the carpeted single room interior doesn’t give many clues to its great age. That said, everything is neat, tidy and quite cosy with a series of settles down one side and an unusual central fireplace at the rear with large hood. A mix of old photos, paintings and posters adorn the walls and a large clock that probably moves too quickly for most visitors. The main attraction is is the beers, selections of which are brewed in the small microbrewery at the rear of the pub, visible through a glass pane at the end of the bar. Steps lead down to a secure covered courtyard with additional seating. There were 4 ales available on my visit (FILOs own Crofters and Mikes Mild as well as Isle of Purbeck Fossil Fuel and Caledonian Deuchrs). Prices were very reasonable and the quality justifies the pub’s glowing reputation. The FILO is definitely one for the “real pub” enthusiasts with no jukebox, TV or fruit machines although they do have occasional live music. The customer base is welcoming and friendly and the staff efficient, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. I don’t think too many people would complain at being first in and last out here, me included.

24 Aug 2009 22:11

The Anchor, Hastings

This decent little Shepherd Neame pub, situated in the heart of the picturesque old town, is probably overlooked by most visitors due to its location opposite the more alluring Olde Pump House. The interior consists of various semi-knocked through rooms surround a central bar and has a bit of a scruffy feel but the bare floors, sooty fireplaces and random furniture do give it a bit of character to lift it above some of its more mundane neigbours. 4 pumps all operational; Spitfire, Master Brew, Bishops Finger and Whitstable Bay bringing up the numbers, a bit pricey but decent enough quality. Background music is a bit louder than most but it has to be said whoever was chucking coins in the jukebox when I was there made a pretty decent and eclectic choice. There is also live music so it’s not generally a place for peace and quiet. If the interior is too shabby for your tastes, the limited outside seating is great for people watching and trying to guess whether Ye Olde Pump House is really as old as it looks.

24 Aug 2009 22:09

The Elephants Head, Camden

Among Camdenvilles numerous watering holes, I have always found the Elephants Head to be one of the area’s more charismatic pubs. The exterior boasts some wonderful tiling that just hints at the shabbyness that lies within. Situated in the heart of one of London’s weirdest areas, the pub certainly attracts an eclectic mix of people and this is often reflected in the jukebox that churns out everything from punk, metal and indie to old 50’s crooners. The long and narrow interior has bright walls and ceilings and the place at best can be described as pretty tatty with battered tables, slashed upholstery, worn out letters on the bare windows and a mishmash of a tiling on the floor. A large clock is housed in a wooden cabinet at one end and it is a wonder that it actually tells the right time. Comfort is certainly not its strongest selling point but like a decent worn out pair of shoes, it all fits nicely and feel that the place has given many people a lot of mileage over the years. Only 1 ale available (Courage Best) despite 4 hand pumps but the quality has always been pretty decent even if the price (£3.25 at the moment) is a bit hard to take for such an ordinary beer. It is certainly not a place that will appeal to everyone but for my money, it beats most of its tarted up neighbours.

20 Aug 2009 11:41

The Three Lions, Godalming

We came here specifically to see the legendary Jackie Lynton Band a few months back expecting to find a typically bruised and batterd music pub but I was pleasantly surprised that the place still retains much of its 17th Century charm. Now part of the Shepherd Neame arsenal, the 3 Ales were all pretty decent (Spitfire, Porter and Kents Best) and no rip off prices to be found despite being a music venue for the evening (with free admission). The main bar has a low beamed ceiling, lattice windows, a fine brick fireplace and a huge square table that looks fit for a medieval banquet. A collection of pewter tankards adds to its historic feel. To the left of the bar is a pool area that gets shunted to one side when the pub becomes the Scratchers music venue for the night, the slightly raised front section doubling up as the stage. At the rear is a darts area which is raised and offers a reasonable view of the bands on occasions when getting anywhere near the front is impossible, as it was our night. Service was very good considering how busy it was and overall I was quite impressed with the place but if you are just looking for a quiet place for a pint on a Saturday night, then the music side of things will be quite intrusive.

20 Aug 2009 11:29

The Wyndham Arms, Salisbury

Thanks for the clarification andrewh! Nothing like bending a few rules to keep everyone happy.

19 Aug 2009 22:54

Three Magnets, Letchworth

Pretty standard but quite large Wetherspoons with the typical plastic interior and usual run of ales (3 standard, 3 guests) and cheapo chav fuel. There is a beer “garden” to the rear but not exactly worthy of any attention other than for those who fancy a quick fag. Of more interest is the story behind the pub’s name and the development of Garden Cities that can be found in the historical snippets on the walls along with the interesting photos of embryonic Letchworth straight off the builder’s lorry. The town has been decribed by various luminaries as a town for a simple life so Wetherspoons was always going to be a success here but as far as the chain goes, this is one of the more ordinary branches.

14 Aug 2009 16:26

The Wyndham Arms, Salisbury

From 1986-92, the Wyndham Arms was the site of the Hop Back Brewery which moved to nearby Downton when demand became too much for the pub. A large sign is built into the side of the exterior wall commemorating its origins. As previous reviewers have mentioned, the place does have a homely feel to it both inside and out. Situated on the corner of a series of terraced houses, it blends in with its neighbours and inside it still feels like someone should be sitting down with their dinner and watching Coronation Street. The small front room has a few settles and a brick fireplace whilst the main bar is a bit more spacious with a dart board and TV. Opposite the main bar is another small and fairly plain room tucked away. The general décor is pretty ordinary but the mix of old pictures, brewery mirrors, posters, maps and art for sale does draw the attention. The centrepiece of the pub is of course the superb selection of Hop Back beers. There were 5 on my visit (GFB, Summer Lightning, Spring Zing, Bramling Cross and Crop Circle) with 1 pump being unused. Prices were amongst the best we came across in town (a pint of Bramling Cross & half a Stowfiord Press was £3.75) and there is a special offer on Mondays when all ales are £2.10. It was pretty quiet on my Saturday afternoon visit but it was easily a place I could spend an evening. If you are planning a trip, check the opening times as they do not appear to open weekday lunchtimes. Certainly a must visit pub for Ale lovers and also worth sneaking a pint in at the nearby Winchester Gate. One last thing that left us a bit baffled (although we were well into our crawl by the time we hit the Wyndham)…the cricket score of 113 for 11, what is that all about?

14 Aug 2009 12:46

The Winchester Gate, Salisbury

You would think that the Winchester Gate is just far away from the town centre not to make it an immediately obvious place to head for although the collection of foreign bank notes over the bar would suggest that several overseas visiters do get this far (unless the locals do a lot of exotic travelling!). The 2 bar interior doesn’t have any particular merits with the main bar having an odd mix of lounge and public bar with the pool table, darts area and TV’s sharing space with sofas. The second bar is a more modern brick and wood affair where they have occasional live music (proper bands that is, not computer led karaoke!). There is also a healthy collection of pump clips on display which is always a good sign although I only recall there being 3 pumps; Three Castles Corn Dolly, Goff Excalibar and Hop Back Crop Circle which is a good enough selection for me on my fleeting visit. There is also a pleasant split level beer garden for sunnier days and the very welcoming, chatty and approachable regulars were happy to recommend other pubs for us to visit. It is a pub that is easy to overlook with all the other more touristy and historic pubs in town but it does make a good pairing with the Wyndham Arms on the other side of the busy main road.

14 Aug 2009 12:45

Wig and Quill, Salisbury

This picturesque 15th century tavern started life as 2 cottages for servants at the nearby Cathedral (the Haunch of Venison also had a similar beginning). The small and cosy front bar is fairly quaint with comfortable seats, a large brick fireplace and numerous oak beams. The main bar is in the middle of the pub where a spectacular fireplace takes centre stage. In keeping with the pub’s name, pictures of judges in their legal garb and a court gavel can be found around the bar. To the rear is a lighter and mory airy extension with a conservatory feel to it. This leads to the attractive crazy paved beer garden with shrubs down one side and, if you crane your neck, a glimpse of the Cathedral. 4 Wadworths ales available on my visit – Henry’s IPA, Horizon, 6X and Bishops Tipple and I found the prices more than reasonable. The staff were friendly and welcoming and, despite being fairly early in the afternoon, I got the impression that this is the sort of pub that would convey a pleasant atmosphere at most times. It is certainly worth a visit if in town.

14 Aug 2009 12:45

The Village, Salisbury

This was pub No 13 of a long, hot summer’s day pub crawling so things were beginning to get a bit hazy by the time we arrived at the Village. With its reputation for Ales it was always going to be on our list of must do pubs but its proximity to the station meant that we deliberately left it until last which probably wasn;’t a good idea. No-one would ever claim it to be the most impressive place from an aesthetic point of view; the interior is quite small with a quite ordinary main bar and a smaller bar area to one side. The walls a bit of a mess of posters and bits of junk but what it lacks in the very mundane interior it did more than make up for with the ales and the welcoming, chatty customer base. I noted 5 handpumps but we were too engrossed in conversation with a local artist who took us a on trip through his wonderful sketch book that I didn’t actually note what the ales were. This was the only pub of the day we had more than 1 pint in and we ended up catching a later train than planned which probably says all you need to know.

14 Aug 2009 12:45

Royal George Inn, Salisbury

The Royal George was certainly one of the most ordinary pubs of our recent day trip. It does tick many of the boxes that make it a decent enough place but it all feels a bit like a pub by numbers creation and very contrived. The standard pub décor and colour schemes are enhanced slightly by the copius brasses hanging on every beam and pillar and the 3D model of the pub catches the attention but the decor is equally let down by some pretty cheap looking pictures on the walls including 2 next to each other that are exactly the same (eagle eyed Mrs B spotted that one!). All the usual pub trimmings are present; Plasma TV, dart board, unobtrusive pool room at the rear and the pleasant beer garden that has clearly had a recent makeover. 3 handpumps operational on my visit – Hop Back GFB, Doom Bar and Ringwood Best with a further pump unused. Something was hugely overpriced as a pint of GFB (hardly premium stuff at 3.5%) + a soda and lime racked up an astoundoing £4.30 on the till. There is certainly nothing untoward about the place (apart from the prices) to make one steer clear of it but when it comes to revising my chosen pubs for future any Salisbury pub crawls, I think the Royal George will slip into Division 2 below many that have that extra bit of appeal.

14 Aug 2009 12:44

The Rai D'Or, Salisbury

The Rai d’Or (loosely translates as Ray of Golden Light) is a 16th century building that recently reverted back to its original name. Previously it was a music and bikers pub called the Star and like a few pubs in the area, it has its origins as a brothel (some may say that some pubs in the area haven’t changed much). The Rai D’or seems to be caught in an identity crisis which has been raised by several previous eviewers. The Pub / Thai Restaurant combo works well enough in several similar places I have visited but not here, mainly because the management don’t really seem to know what their best options are to keep both drinkers and diners satisfied. As it happens, my visit was just before they had started serving food so I had the luxury of a hassle free table although the waft of the cooking was both intrusive and equally tempting. The pub’s interior is pleasant enough with lots of trellises, potted plants, orchids cramming the windows sills and a wonderful inglenook fireplace. It must be said that there were only 2 or 3 other people in the pub so it was a bit soulless at the time. I don’t know what the normal beer selection is and they were running stocks down ahead of a refurbishment but I noted Stonehenge Summer Solstice and Apple Blossom as the ales available as well as Addlestones Cider. Its promotion of local beers is to be commended and as an ale lover the pub is well worthy of a visit although until it sorts out its identity, it isn’t really a place that you can easily spend a great deal of time without feeling a bit uncomfortable.

14 Aug 2009 12:44

The Old Mill, Salisbury

It would be hard to find a pub in such an idyllic and picturesque setting, gazing across the water meadows to Salisbury Cathedral as the River Nadder pours through the 3 mill races into the large pond inhabited by mallards and swans. Parts of the building date back to around 1135 and it was converted to a paper mill in the mid 16th century. Whilst the pub itself is sited in the old Mill building, the restaurant now extends across to the Victorian warehouse next door where the river can be seen flowing underneath through a viewing window. The pub consists of 2 fairly small beamed rooms with flagstone floors and what does like a fairly modern brick fireplace although I couldn’t help be a little underwhelmed with the interior overall. Of course it is on balmy summer’s days that the pub comes into its own with a sizeable beer garden next to the river at the back and benches on the front terrace overlooking the pond. 3 Greene King Ales available (IPA, Speckled Hen and Abbott) and if one does have to endulge in Greene King products, then the Old Mill is probably about as good as you can get to do it.

14 Aug 2009 12:43

The New Inn, Salisbury

This wasn’t going to be part of our scheduled crawl given the relatively low rating but the place looks so enticing as you walk past that it is difficult not to pop in and luckily, despite this being pub number 11 on a 13 pub crawl, I was still of sufficient mind to appreciate its wonderful olde worlde medieval charm. The front bar is fairly small and doesn’t really give an indication as to the size of the rambling interior that appears to be an amalgam of 2 or 3 original cottages.. Several original wonky walls can be found down the centre of the pub and there are enough low beams and exposed brickwork to satisfy all medieval building enthusiasts. One room is set aside for dining whilst another is more of a loungey area although nothing looks too out of place among its surroundings. At the rear is the attractive and spacious garden has fine views of the Cathdral spire (unfortunately the rest is currently under a mountain of scaffolding) and is ideal for a sunny day. For a Saturday evening the place wasn’t too busy and service was fine. I noted 3 Badger beers – Best, Tanglefoot and the hitherto untried by me Lemony Cricket which was most enjoyable. It is mentioned in other Salisbury pub reviews that the New Inn is expensive but interestingly none of the previous comments on the pub’s page have stated this and, despite things being a bit hazy on the memory front, I don’t recall it being anything that seriously shocked the wallet. All in all, I would definitely make this a regular stop for a Salisbury visit despite whatever misgivings others have found to give it a low rating.

14 Aug 2009 12:43

The Kings Head, Salisbury

There has been a Kings Head here since the 15th century and whilst the current building looks pretty old with its Tudor style chimneys and oriel windows, it was actually built in the 1880’s as the County Hotel before Wetherspoons gave it back its old name when they took over in 2002. Situated in a prime spot next to the river, the large honey coloured exterior is quite impressive which makes the disappointing interior even more of a let down. The pub is split over 2 floors and, despite some ornate features (notably the fireplaces and paneled windows), it has been given a fairly modern makeover which is fairly tasteful but lacks any real character. The ground floor is broken up by numerous pillars and there are are several spots where you can sink ibto the background. An open staircase leads to a dcent sized balcony bar where there is additional seating bookended by sofa areas but there is no upstairs bar so you may need to negotiate the stairs with a handful of pints. Note the unusual firplace that resembles an indoor BBQ. Outside is a large terrace overlooking the river. 3 guest ales available on my visit alongside the usual ‘Spoons product range. A decent enough ‘Spoons but the rather bland interior is a bit of a let down.

14 Aug 2009 12:42

The Haunch of Venison, Salisbury

The Haunch is probably Salisbury’s best known pub and naturally a big hit for visitors. Unfortunately the prices are designed to maximiseon its popularity which does take the shine off what is a fabulous pub soaked in century’s stories and atmosphere. The main bar has chessboard flooring lifted direct from the Cathedral where it had past its sell by date. The walls are oak paneled and contain a superb fireplace. In the corner by the bar is the Horsebox, a tiny snug bar originally for ladies use only and probably just enough room for 4 or 5 people.

The bar itself contains a rare spirits dispenser, only the second I have ever seen in a pub). The ales are not immediately obvious as the pumps are tucked away at the rear and side of the bar. As a result I had a choice of Green King IPA or Summer Lightning (I naturally chose the latter) before realising there was also Courage Best and Downton Summer Slogger (a beer I have never come across) on the side pumps.

The staircase to the rear lead to a small room on the left known as the House Of Lords, a throwback to the days when people of importance and status were offered seating in the higher areas of the pub. This characterful room has a low ceiling, bare floors, dark paneled walls, basic furniture and at the end, a large beamed fireplace with a stove and a small bread oven. It is in the oven behind a glazed and barred panel that you will find infamous mummified hand said to belong to a card player caught cheating. Sadly it (and the accompanying playing card) is barely visible in the dust and the murky light so a small torch is handy if you are desparate to see it. If you carry on up the stairs you get to the restaurant. I took a quick peak but compared to the rest of the building it didn’t seem to be as interesting as the rest of the building. The interior is listed in CAMRA’s Inventory of unspoilt pubs and overall the place is a must visit pub if you have never been before but be prepared for crowds and don’t forget your torch and a fat wallet.

14 Aug 2009 12:42

Cloisters, Salisbury

This City Centre pub certainly gives the impression having plenty of Olde Worlde charm with its aged beams, pillars and wonky walls but how much is original and how much is rebuilt from old leftovers to impress the tourists I am not certain. The fairlky rambling interior has wooden divides that make it a bit of a maze when trying to negotiate your way around the pub.

The front of the pub has some cosy window seats, a central open fireplace and a few settles but much of the pub was laid out for diners when we were there (a coach load turned up as we were leaving). Whether this arrangement extends into the evening I don’t know but it was a bit of an effort finding a seat in what was for the most part a fairly empty pub at midday. There were 3 Ales available; Doom Bar, Summer Lightning and Ringwood Best (all pretty regular for the area) at reasonable enough prices and quality. All in all, a decent enough place worthy of a pint and a quick nose at interior but I would avoid peak dining times as you get a bit frustrated.

14 Aug 2009 12:41

The Chough, Salisbury

The Chough (for the unitiated, it is a coastal bird similar to a Crow) is the latest and largest of 4 pubs currently under the ownership of the Hidden Brewery having been acquired in 2007. Originally a 14th century coaching inn, it has been much altered and extended over the centuries and presents itself is a healthy mix of old and new. The interior is divided into many sections, each with its own bit of character. The section nearest to Castle Street is presumably the oldest and most original part of the pub and has a basic feel with flagstoned floor, low beamed ceilings and multiple photos of the Brewery. The bar at this end of the pub seemed to be out of long term use so you need to go to the main bar in what was once part of the courtyard. Above, theriough the glazed roof can be seen old style adverts high up on what were once the exterior walls. A few stairs lead up to an unobtrusive pool table and tucked round the back is a more loungey area dominated by a splendid fireplace. There is still an open section of the courtyard for smokers and al fresco beers. It seems to be a pub for allcomers and you coulkd almost treat is as 2 or 3 pubs in one.

The main draw is the beers. There were 8 operational hand pumps (and a further 3 located in the disued section of the bar) with 6 ales available on my visit, 5 from the Hidden Brewery (Pint, Red Eye, Pleasure, Depths and Potential) and a guest beer (Bristol No 7). A further 2 Hidden beers (Old Sarum and Quest) had reversed clips. I am not over familiar with Hidden Beers but my pint of Pint was fine and reasonably priced and I could happily volunteer to while away a few hours in here whilst going down the pumps. It was fairly quiet on my visit but they clearly aim for an eclectic mix of people though sadly I didn’t encounter any New Age Pixie folk!

14 Aug 2009 12:40

The Chough, Salisbury

The Chough (for the unitiated, it is a coastal bird similar to a Crow) is the latest and largest of 4 pubs currently under the ownership of the Hidden Brewery having been acquired in 2007. Originally a 14th century coaching inn, it has been much altered and extended over the centuries and presents itself is a healthy mix of old and new. The interior is divided into many sections, each with its own bit of character. The section nearest to Castle Street is presumably the oldest and most original part of the pub and has a basic feel with flagstoned floor, low beamed ceilings and multiple photos of the Brewery. The bar at this end of the pub seemed to be out of long term use so you need to go to the main bar in what was once part of the courtyard. Above, theriough the glazed roof can be seen old style adverts high up on what were once the exterior walls. A few stairs lead up to an unobtrusive pool table and tucked round the back is a more loungey area dominated by a splendid fireplace. There is still an open section of the courtyard for smokers and al fresco beers. It seems to be a pub for allcomers and you coulkd almost treat is as 2 or 3 pubs in one.

14 Aug 2009 12:40

The Avon Brewery Inn, Salisbury

The pub name is a little misleading and certainly does not reflect the fact that there are no beers brewed on the premises, in fact, according to the official pub history, it isn’t clear if there ever was a brewery here in the first place. The pub itself seems to date from the mid 19th century and still retains a few of its Victorian charms. The classic tiny entrance with its curved bay window and etched glass is an increasingly rare sight and although the interior has undergone some updates over the years, it still has a good traditional pubby feel. The lighting is quite dim, the walls and ceilings papered wuth dark patterned paper and adorned with plenty of old pictures and mirrors. A narrow corridor leads to a surprisingly large rear room with more traditional pub décor but this room seems to be used more for dining. Beyond this lies a pleasant beer garden that backs onto the River Avon. Note the retractable bridge that acts as an escape route to satisfy Health and Safety regulations. The 3 ales available were Ringwood Best, Pedigree and Hobgoblin, not the best of choices in town but enough to satisfy our immediate demands. Punters and staff were friendly and chatty enough and whilst it wouldn’t be a default choice for an evening’s session it is certainly worth a lucky dip as part of a pub crawl.

14 Aug 2009 12:39

The Lord Derby, Plumstead

Looks like my last line was rather prophetic and my sources tell me that the pub is now once again boarded up.

13 Aug 2009 13:21

The Chamberlain Hotel, Aldgate

One of 6 Hotels runs by Fullers in London and whilst it may effectively be a hotel bar, it is for the most part a pub in its own right. The interior is smart and spacious with a slightly upmarket edge although it does feel a bit identikit. Furnishings include the now ubiquitous loungy sofa and tub chair areas and it’s all geared to a relaxing session although my visit was on a Saturday afternoon and I would guess that the sedate atmosphere is a little livelier during the week.

The range of Fullers beers is second to none – pretty much the whole range was on offer but the prices are hideous. I was charged £5.45 for a pint of Hock (the seasonal Fullers beer at the time of my visit) and half a Discovery although a quick glimpse at the price list on the way out revealed the price range of Ales to be around £3.40 a pint so I reckon the otherwise welcoming barman may have had major arithmetic meltdown.

The major plus is that it is one of the few pubs in the area to open on a Saturday (and I would guess Sunday as well) but at these prices (even without any shortchanging barstaff), I am not sure I would want to make it a regular stop.

2 Aug 2009 16:01

The Royal Victoria and Bull, Dartford

Having lived in Dartford for over 25 years, I have always rued the fact that this wonderful historic building (the oldest pub in town, originally established in 1360) has been allowed to decay by its uncaring PubCo owners. Paintwork is peeling, windows are rotting and the place is a magnet for customers that probably couldn’t care less as long as the music is loud, the drink is cheap and there is enough eye candy to suit all. In the evenings the place is more of a music venue and night club than a pub and of interest only to certain age groups of which I am sadly no longer. That said, for a couple of quid you can watch 4 or 5 local bands of varying abilities on a Tuesday night if you can stomach the occasional local idiot and the poor beer selection (often at discounted prices when there is an event on). There are (and have never been since I have been going there) any Ales so standard lagers / kegs / Guinness is the norm and this is actually now one of the few pubs in Dartford that do not offer any Real Ales. The interior is indeed probably the only thing worth meriting a visit even if it is rather run down and taken over by TV’s and fruit machines.

The main bar is in what was the old flag stoned courtyard, glazed over in the 1820’s when it was used as a Corn Exchange. A succession of rooms lead off on both sides, some containing original fireplaces and paneling (one panel is said to have some 18th century bullet holes) but most of the original rooms have been knocked through and lost much of their sense of identity. Around the courtyard is a balcony, now glazed in, and the rooms where the guests have included Cornish inventer Richard Trevithick who lived and died here (there is a placque outside) and Queen Victoria who stayed here in 1836. I’m not sure either would be too keen to vist if they were alive today.

To the front is a small bar for private functions and at the rear is a room containing 2 pool tables. Interestingly, beyond this point was a ballroom and another bar which was effectively a separate pub called the Bull Shades. Sadly these buildings were demolished in the 1970’s when the Priory Centre was built. It’s a shame that a place with such history has become such a neglected waste. Oh, for someone to come along and restore it to its original splndour and give it the dignity it deserves.

2 Aug 2009 14:57

The Blue Boar Hotel, Maldon

A wonderfully atmospheric 14th century coaching inn situated in the heart of town. The main hotel takes up one side of the courtyard whereas the pub with its 2 bars is opposite. The relatively unspoilt front bar (the Tap Room) has bare parqued floor, an old brick faced fireplace, original old beams and a whole host of wonky walls with suitabley off centre pictures. Stuffed animal heads, horns and antlers overlook proceedings and a fabulous ornate antique cabinet stands in the corner. The carpeted rear bar is more intimate but no less atmospheric with low wonky beamed ceilings and a real sense of history aided by the slightly nautical theme with old ship portraits (all seemingly depicted on rather choppy seas) and ships wheels. The Farmers beers are brewed on premises and dispensed direct from the series of 12 racked barrels (5 were available on my visit). The atmosphere is generally lively without being raucous and the locals were all friendly enough. The antics of Popsy the dog will generally keep you entertained. Whilst we didn’t eat on our recent visit, we have dined here before and food was very good. Upstairs is a function room with a vaulted ceiling and its own bar but I’ve not actually been up to see it on any of my visits. The toilets are situated in the main hotel building on the other side of the courtyard although sadly there isn’t any access to the hotel itself which is apparently equally interesting. All in all, an excellent pub, one of my favourites and one that doesn’t need many excusses to make a return visit.

2 Aug 2009 12:16

The York, Islington

This prime site Nicholsons pub was one of my regular haunts when I worked in the area but, as often mentioned by others, it can suffer during busy periods with poor service and a lack of seating. The L shaped interior is a typical Nicholsons attempt at retaining a traditional pub style with plenty of old fashioned character; bar frame, chessboard tiled flooring, fancy mirrors etc. The interior is quite dim but has a cosy glow at night from the candlelit tables. The walls have plenty of interesting old pictures and portraits including a quite scary Hitchcock that seems to permanently stare at you. Always a decent selection of Ales with Pride and Landlord being constant with 3 guest beers usually available (a list of forthcoming beers is shown above the bar). Prices are very reasonable and, like all Nicholsons and Cask Marque accredited pubs, they operate a try before you buy policy. I have rarely encountered the place when it hasn’t had a fairly bustling atmosphere and the customer base always seem to be on the more sensible side of things. There are 3 TVs and a big screen used mainly for sport and a fairly large outside seated area in front of the pub if you handle the traffic along the busy High Street. I have always enjoyed my visits here but can understand that the crowds can be a bit offputting.

31 Jul 2009 15:58

The Barrowboy and Banker, London Bridge

This large, spacious and fairly grand Fullers pub is certainly a place that would appeal more to Bankers than Barrowboys. Situated at the southern approach to London Bridge, it was presumably an old Bank / Building Society in days gone by and with its high ceilings, ornate pillars, portraits, murals, open staircase and sweeping curved bar, the the place does have a fairly opulent feel. Sadly the beer prices match the rather decadent surroundings although they do usually have pretty much the whole Fullers range available to choose from. A balcony provides additional seating and the place does get very busy so expect a spell of vertical drinking if you call at peak times. There always seems to be a decent mix of customers and is generally a hassle free place with decent enough service and a couple of TVs for sporting occasions. The area is blessed with decent pubs and the B&B is a good choice for starting (or ending) a crawl given its proximity to London Bridge station but be warned, it doesn’t open at weekends.

30 Jul 2009 14:14

The Anchor, Cambridge

This sizeable and quite rambling Greene King pub is pleasantly situated on the riverside but as a result can get very busy and touristy at certain times. The interior is split over 3 levels but far from feeling cavernous, it has plenty of nooks and crannies and generally feels reasonably intimate given the size of the pub. The 2 bars are situated on ground and upper levels with the middle level more of a loungey area with sofas and tub chairs. Plenty of old pictures of the city and then there is the debateable Pink Floyd connection.but I would leave it to the individual to decide how much of the story presented is deemed worthy of inclusion of the pub’s history. The beers come from the usual Greene King range – 3 Ales available on my visit (Speckled Hen, Abbott & IPA) at very reasonable prices given the touristy area and decent enough quality. Not an over extensive menu if you are looking to eat (as we were). There is a large terrace outside where the ducks await the crumbs and the punts are ready to whisk you off for a jolly on the Cam. The place certainly has its attraction and is worth popping in as part of a crawl or for a brisk session but not really a place I would choose to spend evenings in on regular basis.

30 Jul 2009 13:44

The Academy, Holland Park

This back street corner pub is geared so far towards diners that calling it a pub would almost stir the Trade Description Officers into action. The main body of the pub is quite spartan with bare floors, plain windows with sash blinds and walls that double up as an art gallery. The tables are laid out down the sides sporting cutlery, wine glasses and plastic flowers that makes it feel awkward knowing whether you should sit at them unless dining. It wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t a separate room to one side that is also predominantly for diners. To cap it all, there wasn’t actually anyone visibly interested in dining during my visit and the only other punters were gathered on the Astroturf surround outside the pub leaving the inside pretty deserted and souless. Not much on the beer front with the one Ale on handpump (Bass at a whopping £3.40 a pint) and little else out of the ordinary. Admittedly it was early evening for my visit and with a few punters inside it might not come across so characterless but if you are just after a pint this isn’t really the place for it.

30 Jul 2009 13:12

The Orange Tree, Wilmington

A country style village pub that has been swallowed up into Dartford’s expansion and whilst technically it is in Wilmington, it is still a viable stroll from Dartford Town Centre. The interior is fairly old fashioned, a mix old 60’s standard pub décor with some attempts to make it trendy by including the odd bit of soft furnishing. To the left of the entrance, the room is dominated by a pool table whilst the immediate bar area itself is quite small with some quite uncomfortable built in seating opposite that seriously need a spot of reupholstering. To the right of the bar is an extended area which provides a bit more space and comfort with a selection of sofas mixed in with more traditional seating. The beer range is a restrained Shepherd Neame selection, usually just Spitfire and Master Brew on pump with a permantly reversed clip that teases one to thinking that they usually have the seasonal offering. They rarely do. Beers are always decent quality and reasonably priced. There are some interesting old pictures dotted about including some old photos of the pub and a few autographed football pictures mainly relating to ’66. There area couple of plasma screens and a varied programme of entertainment from live music, Sunday music quiz, mystic evenings and even pole dancing classes. There is also a pleasant garden at rear. Some of the locals can be a bit loud and lairy, symptomatic of the area and staff should perhaps make more of an effort to address the language but generally it is a decent enough place if you are in the area or passing by.

27 Jul 2009 19:56

The Lord Derby, Plumstead

Whatever intrinsic charm or character I found in this place previously has all but dissipated since the place went through its temporary closure. The place is now little more than a hollow shell, still devoid of ambience and displaying all the attributes that put me off certain pubs to start with. Gone are the ale pumps and the old piano leaving a keg bar and a corner full of speakers for those dreaded DJ/Karaoke nights and intrusive loud music. The customer base was drawn from a mix of yoofs on the pool table (I almost tripped over their skateboard that had been abandoned at the bar), dodgy “who the fack are ya” types and bored looking families with their prams. The bar staff were toitally inept (the first short changed me but I didn’t initially notice as I was given the majority of my change in 2ps and 5ps, assuming of course that a pint of Guiness doesn’t cost £3.80!). My friend came in after me and ordered a bitter shandy and received a lager shandy. The floor and benches look like they haven’t seen a brush or a vacuum cleaner for weeks. All in all, the place is an extremely tried and sorry looking pub which is a shame because, as I had pointed out before, it has some good traditional features and a good layout. I think it’s a fair bet that this place will be added to the pub closure statistics at some time in the not too distant future (again!).

23 Jul 2009 09:47

The Cock Inn, Luddesdowne

This quintessential 300 year old rural pub is tucked away down some small country lanes but is well worth digging out the satnav to locate. The current owners have been there 25 years and created a pub with a very good and long established local reputation that attracts several local community organizations including the cricket club, walking groups, bike enthusiasts (you can always expect to see a few lovingly restored Triumphs and Nortons pulling up in the car park), Morris Dancers and all manor of obscure sporting groups.

The interior is divided into similar sized 2 bars that lead from a flagstoned corridor that contains collections of beer cans, bottles, model cars and wartime charts and posters. The saloon bar at the front has bare floors with rugs, old beams, exposed brickwork and a couple of enticing fireplaces. Brasses, cigarette cards, old World War 2 posters and memorabelia are dotted about with various bits of Bric a Brac including an old fashioned telephone. The ceiling is littered with fading beer mats and there are several bulging bookshelves if you fancy a quiet read. To the rear is the public bar with more collectables, old local photosa nd a few stuffed animals as well as dart board and bar billiards table. A dining area stretches into the picturesque and partly covered beer garden complete with water feature and a Petanque pitch (they have a league team based here).

7 Ales generally available including a mild (Goachers), Adnams, Adnams Extra and 4 rotating guest beers (Master Brew, Doom Bar, Bass and Burton Bridge on my recent visit). Quality is excellent and prices very reasonable (between £2.70 and £2.90 - CAMRA members receive 10p off with their Membership Card). The hand pumps are all located in the public bar but the ales are listed in the saloon bar on a blackboard.

There is no music, TV’s or fruit machines and entertainment is of the traditional kind. It must be said that the Tuesday quiz is not pitched at the average pub goer although it does appear to be immensely popular so take along a few local Einsteins if you plan to have a go. It should be noted that the place is dog friendly but children are a no-no (which is a blessing to some, a burden to others).

A very civilised, friendly and well run place with quality beers a great deal of appeal.

17 Jul 2009 14:51

The Waiting Room, King's Cross

I wouldn’t ordinarily give this place a second glance but our annual office canal boat outing saw us put ashore in Kings Cross and this was the first place that managed to accommodate 11 of us without any kind of prior booking. It is essentially a hotel bar, a sizeable and rather rambling modern place with curved seating sectioned areas, big windows, arty photos of London sights and whilst not unpleasant on the eye, it lacks anything to make it stand out although a pool table does give it an attempted pubby approach. The atmosphere was fairly sterile and lacking any real buzz. The beer selection consisted of standard kegs / lagers / Guinness and no Ales on offer which is sufficient for me to give it a wide berth in the future. In all fairness our visit was more meal based and the meal we had was pretty decent, good value and the service excellent but as a watering hole, the place is not really worth going out of the way for.

10 Jul 2009 13:46

The Flying Boat, Dartford


I must confess that the thought of turning the old Litten Tree into a Wetherspoons conjured up scary images of frying pans and fires but I have to say that after my initial couple of visits ‘Spoons have done a pretty decent job in making the place a far more welcoming proposition and have treated this historic local building with the degree of sympathy it deserves. The tall ceilings, copious window space and airy interior have been complemented by a softer feel and some quite elegant touches. Gold trimmed arches back the bar and 2 golden columns announce the open staircase like props from Antony & Cleopatra (or maybe Carry On Cleo is more accurate). The general décor, furnishings and lighting are tastefully presented with an octet of padded seat booths taking up the centre of the floor space and mini potted palms giving the place a bit of greenery. It almost feels like a bar on a cruise liner although the brick façade of the neighbouring Bingo Hall is no substitute for ocean vistas. On the downside, the inclusion of tables immediately in front of the bar makes the bar area difficult to negotiate when busy.

At the rear is a smaller, more intimate section with a blocked but otherwise ornate fireplace and beyond is the beer garden, once a few benches on a patch of weed, now a paved and partly covered patio with shrubs, trees and pristine new fencing.

The wall displays offer interesting stories of the building’s history and some cracking photos of its days as a car showroom dating back to 1910. Artwork includes 2 specially commissioned paintings, the “Flying Boat” in the main bar and the “Automobile” at the rear. The hitherto obscure new pub name apparently derives from the former workshop at the rear of the building that made floats for the Sunderland Flying Boats during the war.

On the beer front, they initially appear to offer 7 ales (across 10 hand pumps) including 3 guests and the staple ‘Spoons favourite Old Rosie cider although I have already noted a quota of unavailable pumps. That said, any outlet increasing the availability of guest beers in town is most welcome and will hopefully attract a few more mature and sensible drinkers to offset the potential influx of the previous Litten Tree incumbents who appeared only to have eyes for Stella and fit barmen. Whilst the Flying Boat was billed as a Lloyds bar, there are no signs at present of any music systems, disco lights or mirrorballs so hopefully it will remain a place of relative tranquility although the presence of bouncers in the evenings suggests that it may have its off limit periods. There are 2 plasma screens in the main bar and 1 in the rear bar but in my visits they have remained silent as per normal Wetherspoons.

In short, an impressive makeover and hopefully management will be strong enough to prevent the place gaining a similar reputation to its predecessor. The one remaining question is what the future holds for the far more formulaic and less appealing Paper Moon down the road.

4 Jul 2009 14:32

J J Moons, Wembley

I generally avoid Wembley drinking, especially on stadium event days, but the tube strike left me with no alternative than to get to arrive early and take my chances in the crowds. I was expecting to be patient but I did not expect to wait 20 minutes just to get to the bar followed by a further 10 minutes of appearing to be invisible to the staff and then be admonished by the bar maid for having the temerity of showing my frustration as all and sundry were served before me. 3 of the 5 ales were off (don't they plan for busy event days) and then after all this they fleece you with increased charges (whilst the Price Watch display is proudly in view to all on the bar). I'm normally the first to defend Wetherspoons against much of the criticism that is leveled at them but this place is the most hypocritical and incompetently run branch I have come across. By contrast I was served immediately in the equally busy Bear next door.

11 Jun 2009 10:37

The Seven Stars, Helston

Formerly known as the Fitzsimmons Arms (after Bob Fitzsimmons, Helston’s famous 19th century boxing champion) the pub has undergone a rather unsympathetic refurbishment and name change since I was last in Helston which was many years ago. The interior consists of 2 long narrow buildings that have been knocked through but large remnants of retaining walls and pillars make each side of the pub distinct. There are few worthy features that catch the attention, a fireplace and stove at one end and a few remaning snippets and pictures that remain from the benefactor of the pub’s previous name. To the right of the entrance is a pool area with DJ booth so it’s not hard to see what the target customer base is.

The bar area is very bland and nondescript with a bank of fruit machines to the rear and the customary plasma TV. The side away from the bar has little in the way of seating and is geared more for stand up groups and there is also a fairly attractive patio to the rear but generally there is little attempt to utilize much of the buildings intrinsic character, or what is left of it.

On the positive side, there are 3 ales (Doom bar, Speckled Hen and Theakstons Best) at below average prices and of decent quality (Mrs B also had a very good inexpensive coffee for what it’s worth). One word of warming if you decide to stay for a few, the floors are a bit uneven in places so watch your step! The Seven Stars will have an appeal to a certain age group but with the Blue Anchor down the road, it is obvious where the discerning pub goer will be heading.

27 May 2009 13:15

The Cutty Sark, Marazion

The Cutty Sark is essentially the hotel bar for the Marazion Hotel and whilst it appears a bit grubby from the outside and lacks the views of the Godolphin or the intimacy of the Kings Arms, the interior does have a certain charm. The large front area is more of a dining area in the summer months and with its wicker chairs has the feel of a Victorian tea room. Two walls are of exposed stonework with one housing a forest of plant life (some of it plastic) and prominent large ship wheels. The rest of the decor is quite plain by comparison. The smaller main bar is to the rear has some interesting barrel seating. 4 handpumps, Doom Bar, Sharps Own (was off) and 2 redundant so it was not the most varied of choices but very reasonable prices. The piped music (someone in here likes Fleetwood Mac) did at least break up the silence given that there were only 4 people in here although, to be fair, it was lunchtime and off season. The pub is certainly a decent alternative to its neighbours but needs a lick of paint on the outside and a full compliment of beers for it to stand out a bit more.

27 May 2009 13:13

The TC's Sports Bar, Truro

TC’s is basically the clubhouse for Truro City FC but is included on BITE as it is open some non match days to allcomers, albeit the opening hours are a bit selective (Mon-Thurs 5.00-9.00, closed Fri, Sat and Sun unless there is a match or function) which is a bit strange for a place that sells itself as a sports bar as it is shut when most football, rugby etc is being screened. As a football ground bar it is one of the better ones I have encountered at this level with quick service, plenty of space and the bonus of a decent quality Tribute on hand pump at a relative bargain of £2.20 a pint.

The interior is was a bit bright and monotonous but functional for its uses with a pool table, 2 dart boards, multiple Plasma screens, big screen and a dance floor area. 2 well stocked trophy cabinets highlight the club’s recent successes. Seating is a bit restricted on match days as one end is reserved for visiting dignitries and a sofa area takes up quite a bit of space in front of the bar but there wasn’t any of the hustle and bustle that I usually experience at small grounds. A decent enough place on match day but one would question why it bothers the rest of the week when the town is such a short walk away and the opening hours are so restrictive.

27 May 2009 13:11

Try Dowr, Truro

This large Wetherspoons (actually it’s a Lloyds No 1 but what the heck) is named after the old Cornish words meaning Three Rivers and are situated in old newspaper buildings. The huge interior has a low false ceiling which, despite the massive amount of open plan floor space, makes it all feel a bit closed in. It could very easily be a rather drab place but good use of colour schemes mixed in with exposed brickwork, bookcases and underplayed modern art does actually make the place quite pleasing on the eye. 3 silent plasma screens show the usual run of subtitled Sky News programmes. Service (both food and the bar) was pretty good given that the place was extremely busy although the choice of ales was very disappointing with just the standard ‘Spoons ales supplemented with the ubiquitous Doom Bar across the 10 pumps. Prices were towards the top end of the chain’s pricing policy. Probably slightly more appealing than the average modern style ‘Spoons but let down big time for me by the beer selection although it may just have been a bad day in the office and I’d like to think the selection is generally more imaginative.

22 May 2009 09:08

The Lord Moon Of The Mall, Whitehall

Housed in a former Bank premises, the Lord Moon is one of the more visually appealing Wetherspoons. The large front area is quite elegant, if a little somber, with large arched windows, a high decorative ceiling with shallow arcs, big mirrors and imposing pictures set against nicotine coloured walls. Note the large portrait dominating the far wall – not some classic pose of a dim and distant Government servant but actually a modern portrait of ‘Spoons boss Tim Martin suitably dressed up in old clobber. The general ‘Spoons furnishings and characteristics are present; silent banks of fruit / quiz machines, old local pictures, history snippets and a hollow atmosphere when not busy (which, to be honest, isn’t often). There is a sofa area by the front door but grabbing any seat or table can be a hit and miss affair at peak times. Two large arches lead through to the main bar area, less grand but with a few elegant features like the statue in the niche above the stairs. There is always a decent selection of ales and although the prices are top end, they are not quite the most expensive’Spoons in London. The “no chips” approach often throws people into howls of derision but personally I like the quirky originality of it and anything that makes a ‘Spoons different from the others is OK by me. It should be noted that this approach is due to fire regulations that mean that they cannot offer any fried food so jackets potatoes and tortillas chips are given as replacement (they obviously never hr=erad ofoven chips). Don’t moan at ‘Spoons – it ain’t their fault! Pop over McDonalds if you are that desparate. On the whole, this would be one of my favourite London ‘Spoons but it is regularly let down by an undermanned bar and general poor service. Short measures have been a frequent issue with me and I once took back a beer that was off only to find that an “available soon” clip had been hastily added to the pump after they had sold me the beer. Despite the shortcomings, it can, on its day, be one of the better ‘Spoon experiences and who cares about chips anyway?

1 May 2009 16:26

One Bell, Crayford

Not Crayford’s worst pub but certainly the most disappointing. It is situated far enough away from the shopping area and Greyhound stadium to lose tha main traffic whilst the nearby church and VCD football ground will hardly cause the place too many problems on the numbers front. Whilst the One Bell looks decent enough, the pub really doesn’t make the best of its own features and presents itself as a fairly downmarket boozer when it could actually be something a lot more cosy, intimate and appealing. The interior is a bit cramped in places, not helped by some intrusive pillars and wall sections. Décor is pretty mundane mock Tudor style and whilst it’s certainly not unattractive, it’s not helped by intrusive cash / quiz / fruit machines and cheap promotional posters. To the laft of the main bar is an open fire and beyond, an area containing a pool table and dart board. Decent plasma screens will appeal to the sport fans and on my 2 recent visits, this seemed to be the main draw. There are 2 areas where the pub could significantly improve. Firstly and obviously, the beer – standard kegs and lagers and despite the presence of 3 redundant handpumps tucked away in the rear bar, this is now the only non Real Ale pub in Crayford (even the dreadful Bear & Ragged Staff manages to outdo the One Bell on that count). Secondly, I’m certainly no prude but there should be some management control over some of the crudest and offputting language which was way over and above the necessary tolerance you would normally deem acceptable in any pub. It certainly doesn’t make the place feel welcoming to non locals. The bottom line is that there is little at the One Bell that can’t be found better down the road and Crayford isn’t exactly a hot bed of classic pubs. With a bit of thought and effort, this could be as good as any of its neighbours but as things stand, it lacks any real reason to warrant a return visit.

1 May 2009 15:52

We Anchor In Hope, Welling

I am sure the We Anchor In Hope exists only to ensure that sentences using its name sound grammatically incorrect. As a pub it is a large, plastic, soulless, pub by numbers sort of place that upon first entering has all the appeal and feel of a Hungry Horse. The interior may be spacious but it lacks any real intimacy and the low ceilings make it feel a bit closed in. To one side of the central bar is a pool and darts section and whilst everything is all very neat and tidy, it is oh so dull, formulaic and characterless with discounted regular beers and standard pub grub meals that seemingly fail to attract anyone but the hardiest of locals. For such a sizeable pub, the presence of barely a dozen punters at 9pm on a Saturday night makes for a deathly and hollow ambience. A number of factors go against it; too far away from town to attract the general crowds, too cheap and dull for it to be a decent or credible restaurant and the place doesn’t posess enough intrinsic appeal for anyone to justify going out of their way for it. We actually turned up to watch a band (one of the pub’s more useful functions) but found the gig cancelled (admittedly not the pubs fault). Instead the multiple TVs were churning out Britain’s Got Talent which was sufficient to ensure a quick exit after the swiftest of pints. The beers were the standard keg with Courage Best the only ale (another pump was reversed but it could have been Directors). The staff were friendly enough and I didn’t get any general feelings that place would be in any way unwelcoming but there really is so little appeal to be found here that a visit really isn’t worthwhile unless there is a specific reason to go.

27 Apr 2009 16:00

The Crayford Arms, Crayford

This traditional 2 bar Shepherd Neame pub is a short stroll from the Greyhound stadium and also reasonably handy for VCD football ground. My trips here have been few and far between over the years but having made a couple of recent visits, I can echo the previous sentiments of its ongoing improvements although to be fair, this was always my preferred Crayford pub anyway. The Ale range has been extended to 5 which include any seasonals and specials with prices reasonable and quality fine. The Saloon Bar to the left as you go in is carpeted with lots of paneling, built in pews, various displays, plates, old posters and nick nacks. An open staircase leads to a function room where, according to the local rumours, Lennox Lewis used to train. I have heard he also worked behind the bar although I cannot unearth any evidence to substantiate his connections with the pub. The bar itself is a bit cramped and the pub in general is hardly spacious but it has a certain retro charm with its sightly dated ambience. The separate Public Bar has been recently redecorated and has pool, darts and a TV. There is also a small but neat and tidy beer garden. The locals are quite welcoming and chatty and it is clear that the new management is doing a good job and their efforts not going unnoticed.

27 Apr 2009 13:41

Dukes Head, Crayford

This inter war mock Tudor pub is quite presentable and appealing without being anything pretentious. The fully carpeted interior is quite well laid out with an unobtrusive pool and darts area one end behind a partial screen. The décor is neat and tidy with dark paneled walls, beamed ceilings, brick fireplaces and a collection of plates balanced on ledges like a fairground shooting range. There are 2 well positioned plasma screens with the usual diet of football and a spacious patio at rear. 3 reasonably priced and perfectly drinkable if rather unspectacular Ales available (Speckled Hen, Courage Best and Bombardier). One gripe is that the hand pumps are badly positioned on the bar so that they face into the the pool/darts section rather than into the main body of the pub. Service and atmosphere fine on both my recent visits and whilst it is generally geared to the locals, it is quite handy for the Greyhound stadium and the VCD football ground and in my opinion is one of the better options in town along with its next door neighbour, the Crayford Arms.

27 Apr 2009 12:44

Lamb Inn, Edmonton

I too came here on the back of all the recent “bigging up” although I had my reservations given that the flurry of recent postings has come from first time (and for the most part, only time) reviewers that have suddenly been drawn to the Lamb’s supposed charms. Conspiracy theories aside, what we have here is an ex-Wetherspoons that is now a Smith & Jones (Barracuda Group) and the only differences between the current and previous set up would appear to be noise and a dartboard. Everything that one associates with a typical ‘Spoons interior, the décor, the furnishings, the cheap food/drink even the historical snippets have been retained lock, stock and plastic barrel. The excitement of seeing 10 handpumps soon dissipates when you realise that the clips are 4, yes 4, Bombardier’s, 3 Courage Bests, 2 Green King IPA’s and (I was tempted to put the Partridge In A Pear Tree gag in here) a slightly more interesting Jennings Cumberland. It could be argued that 4 ales (even across 10 pumps) would be a major plus in this area but actually getting anything out of the pumps was an eventful task on my visit with the first 2 options greeted with a “not sure if its on” by the bubbly if slightly unknowledgable barmaid. My third choice finally emerged from one of the Courage Best pumps which did at least save me from resorting to the dreaded Green King IPA (presuming it was available). The rest of the beers were the usual standard lagers / kegs but both the food and drink prices were pretty reasonable if that is any consolation. The customers appeared friendly enough though it was a quiet period and much of the peak time ambience would seem to revolve around the usual run of TV footie (2 plasmas and a Big Screen), DJ’s and Karaoke nights, hardly anything innovative or earth shattering and only of limited appeal to the discerning drinker. Overall, the Lamb appears to have a band of loyal regulars and is fine for the locals who have very little choice in the way of pubs around here in the first place. It certainly won’t be the worst place you will ever visit but to me it is at best distinctly average and one shouldn’t be tempted here solely by the manipulated ratings and glowing comments from reviewers who currently have little or no track record beyond the Lamb’s front doors.

20 Apr 2009 14:53

The Eagle, Shooter's Hill

Tucked away off the main Shooters Hill Road, the Eagle is very much a local’s pub that from the previous reviews seems to have had its fair share of ups and downs. The frontage has plenty of window space letting making the open interior quite light. The bar is centrally positioned with a public bar area to the left with a rather prominent pool table, dart board and plasma screen. In one corner is a small menagerie containing a mischievous parrott and a couple of snakes firmly contained in glass tanks. To the other side of the bar is a saloon bar area for want of a better description although the fairly plain pub by numbers décor and furnishings are virtually the same throughout the pub. There is a small dais, presumably for live music albeit not much room for more than a duet. There is a slight maritime theme with shipping forecast areas and an obvious affiliation to the RNLI judging by the posters. One noticeable improvement since my last visit some 18 months ago is the presence of a Harvey’s ale (I don’t recall any ales on my previous visit) with the quality perfectly drinkable but not great. To the rear is a decked beer garden which at one time offered some fabulous views across London but these have now been partially curtailed by new building developments. We were afforded a decent welcome from the Millwall fan landlord (especially since I we were in Spurs gear and had just beaten West Ham) and overall I didn’t find anything particularly unsavoury about the pub although it was a quiet early evening. Overall, a pretty average, no thrills place and not much really somewhere I would go out of the way for but worth popping in if needs arise.

15 Apr 2009 13:48

The Bull, Woolwich

Firstly, congratulations to Vinnie for winning the BITE 2008 Spot the Incorrect Posting competition by correctly identifying the other Bull in Woolwich. I am pleased to say that this particular “Shooter’s Hill” Bull is a far superior beast to its namesake near the station although I too wonder whether it should be filed under Woolwich (if only to prevent muppets like me getting the wrong pub).

The interior is very traditional and fortunately the pub that has resisted the temptation to knock the old Saloon and Public Bars into one which makes it a bit of a rarity alone. The saloon bar is homely and unpretentious with a small brick arch fireplace but the lighting is perhaps a bit on the bright side (easily remedied) and the colours scheme a bit monotonous. The pictures on the walls also look a bit lost in the vast expanses of wall space and cheap posters don’t exactly compliment things but on the whole, everything is neat, tidy and presentable. The public bar contains a pool table, darts area and a couple of TVs and has a very 70’s feel with retro patterned wallpaper that conjures up images of deckchairs or pyjamas. There is a central bar serving both sides of the pub and judging by the Cask Ale Week bunting and “Axe the Beer Tax” notices on show, they seem to take their beers seriously in here. There are 6 hand pumps, 3 on the Saloon Bar side (Courage Best, Doom Bar and Harveys) and 3 on the Public Bar side (Pride, Abbott and Tribute). What there isn’t (or I didn’t notice) was anything listing all 6 so it is easy to overlook the fact that there are 6 ales and not just the same 3 on each side. To the rear of the pub is a spacious and quite attractive beer garden. The customer base appeared to fairly sensible and less rowdy than other pubs in the vicinity and overall, it wouldn’t take too many minor adjustments to really make it truly worth going out of the way for.

14 Apr 2009 15:54

The Ship Inn, Porthleven

The Ship is probably the quintessential Cornish harbourside pub, commanding a prime spot over the picturesque, photogenic harbour entrance and a place in many a visitor’s heart. It delivers genuine warmth, especially on nights like when we called in when the harbour was shrouded in mist and the scene was like something from The Fog. Knocking sounds eminating from the barely visible boats, rigging rattling against the masts and the sound of the waves lapping at the harbour walls.all added to the spooky atmosphere. The Ship provided suitable escape from any marauding dead seamen with its intimate interior full of character. Old anchors, bits of rigging, exposed stone walls, bare floors with rugs, a crackling log fire and a homely dim glow from the lanterns that all adds to its charm. A mass of shiny coins are embedded in the bar frame and there are collections of old jugs, urns and a spectacular mass of beer mats cover much of the ceiling. The only thing that lets the place down is the minimal ale selection, just Doom Bar and Courage Best on my visit (at a very reasonable (£2.40 & £2.25 respectively) although the other reviews suggest that there is some sort of rotation. The Ship is definitely a pub worth going out of the way for, whatever the weather.

9 Apr 2009 13:51

The Yacht Inn, Penzance

Built in 1936, this art deco pub is the third in line to be built on this prominent part of the sea front between the harbour and the promenade. Along with the imposing Seaman’s Mission building next door, the sight of the Yacht is probably a welcoming landmark that greets many a returning voyager and fisherman. The interior is quite open with a spacious main bar, a dining area off to the left and a smaller room to the rear. A raised area in the main bar has a wasted blocked fireplace and cheap looking display cabinet containing various Water Polo trophies (there is a large art deco open air swimming pool opposite the pub which is used for polo in the summer months). There is an underplayed nautical theme but not actually a great deal that catches the eye. There is also a minimal choice on the ale front – 5 handpumps with Tribute on2, Bass on 2 and 1 unused. Quality was fine and the prices quite reasonable (we had been told elsewhere that this place was expensive but didn’t find this to be the case). The pub was rarely busy during the week we stayed in Penzance (our apartment was in the Seaman’s Mission next door) and would probably used the place a bit more if it had shown a bit more character and atmosphere. As it was, most people seemed to be there for meals and whilst it was a friendly enough place, the main source of entertainment came from the pub cat that would occasionally venture from its bastket on the window sill. If you just want a quiet, peaceful pint in sedate surroundings you won’t go far wrong here but for those looking for a bit more atmosphere, there are plenty of other options.

8 Apr 2009 10:57

The Union Hotel, Penzance

This 17th Century Hotel, originally known as the Ship & Castle, has certainly had an interesting past. Much of the original building was destroyed in a Spainsh raid in 1595 and remnants of the subsequent fire can still be traced in the exposed stonework in what is now the main bar (it is probably more obvious to a forensic scientist though). At one time, the Hotel boasted one of the country’s oldest theatres (remnants including the stage still remain within the building’s structure although the theatre itself closed in the 1820’s). There is still a theatre bar tucked away in the rear of the building with several old theatre posters but this section appears to be used primarily for functions and special occasions. The pub’s big claim to fame is that during a ball in 1805, the local mayor became the first person to publically proclaim victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and the subsequent death of Nelson (although I have heard that Falmouth also claims to have been the first town to have received the news). As a result, the hotel plays on its Nelson theme quite heavily with a lifesize model greeting you as you enter the main door, articles about the battle of Trafalgar (which includes a comprehensive list of official casualties) and several battle scene pictures. The main bar is also named the Nelson bar in his honour whilst the main restaurant honours Lady Hamilton.

Whilst the history may be impressive, the pub falls short in other areas. The interior still has plenty to admire; impressive fireplaces, original stone work, old beams etc, but it is let down by its obvious attempts to attract the sort of customer base who probably have little or no appreciation of the building or its history in the first place. The main gripe is the music which was on the whole geared towards the younger crowds. There is something that feels so wrong about sitting next to the wonderful fireplace, wallowing in great naval battle scenes and soaking up the building’s past whilst listening to rap music! The live music was pretty intrusive and on a Saturday night you can expect a band slap bang in the middle of the main bar. The beer selection also is not particularly exciting – 2 ales (Bass & Sharpes Own) albeit perfectly acceptable quality. The rear section between the Nelson Bar and the restaurant seems a bit out of character to the rest of the building and you get the impression that the place should be so much better than it is. That said, it is certainly worth a quick pint merely for its historic interest but probably best done away from peak times when hopefully the ambience is a bit more fitting for the building.

7 Apr 2009 13:52

The Turks Head, Penzance

This quaint pub is situated down an attractive road running away from the town centre and is the town’s oldest pub dating back to 1233. It was also the first pub in the country to carry the name Turks Head. A Spanish invasion in 1595 put paid to much of the original pub (as well as the Union Hotel a few doors up the road) and the current building is more 16th/17th century in appearance. The central doorway leads straight to the main bar, a warm and comfortable carpeted room with plenty of brass and copper nick nacks, trays, bedwarmers and a collection of tankards and water jugs. A brick fireplace in the corner has one of the old pub signs above it as an eyecatching centerpiece. To the right behind the bar is a neat and tidy room that appears to be used more for dining. A corridor to the left of the bar leads to a pleasant beer garden and the wall displays include another of the old pub signs and a collection of old Bank notes and coins. There is also a staircase down to a dungeonlike cellar bar (it was closed on my visit but I sneaked down for a peek) and there are apparently the remains of some old smugglers tunnels that run underneath the building as well as some priest holes. The general atmosphere is quite relaxing and having had only 3 landlords in the past 100 years, you can expect a good level of consistency regarding service and general ambience. 3 decent enough ales on my visit (Doom Bar, Sharps Own and Betty Stoggs + a further pump unused) and we also had a relatively inexpensive but good quality meal following a recommendation. Overall this is certainly one of the best pubs in town and somewhere away from the more unruly pubs that the town centre offers.

6 Apr 2009 16:08

Tremenheere, Penzance

Named after a 17th century mayor of Penzance, the Tremenheere is one of Wetherspoons typically uninspiring modern outlets with the formulaic, pub by numbers characteristics that the chain seems to think we love. On a Saturday night the charmless atmosphere turns the pub into a bit of a no-go area as Penzance’s finest come out for a cheap alcohol fix and are herded in like cattle. During the day and midweek, things thankfully appear a tad more peaceful and respectable but the bland, open interior and layout gives it all the atmosphere of drinking in a cinema foyer. I paid a couple of visits during my week’s stay and the first time the choice of guest ales was particularly poor – all local Cornish ales that I could easily find elsewhere. Things improved later in the week with a guest Ale all the way from Devon! I know Penzance is half way to America and some beers don’t like travelling but something a bit less local would have been nice. That said, I experienced the same problems with the ‘Spoons in Truro and must assume that are some practical reasons behind it. Nevertheless, all things taken into consideration, not exactly one the better Wetherspoons experiences but there are worse places in town. Just.

6 Apr 2009 15:02

The Swordfish Inn, Newlyn

I was aware of the Swordfish’s reputation and paid it a visit more out of curiosity than anything else. From our conversations in other pubs in the area, the locals seem rather bemused at the thought of it being labelled as one of Britains “toughest pubs” as depicted on Sky TV. The building itself a typical old harbourside inn and is actually quite quaint from the outside. The interior is nothing special but nothing particularly ropey either. Long and narrow, the pub is divided into 2 distinct areas, the main bar and a pool room to the rear. The main bar is quite basic with bare floors and quite plain décor but showing few, if any, signs of neglect or rough treatment. Several interesting black and white photos of the local harbour area and old fishermen are neatly displayed on the walls. 2 ales available, Doom Bar and Courage Best which were of decent enough quality although prices were a bit higher than I would have expected. As for the ambience which seems to be pubs big question mark, I was there on an early Friday night and the place wasn’t particularly busy but whilst the music was a bit loud (but not overbearingly so), the customer base seemed to be good natured and well behaved although it was clear that some (mainly the women) were certainly half way to inebriation. The staff were polite and despite wandering round the pub and being fairly obviously not a local, I didn’t feel intimidated or threatened in any way. I dare say the place does have its moments, not unlike any other pub, but whilst it wouldn’t win any prizes as the best pub in town, I certainly didn’t find anything untoward that that would warrant giving the place a wide berth, unless you worked for Sky that is!

6 Apr 2009 13:39

The Star Inn, St Just

A 17th century stone pub in the heart of one of Cornwalls major tin mining areas, the Star today relies more on tourist traffic but thankfully it has not sold out to the camping and caravan brigade and still has much of the same feel that would have greeted the miners of yesteryear. The dark interior would be enough to make any miner feel at home with dark walls strewn with many old photos reflecting the area’s industrial past. Groups of miners jostle for position among the lifeboats, fishermen and other oddities including a St Just v Playmouth Argyle programme from 1955. The ceiling contains a set of flags that bring a splash of colour to the darkness and an upright piano stands next to the glowing open brick fireplace which gets the occasional prod from anyone within reach. The locals were welcoming and and chatty although it was a lunchtime stop for us and the place wasn’t particularly busy. A second room to the right of the main entrance contains a darts area and a kitchen to the rear. Next to the kitchen is what appeared to be an old stone fireplace with small kiln oven that has interestingly been converted into some unusual seating. In the corridor between the 2 bars are some historical artifacts including a rendition of the St Just Prayer from 1650 whereby the local priest prayed that there would be no shipwrecks but if there were, that they be for the benefit of St Just! It seems that raiding the beaches for spilt contraband has long been a community activity! The ales are from the St Austell range (Tinners / Tribute / IPA on my visit) and the fact that we only popped in for a quick pint and stayed for 3 says a lot. Well worth the stop.

6 Apr 2009 13:06

The Star Inn, Crowlas

Crowlas is but a short drive or bus ride from Penzance and the award winning Star Inn is the place to be for the beer enthusiast. The pub itself doesn’t court any great aesthetic merits, certainly more appealing from the outside than within. A traditional style local’s pub with a central bar, pool and darts areas and a sectioned off corner type snug, it is quite spacious but it wasn’t particularly busy at the time of my visit so the atmosphere was a bit dead. The décor is neat and tidy without being noticeable apart from a strange arrangement of beams and pillars and the mass of beer mats and pump clips that give away the main reason for making the effort. Home to the Penzance Brewery, the beer selection is far superior to any pub for miles with the added attraction of their own brews. I tried their own Crowlas Ale and Gopher Gold, both excellent, and there was a good range of others (Coastal beers seem to feature heavily - Erosion and Hop Monster available on my visit as well as Tring Devils Dyke and a couple of others I failed to note – well you would forget after a pint of Erosion). All the beers are listed on a blackboard to one side of the bar and you can virtually guarantee something interesting from the 7 pumps. If you can’t then you really shouldn’t be here. Prices were below average and if you are a beer enthusiast and happen to be in the area, the Star should be one of the the first places on your list to visit.

6 Apr 2009 10:40

The Red Lion Inn, Penzance

Quite an appealing pub from the outside but the split level interior is let down by its prominent focus on the pool and darts areas which are in your face as soon as you walk through the door and take up 2/3 of the pubs prime floor space. The ceiling is plastered with “180” certificates, so many in fact that you do wonder why they bother issuing them as the darting maximum is clearly a common occurance among the locals.

The main seating area is quite small and up the steps to the rear of the pub. This section is quite homely with lots of character although it does feel like drinking in a cave with all the exposed stone, low ceilings and dim lighting courtesy of a few old lanterns. Plenty of old pictures of Newlyn and the fishermen of days gone by on the walls and the presence of fresh flowers shows a welcoming touch. There are decent views across the harbour to the front if you don’t mind getting tapped on the head by the occasional pool queue.

A fairly limited ale selection – 4 hand pumps (2 x Doom Bar and 2 x Adnams Broadside) but good enough quality. Not a place you would go out of the way for but Newlyn does make for a small pub crawl and the Red Lion would appear to be one of the better stop offs.

4 Apr 2009 10:59

The Star Inn, Penzance

The Star has a prime town centre location and looks quite quaint and inviting from the outside but the interior is a different beast altogether. Long and narrow, it seems to go on forever and you feel that you will eventually drop into the harbour if you venture too far. At one time it would have no doubt been the small and cosy place that it initially appears to be but the subsequent expansion merely seems to be a convenient excuse to rope in the mass crowds at weekends and hordes to watch TV football. Despite all the low ceilings, flag stoned floors and different sections, it feels very impersonal and open. The front section is fairly small with an unnecessary 3 plasma screens. Down a few steps, the main bar (and yet more screens) is much expanded but lacks the intimacy or warmth that you would expect from a building of this age. To the rear is a games area with 2 pool tables, table football and darts area. Everything seems to focus around the multiple screens, some of which are situated next to each other and, rather amusingly, having slight picture delays to their neighbouring set. Despite the building’s obvious age, much of the interior appears so fake and contrived that if you tap the walls you would probably get a plywood splinter. Geared towards a younger crowd, this isn’t the place for a particularly peaceful pint and with just the 1 ale, the ubiquitous Doom Bar, not much in the way of selection. It was our intention to actually eat here (the menu looked pretty reasonable price wise) but the place just didn’t feel right for a meal so we just caught the end of the footie (well, Arsenal were losing so we just had to see it out!) and moved on. A bit of a waste in what could be so much better had it not been turned into a drinking shed for the masses.

4 Apr 2009 09:46

The Ship Inn, Mousehole

The Ship’s position overlooking one of Cornwall’s most picturesque fishing harbours is a big enough draw to make it one of the counties must visit pubs. It has all the trimmings of a traditional old fishermans pub, the flag stoned floors, low beamed ceilings, lanterns and open fires coupled with the modern touristy trinkets of maritime memorabelia, model boats and stories of shipwrecks. The Ship itself has had its own share of maritime tragedy in that the former landlord was part of the crew of the Penlee Lifeboat disaster in 1981 and his memory is commerorated on a placque on the outside wall.

For all its apparent charm, the interior is a bit too open, expanded and impersonal for my liking and dare I say, a little bit too geared for tourists although not as “in your face” as many other similar harbour pubs I came across on my travels. There is a large dining section which thankfully does not intrude into the main body of the pub and a smaller side room at one end of the bar. The main bar area extends to a darts area at the rear with built in pew seating and a TV. Stairs lead up to a rather secretive beer garden which I did not explore. The front seats overlook the historic and extremely photogenic harbour where you can watch the boats come and go on the tide. The beers are from the St Austell range with an above average selection that consisted of Tinners, IPA, Tribute and HSD on my visit and were decent quality and not unreasonably priced. Service was fine and even though my most recent visit was an off season lunchtime, there was still a few friendly locals and the ubiquitous dog to pet.

For pub enthusiasts the Ship is a worthwhile excursion if in the area and, fine place as it is, it just lacks that little extra to make it a true classic.

3 Apr 2009 18:34

The Kings Arms, Waterloo

Set amid some classic period terraced houses (which make a great film/TV backdrop), this Victorian corner pub appears to have undergone some modernising but thankfully this has not detracted from its traditional character. The main body of the pub is split into the old style public / saloon bars by a partly glazed wooden screen. The saloon bar is quite plain with bare wooden floors, small round tables, open fireplace and plenty of windows making it all feel quite bright and airy but quite homely and intimate. The public bar doesn’t benefit from the natural light and comes over as much more subdued but for me has a more enchanting feel. Over the quaint tiled fireplace is a relic of old drinking days, a Double Diamond mirror, which looks quite at home among the orderly old photos of local streets, markets and landmarks, various maps, newspapers, adverts and old prints. At the rear of the pub, the old garden has been converted into a large glazed conservatory that virtually doubles the size of the pub. The old road signs, plate collections and theatre adverts are also quite eyecatching.

As has been mentioned in previous reviews, the beer selection is at best ordinary with Adnams, Bombardier, Green King IPA and Pride, none of which will hold much interest to regular ale drinkers in London. What a couple of guest beers could do to this place goes without saying. Prices are also pretty steep given that the beers are nothing special; each ale, as far as I could tell, clocking up at £3.15 a pint. Service was efficient and prompt, even when a large group party came for which much of the conservatory had been reserved.

There are a couple of certificates from a rival pub web site on the wall in the saloon bar proclaiming the Kings Arms as London’s Best Pub 2004 and 2006. It’s quite good, but not that good.

2 Apr 2009 16:21

The Yew Tree Inn, Cauldon Low

Not the easiest pub to find being tucked in between the surrounding industrial works (and the SatNav won’t help much) but persevere and you will encounter one of the most amazing if rather eccentric pub experiences going. The old farmhouse style appear to be a typical rustic country pub from the outside but once through the door you enter a world that makes Antiques Roadshow look like a village jumble sale.

The pub has been in the family for decades and the current owner, the charismatic serial hoarder Alan, (who has been here for nearly 50 years himself and took the pub over from his mother) has spent the best part of his life scouring antique shops and car boot sales which has resulted in a pub that resembles an explosion at Steptoe & Sons junk yard. The pride of place goes to the 8 Polyphons (a sort of Victorian jukebox for the uninitiated) which have been restored to full working order (make sure you have lots of 2ps with you when you go). There are also working Pianolas, a huge collection of grandfather clocks, numerous commemorative jugs, plates and mugs, antique firearms, butter churners, air raid sirens, weighing machines, bottles, gas masks, faded newspaper cuttings, adverts, signs, 1970’s Pirelli calendars, radios, penny farthings, rocking horses, a 3000 year old Greek Vase and even a pair of Queen Victoria's stockings amongst the fantastic collection of assorted jumble and bric-a-brac. If you are lucky and interested enough (and it is hard not to be), you will more than likely find yourself being enthusiastically taken on a guided tour by Alan who will point out the rarities and oddities.

The furniture includes a stunning collection of antique and unusual pews/settles, many of them elaborately carved and one with a spectacular marble back. One room has a selection of 60’s style dimple topped tables. There are 3 functioning rooms with low ceilings and open fires and one with a dart board in case you forget that this is actually a fully functioning community pub. A fourth room to the left of the main entrance is cluttered up with bits and pieces that have yet to find an appropriate display spot. The beers may appear almost secondary in such a place but the 3 ales (Bass, Burton Bridge and a mild that I didn’t note) were well kept and, in line with the pub in general, the Carling dispenser was also a 1970’s relic, not out of place alongside the Watneys lampshades. The till is of course a shiny old pre-decimal “kerching” job with all the knobs and buttons and you still expect a pint to cost 5 shillings (sadly the prices, although reasonable, are a little more modern).

To add to the ambience, the music is also a throwback to the 30’s and 40’s and gives it a real authentic old time feel. Go there, enjoy the beers, the welcome, the surroundings and, after you have comtemplated on who does the dusting and how much is the insurance, sign the visitor’s book (it is on an antique school desk at the entrance). After a visit to this unique place where even the cobwebs are a highlight, other pubs will never appear to be the same again.

31 Mar 2009 12:27

The Pirate Inn, Alverton

I suppose Penzance had to have a Pirate pub somewhere and this one is just a short stroll out of the main town. The first thing that strikes you is that it is back to front with the main door at the rear on the opposite side to the main road. I was expecting a strong pirate theme throughout with Jolly Rogers fluttering from fake masts, ceremonial planks and staff with false wooden legs and stuffed parrots on the shoulder. Instead, the carpeted 2 bar interior is quite run of the mill and plainly decorated with some exposed stone walls and a few token maritime pictures. At one end is a small raised dining area and at the other a lobby that leads through to a public bar with pool table. There is a caged bird that I will take as a parrott substitute but don’t expect any Pieces of Eight squarks. Ales included Doom Bar, Abbot and Betty Stoggs, prices and quality fine on my brief visit. Overall it is a cosy enough place and seems quite friendly and civilised but it lacks any real charm or character to make it a worthwhile trip although if you have kids you can let them loose in the decent kid friendly garden.

27 Mar 2009 16:04

Old Sucess Inn, Sennen Cove

Currently undergoing a facelift and a fresh lick of paint ahead of the tourist season but it is open as normal. Dating from 1691, this is a more grander type of coastal building as opposed to some rickety low beam smugglers den and probably fits more in the category of a bar within a hotel / restaurant. It is a pleasant enough place in a most scenic spot but I found it rather disappointing given the high recommendations from various pub guides. The bar is rather dull and faceless although the usual maritime paraphernalia and lifeboat pictures are all present and correct. The basic décor is quite plain and some of the furnishings are well worn, notably the tables that would have been quite special when the old maps depicted on them would have been readable. The modern built in spot lights look out of place alongside the old lanterns and everything looks a bit too contrived and not particularly appealing. There is a pool table which is quite intrusive and plasma screen tucked away in a recess. 3 St Austells Ales available; Proper Job, Tribute and HSD but the quality was not the best despite the Cask Marque accreditation and prices the most expensive I encountered in my week of travels (a Proper Job and a latte for the Mrs came to £5.05). If the place does a major plus it is the fantastic views across Sennen Cove and this being the only pub in the village, it is Hobson’s Choice if you want to sit and watch the sun go down over a pint.

27 Mar 2009 15:15

The Top House, The Lizard

Until the Witch Ball opened down the road a couple of years ago, the Top House was not just the only pub in the village but also had the proud claim of being the most southerly pub on mainland UK. It will now have to be content with second place. Despite appearing to be as a much as a hotel as a pub, it does still have a pubby feel and manages to cater for a wide customer base of walkers, tourists and locals without leaning too heavily in favour of any particular group. There interior houses lots of maritime memorabilia, photos, pictures and artifacts, some culled from from the local shipwrecks and former lifeboats that operated from the headland. There are plenty of local coastal views and village scenes dotted about so if you don’t fancy the 20 minute walk, just grab a beer and look at the paintings! One area contains a pool table and dart board whilst there is a separate section that is presumably used more for dining in the summer months. Despite being in a tourist hot spot, the prices are quite reasonable; £2.50 for a Betty Stoggs (Doom Bar & Green King IPA being the other options for ale drinkers). Sadly the Witch Ball was closed when we were here so the Top House got our undivided attention and whilst service was slow, it does do a good job at the end of a long walk.

26 Mar 2009 19:25

The Peruvian Arms, Penzance

A small, simplistic back street local’s pub that we stumbled on almost by accident. It will never win any awards for décor or architecture but more than makes up for things with its friendly welcome from both the staff, regulars and Louis the rather soppy pub dog. We arrived to find a lively but sensible and light hearted debate among the bar flies which far more interesting than anything we heard from the meatheads who frequent some of the neighbouring establishments. Some posing questions were displayed on a blackboard which suggests that the place is frequented by some of the towns more intellectual characters. The interior is divided into 2 rooms, a plain and simple no thrills main bar with built in seating and a selection of books and games piled up in a corner. A side room contains a dart board and pool table. 2 ales available Sharps Own and Keltek Magik, both of which were not frequently found during my week’s sojourn to the area. The Magik was on special offer at £2 a pint so no complaints here!

The pubs main claim to fame was its ingenious bid to get round the smoking ban by applying to the Peruvian Government for diplomatic status. The pub was established by a miner who made his fortune in Peru (hence the pub’s name) but sadly their application was turned down despite the pub’s promise to sing the Peruvian National Anthem every night and buy a pet Llama. It made headlines across the world but the place does still remain a nicotine free zone although the locals will happily tell the story all night if you ask about it!

I found the place to be a bit of a pleasant surprise package and well worth a visit, unless you are a non-smoking Peruvian diplomat.

26 Mar 2009 18:56

Reeds Arms, Burnham On Sea

This extensive Wetherspoons dates from the mid 19th century and was the Queens Hotel before reverting back to its original name when ‘Spoons took over. Named after George Reed, a prominent citizen and benefactor of the town who, among other things, built the ramp on the beach opposite from where the lifeboats were launched. Lifeboat displays seem to be a recurring theme throughout the pub which is divided into several rooms, each with its own bit of character (or lack of depending on your Wetherspoons viewpoint). The rooms to the front of the pub as well as the small outside front terrace commands good sea views whislt the central areas are of a more sombre and claustrophobic nature. I counted at least 3 silent plasma screens with the usual Sky News/Sky Sport News set up. 10 handpumps but many were doubled up with the standard ‘Spoons ales with just 2 for guest beers (albeit decent ones). A decent enough place with a bit more character than your normal Wetherspoons but my visit was for a March late Saturday morning journey breaking liquid breakfast. Once the caravaners and holiday camp brigade arrive in town for the summer…

26 Mar 2009 18:49

The Sloop Inn, St Ives

This old 2 bar harbour front cottage style pub dates back to 1312 according to the sign outside and probably could tell a few good stories if the walls could speak. The sea shantys that would once have echoed across the main bar have now been replaced with piped music and the smugglers with tourists but it does at least retain some of its olde worlde appeal with low ceilings and a series of intimate snugs to the rear (though you would need to be a contortionist to get into the final one under the stairs). Local art (for sale) is displayed but the moving picture frames are definitely a tacky diversion.

The pub’s real gem is the smaller public bar to the right of the main door. Furnished with 2 long tables and a couple of benches which direct you towards the open fire, this is the snuggest place in town when the gales lash across the harbour. Portraits and local artwork feature prominently against the black wooden walls and ceilings whilst a collection of jugs and tankards swing away over the bar. It’s all very simple but full of character (the bar has apparently featured in numerous films & TV programmes).

There is a mention of a cellar bar but I didn’t explore this far and being quiet, I’m not certain it was open anyway. The beers are a bit pricey (Doom Bar, Ruddles County & Speckled Hen) ranging from £3 to £3.25 a pint but they do have daily food and drink specials and my Doom Bar was a more reasonable £2.80 the day of my visit.

There is some seating outside with the lovely harbour views but, be warned, you will be under constant seagull attack, especially if you are eating. I can imagine in summer the place would be heaving but without the crowds it is quite a charming place to spend a few hours.

26 Mar 2009 18:46

The Norfolk Bar, South Kensington

20 years ago I used to stumble up (and down) the Norfolk's front steps on a regular basis but its lack of inclusion on BITE (untiol now) led me to assume that it was no longer open to the public and that it was now merely the bar for the attached hotel. Any joys of nostalgia from my recent(ish) visit only lasted from the bottom step to the front door. I would never have claimed it to be the best drinking establishment in the world but it has now turned into the sort of sofa and tub seat lounge bar that I have almost made a career of trying to avoid. No Ales to be found so I resorted to a Boddingtons which at £3.30 a pint was neither kind to my wallet or my tastebuds. Both sides of the bar were pretty much identical with bare floors, plain décor, a plasma screen one end and the smallest big screen I have come across at the other, both tuned to a crap music channel. It is difficult to sum up any plus points but they did have a peanut machine. I should have stayed with the memories.

24 Mar 2009 12:54

The London Inn, Penzance

By the end of our week in town we were running out of pubs to visit. The good ones had all been ticked off and just the questionable ones remained. We had passed the London Inn on a few occasions but been put of by the loud music and the general morons that populate the town centre at the weekends. From the outside it does look quite appealing so we decided it was one of the better options left that we had not previously been in. The main bar is actually very rough and ready with a tatty and battered look that can sometimes give the place a certain appeal but here it just doesn’t feel right. The ornate old fireplace with its stove catches the eye but the claim of having gas lighting as a major feature is not so obvious. Whilst the temptation to ram the place with stereotypical London memorabilia has mercifully been avoided (no model routemasters or plastic copper’s helmets spotted on my visit), the place could do without the Sherlock Holmes / Dr Watson mirror! To the rear is a smaller bar with lots of paneling, a dart board and an out of place TV. At the rear is a courtyard where a group were singing rowdy football songs which hardly enhanced the ambience. On the beer front just the one ale available; a rather poor Courage Best which is even more disappointing given the prominence of certficate from Courage championing their supposedly good quality. It is certainly not the worst pub in town and was still the best of a bad bunch of pubs we had outstanding but if you do feel the need to visit, it is best outside of peak times.

20 Mar 2009 09:47

The Old Ale House, Truro

This city centre pub not only has an eye catching exterior but also offers one of the better selections of ales we found on our recent travels around the area. The interior of the pub is altmospherically dark and dingy with bare floors and a tatty feel but full of character with shed loads of beer mats, drink towels, old adverts, beer fest menus and pump clips stretching across the walls and ceilings. Some of it has obviously been there for years and the general impression is that anything that gets put on the walls stays there until it rots and falls off. The floors are strewn with the shells of complimentary peanuts so probably not the best place for sufferers of nut allergies but it is fun to crunch them all underfoot. Many of the tables and even some seats are made from converted barrels. A copuple of old Redruth Brewery windows can be found, one a telephone box sized booth. The usual mix of entertainment is listed including quizzes, live music and (unfortunately) karaoke. There is a pool room upstairs (both the pool and jukebox are free after 7 on Mondays). On my viist there were 8 available ales either from the 10 handpumps or direct from the 7 casks behind the bar. Ironically many of the guests were familiar to me so I ended up opting for the regular house ales Skinners Kiddlywink and Cornish Mutiny, both excellent. Others available included Spitfire, Pitch Black, Adnams, XB, Deuchars and Taunton cider. There was also a selection of unusual fruit wines. I didn’t find it particularly expensive and overall thought it was a great pub but sadly I didn’t get time to stay as long as I would have liked although I would definitely return.

19 Mar 2009 14:00

Navy Inn, Penzance

Situated just off the promenade, the Navy is a charismatic pub that is fairly typical of the town but with a slightly more underplayed maritime theme. The Navy does tend to lean more towards the gastro side of things with a fairly up market menu (and pricelist) and just the 2 ales; Betty Stoggs and Doom Bar (2 other pumps unused). The interior is light and airy with the usual bare floors, beamed ceilings, exposed granite walls, rigging, maritime bric a brac and some interesting old pictures including one of an old landlady of yesteryear. They also make good use of redundant fireplace for additional shelving. The atmosphere is quite civilized although it was mainly candlelit diners as opposed to tanked up trawler brawlers. Whilst food smelt good and we were looking for something to eat, the prices were a bit offputting for our budget. Worth popping in for a visit lacks any real atmosphere during meal times.

19 Mar 2009 14:00

The Longboat Hotel, Penzance

This is probably the largest pub in town with an expanded interior that seems to stretch all the way to Lands End. The low ceilings throughout give it a bit of a claustrophobic feel and its open plan set upmeans there is little in the way of intimacy. Wood feateres predominantly throughout which does make for a fairly old world feel although I would hazard a guess that the interior is a fairly modern refurbishment. Beers are mainly Greene King with 3 pumps bearing Speckled Hen clips, and 1 each of Ruddles County and Doom Bar (which was unavailable despite the clip not being reversed). I didn’t recall it being particularly expensive and the quality was fine to me. There are multiple screens, mainly for sport and a separate pool room at the rear. Various forms of entertainment from the good to the bad are advertised on a board outside. A separate dining room is also located at the side in the front of the pub. Before we visited we had walked past a few times and it was never even close to being busy which measna distinct lack of atmosphere in such a vast place which is a shame because it really isn’t such a bad place and certainly worth popping in for a couple of pints.

19 Mar 2009 14:00

Logan Rock Inn, St Levan

This award winning country farm house style pub guards the road that leads to the picturesque local beauty spot of the pub’s name. The pub is well signposted in the local area and fairly easy to find. The doorway leads to a flagstoned corridor with the main bar off to the right.and a second room to the left. The main beam has typically low wooden beams with an orderly collection of brasses and open fireplace where the pub cat or one of the local dogs will probably sprawled out. Old photos abound as well as snippets telling the story of the rock itself (the pub is a good place to start / end the walk but make sure you use the pay & display down the road rather than the pub car park unless you have permission). The large fireplace next to the bar has been turned into an intimate and quite cosy snug and is handy for ordering the beers without having to get up. Not a great selection on the beer front – 4 pumps – 2 x Tribute and 2 x Tinners and prices above average. Food also looked a bit pricey the people who were eating seemed to have generous portions and it did look pretty decent. The atmosphere was quite relaxed with piped music and a no mobile phone policy.

The second room was not very sympathetically furnished and containd lots of modern art which seemed out of place in the room but I would imagine that it is generally only used in busier periods or for functions. To the rear is a beer garden with bench seating and quite pleasant when the weather allows.

In Cornwall, country pubs like this are fairly commonplace and whilst it is a decent enough place and worthy of a visit, it probably won’t leave you counting it among your favourites.

19 Mar 2009 13:59

Lifeboat Inn, St Ives

This characterless harbourside seems to have sold its soul in the name of tourism with plenty of luring food deal boards outside but lacking any real warmth, charm or intimacy inside. The hugely expanded interior seems to have a more space, more customers approach where numbers are more important than aesthetics or comfort. Multi screen TVs come at you from all angles and the pool table is openly exposed and too much of a focal point. The whole place is just a bland, dull mismatch of décor and furnishings with little attempt to make anything particularly attractive. On the plus side, the window seats command good views of the picturesque harbour and the 3 St Austell Ales (Trinute, HSD and IPA) were decent enough and a bit more varied than some of the other St Austell pubs I encountered on my travels. It’s also a bit too family friendly for my liking with screaming kids never far away. Its position means it will always attract people but in my opinion there are far better and more charismatic pubs in the vicinity.

19 Mar 2009 13:56

Kings Arms, Paul

Well signposted from the main Penzance to Portcurno road, this pleasant stone built small village pub has a sedate but friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The spacious carpeted lounge bar has low ceilings, open fire, exposed stone walls and several heraldic shields surrounding the bar. To the rear is a more basic public bar with bare partly flagstoned floors and a darts area. Ales come from the St Austell range with decent quality Tribute, Tinners and Proper Job at reasonable prices. The food menu appeared to be on the expensive side but as most people (including us) were there for their popular but challenging Sunday quiz, I didn’t see anyone eating. Locals were friendly and quick to chat to us when they realised we were outsiders. The place would probably appeals more to the mature end of the market than to the younger upstarts. Note - the owners also run the Yacht in Penzance and the Logan Rock Inn.

19 Mar 2009 13:56

Kings Arms, Marazion

I can’t help thinking I have missed something here judging by the ratings, reviews and recommendations. This town centre pub (don’t call Marazion a village – you’ll upset the natives!) is quite attractive from the outside and pleasant enough inside with its beamed ceilings and cosy bay window seat but doesn’t strike me as being particularly oozing with character. There are a few pics and brasses and the odd dangly jug but nothing to catch the eye. Not a big selection of ales (Tribute and HSD) and at £3.10 for the HSD, a bit wallet busting. There was no obvious food available although the landlord was interviewing a new chef so expect something new for the immediate future. There is some seating outside on a road busy with tourist traffic and I dare say that at peak times the place gets uncomfortably busy but to the pubs credit, it doesn’t play the tourist game and still retains a local feel. It is a decent enough pub but for me just lacks anything that makes it stand out to warrant the high ratings. One thing I will certainly endorse – the pasties over the road are among the finest ones I experienced but I’ll save that for Pasties In The Evening.

19 Mar 2009 13:56

The Godolphin Arms, Marazion

The Godolphin has the major advantage of sitting in one of the counties most scenic spots with stunning views across the causeway to St Michaels Mount and Mounts Bay. The huge hotel dominates the foreshaw and consists of various bars, lounges and dining sections all geared up to cope with the huge crowds that arrive in the tourist season. The main entrance is through a reception area that leads to the large main bar and dining room. This section is rather dull and formulaic with little character although the local revolving artwork may be of interest to some. But there are several window seats where you can admire the sensational views. There are 2 separate drink and food bars – on the drink side there were 2 Ales (Doom Bar & Tribute) with 2 further pumps unused. I would expect there to be more available in peak periods. For such a tourist hot spot, prices were very reasonable. There are daily food specials (Thursday Curry, Friday Fish and Saturday Steak) but as my budget only stretches to the pastie shop down the road, I didn’t eat here. Service was friendlyand efficient but I can imagine that in the heat of summer they would need to manage the place like a military operation. Down stairs to the left of the main bar leads to a lower level with a large modern lounge and a more pubby Gig bar with pool table and large plasma screen primarily for sport. There is also a disappointly limited amount of outside seating given the views to be had. After a few hours enduring the cobbles of the mount and the casle, this is a decent enough place to unwind and as long as you keep looking out to sea, what the pub is like won’t matter.

19 Mar 2009 13:55

The Golden Lion, St Ives

Not a pub that makes particular good first impressions and will be of limited appeal to the average drinker. The front bar is at best functional and at worst, a mess of manky and tasteless decor. The bar itself is semi-octagonal (if such a shape exists), the colour scheme rather gloomy and everything appears to be rather random and slapdash with lots of exposed wiring and collectables arranged sporadically around the bar. A darts area is to the right of the bar and at the rear of the pub is a second bar with a pool table but it has the feel of of a student bar. Beyond this are the gents and a tiny and not particularly attractive beer patio. The corridor between the 2 bars probably has the mankiest carpet in Cornwall. Strangely, despite all the negatives, there is a pretty good selection of ales that does make the visit worthwhile – Doom Bar, Heligan Honey, Keltek Magik and Old Rosie cider. The locals seemed harmless enough and if you are not fussed about asthetics, then the place may just have some appeal to you. If you are not an Ale fan and prefer somewhere a bit easier on the eye, then this is not the place for you.

19 Mar 2009 13:55

The Globe, Penzance

My 2003 Good Pub Guide describes the Globe & Ale House (sic) as a “small low ceilinged tavern with lots of old pictures, artifacts and an enthusiastic helpful landlord offering at least 4 ales”. Somewhere along the lines it all went to pot then. Ales seem to be a bit of a lucky dip as to availability and when I did pluck up the enthusiasm to enter during one of its quiter moments, all I found was a poor quality Old Speckled Hen. The other 2 pumps were off (they also appeared to be Greene King IPA and Abbott although this isn’t actually a Greene King to my knowledge). The interior has been ripped apart in an unsympathetic refurbishment (presumably when the Ale House moniker also disappeared) and only a remnant of a window pane near the front doorway remains from any of its traditional décor or furnishings. Plasmas come at you from all angles but it is compettion with the music - either show the match or play the music – not both please! The only thing of note is an old newspaper front page but this is now concealed by a fruit machine. You can tell where the priorities lie in this place. On a Friday and Saturday night the place is crawling with meat heads and disco dollies but the general public on the street are kept safe by the bouncers. A total waste of what was once probably a half decent pub and out of the 50 odd pubs I visited during the week, this was certainly not one of the better ones.

19 Mar 2009 13:54

The One and All Inn, Penzance

Penzance’s only attempt at an Irish bar comes with all the pre-requisite Guinness ads, shamrocks, live music and a signs for O’Connell Street although it plays more towards being a sports bar than a tip to the emerald isle. The main bar is dominated by a pool table and darts area whilst the usual run of sports coverage eminates from the plasma screens. Judging from the copious trophies, they take their sport quite seriously here so don’t play a local expecting a few free Guinesses. The main seating is at the rear, a couple of tables and a couple of small booths. A large Courage Best mirror possibly gives away the pub’s roots. I was expecting to see little more drinkable than Guiness and whilst I was surprised by the presence of 3 handpumps, all 3 were for Doom Bar and one was mysteriously reversed. The quality was not the best I have had but it was perfectly drinkable.and reasonably priced. Not a place I would rush back to but, unless you are going there for a specific purpose or event, it’s Ok for a quick pint.

19 Mar 2009 13:54

The Fishermans Arms, Newlyn

This fairly small L-shaped pub is probably worth hunting down for its commanding views across Newlyn Harbour, Mounts Bay and, in the distance, St Michaels Mount. Parts of the pub interior are a bit grubby with the furnishings in the main bar particularly in need of a bit of attention. The gas fire and cheap book case don’t exactly enhance the area and the dart board could be a bit intrusive but overall it is all quite cosy and unpretentious. There is lots of trawler artifacts and nautical bits and pieces, stuffed fish etc dangling from the wooden ceiling and anyone of a certain height needs to take care they don’t end up with a pufferfish embedded in their skull. Away from the bar area are several old black and white furnishings and the décor appears to be a bit fresher. The small patio at the front is sheltered by a giant umbrella and takes in the aforementioned views.

On the beer side of things, 3 good quality St Austell ales available (Proper Job, Tribute and HSD) at reasonable prices. The Fishermans has plenty of good attributes but just needs that bit of thought and attention to fulfill its potential.

19 Mar 2009 13:53

The First And Last, Sennen

Situated a mile or so inland next to an acient church in a small hamlet near Lands End, only a purist would begrudge the pubs claim to being the first and last pub in England (there is a large hotel with a bar at Lands End itself but that is hardly in the spirit of things). Dating from 1620, the pub has been altered and expanded somewhat but has certainly not lost any of its old world charm or character. It certainly appears to be a popular watering hole for the Land End to John O Groaters judging by the commemorative t-shirts pinned to the pubs ceiling where the teams obviously gather to celenbrate their often commendable achievements.

The large dimly lit main bar is characteristically gloomy and basic with low ceilings, flagstoned floors, soot encrusted walls by the open fires, lanterns, pew seats, farming instruments and plenty of old photos of local maritime and village life. The basic widescreen TV has a rather murky picture but to be honest, a TV is out of character for the bar. 6 hand pumps but only 2 operational on my visit – Doom Bar (£2.60) and Skinnners Best (at £2 a pint, great value). I dare say the selection is expanded during the summer months. Moving away from the bar is a pleasant and brighter dining area which doesn’t intrude on the pub and beyond this, a separate pool room with darts and a TV.

The most interesting feature is in the floor between the main bar and the dining room. “Annie’s Well” is now illuminated and glazed over and hides a smugglers tunnel that runs to the nearby cliffs. Outside to the rear is a large smoker’s shelter, a few benches and a sizeable car park.

All in all, a pleasant surprise to find a place that could so easily have taken the tacky and cheap tourist approach that seems to typify much of the Lands End area but instead has retained much of its own intrinsic character.

19 Mar 2009 13:53

The Dolphin, Penzance

Situated on the harbour front, the Dolphin plays into the hands of the tourists that are ferried from the quay opposite to the Scilly Isles and back. It is interesting to compare the interior to that of the Dock inn next door. Where the Dock has a tatty, thrown together look, the Dolphin is more spacious but feels much more contrived and orderly. There are plenty of ships dials, compasses and a capstan with porthole windows and bits of rigging between some of the seating and the ceiling and lots of old photos (note the old black and white photo of the pub looking rather run down). The main bar is in the centre of the pub whilst to one end is a pool room with TV and at the front of the pub, some steps down lead to a front bar. Beers are from the St Austell range – 4 handpumps, 2 with tribute and 2 with Tinners so not a vast selection. Whilst I can’t speak for peak periods, the atmosphere appears fairly laid back, genial and civilized. A decent enough place but I prefer the more traditional feel of its neigbour.

19 Mar 2009 13:52

The Dock Inn, Penzance

As the name suggest, you’ll find this pub just off the working harbour and plays strongly on its maritime location. The interior is awash with nautical clutter in honour of all things that sail or sink; ensigns, figureheads, shipwreck charts, model ships, maps, numerous boat photos etc. Note the photo of 4 lads to the right of the bar – the one on the right is a very young Jethro and to his left, his brother who apparently owns the pub.

The main bar is small, cosy and like much of the pub throughout, is basically furnished. There is a central area with a couple of sofas in front of an open fire and small TV for those who prefer a bit more comfort. The large rear section contains a pool table, further seating, widescreen TV, cash machine, upright piano and a tsunami settle (don’t ask). The walls are plastered with old maps and charts. A patio to the side has some outside seating and a couple of portaloos.

Service was friendly albeit a bit sluggish on my first visit (staff promptly apologised). 3 hand pumps but only 2 ales available, Doom Bar (£2.70) and the excellent Spingo (£2.90) making a rare awayday appearance from its Helston source. The banned list of 20 or so names (including 2 lifers) show that they have made efforts to keep the unruly element away (and it is a large element if you go into town on a Saturday night) and on both my visits during the week I was here, the atmosphere was relaxed and civilized with unobtrusive music and everything centred on conversation. They don’t do food but you are welcome to bring your own.

Overall, this was one of my favourite pubs in Penzance and it is worth notoing that it stays open long after its Dolphin neighbour shuts.

19 Mar 2009 13:52

The Crown Inn, Penzance

This small back street local seems to have more of an upmarket feel to it and certainly won’t appeal to allcomers. The interior is not much bigger than the average living room with 4 rather cramped tables. The décor is plain and simple with little focus although the large mirror on the far wall does at least make it appear a bit more spacious than it really is. There is a second smaller bar to the rear which for some reason was empty despite the rest of the pub being pretty packed. The bar is quite badly laid out with a coffee machine in the most prominent position whilst the ale pumps were tucked away at one side making it hard to see the clips through the throngs congregated at the bar. The ales are very good and reasonably priced; Keltak Magic, Heligan Honey and Otter and that is reason eough to pay a visit. The music veered from obscure reggae fusion to difficult jazz and was certainly not the appropriate accompaniment if you are nursing a sore head. There was an eclectic mix of people and it is hard to see what attracts some of them to the place. It is the sort of pub you have to vist to make up your own mind – reviews won’t help you much!

19 Mar 2009 13:50

The Castle Inn, St Ives

In such a touristy harbour town as St Ives, the Castle seems to have a wide appealing approach that fortunately doesn’t too far towards the coach party brigade. The exterior is quite bright and alluring and the spacious, open interior has all the trademark old world low ceilings, flagstoned floors, old paneling and basic furnishings that you would expect. The maritime theme is fairly underplayed with just the occasional lifebelt and foghorn among the various nick nacks, certainly nothing too pretentious or obviously overbearing. The coloured paneled glass makes for a spectular frontage and bathes the interior in a kind of green hue.There is an unobtrusive darts area to the left of the bar 3 Ales (Betty Stoggs, Abbott, Bombardier) and a Real Cider (Cornish Orchard) served direct from the cask (despite the approrpaite hand pumps located on the bar). A hefty collection of beer mats are congregated behind the bar and across the ceiling beams. Like many pubs in Cornish towns, they display a list of banned patrons so the local trawler brawlers appear to be kept at bay. Well worth seeking out.

19 Mar 2009 13:50

The Blue Anchor, Helston

One of the country’s real treasures in the world of pubs, this thatched town centre brewpub has the claim of being the counties oldest brewery with a history going back some 600 years. Full of charm and character te moment you step through the front door into the central flagstoned corridor. The 2 main bars are to the right whilst on the left are 3 tiny and intimate snug bars that appear to be later additions within the pub framework. The front main bar is a delight with bare stone floors, settles, cosy window seat, antique table, and an upright piano. Next to the bar is a cosy little recess which I dare say is a popular spot at any time of the day. The walls contain plenty of of interesting photos and momentos including a list of public executions which includes 2 for an assault on the Blue Anchor landlord in 1790. Things aren’t quite as rowdy these days and the atmosphere is very welcoming with plenty of light hearted banter going on between the locals.

The smaller rear bar is dominated by the large fireplace with 2 built in seats and crowned by antique firearms. The fire itself packs out a heat and there cannot be many finer places to be on a cold winter night than sat at the barrel tables with a pint of the pubs own Spingo beer. A description of the various beers is on the wall next to the bar whilst a few reproduction posters advertise wrestling matches and warn against stealing oysters from the Helford River. As for the beers, you will most likely come across the middle (5% £2.50) which is the prominent brew. There is also Jubilee (4.5% (£2.40), Special (6.8% £3.30) and Bragget, a beer made with apple and honey with no hops, a recipe dating back to the brewery’s origins. I tried both the Middle and Special (very drinkable for such a strong beer) and you will be hard pushed to find 2 better ales anywhere. The Special is also brewed at additional strength for Christmas and Easter. For the non ale fans there are the usual suspects and even the tea and coffee are good value at 60p and 80p respectively.

At the rear (past the outside toilets) is abeer garden, now partly housed in a marquee where there is a separate open air bar, presumably used for functions, festivals etc. A set of steps leads up to the long brewhouse (the door was open so I had a peek in although I am sure the knowledgeable and enthusiastic landlord would happily show you around if the circumstances allowed it).

Sadly it is a 350 mile trip for me to visit and I get here on average every 10 years but this time I have taken home a few bottles of Spingo and will ensure I take the empties back at the first available opportunity.

19 Mar 2009 13:49

The Bath Inn, Penzance

Tucked away just off the promenade, the Bath Inn is a neat, tidy and comfortable pub with a relaxed ambience. A fairly plain, 2 bar interior with low beamed ceilings, paneling and bits of exposed stonework. The right hand bar is the quieter of the 2 but does feel a bit like a funeral parlour. A ledge runs alongside the front wall which doubles up as a long bench but the gas fire and plastic flowers make it look a bit cheap. The main bar seemed more popular with a pool table at one end. There appeared to be a decent beer garden for the summer months but it was a dark so I didn’t get a particularly good sight of it. I felt rather anonymous in here and wasn’t entirely at home but the beers (Betty Stoggs, Sharps Own, Bass and my Cornish favourite Heligan Honey) make it worthy of a visit and it is a world away from the riotous town centre pubs on a Friday / Saturday night.

19 Mar 2009 13:49

The Alexandra, Penzance

One of the best pubs we found in Penzance for a welcoming and friendly crowd and one of the wider selections of ales (5 in all - Betty Stoggs, Doom Bar, Bass, Courage Best and the excellent Heligan Honey). Not a particularly interesting interior décor wise, quite plain and unfussy with a few shipwreck and lifeboat snippets on the walls and a rear section that houses a pool table. Clearly they take notice of BITE as a listing of Cornish pubs is mounted on the wall with their (now out of date) rating proudly highlighted.

The charismatic locals will entertain you with stories on anything from shipwrecks to smuggling, beers to boats and tin mines to Todd Rundgren and it was the best part of midnight before we left after what was supposed to be a quick pint. Ladies literally have to spend a penny to use the loos (there are old pennies on the bar which are needed to get in). The attractive beer garden would be a hit in the summer but avoid match days – the football and rugby grounds are just around the corner. The barmaid needs to improve on her music taste as well. One of the more respectable and worthwhile of Penzance’s pubs.

19 Mar 2009 13:47

The Admiral Benbow, Penzance

Despite being currently hidden under a mountain of scaffolding and sheeting, the pub is very much open for business. If nothing else, the place is worth a visit for the quite unique if rather contrived interior. Barely an inch of space exists where you not find a pot, pan, jug, urn, figurine, model ship, lantern, antique firearm, figurehead or divers helmet. Think of junk shop, double it and you get some kind of idea what to expect. The pub itself is quite small (unless there were some rooms lurking in the background that weren’t obviously visible through the forest of memorabilia) with brightly coloured beams and pillars which all adds to the effect. There are numerous nooks and crannies, not all particularly comfortable and you may need to climb over the occasional anchor to get in. Music comes courtesy of a Wurlitzer jukebox that plays old 45’s so don’t expect any hi-tec cd quality modern music. The pride of place must go to the magnificent decorative fireplace, the mantelpiece of which is of course stacked with more remnants of antique fairs, charity shops and probably local shipwrecks. The bar itself is quite small and badly placed in front of the door making it a squeeze just to get past the front door when busy. 3 hand pumps with a good quality Proper Job, the ubiquitous Doom Bar and 1 unused. The staff were very welcoming and attentive, the atmosphere genial and quite relaxed although it was frequently busy when we often walked past. To some it will appear to be way over the top but I liked the place simply for its attempt to be something different. The original Admiral Benbow was a fantasy pub and this one doesn’t feel much different so I suppose it does its job.

19 Mar 2009 13:46

Kings Arms, Borough

Fairly small but cosy L-shaped pub tucked away pub down a side street and only noticeable from the main drag because the well badged corner juts out. The traditional style interior is quite bright with a Laura Ashley type décor and various old local photos and collectable plates adorning the walls. On the beer side of things, 3 ales available and, looking at previous reviews, things appear to have improved regarding selection; Harveys, Courage Best and Doom Bar on my visit but with the latter at a rather offputting £3.25 a pint, they do still seem to charge over the top prices. The semi-open bar has some Interesting brass spiral lamps and glass holders on the bar. A pleasant enough place with good prompt service and a fairly sedate and respectable atmosphere but the prices are enough to make this just a passing stop rather than an evening session.

1 Mar 2009 09:59

The Horseshoe Inn, London Bridge

This late Victorian (1897) pub is tucked away round the back of Guys Hopsital and seems to appeal to locals, workers and students alike. The interior is quite plain and not particularly memorable with much of the frontage windowed and little inside that attracts any attention. The main bar area has an unobtrusive darts area to one side but, as the sign says, it is for serious players only so don’t expect to be popular if you start playing loopy or halve it! 2 well positioned TVs seem geared for sports (they were both tuned to different rugby matches on our visit). To the left of the bar is a side room which I recall being more of a sofa lounge when I last came here but they seem to have ditched the soft furnishings for something a bit more solid and robust although I didn’t get the impression it was specifically a dining area. 3 Ales; Brakspear, London Pride & Sweet Chariot – decent condition and prices comparable for the area. The food looked very good and the portions quite substantial. Not one of the better known pubs in the area and I’m not sure I would particularly spend a whole evening here but well worth a quick pint as part of a crawl.

1 Mar 2009 09:31

Princes Park Stadium, Dartford

The introduction of new caterers has seen the number of hand pumps reduced from 4 to 2 and the likes of Black Sheep & Wadworth 6X replaced by Courage Best and the recent guest ale, Greene King IPA. There is a sign over the bar regarding guest ales that says “let us know your comments”. They wouldn’t like mine! To cap it all, the availabity of the ales is still very hit and miss. That said, having been to many club bars on the non-league circuit, it is still way above average and the match day service does appear to be better of late. On non match days it can be a pleasant and unusual place to grab a couple of pints or a meal. They also do regular functions, quiz nights, poker evenings, comedy nights etc so it doesn’t just all revolve around the football

ape_arrody. You should go there some time and tell us something that's worth reading.

24 Feb 2009 10:26

The Cressy Arms, Dartford

On the face of it the Cressy is a traditional style but fairly unremarkable pub and, being a fair walk from the town centre, is generally of little interest to anyone other than the locals. The interior is quite plain and dated and despite the best attempts to fill up the walls with several interesting old town pictures, redundant LP covers and numerous cheap promotion posters, it does all look a bit bare. As the previous poster has stated, the pub has changed hands and the previous car enthusiast landlord has taken his car themed collection with him and the cabinets now have Brewery and Distillery nick nacks. One side of the bar is taken up by a pool table and there is a spacious rear area at the rear with a dart board (years ago I used to play here quite regularly). It has always been a very “take us as you find us” sort of place but I have never encountered anything other than a decent enough welcome.

Whilst the Cressy is not the sort of pub that you would generally expect to cater for ale drinkers, it does have the distinction of being one of the few Dartford pubs to have appeared in recent Good Beer Guides. The ever present Courage Best is usually supplemented by 2 interesting guest beers (Wadworth’s Bishops Tipple & Moorhouse Pride of Pendle on my recent visit) and there is also a mild but only in keg form. It is good to see that the new tenants have continued the guest ale policy and for this alone, the walk from the town centre is worthwhile.

It has generally been quiet every time I have popped in although they do list a varied and sometimes imaginative entertainment programme that would either attract or repel customers depending on you taste (live music / karaoke / quizzes / poker nights etc). They are currently advertising a Shrove Tuesday blindfolded pancake flipping contest. You couldn’t make it up!

24 Feb 2009 10:02

The Kelham Island Tavern, Sheffield

This place seems to accrue so many accolades that one day it will probably win an Oscar. The day we visited they were being presented with the CAMRA Best Pub in Yorkshire award and now they can add the National Pub of the Year award to the many certificates on display.

The front bar is cosy without being confining and the décor old fashioned without feeling musty, dog eared or dated. Brewery mirrors adorn the walls along with various ornaments that wouldn’t look out of place on granny’s mantelpiece. To the rear is a more modern conservatory style extension with a light spacious and airy feel and a further assortment of jugs, vases and other nick nacks. Everything is neat, tidy and presentable and the atmosphere is pleasantly sedate with unobtrusive music and a strict no swearing policy. The beer side of things is, as one would expect, impressive with 11 cask beers on my visit (they always include a mild and stout or Porter), certainly too many for me to note down but choice was certainly not a problem and quality first rate. A narrow but picturesque beer garden wraps itself around the rear and side of the building and, true to form, is also an award winner.

As fine as it is, I don’t think I would ever call it my favourite watering hole but it certainly is a pub worthy of its acclaim and well worth travelling those exetra few yards from the City Centre to find (along with its Fat Cat neighbour of course).

20 Feb 2009 16:22

Millers, Caledonian Road

A rather brash bar attracting a bottom end of the market mix of lad culture to red faced alcoholic businessmen in suits who have little to go home for. The interior is a contrived mix of bare brick and pine with a mass of ugly poles and cables stretching across the ceiling. Life here seems to revolve around the plasma screen and pool table with the doors seemingly ever populated with smokers that makes one think what the place would have been like prior to the ban. On the plus side, they surprisingly had very drinkable quality Courage Best & Directors on hand pump alongside the usual mass market kegs and lagers which did at least make the visit slightly more bearable. Not a place to linger but I have been in a lot worse.

17 Feb 2009 15:53

Central Station, Kings Cross

I recall this place being boarded up for several years so I when I was walking past I felt the urge to call in out of curiosity. The open interior was fairly plain, rather dull and cheaply decorated with canteen style furniture and retro wallpaper. The rear section contains a pool table and there is a raised area which presumably doubles up as a stage given the spotlights aimed at it. Entertainemt seems to be in the cabaret / drag night mould (the place does lean towards being a gay bar but doesn’t ram it down your throat, figuratively speaking of course). The beer selection is hardly exciting and there are no Ales. Unlike the previous poster, I thought the place was overpriced however the food prices on the menu did seem quite reasonable compared to the drinks. There is an open staircase that leads to a restaurant and a rooftop terrace but I didn’t really feel the need to explore any further and can’t say that there is anything worthwhile to personally warrant a return visit.

17 Feb 2009 15:35

The King Charles I, Kings Cross

Seems to be going from strenghth to strength and on my recent visit the place was busier than I have encountered for some time although service was still prompt and we still (just ) managed to grab a table. The Bar Billiards table has now made a welcome return in place of the pinball (albeit it is a bit awkwardly positioned in front of the bar) and the lighting is a bit brighter than I recall from my last winter visit. The big plus is the addition of 2 more hand pumps with an ever interesting assortment of ales, currently Deuchars & Batemans Jester supplemented by 2 of the new Brodies beers from Leyton (Special & IPA) as well the bonus of an extra cask on the bar with Brodies Stout which unfortunately had run out by the time I got round to try it. There appears to be more nick nacks and old posters dotted about for those who like a bit of clutter in their pubs. The Charley 1 has always been an old favourite of mine and it has become even better since my last trip!

17 Feb 2009 13:48

The Cross Keys, Cambridge

The rather bright and garish bright yellow exterior makes the Cross Keys resemble an Irish pub from the outside but it does at least stand out even though it is set back off the main road. The split level interior is fairly plain and light with bare floors and built in cushioned pews. A collection of plates, jugs, urns and meat trays are mixed in with drawings of the local colleges and Guiness cartoons but the drink promo posters are a bit intrusive. The chatty landlord was quite welcoming and the locals friendly enough, if a little on the weird side. 4 decent Ales on my visit (Woodford Wherry, Landlord, Pride and Deuchers), quality very good and reasonably priced for a city that can throw up a few shocks in the price department. 2 well postioned plasma screens and a further basic TV. Overall it is worth popping in if passing as it is far enough away from the city centre to escape the tourist element but take note that it does appear to have variable opening hours

6 Feb 2009 10:39

Boadicea, Charing Cross Station

This small and rather faceless station bar is situated next to Platform 1 at Charing Cross and has few redeeming features other than it can bang out a swift pint if you have 10 minutes to wait for your train and you can’t be bothered to walk down the adjacent steps where ther are 3 or 4 pubs within a minute walk. To its credit it does usually have a couple of ales on (Pride & Youngs) although quality can be variable and the prices above normal. The L-shaped interior is tidy enough and functional without being particular attractive or memorable. Service is rather impersonal as you would expect as a passing customer (do they actually get regulars in here?). A plasma screen is tuned to subtitled news channels and sport is advertised on numerous posters. No bogs – you need to use the pay toilets so a add an extra 20p to every other pint if you are here for a long session (like you would!). One benefit is that there is a small tucked away TV screen showing the train departures is handy on such occasions when there is disruption to services and you need to keep an eye on the indicator boards (not unlike last night - well you don’t think I went in by choice do you?). It won’t be the worst pub you will ever visit but its purpose for existing is rather minimal.

4 Feb 2009 15:58

The Black Lion, Southfleet

I have not been here for many years but read in the local press that it was recently destroyed by a major fire. From the pictures, it appears beyond repair. Shame, as I recall it being a very good dining pub.

31 Jan 2009 18:04

The Peveril Of The Peak, Castlefield

Without a doubt, one of the UK’s must visit pubs, a real working museum piece where the pub traditionalist will find it hard not to punch the air upon stepping through the entrance.

The bright tiled exterior with its bold lettering makes it stand out like a huge wedge of cheese set against a typically drab Lowryish cityscape. The pub is listed in the CAMRA inventory as being structurally unaltered since at least before the war.

The interior is divided into 3 rooms set off a corridor that passes through the centre of the pub. The main bar is basic with built in pews and barely enough room for a couple of tables. The table football game is not just any table football game but a lovingly restored 1950’s relic saved from the scrap heap and apparently one of only 3 in existence. On the walls are a selection of celebrity guests from the world of music and stage who presumably count themselves as fans. A small basic TV perched in one corner suggests that the people here prefer to talk about things than watch them! The upper bar frame has detailed decorative coloured glass that fits in nicely with coriidor walls whilst the half curtained windows give the place a quaintly old fashioned working class feel.

On the beer front there are 4 hand pumps (Deuchars, Bombardier and 2 Copper Dragon ales on my visit) although one pump is set away amongst the lager taps and easily missed if there are people at the bar. The lack of any local Ales was probably the only disappointing aspect of the pub but I can live with it!

On the opposite side of the corridor are 2 further rooms, the first a neat and tidy carpeted public bar with pool table, dart board, juke box (Manc Britpop and Indie seems to be the local’s choice), old local pictures and the story of the stagecoach after which the pub is named. Completing the interior is a wonderful basic wedge shaped room with sturdy built in high backed settles, an ornate fireplace, old call bells, more old local prints and a few cartoons; very simple, relatively plain but wonderfully charismatic and the sort of room that centres on conversation.

The Pev, as it is locally known, is a gallant survivor in the declining world of real character pubs and one of Manchester’s landmark buildings. Along with the Britons Protection, a 2 minute walk down the road, it is difficult not to justify a visit.

29 Jan 2009 18:56

Beacon Inn, Skelmersdale

This Jennings country pub on the outskirts of Skelmersdale seems to be more geared as a restaurant than a pub. The restaurant itself is upstairs and is completely separate from the bar area which is situated on the ground floor. Any old characteristics of its original country pub nature have sadly been lost in a refurbishment which has resulted in a rather plain, drab and bland mock Tudor approach with predominant shades of grey. It all feels too much like a contrived hotel bar with 80’s piped music and a genteel atmosphere. On the plus side, there is a very good ale selection – 4 pumps with Jennings Sneck Lifter and Cumberland plus Hobgoblin and Marstons Old Empire. Quality was very good. Service was also very friendly and welcoming. A side room contains a Plasma TV but given that this was prime time Saturday night and the fact that there were only 2 other people in the pub, I get the impression that the Beacon is not a particularly favoured outing for the locals. I’m not sure how busy the restaurant was but there was certainly plenty of space in the Car Park. Whilst the pub is high up and commands good views of the surrounding countryside, there didn’t appear to be much in the way of a beer garden or outside seating to take advantage of it (although it was dark when I was there and I may have just missed it). As things stand (and I being specific to the bar and not for the restaurant that I have not tried), the Beacon is certainly worth a stop for the beers but lacks any intrinsic appeal to warrant a session or going out of the way for.

27 Jan 2009 14:11

The Stanley Arms, Skelmersdale

This expanded small town local’s pub sits on the main road between Skelmersdale and Wigan. We visited in conjunction with the nearby Victoria and it is safe to say that the Stanley is by far the better option. The interior is nothing pretentious or flashy but then it is hardly geared at tourists or journeymen. Getting seated on a Saturday night was no problem although there was a healthy mix of people in there and a fairly genial atmosphere. The front of the pub contains a large tiled floor pool room to one side with the rest of the pub being fairly plain and mundane décor wise with a collection of bottles and tankards on the high shelves being the only real focal point. Just the 1 hand pump but a pretty decent Thwaites Lancaster Bomber was enough to keep me happy for my brief stay. Unobtrusive music and a small fairly basic TV which suggests it is more of a meeting and talking pub than anything brash. There is a covered BBQ patio at the rear and decent sized car park. If there is any need to stop in Upholland, the Stanley is worth a quick pint but, whilst it serves its purpose for the local community, there isn’t too much for the wordly traveler to get too excited about.

27 Jan 2009 14:09

The Victoria, Skelmersdale

The spit on the doorstep was not the most pleasant welcome sign. Given the assembled cast inside, I suppose it was hardly surprising that charm and class were a tad lacking. Apart from a quiet couple in the corner, the full complement of Saturday night ravers consisted of half dozen pool players congregated at the bar and a trio of motormouths who wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Little Britain sketch. We occasionally stay in the area and have passed through Upholland many times so it was only a matter of time before we investigated some of the local pubs. The Vic always looked quite enticing from the road, a good solid stone pub with sturdy walls that even Cromwell’s troops would have struggled to penetrate had it been around in those days. The interior is rather featureless, dull and in need of a good hoovering with all the action seemingly focused around the pool table and the plasma screen. In no Ale situations such as this, Guiness generally becomes my default choice but someone should inform the barman that it is not generally poured whilst swirling the contents around to create a head. Other than conveniently catching up with the FA Cup highlights (albeit occasionally drowned out by the jukebox), there were few positives I can draw from my brief stop other than there is unlikely to be a second visit.

27 Jan 2009 14:07

The Frog And Toad, Gillingham

The Frog & Toad is only a short walk from the station but is so tucked away in Gillingham’s back streets that only the locals and the ale hunters would ever find it. The interior consists of 2 knocked through but off centre rooms with an unusually situated kitchen in a seaparte room to one side away from the bar. The far room is more of a public bar with darts and plasma TV although there is another dart board in the main bar as well as an upright piano for those Knees Up Mother Brown moments. The sign outside boasts 30 Belgian Beers although I can’t claim to have noticed and despite the rear room being festooned with pump clips, disappointingly there were just 2 of the 5 pumps operational with Youngs Winter Warmer and London Pride hardly being an inspirational selection. That said, there is little competition in Gillingham on the Ale front so whatever is on offer comes as a bonus and to be fair, this was an early Sunday lunchtime and the pub was empty apart from myself and 4 Aston Villa fans ahead of the recent cup tie. Sunday papers on the bar were a nice touch and it all feels quite homely with old photos and maps on the walls. The F&T is certainly one of the better Gillingham options but probably not worthy of specifically going out of the way for (unless one of their beer festivals is on).

22 Jan 2009 09:44

The Will Adams, Gillingham

This smallish corner pub just off the main drag is certainly one of the better options in Gillingham. Named after the locally born explorer and adventurer, the centerpiece of the pub interior is a massive mural that covers all the walls and tramsforms the visitor to the deck of an old sailing ship moored off a rugged olde worlde coastline (spot the current pub, looking a bit lost among the 16th century mariners on the shoreline!). If this were a Cornish harbour town you would probably dismiss it as a touristy gimmick but for Gillingham town centre, one can accept is as being a bit of a pleasant surprise. A good selection of beer (probably the best in Gillingham given that there is no Wetherspoons in town) with 5 hand pumps albeit 2 were not in use on my visit (Summer Lightning, Landlord and Harveys were all available) supplemented by a selection of ciders and perrys in boxes behind the bar. Beneath the nautical gimmicks lies a down to earth locals pub with darts, pool, jukebox, fruit machines and all the characteristics you would expect but without the menacing or intimidating atmosphere that can be an issue with other nearby pubs (my visit was prior to a Gills match and whilst police were monitoring every pub in the Town Centre for trouble, the Will Adams was pleasantly off limits to any potential hassle. Some of the seating is a bit awkward, especially in the pool area where the absence of any tables means there is nowhere to place your drinks. Whilst they do have Setanta as well as Sky, the only TV I saw was fairly basic and not conducive to comfortable viewing. Other than that, a decent enough place to visit and whilst I have barely scratched the surface of Gillingham pubs, I would hazard a guess that this is probably as good as you will find in town.

22 Jan 2009 09:31

The Red Lion, Snargate

Recently took a friend from New Zealand to show her what a real old fashioned pub would have been like in days gone by and despite this being only my second visit, we were greeted like old friends who have been regulars for years. Fantastic pub, superb ambience, great beers, huge welcome and a unique experience. Wonderful to meet the legendary Doris as well this time. A pub that everyone should visit at least once.

31 Dec 2008 09:43

The Gate Inn, Chislet

I had been looking forward to visiting this tucked away country pub for some time given its glowing reports and high recommendations in various pub and beer guides but rarely have I been so disappointed. The pub itself is pleasant enough but there is little about the interior that sets it apart from other similarly recommended pubs. The two rooms are divided by a double sided open inglenook fire and lit by lanterns that eminate a cosy glow. The walls offer several archive local sports team photos along with other various nick nacks. It has to be said that some of the seating is amongst the most impractical I have encounteredin a pub with pews that are far too long for the room and merely serve to block everyone in (I certainly wouldn’t want to be stuck in the furthest corner on a busy night if a fire broke out!). Being a cold winter evening, I didn’t get a chance to experience the beer garden with its menagerie of ducks and geese but it certainly sounds like one of the better assets. The bar itself has no pumps or beer engines, the 3 Shepherd Neame ales are poured direct from the cask either on the bar or in a room behind the counter – a small blackboard behind the bar will advise what is available. The Porter I had was very good (Master Brew & Spitfire were the other options). We would have stayed for more and possibly even entered the Christmas Quiz for which the locals were gathering (one of many interesting events lined up over the festive period) had it not been for what I will presume was the landlord (apologies if incorrect). With all the personality of a corpse, we were greeted with a stony silence and not a single word uttered until it came to paying and even then it was a curt “six pounds” (not even a please!). Presumably a graduate from the Slaughtered Lamb School of Customer Service, he made absolutely no attempt to make us feel welcome or wanted and we almost felt like we should have apologised for turning up. I arrived expecting to add to my increasing portfolio of all time favourite pubs and left half an hour later feeling like an unwanted intruder.

31 Dec 2008 09:35

The Wheatsheaf, Borough

To my knowledge there are no plans for the Market Porter to succumb to the development plans that will shortly take the Wheatsheaf from us. With hindsight I have tended to overlook the Wheatsheaf in favour of its illustrious neighbour but on hearing of its imminent closure, I have made a couple of specific visits in the last few days (with a final visit planned for the 5th Jan). It is always sad to hear of pubs closing but the Wheatsheaf really is part of the the area's pub infrastructure and its loss will leave a huge void. My memories of the place pale into insignificance with the people whose portraits are currently plastered over the walls and for them and the many other patrons over the past 200+ years, I give the place an honourary 10/10. Its days may be numbered (the last bell will ring on 7 January) but it is going out with dignity and with reputation fully intact. A fine pub.

22 Dec 2008 22:49

The Bear and Ragged Staff, Crayford

A fairly large but unremarkable, bottom end of the market pub complete with prerequisite football on big screen, multiple TVs, a double dose of pool table and banks of fruit machines rounded off with “fackin’ ‘ell” social commentary and Green King beers in such a disturbingly awful state that you wouldn’t even use it to kill off the slugs in the garden. The sign outside proclaiming it as Kent’s No 1 music venue is well wide of the mark and the photos on the walls near the stage showing the likes of Slade, T.Rex, Joe Cocker and Brian May are more for decorative puprposes than an example of the calibre of artist who you will find here on a Saturday night. The open interior is very plain and whilst it is certainly spacious, it presents little in the way of intimacy so if you prefer to shrink into the background away from the inane ramblings of group mentality geezers, best to avoid.

22 Dec 2008 15:14

The Shy Horse, Chessington

This roadside, family friendly, dining pub is close to Chessington World of Adventures and appears to be popular with both locals and visitors alike although it is certainly more geared towards the diners. The interior appears to be largely recreated in a farmhouse style although there are a couple of warming open fires that appear to be original. The layout is sufficient to cater for reasonable sized groups and there are a few screened off sections and snugs for couples or smaller families. I have dined here with my wife and mother on a few occasions (most recently yesterday) and certainly never had any major problem that warranted such detailed and pedantic negativity as the 2 previous UKPiglet reviews (the fact that her BITE activity is limited to 2 attacks on the same pub suggests that someone has a large and slightly undercooked chip on the shoulder). I am all for a bit of constructive criticism and I have no reason to doubt her experiences but without any other balanced reviews, I would take her comments with a large pinch of salt. For the record, in my experiences the food here has always been fine (this is a pubco chain, not Gordon Ramsay), service attentive and prices more than reasonable. As for the beers, a subject lacking in previous reviews, 3 Ales albeit a rather mainstream choice but excellent prices for Surrey (Green King IPA £2.40, London Pride £2.60 and Bombadier £2.80) and the Pride was of very good quality as well, certainly worthy of their Cask Marque status. A meal here won’t change your life in the same way a trip to a Harvester is not a gastronomic highlight but the place has no pretences and I always walk away full up and with change in my pocket. Oh, but do have the profiteroles – scrummy.

8 Dec 2008 11:11

The Phoenix, Dartford

The tattooed extreme right wing bikers have packed thier bags and ridden off to a new location. The pub has now undergone a refurbishment and and will reopen as a Gay bar. You couldn't make it up.

5 Dec 2008 22:33

Ice Wharf, Camden

This Lloyds Bar version of Wetherspoons is situated in a prime location next to the lock on the Regents Canal. The slightly curved interior is large and spacious but the rather gloomy décor and colour scheme make it feel a bit depressing. The high fake ceiling offers glimpses of the air conditioning pipes and despite the large glass frontage, the canal itself is largely out of view to all but a selection of window seats but, when the weather allows, a small terrace outside next to the pack bridge under the willow tree can be an ideal spot to while away the hours. The beer selection is average, usually 2 guest beers and a coupleof standard ales but more often than not, a number of empty pumps alongside the usual selection of ‘Spoons offerings. The barn like interior creates a hollow atmosphere and the furnishings can appear to be a bit canteenish. I generally use the place simply because it is one of the few places in Camden that you can usually find a seat and service is generally efficient. Whilst not to all tastes, the place seems to fit in with the surroundings and I would rather it was what it is than another block of upmarket housing.

4 Dec 2008 14:16

The Hole In The Wall, Waterloo

The presence of this place is not obvious despite being slap bang opposite the main entrance to Waterloo Station. Tucked behind a large wall, it is built into the arches of the viaduct that carries commuter trains towards Charing Cross. The small front bar isn’t particularly inspiring, fairly plain and dated with built in seats, paneled windows and a few bits of sporting memorabilia on display. The bar only carries a couple of Ales so it is easy to overlook the selection that is generally available in the main body of the pub at the rear. The main bar usually stocks 6 Ales; Youngs, Doom Bar, Green King IPA, Abbott, TEA and Adnams on my last trip, quality variable but always drinkable and reasonably priced. There is also a small food bar. Plenty of TV’s (big on Sports) and the London rarity of a Pinball machine also. The small triangular courtyard to the rear has its own TV so you won’t miss that important goal if you sneak out for a puff. The overhead trains are initially a bit disconcerting when the walls and pint glasses start rattling but you get used to the frequent rumblings and it becomes part of the ambience. I have always enjoyed the quirky charm and character of the place although I regret that I perhaps don’t go there as often as I could or should.

4 Dec 2008 13:39

The Defector's Weld, Shepherds Bush

I often used this place in its Beaumant Arms days, a proper pub with the Jam & the Stranglers blasting away in the background. Since its conversion to Edwards I think I only ever used the place once and it was more out of curiosity that I gave it a try under its latest guise as the Defectors Weld (the meaning or origin of which is totally lost on me). On the face of it, it’s a pleasant if rather pretentious place, expanded at the rear since its original pub days. The front and one side have an upmarket pubby feel whilst the rear and remainder of the bar circuit present a more ambient loungy dining feel with a sucession of sofa and armchair sections that feel a bit like wandering through a soft furnishings showroom. A couple of impressive fireplaces are hardly enhanced by the artwork above them although the lighting is so subdued that it is almost impossible to make out anything above the dim glow of the table candles. Staffwise, the barman didn’t exactly exude personality and it was a tough call for him to decide which of his 2 customers needed serving first (sorry to the bloke who was there before me – tee hee). 4 hand pumps but only 2 Ales - Pride & Landlord (expensive at £3.20) supplemented by a range of upmarket draught beers (Peroni, Fruili, Leffe, Hoegarden and the like). Fairly sedate and comfortable early evening when not busy but the presence of a DJ stand suggests that it becomes more clubby later in the evenings. Pubs like this are not really my thing and too many good traditional pubs are being destroyed to accommodate such places (why can’t they take a leaf out of Wetherspoons book and convert carpet warehouses for such ventures?). Not a place I would choose to return to but for what it is, I have been in far worse and I can see the attraction to a certain social demographic, but just not really mine.

4 Dec 2008 13:18

The Moon Under Water, Watford

Deceptively large Wetherspoons although it was probably not a fair time to assess the place given that it was it was rammed with football fans prior to the Watford v Spurs cup tie. Despite the masses, the staff managed admirably on the service front given that they were swamped with customers. An impressive 18 pumps in all lined up along the long bar with a section devoted mainly to Rebellion beers. Unfortunately it was difficult to tell how many were actually available as many of the clips were not reversed, a task not too onerous even if it is busy and it would have made ordering a lot easier. Forthcoming beers are shown behind the bar. The plastic glasses on match days can’t really be blamed on the pub as it is more likely to be a licensing coindition. Apart from the spacious (on non match days) main bar there are a further 3 rooms to the rear and sides, all of similar size, layout and décor. The colour scheme is fairly light and despite the low ceilings, it doesn’t feel as closed in or claustrophobic as some of the other similar Wetherspoon outlets. The local historical snippets that Wetherspoons seem to install in all their pubs revolve around the sadly demolished Cassiobury House but there are a few interesting adverts dotted about in particular an estate agent advert for a 1930’s semi – price £675, enough to make you cry. Given the circumstances of my visit, the place came across as an above average example of the more formulaic type of ‘Spoons with a far superior beer selection (which is always the main purpose of a ‘Spoons visit anyway). It would be interesting to see how it fares on a non-match day though.

4 Dec 2008 12:42

The White Horse, Shepherds Bush

The quaint arched frontage (complete with built in Mile Stone) somewhat disguises the Tardis like but rather oddly laid out interior. Essentially an Irish pub with flags proudly displayed and snippets of the Emerald Isle’s finer assets but not as intimidating, unwelcoming or cliquey as some Irish pubs that I have ncountered. Unusually they serve a Real Ale albeit Green King IPA of varying quality across my occasional visits but cheap at £2.20 a pint. The carpeted main area at the front has paneled walls, pew seats and a rather tatty and worn in feel. 2 plasma screens generally show sport. The rear bar, almost hidden by large supporting columns, is lined with more pew seating but is dominated by the pool table which makes the seating rather impractical. The bar itself is rather awkwardly placed and not very user friendly, especially when people are sitting up against it. There always seems to be a game of dominoes going on and from the photos of the locals on the wall, everything seems to be geared towards a harmonius customer base albeit some clients can often be found in various stages of alcoholic decline even though from my experiences they cause lttle in the way of nuisance value. Whilst I woudn’t go too far out of my way for a visit, the pub is handy for QPR, Bush Hall & Shepherd Bush Empire and if you fancy cheap pubs with no airs or graces that are a bit frayed around the edges and you’re not too fussy with the beer selection, you could find worse places to kill an hour.

2 Dec 2008 12:10

The Green, Shepherds Bush

Originally the Moon on the Green, this former Wetherspoons is now part of the Barricuda chain. On my recent visits there have always been a good number of Ales available (most recently Brains SA, London Pride, Bass, Bombardier, Adnams and Old Rosie Cider) at very reasonable prices albeit not quite in Wetherspoons territory. Quality can vary but they are always drinkable if a bit on the cold side. The interior has a basic and functional approach with solid furninshings and bare floors. 3 plasma screens dish out Music TV which can be good or bad depending on your tastes. Reasonably priced meals but never actually eaten here. There is a downstairs bar which used to be used regularly in the Wetherspoons days but now appears to be more of a private function room available for hire. It naturally gets packed when QPR are at home but it is generally fairly comfortable in the early evenings. It is also convenient for Bush Hall, the Shepherds Bush Empire and the new Westfield Shopping Centre. Not a place to go out of the way for but certainly not the worst pub around and it has a bit more life than the sterile Wetherspoons down the road with a similar budget approach.

2 Dec 2008 10:21

The Boston Arms, Tufnell Park

I’m not a fan of Irish pubs and bars at the best of times but this was one of the most depressing, miserable and intimidating pubs that I have been in. Unappealing from the outside with signs promoting cheap drinks (£2 a pint before 7 Monday to Friday) which naturally act as a magnet for the local drunks and society drop outs. The plain and dull interior revolves around the multiple (I counted at least 5) plasma TV’s that screen wall to wall racing, football and Gaelic sports. Neither the pub nor its inhabitants display any degree of charm or friendliness and some of the groups looked like they could be quite threatening if you glanced in the wrong direction. The only attraction on the beer front is the prices and, like most Irish bars, the place is off limits for Ale drinkers. The wait to be served was doubly agonizing knowing that the plethora of drunks gathered at the bar appeared ready to engage in some form of indistinguishable conversation. Naturally the regulars are served first and the staff seemed to be adverse to anything that resembles table clearing. I am sure the regular punters have a whale of a time here every night but I’m afraid cheap beer and cliquey clentelle does not make a great pub to an outsider and unless you are part of the crowd, as most posters below appear to be, there is little in the Boston Arms to be recommended

1 Dec 2008 16:15

The Montagu Pyke, Charing Cross Road

Originally a cinema (I recall seeing a dodgy late night screening of Last Tango in Paris here many years ago), it was subsequently better known as the home to the Marquee Club where I saw many a good band over the 6 or 7 years it was functioning. ‘Spoons pretty much shelled the building when it took over and, as is frequently pointed out below, it does have a bit of a cavernous feel to it. The initial seating in what was the old foyer drops down to the main bar which is in the body of the old auditorium and whilst there are plenty of seats and tables plus a few snugs along one side, they fill up sharpish so get there early if you intend to stay for any length of time. The seating upstairs in the small balcony is minimal but if you venture to the rear, there is a second smaller but reasonably stocked bar and a corridor of 2 seater tables that often get overlooked. . The high ceiling enables it to have what is claimed to be the largest drop down screen in London and on big match occasions you will need to queue to get through the front doors.There are plenty of snippets on the walls detailing its musical heritage although most of the music and artists mentioned relate more to the previous Marquee in Wardour Street and have little connection with the current building. Because of my many previous fond memories, I have a kind of attachment to the place that most of the current punters and that tends to steer my opinion to being more positive than it may otherwise be. That said, anyone entering would pretty much know what to expect from the chain although, for me, it does have a bit more life and spirit than some of the other Central London ‘Spoons.

1 Dec 2008 15:23

The Litten Tree, Dartford

Now closed. The premises has been bought by Wetherspoons and it will eventually reopen as a Lloyds bar. It's progress Jim, but not as we know it.

28 Nov 2008 09:17

The Woodman, Dartford

I have not had any cause to visit since my last review but popped in recently to see if things had improved on the beer front. My previous comments were not meant to be to the detriment of the people in the Woodman and I have never encountered anything other than a pleasant enough atmosphere (I do know some people who use the place regularly and they certainly wouldn’t if there was anything untoward). The interior is very run of the mill but, on the plus side, I was impressed with the sizeable beer garden and it is certainly one of the pubs better assets. My main gripe was the ale quality and they seem to have suitably addressed that by ensuring that they rarely have any available. My visit was on an early Saturday evening and I would have thought everything would be in place for what is presumably a peak period but instead I was met with either reversed clips or redundant pumps which points to poor cellar management. Regardless of any community spirit, cheap pool tables or al fresco entertainment, until such time the place can get some consistency with their beer quality and availablity, it will continue to remain on the periphery of my local pub visits.

27 Nov 2008 13:27

The Zetland Arms, South Kensington

One of the few traditional style pubs left in the area. Dating from 1845, the sign outside claims that Charlie Chapin’s brother was once the landlord here but I’m not sure he would find much to laugh about here these days. A rather busy, bustling, noisy pub with faceless, impersonal staff and an uninspiring range of beers; Green King IPA, London Pride, Abbott and one redundant pump that was supposed to have had a guest beer. The interior does hint that once it may have been a typically grand Victorian pub with etched windows and fancy mirrors but little survives. The area around the island bar can get quite packed but it does open up to the rear. 2 plasma screens but not much in the way of general décor and to be honest, only the fact that there is little decent competition makes it worth a visit.

27 Nov 2008 12:54

The Moon Under Water, Leicester Square

A below par Wetherspoons in the heart of London’s most toursity hot spot and for such a prime position this is hardly a great representative of Wetherspoons at its best (although cynics may argue Wetherspoons don’t have a best). The interior is narrow with low ceilings and despite mirrors down one side that make it appear bigger than it is, it all feels very cramped and claustrophobic. Naturally you will be lucky to find a seat, let alone a table so it’s not particularly good if you are in a group or intending to stay for a long session. The 2 plasma screens were so low that they are rendered useless if the pub is packed as it invariably always is. Even the beer selection is generally inferior to most Wetherspoons with beers frequently off on my visits although the quality is generally good as per most ‘Spoons branches. Overall though, a very disappointing place given its location and not a particularly great advert for the chain.

21 Nov 2008 13:51

The Hawley Arms, Camden

When I first started going into the Hawley it was a decent and fairly quiet place where people would go for the pub itself rather than the people who hang around in it. Once it became celebrity obsessed I stopped using the place but decided to pay my first post fire visit yesterday, more out of curiosity than necessity, and to be honest very little seems to have changed as far as the renovation is concerned. Most of the damage appears to have been done to the upper floors and rear of the building whilst the main bar has been hardly affected (I note the old concert ticket stubs are still on display and I would have thought something like that would have the first thing to perish). A slightly different colour scheme to what it was but apart from that, all the old characteristiocs and furnishings are as you were. 3 Ales all from the Green King range (IPA, Abbot, Old Trip) at prices comparable to the area and unusually for a pub that gears itself towards a younger crowd, the Ales are served up in old pint mugs. Service can be slow when busy and fighting your way through the hanger ons at the bar is a bit of a pain. Naturally it is going to be busy on most evenings with Borrell / Winehouse spotters and it can be quite uncomfortable being forever jostled and barged into by people roaming around the narrow bar area but find a quiet spot during the day and the Hawley can still be a fairly pleasant place for a pint. Some sanctuary during busy periods can be found in the small triangular rear courtyard (which I’m sure wasn’t there before) if you don’t mind sacrificing your lungs for somewhere to sit. I do long for the day when the pub loses popularity and maybe I would use it a bit more but I think it will be a long way off.

21 Nov 2008 13:26

The Anglesea Arms, Chelsea

I’m not sure I can recognise this pub from some of the comments attributed to it. My recent visit left me suitably impressed with the service (friendly and efficient), beer selection and quality (6 Ales – TEA, Doom Bar, Adnams, Broadside, Pride & Oxford Gold – enough to keep me going for an entire evening), atmosphere (upmarket without being snobbish or sloany) and the overall décor (interior can hardly be described as modern.regardless of when it was last refurbished, in fact a Grandfather Clock wouldn’t look out of place in here). Bare floors, old fashioned wallpaper, paneling, stripped down tables, a no 2 matching bits of furniture approach, assorted and haphazardly arranged pictures and paintings, remants of the old etched windows and doors, wonderful old brewery mirrors (Salt & Co – a new one on me), in fact many of the characteristics that I look for in a pub can be found here. Parts of the interior have been partitioned off with screens to create a feeling of intimacy. To my recollection there were no TVs, music or games machines, just the babble of chatter and locals pouring over the evening papers. I was also expecting to be hit hard in the wallet given the location and was almost gobsmacked that the Oxford Gold Organic Beer was only £2.90, a bargain for South Ken. The large roadside terrace has plenty of umbrella cover and is ideal if the weather is fine. I gather there is a dining room to the rear but the place certainly did not come over as being particularly food orientated. Unfortuantely I do not find myself in the area often, otherwise you would find it hard to drag me out.

19 Nov 2008 15:12

The Dacre Arms, Lee

Sandwiched between upmarket Blackheath Village and more down at heel Lee, the Dacre is a fairly small but cosy, welcoming and rather tranquil oasis in a fairly comfortable residential area. A good assortment of Ales is generally available although on my recent visit only the Courage Best and Green King IPA were left on leaving the Deuchers, Landlord and Harveys forlornly indisposed. From the out of action lager pumps I can assume they had a pretty busy session that took them by surprise. The interior is quite old fashioned but eminates a sedate and cosy atmosphere with little chance of experiencing anything by way of scandoulous or raucous behaviour (unless you owned the Blue Volvo that blocked in the barmaid’s car). There is a mass of hops draped around the bar frame and a variety of vases, urns, jugs, pictures, photos and all kinds of nick nacks that are balanced precariously on the shelves, mantelpieces, screen tops and anywhere else where space is to be found. Not a place for waltzing your partner whilst wearing a large rucksack. Don’t apply for any jobs as the duster either. Entertainment (apart from the playful scraggy old dog) comes from a basic TV perched in one corner and a healthy selection of books. This is as far away from Old Skool DJ’s, pool tables and Karaoke evenings as you could wish and all the better for it. The Dacre is certainly not a place you would come across by accident but well worth the effort to find if you are in the area and need a relaxing place to while away a few hours.

18 Nov 2008 13:28

The Old Bell, Derby

Don’t be fooled by the admittedly stunning exterior which may look like a beautifully preserved and spectacular piece of Tudor workmanship. It apparently only dates back to the 1920’s although the building itself does have a 300+ year history. Unfortunately, other than the impressive façade, there is little in the Old Bell worthy of passing beyond the front door. The interior is little more than a modernized, knocked through lounge room with half a dozen sofas and annoyingly low ankle height tables. A pool table fills one end and a modern bar crowned by a plasma screen is at the other. The pub makes a pitiful effort in keeping up the city’s reputation as the Ale Capital of the UK with 2 pumps, one of which has London Pride and the other being redundant. At the rear is a large live music room with 2 bars but little thought appears to have been given to its heritage. One claim to fame (although I cannot find anything to confirm it) is that Derby County were apparently formed here in 1884. Save yourself the price of a pint by admiring the exterior, take a peek down the passage to the side and then move on. A complete waste of a lovely building in a great location.

11 Nov 2008 13:37

The Kings Ford, Chingford

A run of the mill Wetherspoons which is larger and more spacious than it looks from the outside but very much a ‘Spoons by numbers inside. Interestingly, this is apparently one of the few pubs in the country that scored 100% in their Cask Marque accreditation so you can expect the beers to be top notch. There are usually 2 guest ales available to supplement the usual suspects but disappointingly only 3 Festival Ales (out of 6 pumps) on during my last visit. A small pavement patio at the front to accommodate the smokers and al fresco drinkers./diners and a couple of silent plasmas usually on Sky Sports News. I haven’t encountered any problems with either customers or staff and it all seems quite well managed and civilised on my visits which are becoming more regular as we have found the place to be a handy stop off on our way to/from Spurs games. A slightly above average ‘Spoons from my experiences but a bit too formulaic to warrant going out of the way for.

7 Nov 2008 12:52

The Anchor and Hope, Waterloo

Primarily a Gastropub but unlike some, it still reserves about half the pub for the drinkers. The interior is rather dull and bleak with minimal lighting, bare floors and simple furnishings and comes over as an almost continental style bar with its floor to ceiling windows that fully open to the street. The dining area to the left of the bar is hidden behind a wall and curtain but peeking through it seemed as dingy as the drinking side. The small tables make it more suited for small parties and couples rather than large groups. 3 Ales available - Summer Lightning, Bombardier and Youngs with prices around the £3 a pint mark, about average for a pub around these parts. Despite being obviously popular (it was packed on my visit) it doesn’t really possess any general appeal and is certainly more aimed at the restaurant crowds. For a drinkers only aspect, it is perhapos worth a quick pint out of curiosity than somewhere to while away an evening.

31 Oct 2008 15:48

The Alexandra Hotel, Derby

Built in 1871, this hotel was primarily built to accommodate travelers arriving at the nearby Midland Railway Station. The emphasis has now shifted from beds to beers as this is one of the great Derby Ale trail pubs. Being way down the list on a quite hefty pub crawl, fine details such as the number of hand pumps or the contents are lost in a haze of drunken thoughts and a mass of unreadable scrawls on the reverse of beermats, suffice to say there is a terrific selection and the beers were probably in better condition than I was. The building itself lacked any real character although rail enthusiasts will be undoubtedly creaming themselves over the railway artifacts, old photos and locomotive plates. There is a small beer garden but with minimal seating (but then it was getting pretty chilly at night). For a Friday night it was woefully empty meaning a fairly laid back, relaxed if rather subdued ambience. Despite the number of ales, I’m not sure I could spend a whole night here, especially given the other pubs in the vicinity but it nevertheless is one of the major players with the Derby Beer Tourists and is worth seeking out.

31 Oct 2008 15:29

O'Neills, Sutton

I wouldn’t normally even bother with an O’Neills but since a friends band were playing in here, I felt obliged to spend the best part of an evening here. I can’t say I was particularly taken in by the place although I have been in far worse town centre pubs on a Saturday night. The lack of Ales was half expected and the loud, brash crowds equally so. The front bar was particularly busy whereas service was easier to the rear of the pub although is a bottleneck where the stairs take you up a level. Some of the décor, notably the dodgy stonework, looks like a cheap DIY B&Q job. All in all, nothing here to get terribly excited about if you have high expectations but that could pretty much sum up Sutton in General. Band were good though!

31 Oct 2008 13:39

The Prince of Wales, Kensington

For some reason, I rarely ventured into the P.O.W. despite working 20 yards away from it. My memories were therefore quite cloudy when I revisited it recently after an approximate 15 year absence. The attractive entrance gives the impression that the pub is tiny but it does open up into a larger wedge shaped interior with the bar running down one side. In a nutshell, the pub is a fairly ordinary place but with a good (but pretty safe) beer count. Bombardier, Pride, Spitfire, Pedigree, Landlord and Youngs all available and prices weren’t as bad as one would expect in this area. Unlike the previous poster, I found the lighting suitably subdued (maybe the staff read Bite) but the lack of any windows does detract. There is a screened off area to the rear for a bit of intimacy and the décor is safe enough with a few nice touches like the personalised mirror behind the bar and a few old photos of the area but there isn’t a great deal that particularly stands out. The music is unobtrusive and there is a decent enough plasma TV and the usual assortment of Quiz / fruit machines. I would rank it as slightly above average and it is worth a visit if in the area but ultimately it just lacks any real character.

29 Oct 2008 23:46

Jorrocks, Derby

Formerly the George, a large Coaching Inn, this is one of the most historic pubs in Derby but, for me, one of the most disappointing. The history is depicted on a placque outside but any past glories have been left firmly on the pavement. The modern, bland and souless interior comes as quite a shock and it also has one of the most dull beer selections in town. 6 hand pumps with Pride, Pedigree and Bombardier (which was off) being doubled up across them, a choice that is almost an embarrassment in a city with such a reputation of Real Ales. On the plus side, the barman was top notch, spotting that my Pride was about to go and refusing to serve it until the barrel was changed (bringing the fresh pint over to our table). He deserves a better pub than this. The multiple TV’s I can handle at certain times, the darts area to the rear probably a plus point but the signs for Karaoke 3 times a week would probably make the numerous resident ghosts look elsewhere for a pint. One of the major curiosities is the skull unearthed during restoration that is on display but even this is barely visible high up over the rear of the bar. Admire the exterior and move on.

29 Oct 2008 23:44

The Goat Tavern, Kensington

For a while I was a frequent visitor here when I worked in the area but it has certainly taken a turn for the worse in the 10 years since I left if my 2 recent visits are anything to go by. The pub has a history going back 300 years but the current building, one of the first Watney houses, dates from 1879 according to the detailed history on the wall near the front door. The long and narrow interior has sadly swallowed up the old wine and spirit section that used to be to the left of the main entrance. The pub does become more spacious the further you go in but it does feel very closed in. From the smell of vinegar you just know that this is going to full of tourists eating fish & chips and from the wealth of uncleared tables you have little option than observing the leftovers. 4 hand pumps (Pride, Bombardier, Wadworths 6X + 1 redundant) but on my recent visits it has been hit and miss as to what is available. There is also a strange pricing policy with the 6X priced at a bizarre £3.03! The plasma screen is not particularly accessible and the whole place seems badly run and fake. A disappointing return to what was a regular haunt.

29 Oct 2008 23:43

Furnace Inn, Derby

The sign outside informed us that there is new management so that rather negated much of the previous comments regarding the welcoming landlord (although the chap who served us was certainly amiable enough). Despite being in a slightly run down estate (the buildings next door are all boarded up), the Furnace does not give out any unpleasant vibes and the interior is neat, tidy and as comfortable as a 20th Century Mock Tudor pub could be. We overheard that the pub had been closed so I would guess at the spotless seat covers and fresh looking carpet that it has had a bit of a recent overhaul. As a Green King pub, it is not an obvious choice for those doing an Ale Trail but, as the previous poster has mentioned, they do have XX Mild which is a bit of a GK rarity. Old Speckled Hen and Hanson & Hardy Kimberley Ale were the other 2 on offer. An interesting and not so old photo on the wall depicts a Kimberly Ales sign on the pub. It is very much a locals pub with a dart board (and decent number of trophies), TV and all the obvious necessities and whilst it was a quiet afternoon on my visit, I would feel quite comfortable here in a busy evening although I wouldn’t particularly claim it to a high priority pub on a Derby visit.

29 Oct 2008 23:41

The Flowerpot, Derby

In Venice, they say all streets lead to St Marks Square. In Derby, any mention of beer leads to the Flowerpot. With an uncountable number of ales on offer, it is not hard to see how the pub gets its reputation as the No 1 Ale pub in Derby and probably the UK. It initially appears to be a fairly small pub but it opens up to the rear and is deceptively spacious. That said, it is also fairly plain and featureless and without the ales or the almost equally impressive adjoining music venue, it would be a fairly mundane run of the mill place. Music posters and listings dominate the walls but there are some interesting oddments among them including a display of old classic adverts (Pears Soap, Marmalade, Corn Flower etc), bottle collections and the 1914/15 Derby County fixture list that throws up some interesting forthcoming matches against the likes of Glossop and Leicester Fosse. Note also the old photos of the pub that show it named as the New Flower Pot. The stillage bar reveals numerous casks racked up behind a glass screen with a spaghetti like mass of tubes leading to the numerous beer taps. In contrast, at the end of the bar sits an old Watneys Red Barrel pump. It really is possible to spend an entire weekend here and not have the same beer twice although we did intend to have a lunch here but found the food selction was a little basic and disappointing. As a number crunching alehouse, the Flowerpot is second to none but don’t expect a building of any significant character.

29 Oct 2008 23:39

The Fat Cat, Sheffield

Not as large or as user friendly as its sister pub in Norwich but the Sheffield version probably has more of its original pub atmosphere and traditional layout. The main bar is to the right of the mosaic floor lobby and the first thing that strikes you is the size of the bar itself. In a space little more than the size of a couple of phone boxes, 12 hand pumps are cramped together with a further rank of pumps at the back. The selection and quality of the beers is well documented and I can only endorse previous positive comments and recommend that an entire evening is put aside to explore the various offerings. The carpeted main bar is quite plain with a tiled fireplace upon which a blackboard will steer you through the availability and special offers. Old pictures and brewery mirrors adorn the walls but do not intrude. The ambience is relaxed with no obvious music or TVs to distract conversation. There is a separate lounge bar with an open fire, a further collection of brewery mirrors and upholstered seating. A corridor runs between this and the bar with its own small service area, a history of the pub, a mass of well deserved certificates and the story of Workhouse Mary, the pubs resident ghost. At the rear is a small but pleasant enough beer garden with bench seats and the grim surroundings for the most part hidden behind a high fence. Whilst I personally prefer the Norwich outlet, the Sheffield Fat Cat is a top notch pub worthy of the effort to find in the back streets and with the Kelham Island Tavern 100 yards away, this must be one of the beer hot spots of Britain.

29 Oct 2008 23:37

The Falstaff, Derby

I am always sceptical when I read reports of how chatty the locals are but within seconds of entering the Falstaff we were deep in conversation about the merits of Wembley Stadium. How such a subject was reached in such a short space between the front door and the bar between complete strangers rather escapes me but to feel like a local before I even have a pint in my hand is testament to the fine efforts that have been made in this wonderful pub. One of Derby’s growing band of Brewpubs (they have been brewing Falstaff beers here since 2003) it is situated a fair but not too demanding walk from the City centre and is not generally included on the official City Ale trails. The 4 ales available were all home brewed - Smiling Assassin, Fistful Of Hops, Phoenix and Cassandra of which I tried the first 2 (we were only supposed to be popping in for one after all!).The main bar is small and basic with built in seats and plenty of bric a brac. Before passing into the larger rear bar, check out the lobby dedicated to the pub’s infamous paranormal activity with its interesting but rather spooky ghost stories and photos of orbs and unexplained misty objects floating around. The rear bar has an equally basic approach, suitably worn and weathered with more built in wooden seating, bare floors, an absorbing collection of wood carvings, barometers and a chimney brest plastered in beer stickers. Beyond is a games room with pool table (oh, for it to have been bar billiards instead, or even just darts), some interesting Guiness cartoons and other collectables (the display of beer clip pin badges is particularly worthy of note). The corridor to the loos is festooned with old signs and adverts although the loos themselves it must be said are in need of a good overhaul. The second Bar appeared to be rather cluttered and in the process of having work being done on it so it was little more than a quick glance although it appeared to be a cross between Arkwrights and Steptoe & Sons for all the artifacts and collectables. Outside is a small but quirky beer garden. A very approachable and knowledgeable landlord sealed what is almost the pefect pub, just slightly let down by the poor state of the toilets and the not quite functioning second bar, something I have no doubt will be put right in due course. An absolute must visit pub on any Derby visit.

29 Oct 2008 23:34

The Exeter Arms, Derby

A short walk over the bridge from the City centre this relatively unspoilt pub dates from the early 19th century. The interior has an interesting multi room layout albeit the lighting was far too bright and the atmosphere a bit subdued and sanitized with safe radio feed and not many punters for a Friday night. Until 1970 they used to brew their own beers but sadly no longer although the 6 Ales, including a mild, are enough to justify a visit. Some interesting features inside including some nice built in seating, a fine fireplace and range in the tiled Snug bar and an old signing on clock. An interesting mix of old pictures, maps, modern art and cinema posters although some of the décor is slightly let down by the presence of cheap signs. Worth the effort to visit but you would probably do so in conjunction with some of the other pubs in the locality rather than spend a whole evening here.

29 Oct 2008 23:33

The Elephant and Castle, Kensington

This small but quite picturesque corner pub in a back street but seems a mile away from the hustle & bustle of the nearby High Street and it was proabbaly my most visited Kenny pub when I spent 10 years working in the area. Recently had my first visit for several years and little seems to have changed apart from the fact that the old regular chatty and welcoming bar staff appear to have turned into an automaton barmaid incapable of speech or smile facilities. The interior is cosy but quite basic and simply furnished with panelled windows and a traditional style bar frame. To the rear is a small, dark paneled section containing reproduction Daily Mail / Evening Standard front pages of some of the more monumental days in history (the Associated Newspapers are based just off the High Street). There is some outside seating to the front and rear but the residents apparently get a bit narked if the customers spill on to the pavement. 4 Ales - Landlord, Badger, Pride and Broadside at what for Kensington, are reasonably priced. All my memories remained thankfully intact, but a point deducted for the dreary barmaid. A smile and a hello makes all the difference!

29 Oct 2008 23:31

The Builders Arms, Kensington

Another traditional old Victorian corner pub given a trendy makeover to attract the more upmarket clientele but won’t appeal to traditionalists. Not my sort of place but it certainly does have a few merits. Aside from the 3 Ales available (Pride Broadside & Tribute) there was a surprisingly good selection of lagers and draught beers (Sierra Nevada, Kiri Ichibvar, Fruili, Peroni etc). Prices are not particularly cheap as one would expect. The main bar is a single, high ceiling room with a sofa area in the middle and rather stripped back furnishings, large plants and plain picture windows. Overall it is a bit featureless and certainly not particularly cosy or intimate. There is a small 2 table anti room to one side of the bar away from the masses and a further bar upstairs (closed for a private function). There is also seating outside with patio heaters. A glance at the menu revealed that the food was not as expensive as one would expect in such a place with main dishes in the £7-9 price range. The Sunday evening movie nights are an unusual idea. Not a place I would make a specific journey to but that is more a matter of personal taste than anything particularly untoward about the pub and the place was packed to the rafters during my visit so it certainly does have its admirers. Not exactly a place you would stumble across by accident either.

29 Oct 2008 23:30

The Babington Arms, Derby

On the face of it, the Babington is just another of the bog standard plastic Wetherspoons, a rather dull and uninteresting former furniture showroom of little visual merit. The low ceilings, large open floor and standard Spoons livery including the ubiquitous bookcases, sofa area and historical snippets would ordinarily lead me to have a quick sample of the guest beers before moving on. Of course, having a quick sample in the Babbington is a major problem. The staggering line up of hand pumps (18 in all) dispense mostly guest beers with the 2 or 3 regular ’Spoons stalwarts (Pedigree, Abbot etc) pushed to one end and almost hidden from view as an embarrassment to the rest of the selection on offer. Just choosing what to have is a major dilemma but the choice does at least make up for any aesthetic disappointments. To make things a little easier, an electronic screen displays all the beers available along with additional information and ordering should be done by pump number rather than ale name. It is a shame that such a range is wasted in such a bland pub as no matter how spectacular the beer range is, it really needs the surroundings to compliment them and, to be honest, I would gladly trade an 18 ale souless plastic pub like the Babbington for one with more character and just half a dozen decent ales. Top marks must go for the effort on the Ale front and it must be considered a vital stop on any Derby Ale session but it is not a place I could spend any length of time, no matter how many treats they aim at me.

29 Oct 2008 23:27

The Griffin, Shoreditch

The Griffin is a place that needs to be experienced to be believed. It sits among a block of buildings that are at best, long past their prime and the tiled exterior of the pub (note the old Meux brewery lettering) seems to stand out all the more for it. The interior has been knocked through into one long bar and to call it tatty and battered is an understatement. How it appears to have escaped even the merest lick of fresh paint or new carpet for what must be decades is beyond comprehension. The run down appearance is actually part of its charm and appeal and whilst the interior designers have been busy elsewhere in the area, the Griffin has managed to stay as a genuine no nonsense pub. The carpet in the pool/darts area little more than the original underlay with a few tufts and the feeling as your chair legs sink in is only matched by the bizarre ritual of pulling them back out. Whilst you do so, notice the London Pub Crawl poster and I defy you not to mentally tick them off. The customer base is a very mixed bunch from a variety of backgrounds but no matter how different everyone appears to be, everyone seems to blend together harmoniously. The Jukebox mentioned in an earlier post was certainly on form when I was there as it spewed out selections from the likes of the Clash / Dylan / Tubes / Richard Hell – so much more to my taste than the drum & bass / club rubbish that seems to blight so many pubs. The 3 Ales were all available on my visit – Deuchars, Pride and Speckled Hen, a bit pricey but tasted fine. The smoking ban probably detracts from the pub’s ambience but there are a few seats outside under blinds for the banished souls. In a nutshell, the Griffin is well worth seeking out for the experience but I wouldn’t recommend it to impress someone on a first date.

29 Oct 2008 23:23

The Moon on the Hill, Sutton

A spacious but has a rather formulaic Wetherspoons with all the usual characteristics however I can only underline pretty much everything that has been mentioned before (and I am usually the first person to defend Wetherspoons). The bar smelt like the world spewing championships had been held there during the afternoon, trying to find a table not piled up with dirty dishes was nigh on impossible, only 1 guest beer (which wasn’t up to the usual high Wetherspoons quality) and a generally down market crowd made this one of the most unappealing Wetherspoons I have encountered. I thought I may have just called on an off day but having read the previous postings, it is clear that the problems are an intrinsic part of the pub and not a good advert for the management. This is one of the worst examples of a Wetherspoons and the sort of place that gives the chain a bad name.

27 Oct 2008 13:07

Rodboro Buildings, Guildford

Despite being labeled a Lloyds 01 from the outside, the Rodboro appears to have more in common with a normal Wetherspoons (the 300th ‘Spoons to be opened so the sign proudly proclaims). The building was once the factory for Dennis Brothers who made specialist vehicles (Coaches, Fire Engines etc) and the building was the first purpose built vehicle factory in Britain. Whilst not particularly appealing from the outside, the vast split level interior has many interesting aspects with the main bar partly situated in what was originally an open courtyard, now glazed over. It may be quite cavernous inside but there are plenty of pillars and posts to break up the open spaces. The sunken corner sofa lounge will appeal to those who prefer to sink into luxurious leather. They generally have 4 standard ‘Spoon’s Ales + 2 guests - quality is fine but staff need to pay more attention in the short measure department. They can also be very slow at clearing tables and the food service can also be particularly sluggish, even when they are not particularly busy. Upstairs is a separate balcony bar albeit there is less choice on the ale front than the main bar. The Rodboro is certainly one of the more interesting and unusual Wetherspoons but is slightly let down at times by the inefficient staffing.

15 Oct 2008 14:07

The Rose And Crown, Dartford

A traditional, no nonsense local’s boozer a short walk off the town centre towards the Grammar School. It looks a bit rough, ready and frayed around the edges but generally offers a friendly enough welcome. The U-shaped interior is a bit dated and old fashioned and the pub in general is quite badly laid out with the main bar seating often sacrificed to accommodate either a pool table or a darts oche. Most people seem content to congregate at the bar itself. Whilst the décor is rather dated, there are a few interesting points of note namely a few personalized etched windows and an unusual tiled bar surface. Various football pennants dotted about (the pub does have Millwall leanings but football fans of all persuasions will get a decent enough welcome) and sport often shown on the big Screen or the well positioned plasma screen. Weekend evening entertainment can be a bit loud. This isn’t the sort of pub that would expect to find any Ales but there are 3 hand pumps with London Pride, Greene King IPA and a guest beer (Everards Equinox last couple of visits) although more often than not, at least one will not be available. Quality can be variable but prices are reasonable. The pub is handy for Mick Jagger Centre and, whilst not many people will count it among their favourites, it does at least feel like a real pub unlike the trendy, all funky, modernized Oddfellows opposite.

13 Oct 2008 21:07

The Fox and Hounds, Romney Street

A fairly attractive but typical country pub, tucked away in the lanes and not one you would come across unless you knew where you were going. A good mix between dining and drinking but, whilst the pub is pleasant enough and does put on some appealing events (beer festivals, music events, fireworks evenings etc), it doesn’t really posess any great intrinsic wow factor to distinguish it from other pubs of its ilk. The long and narrow carpeted interior is much altered but retains an element of rustic exposed brickwork and beamed tongue & groove ceilings but ultimately the place does have a slightly contrived feel to it. The animal carvings on the bar front are worth noting (although the locals were previously oblivious to them when we pointed them out). It was quite popular on the late Sunday afternoon we visited but we managed to get a table for 4 of us without too much of a problem and enjoyed a decent quality light meal at reasonable cost. Of the beers Harveys was fine and the Biddenden Bushells Cider made a pleasant change from the more widespread ciders. There is a Plasma TV in one corner and pool table at one end as well as that rarity of pub entertainment, a Piano. The spacious and well kept beer garden is worthy of a sunny afternoon session and I would certainly return again for one of the events, even if the place does put the SatNav through its paces.

10 Oct 2008 11:01

The Lord Derby, Plumstead

Went past it last night on the bus - the shutters are off and the front door once again open!

8 Oct 2008 14:12

The Green Man, Bank

A rather soulless and characterless Wetherspoons set in an obscure underground shopping mall. The windowless interior and low ceilings make it feel rather dingy and claustrophobic despite the open plan layout. All the usual Wetherspoons features are present in the beer and food department but not a lot else. Tim Martin has publicly defended his chain against those who describe his pubs merely as “cheap places to get pissed” but to be frank, the Green Man is little else, although the higher than norman 'Spoon prices mean that it only just qualifies for that particular accolade.

8 Oct 2008 14:10

The Lord Derby, Plumstead

A friend tells me The Pub is now open again but I haven't been there myself to confirm it.

7 Oct 2008 14:11

The Westminster Arms, Westminster

Despite this being the closest pub to my office, I have steered clear in recent years as it was always far pricier than its competitors however, with the rain pouring and this being the only place within reach without taking a good soaking, I made my first visit here for about 2 years. It always had a decent selection of ales and guest beers so I was somewhat surprised to see 7 Shepherd Neame pumps lined up with pretty much the full range on show (Spitfire, Kent’s Best, Bishops Finger, Master Brew, Late Red and 2 pumps with the new Canterbury Jack). My second surprise was that a pint of Canterbury Jack was £2.90 which is in real terms is cheaper than when I last visited and certainly no more expensive than many other pubs in the area. The pub itself has changed very little. The single room main bar is simply furnished with very few seats, mainly tall stools and ledges. The high ceiling and light coloured walls give the bar a spacious, airy feel although it is not actually that big. There is a plasma screen at the rear, usually with Sky News but they do show footy on occasions. There are a couple of wall cabinets with books and musical instruments and a wonderful large Westminster Arms patterned mirror to break up the plainness. Being so close to the Palace of Westminster, it is popular with politicians (a division bell soon gets them scurrying off) and it also gets its share of inquisitive tourists until they realize there is nowhere to sit apart from the 2 or 3 tables outside on the pavement. Downstairs is Storey’s Wine Bar (never been in) and upstairs is the Queen Anne Dining Room (also never been in). The staff can be a bit oddball, especially the crazy Frenchman who comes over as someone out of ‘Allo ‘Allo. He may appear to be incredibly rude but behind the façade is a quite a charismatic barman and he has pretty much been part of the fixtures and fittings here for many years. I always liked the Westminster Arms apart from the prices so I’m glad to have it back on my radar.

30 Sep 2008 15:26

The White Horse and Bower, Westminster

A neat and tidy but rather faceless Shepherd Neame corner pub a few doors down from the Barley Mow and sufficiently far enough away from the general touristy area of Westminster to retain a local’s ambience. The interior is 2 rooms knocked through and the décor rather plain and unfussy with plenty of pictures and murals that ultimately fail to diguise the feeling of bare space that seems to eminate from within. 4 Ales from the Shep Neame range – Spitfire, Kents Best, Master Brew and my first sighting of the brewery’s new Canterbury Jack ale. Customer base is generally fairly civilised and the piped music rather bland and just about audible. A well positioned plasma screen is situated on the rear wall and there is a paper rack if you have struggled to find the elusive Lite / London Paper distributer. Not unlike its near neighbour, there is nothing special to draw you to the place but it is fine for a relatively peaceful, quick, couple of pints.

26 Sep 2008 14:08

The Barley Mow, Westminster

A fairly sizeable late Victorian corner pub situated away from the more touristy areas of Westminster. The spacious interior has a few partitions and raised areas but still seems quite open and cavernous. One corner is devoted to tub seats and sofas whereas the rest is of a more traditional pub style. A good number of Ales (HBB, Pedigree, Bombardier, Spitfire Deuchars and Youngs) of decent enough quality and reasonably priced for the area. It can get busy with large groups of office workers who can get quite vociferous. Well positioned plasma screen and a few fruit / quiz machines and I am sure they once also had an upright piano for those Knees Up Mother Brown moments but I didn’t recall seeing it on my recent visit. There is an upstairs dining / function room and outside seating but basically, this is a no thrills, no nonsense, does what it says on the tin kind of pub and whilst it lacks any great draw, it just about merits its slightly above average rating for its number of Ales. Apart from that,it’s not really a place to go out of the way for.

26 Sep 2008 13:50

The The Old Monk Exchange, Westminster

I have popped in a couple of times this week thanks to the lure of the advertised beer festival. Having 50 Ales is one thing but only having 4 on at any one time seems a bit frustrating to anyone wanting to sample a decent range and selection over the course of an evening. A beer list would have been useful to see what was on, what was coming up and what we had missed (the ones I noted ranged from some previous unheard of to others that are fairly regular as guest ales in many pubs). Whilst the lunchtimes were relatively peaceful, the evening crowds made it hard to see the tasting notes and the majority of people didn’t actually appear to be taking much notice of the Ales. The noise in the evening session was unbearable with office groups trying to outshout a DJ (and this was only 6.30pm) so instead of lingering over what was available and hoping a couple would run out and be replaced, we bid a relatively hasty retreat. Today is the last day although I suspect there will be a few barrels that may spill over into the weekend and whilst it’s good that they have made the effort, as beer festivals go, it’s not really worth making a specific effort to go unless you combine the trip with a few other local pubs which is what we ended up doing.

26 Sep 2008 10:47

Eric Bartholomew, Morecambe

For the benefit of the youngsters, this Wetherspoons is named in honour of the town’s greatest star, Eric Morecambe of Morecambe & Wise fame (Bartholomew being his real name). The pub is a ubiquitous, run of the mill, modern style Wetherspoons with a typically plastic and fairly gloomy interior. The low ceiling makes it a bit claustrahobic and the atmosphere is rather subdued. Like many Wetherspoons, its main draws are the cheap prices and Ale selection – 3 guests on my visit (Bryson Hurricane, Archers IPA, Cheeky Pheasant) plus a couple of standards (Pedigree and Abbott). The forthcoming ales are shown on a blackboard by the bar. There is further seating upstairs which is a bit brighter and offers panoramic views of Barclays Bank. A few old prints of the town adorn the walls but pride of place is taken by a copper & steel sculpture of Eric & Ernie in the stairwell. I don’t know Morecambe very well but there did not appear to be a great deal reasonable competition in the area and for that reason alone, the Eric Bartholomew is worth noting.

24 Sep 2008 16:28

The Duchess of Kent, Barnsbury

I had arranged to meet MrsB here prior to a match at the Emirates without actually doing any research or knowing much about it so it was a bit of a gamble. I was initially a bit wary once I realized I had managed to pick a Gastropub where two thirds of the pub were designated for diners but I was lucky in bagging one of the few tables in the drinking area. The décor is fairly plain and furnishings are of a laid back, loungey nature with lots of stripped back wood and trendy modern pictures. The beers were fairly expensive but of decent quality (Adnams / Pride / Doom Bar) although to be fair they charged nothing for my wife’s Soda and Lime. I would have been tempted to try something from the BBQ out the front had it not been puring with rain. I can’t say it is the sort of place I would have picked by choice for a meet up but for what it was, it was a pleasant enough hour or so with the babble of conversation fortunately drowning out much of the challenging style of music. It certainly won’t appeal to everyone but it was friendly enough, not too packed, had decent beers and ticked the boxes for what we needed at the time, That said, I doubt I would feel the need to rush back.

23 Sep 2008 15:48

The City Pride, Isle of Dogs

Having read that its days are numbered, I made a point of visiting what I hoped would be one of the last traditional old style pubs left in Docklands. It looks like I was already a few years too late. The City Pride is pretty much the template on the sort of pubs that leaves me sobbing into the bottom of my pint glass. The characterless and faceless interior has undergone a typical modern refurbishment that leaves lttle of interest or focus. The beer selection was starndard and the only Ale (Tetleys) was off. Prices are high (Guiness £3.60) and served by disinterested euru-staff. There are a couple of raised sections and plenty of pillars to find a tucked away table but ultimately, the ambience is sterile and contrived. The plasma screen was tuned to Kiss FM and supplied an endless diet of dull music. On the plus side, there is a decent enough large beer patio to the rear with several picnic tables although the views of the surrounding towers is not particularly picturesque. I dare say there is an appeal here for some people but the place did little for me and it was not the traditional boozer I was hoping to find. Whilst I rue the demise of another pub, it is not somewhere I would hurry back to whilst it is still around.

23 Sep 2008 12:03

The Ledger Building, Canary Wharf

On the contrary to the previous posting, I find the Ledger Building a far cry from a typical Wetherspoons. It is actually a Lloyds No 1 bar although it does have the more expansive range associated with Wetherspoons and the menus are also the normal Wetherspoons. The interior is hardly the usual plastic, pub by numbers that I normally associate with the chain. Having been disused for 20 years, the building underwent a major restoration and refurbished that has resulted in a tastefully modern bar that fortunately doesn’t take the gloss off the building's character or heritage although it may not be done out to everyone’s taste. The rather grand entrance is flanked by 4 large columns and this leads leads to a flag stoned corridor. Off to the right, the barn like main bar is long and cavernous with the ceiling held up by modern wooden frames and a long narrow skylight at the rear. There is plenty of seating although it can get packed towards the end of the week. On the other side of the corridor are 3 interconnected rooms of fairly equal size that offer something a bit more sedate away from the crowds although some of the colour schemes on the fairly bare walls are rather dull to say the least. These rooms can be individually or collectively sealed off and used for functions or private parties. The central room also has a small outdoor patio. The Ale selection is above average with 5 guest beers supplementing the 5 more standard ones. Prices are the highest ‘Spoons prices I have come across with guest beers at £2.50 but, not being part of the multi-million pound bonus brigade, this is still bargain territory to me compared to what is on offer in the rest of Docklands. The service can certainly be improved with the zombie like staff eminating an alsmost Beckhamesque personality. Twice I had to correct them when they started to pull the wrong pint and I’m not sure that dishing up a guest beer in a Pride glass would be a hit with the Cask Marque guys either. The toilets downstairs are worthy of exploration, even having a small lounge outside if you are the type who feels the need to linger around public conveniences. Overall, there is little in the way of bars or pubs in Docklands that appeal to me and I like the Ledger because it does have a different ambience and feel to the usual ‘Spoons and is probably the only place in Docklands I would feel comfortable having anything other than a quick pint.

23 Sep 2008 11:25

The Pickwick, Charlton

Ever since we started to boycott the nearby Rose of Denmark for slamming their door in our faces after a Charlton game a couple of years back, we have occasionally found refuge in the Pickwick. In an area of relatively poor pubs, one could be forgiven for giving the Pickwick a wide berth. The rather cavernous interior has been knocked into 1 large room with high ceilings propped up by a couple of large pillars but little in the way of aesthetic value. Whilst it is very much a rough and ready local’s pub, it has always been very accommodating to our small group and when the other pubs are packed, the Pickwick is a welcome relief from the crowds. The Big Screen & well postioned plasmas are perfect for catching up with the post match results and stories. A pool table dominates one end (they appear to run a pretty successful pool team) and there is a raised darts area in one corner plus the usual run of quiz and fruit machines dotted about. The drinks are fairly mainstream and, sadly, the only mention of a Real Ale is on the Courage Best mirror although it must be said, this is not a great area for Ale drinkers to start with. To be honest, apart from its welcoming nature, there isn’t a lot here to lure one off the beaten path but the place has been accommodating to us on many occasions where other local pubs have let us down and that is a very big plus point.

22 Sep 2008 16:17

The Anchor, Southwark

This rambling historic pub is easy to knock having sold out its historic soul to the tourism trade. Whilst the story of Samuel Pepys sitting here in 1666 while the City burned is an often quoted story, any resemblance to the Anchor of Pepys day and the current pub is purely geographical. The pub’s history tends to deviate depending on where you get your info, suffice to say that the original Anchor was part of a large brewery on the site of the current pub and was at some time itself destroyed by a fire. The current pub is probably no older than late 18th / early 19th century. Sadly, its recent history is one of numerous changes, extensions and refurbishments that have ultimately destroyed most of the intrinsic charm that it undoubtably once had. The riverside location is probably now its best feature, the beer terrace on the riverside being a pleasant spot but is naturally heaving on anything that resembles a sunny day. Whilst the pub looks the part from the outside, there is little of any merit to see inside. The large bar on the extended right hand side could easily have bene transplanted from any of the major chain pubs, very plastic, generic and as far removed from an old riverside tavern as you couild imagine. The central Clink Bar, named after the nearby prison that itself is liitle more than a geographical remnant, is also rather featureless with just a couple of photos of some prison cells to justify the bar’s name (puns about prisons and bars are purely unintentional). The steps behind lead up to the false wooden ceiling and the fish and chip shop. When I was previously here (not that long ago) I sat in what was called the Servery Bar. Situated in what was the most unspoilt part of the pub, it was a place where I found a bit of seclusion away from the melee of the main bars. Upon my return this week I find that it is now Dr Johnson’s Tea Room and Coffee Shop which leads me to think that the pub is gradually being converted to a tourist visitor complex. The disjointed interior is completed by one small room between the Coffee House and stairs to the chippy which does not appear to be named but is now probably the only bit that has any character with its old brick fireplace and fading portraits. Upstairs is a separate bar with a roof terrace offering better views across the river than Pepys would have experienced.

As for the beers, 3 Ales on offer, 2 standard and a guest (London Pride, Green King IPA and Morrisey Fox Blonde Ale) and I have always found the quality to be fairly decent. Naturally I opted for the Blonde (don’t tell the Mrs) which at £3.25 was a bit steep but not unexpected. I have never had a problem with service although I have always been here during non-peak times and staff have always been pleasant enough. For all its faults, and it is easy to be cynical about the place, it is not necessarily a bad place for a quick pint if you pick the right time and can see through the pretence, but it certainly is not worthy of the historical interest that is sometimes heaped on it by the guide books.

20 Sep 2008 10:10

The The Old Monk Exchange, Westminster

They are currently advertising another Beer Festival 22-26 September - 50 Real Ales. Shame no-one commented after the last one but I will assume it was a success for them to be repeating it.

18 Sep 2008 14:53

The Ferryboat Inn, Tottenham Hale

The Tottenham area isn’t noted for its quaint historic waterside hostelries so finding the Ferry Boat Inn initially comes as a bit of a pleasant shock. Originally the base for a ferry that crossed the River Lea (which was presumably a bit wider than it is now) it was made into a pub in 1738. From the outside, it has the appearance of a country dining pub but it is geared as much for comfortable drinking as it is for leisurely dining. The rambling interior has undergone fairly extensive refurbishments but does at least still retain a kind of old farmhouse style with flag stoned floors and a couple of large brick wood burning fireplaces. The central main bar is quite open with a couple of narrower but good sized areas tucked down the sides of the pub, tucked away behind the remnants of the retaining walls. The décor is of a rustic nature without being particularly interesting, a few settles and old dressers, some old pictures of the Tottenham area (including one of an 1895 Tottenham Hotspurs (sic) match) but overall it is a bit generic. Behind the pub is a pleasant and fairly large beer garden that runs alongside the River Lea with plenty of seating.

There were 3 Ales on my visit but nothing to get excited about - Green King IPA, Adnams and Bombardier (not available). The Adnams was drinkable but so cloudy it looked like it had been scooped out of the adjoining reservoir which was disappointing for a Cask Marquee accredited pub. The IPA was much better (and I don’t often put that in a review). Since the area is largely a Real Ale desert, anything on offer becomes a plus point but you can’t help thinking that the place should be aiming at something a little more imaginative if it really wants to step up a level. It should be noted that the wine list and food menu looked very reasonable although I have not tried either to date.

Due to the lack of any realistic competition, the Ferry Boat is certainly well above average for the area and does have a lot of appeal but it just lacks that bit of extra detail and effort that would make it a pub to go out of the way for.

16 Sep 2008 13:51

The Buckingham Arms, Westminster

Originally called the Black Horse, the pub was renamed when the current building was built in 1901. Today the pub is a Youngs house and noted for being one of the few pubs that has featured in every edition of the Good Beer Guide since its inception. The interior has recently been refurbished and, in my books (and many others looking at the previous posters), the pub has definitely lost some its previous character. The carpets have been ripped up and replaced with a shiny new bare wooden floor, the walls painted a plain cream with numerous quotes from the likes of Oscar Wilde & Samuel Johnson (nothing original in this) and pictures / photos of local London landmarks. At the rear the tables seem to have grown an extra 18 inches in height and attracted some high padded benches to go alongside them. Much of the old pots, pans, tankards, jugs and urns have disappeared which would no doubt please the cleaner. The basic TV has been upgraded to a fancy new flat screen although this isn’t really a TV kind of place. On the plus side, the piped music was pretty sedate on my recent visits and certainly not loud or intrusive. The spacious open bar remains with its wonderful patterned mirror back and the ornate seating in the latticed bay windows are almost stately homish. Most importantly, the beers (Ordinary, Special and Bombardier) are still fine although a bit limited in choice and they seem to have taken an inflation busting leap in price along with the food. The ambience has always been very civilized (despite it being the haunt of many politicians) but the place has been virtually empty on my 2 recent lunchtime visits. The most interesting feature is at least untouched - the hidden corridor that runs behind the bar where some of the more secretive drinkers have shied away from prying eyes over the years. Despite its obvious partial demise, to call it ruined is perhaps going a little too far and I would still recommend it as one of the better pubs in the area, especially if you didn't know it pre-refurb.

12 Sep 2008 12:49

The Red Lion, Westminster

Dubbed the Prime Minister’s Local due to its close proximity to Downing Street, the Red Lion naturally has a Parliamentray flavour with many politicians present, either in person or adorning the walls in picture form. The classic Victorian exterior is bedecked with flower baskets and is quite an enticing sight. The interior is 1 long, narrow room but divided by a wooden screen. There are planty of ornate traditional features, notably the burgundy moulded ceiling, dark wood paneling, bar frame and patterned windows but overall it seems quite basic with bare floors and none of the soft furnishings that blight such places. There is indeed little in the way of tables, just a couple of high tables at the very front and rear with the rest of the pub being stools along a ledge or standing at the bar. At one end is a small food bar above which are several shields. There is a further dining room upstairs and a cellar bar but I never venture to either. If the weather is OK, there are some seats outside under pull down blinds but it is a busy and noisy road so don’t expect peace and quiet. Naturally, being in a tourist hot spot, it can get busy, especially lunctimes, but I have always been served promptly. There are generally up to 6 Ales available - Pride, Bombardier, Waggledance, Deuchers, Speckled Hen and Black Sheep on my most recent visit although the selection does not match the displayed price list. Cask Marque accredited and I have never had a problem quality wise although prices are fairly steep but not outrageous with Ales in the £3-£3.25 range. There is a small TV and piped music but it is generally a pub for the babble of conversation and MP spotting.

11 Sep 2008 11:24

The Edmund Tylney, Leatherhead

Wetherspoons are normally fairly placid and peaceful places so to name one after a local man who used to arrange lively jollies for the royal family seems a bit at odds. The spacious interior is the result of the premises covering 2 former buildings but the central staircase doesn’t make it seem as cavernous as it could be. Like most Wetherspoons, it appears in places to be a bit plastic but the inclusion of a false balcony and a few bookcases makes it a bit more homely. There are also the usual interesting snippets regarding locals and visitors of Leatherheads past which for some reason I keep getting drawn to every time I visit a ‘Spoons. Opposite the bar is a raised area centred on a fireplace and a grand, fancy piece of patterned panel ceiling. It is hardly necessary to comment on the beer range suffice to say I had the 2 guest beers and they were excellent even if they were served in the now infamous and annoyingly innapropriate “chill out” glasses. I don’t normally comment on food but since this has been mentioned in previous reviews I will mention that I did eat here and found nothing untoward quality wise although my veggie wife did need to question her supposedly veggie gravy and we were not convinced by the staff’s assurances. As for the customer base, it was a very quiet Sunday Afternoon and apart from 1 nutty woman talking to herself in the corner it all seemed quite respectable although things obviously change in the evenings. Overall, I found it to be a slightly above average ‘Spoons although it obviously has its more lairy moments according to others so pick the right time if planning a visit.

11 Sep 2008 09:58

The Dog and Partridge, Bury St Edmunds

Situated virtually next door to the Greene King brewery, I found this place to be one of the better GK pubs in a town that is littered with them. A decent selection including the elusive St Edmunds Ale (IPA / Abbott / Speckled Hen make up the numbers) although on my initial visit a few months earlier they only had IPA available – inexcusable given that they could lob a few fresh barrels over the fence. It was my quest for the St Edmunds Ale that saw me directed here and it would seem that, at the time, this was the only place in town that stocked it. I tried both the Northern and Southern heads and the difference is very apparent. Apparently the Northern variety is the most popular. As for the pub, the 17th Century building was originally called the Mermaid and the house next door was originally the home of Greene Kings chief brewer. The interior has an unusual layout with a small front bar and a larger, conservatory type bar at the rear. An unusual front passage at the front of the pub leads to a couple of side rooms with pool and decent size plasma screen. There are various small nooks and crannies that are used for rather unimaginative purposes and could really be put to better use. At the rear is a large paved beer garden that backs on to the Brewery. Worth popping in even if you are not particularly a Greene King fan although my visit was before the previous posters mention of it being refurbished.

4 Sep 2008 13:44

The Intrepid Fox, St Giles

The new Intrepid Fox may have the same approach as the same as the old Wardour Street site but the posey modern glass fronted building in the shadow of Centre Point is a far cry from the dingy hole of the original Fox. These days the Fox appears to have become little more than a tourist novelty than the selective back street institution that it once was. The interior is suitably dark and gloomy with minimal lighting and a gradually increasing collection of gargoyles and skulls to give it a pseudo gothic edge. In a nod to the Hard Rock Café, the front of a car pokes out over the bar. There are (and never have been) any Real Ales, just the usual kegs and lagers although draught San Miguel does at least offer something a bit out of the norm. Prices are quite reasonable and I have found the service from the copiously decorated and pierced bar staff is usually very good given that it can get packed when there is a show on at the nearby Astoria. There is the London rarity of a Pinball machine but it never seems to be switched on when I am in there. Naturally the music is mostly rock, punk and metal and they have the occasional live band upstairs. Metal posters adorn the walls and a trip downstairs to the loos is almost worthy of a trip in its own right to view the decorated walls. There are some seats outside if the noise or the yearning for a fag is too much. For something a bit different, a trip to the Fox is an interesting experience, just don’t wear a suit and tie. Unfortunately, for me, it is too contrived and the ambience too far removed from what went before.

4 Sep 2008 13:14

The Wheatsheaf, Kemsing

Situated directly opposite the Bell, the Wheatsheaf is the larger of the two pubs in the main Village and is the one that immediately catches the eye with its front patio bedecked with benches and umbrellas. The U-shaped interior is divided into a main bar and a spacious games room off to one side. The interior appears to be little changed with a 70’s style bar frame and quite dated décor that does at least have a certain charm. The carpeted main bar has a couple of old fireplaces, ½ frosted windows, beamed ceilings, old cartwheels, brasses, bottles, jugs and several celebrity photos (for what reason I am not sure). The games room contains a pool table and darts area. 3 Ales available (Harveys, London Pride & Courage Best); I only had the Harveys but quality and price were decent enough. Entertainment ranges from the friendly and over playful dog to, sadly, karaoke. There were at least 3 TVs so I am guessing that it is popular for sport and so on. Certainly a pleasant enough pub and it makes a good base for some of the walks in the surrounding countryside.

31 Aug 2008 16:57

The Nags Head, East Harling

A classic example of how a lovely old building in a pretty village can be destroyed at the hands of thoughtless and tasteless interior design. It all looks so welcoming and enticing from the outside but once through the door, the old world charm is replaced by student canteen ambience with a ghastly mix of minimalist furnishings, bare expanses of modern wooden flooring and plain walls with mysterious scribblings and even Babyshambles set lists. We were looking for a place to eat and had we not been served immediately (there was no-one else in the pub), I would have happily walked straight back out. The menu was hardly inspiring and of the 3 Ales (Greene King IPA, Adnams and a Guest beer), only the Adnams was available. Even finding the loos were hardly straightforward as none of the doors were marked so it was pure luck. There was another bar to the rear but we didn’t bother venturing that far. Whether the pub was in the midst of a refurbishment or management change I don’t know but if it has changed at all since my visit it can only be for the better. What a waste.

31 Aug 2008 15:43

Nags Head, Reading

I popped in here prior to a Reading v Spurs game last season based on the excellent reviews and almost perma-Top 40 status. Whilst the pub is fairly plain and not particularly alluring (both externally and internally), the beers and the welcome more than made up for any aesthetic shortcomings. The interior is one knocked through room, quite plain and basic with a dart board, piano, a selection of board games and a log fire for the winter nights (this was January). There are 2 large plasma screens for sport and a decent selection of music when I was there (not sure if it was piped or a juke box). Pictures of the Madjeski Stadium and the old Elm Park ground adorn the walls alongside signed shirts and ticket stubs. An increasing number of Beer clips expand along the walls and I dare say they will eventually take over given the rotating selection of beers that are on offer. 12 pumps with such a weird and wonderful choice that I didn’t even bother to note them down. I just started at one end before the match and then went from the opposite end after. Whether I met in the middle I don’t recall. I wasn’t sure how the locals would take to me attired in my Spurs kit but the staff and punters could not have been more accommodating. We all rubbed shoulders on the shuttle bus to the ground and enjoyed some post match banter and celebrations (me) / commiserations (them) back in the NH afterwards. I understand that this place used to be a bit of a no go hell hole and, if so, it acts as a fine example of what can be achieved with a bit of hard work, effort and imagination.

31 Aug 2008 12:53

The Briton's Protection Hotel, Castlefield

Don’t be put off by the tacky neon signage on the front, this is an absolute must visit pub for anyone who appreciates the kind of pub that are fast becoming museum pieces. The pub dates back to 1811 and the interior is largely unspoilt (the pub is part of the CAMRA Inventory) with plenty to admire, all the more impressive given that there was, I believe, a serious fire here in the 1970’s. The front bar is fairly shallow and quite dimly lit with an ornate patterned ceiling. To the left, snaking around the bar to the rear is a magnificent tiled corridor containing paintings commemorating the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. Off the corridor at the back are 2 smaller rooms with several interesting features – numbered doors (as per the original licensing laws), original fireplaces, gas light fittings, calling bells etc. The lighting is kept low and somber, replicating what it would have been like in the days when it was gas lit. Service is through a small hatch in the corridor at the back of the main bar.

My visit revolved around the Jennings Cumberland and Robinsons Unicorn which, from the other reports, appear to be the mainstays however the pumps are quite spread out and it was not until I was leaving that I noted 2 further pumps so I reckon I missed out on some further choices. They also claim to have over 300 whiskies. There are several interesting displays of old jugs, bottles, cigarette cards etc dotted about. I found the service first rate although it may appear to be a bit stuffy to some – the place is frequented by classical musicians from the nearby Bridgwater Hall which gives it a bit of an eltist feel although I did not feel unwelcome despite wearing a football shirt at the time. No TV’s or music as far as I could see which would only spoil the ambience. A top pub all round and very nearly maximum points from me but I would need to have a couple more visits to justify it…and they should get rid of those neon signs!

31 Aug 2008 09:55

The Three Crowns, St James's

This fairly typical but little known West End pub is a bit tucked away in the back streets and easy to miss (I only found it by accident while looking another pub). The interior is quite formulaic but with some nice touches like the coloured glazing in the interior screens and bar frame. The latticed windows, gas lamp and bookcases give it a cosy, homely feel whilst the Thetare posters and old black and white photos of local landmarks remind you that you are still yards away from the bustling West End. The false Tongue & Groove ceiling makes the place a bit more intimate and there is a small snug beside the bar. 4 Ales on offer, all rather standard - Adnams, Green King IPA, Pride and Speckled Hen but reasonably priced for the area. The usual fruit & quiz machines, TV and cash machine are all present. The Three Crowns basically does everything to satisfy the generic punter without being exceptionally special but if you are looking for a place in the area but off the beaten track (just 4 reviews and 8 ratings in 5 years for a pub in the West End seems unbelieveable) and not generally packed to the rafters with tourists, you could do a lot worse than here.

28 Aug 2008 16:14

The Ten Bells, Stonham Aspal

In need of a decent beer and some bargain food, I picked this roadside country pub near Stowmarket out of the Good Beer Guide given some glowing reports on both counts. Whilst there was nothing especially adverse about the pub, it didn’t really impress to any great degree. 3 Ales on offer - the ubiquitous Green King IPA, Bombardier and 1 guest beer (Tom Woods Bomber County on my visit) - no prizs for which I went for. Quality was OK but prices a bit higher than I would have expected. The pub interior is divided into 3 sections, a large public bar with darts, pool and TV’s, a rather cramped main bar with, if I recall just 3 tables and barely space for 10 people and an intrusive staircase overhead making it feel a bit like a broom cupboard. Down a couple of steps is the spacious restaurant area that leaves no doubt as to where the pubs bread is buttered. Basic, fairly dated décor and furnishings throughout with a few old features intact, beamed ceilings and a wonderful large Inglenook fireplace but overall it felt a bit disjointed. As for the food, there was little that appealed from the not particularly varied lunchtime menu and we moved on after a quick pint. There was a large beer garden and on another day I would have been tempted to stay a bit longer but it didn’t really fit the bill for us at the time.

28 Aug 2008 15:32

The Crown, Blackheath

On the face of it, the Crown ticks most of the right boxes but for some reason it fails to make a lasting impact. Enticingly situated overlooking the heath, the interior is quite spacious, comfortable and pleasant but fairly open and formulaic. 5 Ales generally (but not always) available but, despite the revolving selection, there is rarely anything beyond the standard names with Theakstons being the only regular beer that is a bit out of the ordinary. They are Cask Marque accredited and quality is generally good and the prices quite reasonable for what is a fashionable area of London. The small 2 seater snug in the front window is an intimate, idyllic spot and there are plenty of seats outside looking over the heath. Service has always been good but, as much as I do like the place, I always feel that it needs something to lift it up to the next level and make it a pub that is truly worthwhile going out of the way for.

28 Aug 2008 13:51

The Rising Sun, Kemsing

This rustic, extended, stone farmhouse is situated on a minor road that weaves through the countryside and makes a welcome stop on the scenic walk from Kemsing village. The spacious beer garden has a kids area and a few benches although they are beginning to show signs of wear and are certainly in need of replacing. The old weathered pub sign has been replaced and happily, the St Georges Cross still flutters around in the wind. The interior is divided into 2 with the Main bar having low ceilings, plenty of old beams and a large inglenook fireplace, part of which is caged off and home to Charlie the parrot who whistles away quite happily whilst awaiting the next finger to chew. It all feels very homely in a “visit to Granny’s” sort of way and whilst it may appear a bit cluttered and untidy, I found the lived in “take us as you find us” approach part of the charm. The 5 Ales (sadly I can’t remember them but they were an interesting selection) are lined up from left to right in order of strength. The locals apparently refer to them by number rather than name. The first pint we had was beginning to go off which suggests that they maybe have too many Ales for the current customer base. The second beer we tried was fine.

Beyond the main bar is a long sunken room with another wonderful old fireplace and an assortment of old radios, butter churners and general junk shop odds and ends as well as a dartboard. Despite being a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon, there appeared to be few visitors although a tractor rally soon arrived and took over the adjacent field. The charismatic landlady was quite chatty and approachable but the mention of food, which appears to be the main concern of previous posters, is a slightly taboo subject that encroaches into personal reasons. That said, even if they choose not to offer a hot menu, it would at least be nice to see something simple like a few rolls available, especially given that this is walking country and there is nothing else around without involving a fair trek. Some of the previous negative comments may be justified to a certain degree but they perhaps do not take into account the full picture. I found the Rising Sun to be a charming, quirky and interesting, old fashioned pub that more than deserves the effort to find and the negative aspects are not so great or insurmountable that it would put me off returning.

28 Aug 2008 13:10

The Blue Bell, Ormskirk

Situated in a small village between Ormskirk and Southport, the Blue Bell is a bit isolated and probably attracts more of a passing trade or people out for dining. The pub is a bit on the eccentric side, tatty but but always interesting with a car boot sale feel that makes you think someone has just emptied out the contents of their garage. To the right of the main door, the area is geared towards the diners although it hardly exudes anything luxurious for any special occasions. A small room can be found at the rear with large drape curtains in an attempt to capture some form of opulence. The main bar has a darts area at one end, piano and plasma screenover over a coal fire. There are plenty of brasses, jugs, bottles, statuettes, stringless guitars, old radios, farm implements and who knows what that capture the attention. On the beer front, it was hard to see what was available as the locals were hogging the bar making it difficult to see but from what I could gather, the Ales included Tetly’s, Moorhouse Pride of Pendle and 2 others. The quality of the PofP was very good The beer garden at the rear contains a small pet farm and some pretty rank toilets in a semi portacabin. It is a bit of an oddball place but worthy of popping in if in the area.

28 Aug 2008 12:47

The Bell, Kemsing

Pleasant enough but rather straightforward village pub divided into 2 bars. The front bar has a light and relaxing ambience with cosy armchairs around the fireplace, piano but a rather strangely positioned dart board. A couple of stairs take you to a rear bar which is slightly larger and has more of a pubby feel as opposed to the front roomy ambience of the front bar. Beers are the usual Green King fare, quality OK but the choice hardly enticing. Handy for a quick pint after a countryside ramble but overall, the Bell is a safe but not particularly memorable or interesting place.

28 Aug 2008 12:05

The Bell Inn, Castle Hedingham

A 15th century Coaching Inn with a rambling and relatively unspoilt interior, this place has been in same family for many years and retains a loyal selection of staff offering a degree of stability that few pubs rarely enjoy. In the small main bar just inside the main door, the well kept beer is served by gravity direct from the barrels behind the bar. 2 Mighty Oak beers (Maldon Gold and IPA) and Adnams are standard plus a guest beer (disappointingly London Pride on my last vist although I guess it is not as common in this area). It should be noted that the price of soft drinks is quite hefty. A rather hypnosis inducing clock watches over the proceedings in this intimate bar but for a bit more space, take the corridor round the back of the pub to the larger bar. On the way, take a moment to peek through the windows to the adjoining rooms if they are not open (they are generally used for functions or during busy periods). The larger saloon bar has a bare brick wall along one side with built in fireplace and beamed ceiling with a few brasses and pewter tankards. Beer clips behind the bar show the range of guests that have passed through (most far more interesting than London Pride!). The food has a very good reputation although I have not eaten here. An upstairs function room (no dancing allowed) is used regularly for live music sessions or larger private functions. Quiz night on Sundays. When the weather is fine, the huge spacious orchard garden to the rear is just the ticket. The pretty village is worth exploring and the castle itself is a short walk away.

28 Aug 2008 11:18

The Banker, Cannon Street

Tucked away down a side street alongside Cannon Street Railway Station, the Banker it not a place found easily. The interior is quite cavernous but spacious, consisting of a couple of massive brick Victorian arches that prop up the station above. Running perpendicular are 2 smaller tongue and groove lined arches with a few sofas. At the end is a narrow terrace that commands a panoramic river view beneath the railway bridge that passes overhead. The vast expanses of brickwork have some unusual arty style modern black and white photos of the local river traffic and architecture and the smaller arches contain some more historic river views. There is an upstairs balcony as well as an outside terrace beside the river and certain areas can be sealed off for private functions. Even during the busiest periods I have always managed to get a seat and a table. A well positioned plasma screen covers the usual sporting occasions and the music is unobtrusive albeit fairly safe and mainstream.

On the beer front, a good selection of well kept Fullers beers available (Chiswick, ESB, HSB, Discovery & Pride) but at £3+, they are a bit on the pricey side. The only other downside from my recent visit was the woefully short measure, especially given the Cask Marque accreditation and a top up wasn’t exactly delivered with a beaming smile. As a non-regular I wouldn’t let it affect my rating but it is something I would keep an eye on in future visits. In general, a pub that is well worth seeking out but, as other posters have mentioned, there are areas that need attention on the service side.

28 Aug 2008 10:48

The Old City Arms, Hammersmith

I gave this place a few tries some time ago and really struggled to find anything positive to say. The refurbished interior has more in common with a tile showroom and the general décor depressingly dull and devoid of any character. Everything comes over as fake and plastic and the atmosphere was always dull, hollow and lifeless. The bar staff always appeared to be disinterested and there was never anything available other than keg bitter or draught lager so at least the previous reviewer had more luck than me. Various Plasma screens dotted about for sport and there is a separate pool room at the rear. If there is a plus, the Thai menu was quite extensive and reasonably priced but there really isn’t much here to get excited about. At best, it is OK for a meeting place prior to an Apollo show but even then I can think of far better options.

22 Aug 2008 19:20

First Class Sports Bar, Wembley

Located 200 hundred yards from Wembley Park Station and just a few minutes walk from the Stadium complex itself, the First Class Sports Bar is, needless to say, very busy on event days. The bar itself is fairly small but opens up towards the rear to a wider area centred around a pool table. As a museum of sporting artifacts and memorabilia, it is second to none although 80% of it is geared towards football. The walls are plastered with shirts, balls, photos, programmes, ticket stubs, boxing gloves, cricket bats and so on, all autographed by some of world sports biggest stars (an autographed Pele Brazil shirt must be the pick of it all). There are also several interesting photos and models of the Stadium (old, new and inbetween) and multiple screens providing non stop sporting action. Sadly, as far as beers go, it is very standard with no Ales and just the usual kegs / lagers.

For stadium events, the main bar is closed and punters are steered through to the enormous permanent marquee in the large, decked beer garden to the rear. The marquee is at least 4 times bigger than the bar itself and there are also plenty of covered benches outside and a few portaloos to cope with the additional outward flow. The marquee is equipped with a decent sized central bar and multiple screens although the beer choice is just as limited and at £3.50 a pint on event day, they do exploit the additional customers. That said it is well organized and despite being exteremely busy, service is good although there is a problem when barrels start to run dry.

Overall it is an interesting bar to visit if you are a sports fan and there are certainly a lot worse pubs and bars in Wembley although the increased match day pricing policy (in tandem with several other pubs in the area) is rather galling.

21 Aug 2008 15:59

The Fox and Hounds, Dartford

A sizable pub just off the town centre, largely frequented Dartford FC supporters (they frequently run their own coach to away games from here). A recent management change has seen improvements since I was last here, the main one being the addition of 2 Real Ales, albeit not a particularly inspiring choice - Courage Best & Green King IPA although ironically there are now no Green King pubs in Dartford and this is actually one of the few places that the ubiquitous IPA can be found if that is your preferred tipple (it isn’t mine). The quality was drinkable if not the best but traditionally this is not a place particularly noted for Ale drinkers. The front bar has a slightly dated feel but is neat and tidy with partly built in seating, lots of paneling, fireplace, brewery mirrors and some old b&w photos of the town centre. There is also a well positioned plasma TV (predominantly for sport), jukebox (the music can be loud and intrusive) and a rather new looking dart board which is a bit unnecessary in the front bar given that there are 2 large games rooms beyond that cater for a pool table and a more spacious and unobtrusive darts area board. The pool room has its own decent sized section of bar and several football penants adorn the walls. At the very rear of the pub is a small but fairly unattractive beer garden. There is also a large patio area at the front with a few benches. Overall, this is an improved locals pub that has had its ups and downs in the past but, given its location next to a large estate, it could be a lot worse. I have previously been put off using this place in the past by its potential customer base but I gather the low life that have plagued other pubs in the immediate area are generally kept at bay. Given that this is now the only convenient pub with any Ales between me and the football ground, I can see myself using the place more than I have in the past but for an outsider, there are better options in town.

20 Aug 2008 12:02

The Rose, Northfleet

A small L-Shaped Shepherd Neame estate pub easily spotted from just outside Northfleet station. Pleasant interior with a very clean and tidy appearance and a predominantly black & white colour scheme. Pool table at one end and darts at the other with a covered outside covered beer terrace. 3 hand pumps but it is a hit and miss as to what is available – generally Spitfire, Master Brew + the Shepherd Neame seasonal but only Spitfire on for my last vist. Quality is generally pretty decent and this is probably as good as you will get Ale wise in the area. All very good then. Er, actually no. Unfortunately, the human element makes this place a seriously unappetising prospect. As a showcase for single brain celled, linguistically challenged and intimidating thug style tattooed morons (and that is just the women), the Rose tops pretty much anywhere I have ever visited. Whether it is staff, customers, men or women you can guarantee that the number of high volume F words per minute would have the Guiness Book of Records salivating at a potential new entry. I have overheard conversations in here that would make Tarantino blush and make you wonder how many bodies are buried under the beer patio. Can get busy when football is on at nearby Ebbsfleet Utd. Certainly not a place for the easily offended or people of nervous disposition which is a shame because it really could be a pleasant little locals pub.

14 Aug 2008 21:47

The Last Post, Southend on Sea

One of the more interesting Wetherspoons housed in,as the name suggests, the old Post Office. I am assuming that as the the pub has entrances in 2 streets, it has been extended thorugh a couple of other buiuldings as well. There are 2 bars, the main bar has a loungey area near the main door with a few bookcases and a bit of a living room feel to it. The main body of the pub in the centre has high ceilings, a few snugs and a predominantly orange colour scheme that is perhaps not as awful as it sounds. An old mail bike sits in the rafters and there are various post office artfacts as well as local historical snippets and a few silent plasma screens dotted about. Down one side is a conservatory section with some ornate ironwork over the doorways. The second bar is smaller but probably more interesting with a large vaulted roof, cosy snugs, dimmer lighting and acres of bookcases giving it the feel of a library. A larger than average selection of guest Ales is available at the main bar whereas the smaller bar tends to stick to the more mainstream Ales. Food service can be a bit slow at peak times although they do advise you when ordering how long you can expect to wait. It can also take some time for tables to be cleared. Unfortunately, Wetherspoons + Southend daytrippers is not usually a good combination so you may need to be prepared in advance for a few uncsavoury characters if you go at peak times.

30 Jun 2008 13:54

The Prince Albert, Whitstable

Visited this weekend as part of our annual Whitstable crawl. The decor seems to have slightly changed but it is still remains a quite charming and welcoming pub. The Greene King IPA and Pride are still supplemented by a good quality guest beer which is a big plus in a town where Shepherd Neame generally rules the roost. Sadly the beer garden appears to have been stripped of its floral displays (hopefully a temporary thing) and is currently not much more than a bare patio for the smokers although you can now access it form the pub. I dare say we'll be back again next year!

30 Jun 2008 12:36

The Wrong 'Un, Bexleyheath

Pretty much a stereotypical Wetherspoons with little in the way of aesthetic value but the usual excellent range of bargain beers and cheap food. The low ceiling and deep interior make it a bit claustrophobic and despite the largely glass frontage, the natural light starts to disappear at the rear of the pub. There is plenty of seating and along one side opposite the bar are a few intimate snugs. Lots of local historical snippets dotted about and the usual silent TV, fruit machines and a cash machine are present. I have never had any problem with the service and the Wrong 'Un basically does everything you would normally expect of a Wetherspoons without it being overly appealing.

30 Jun 2008 12:18

The Bull and Gate, Kentish Town

One of London’s (and indeed the UK’s) most acclaimed music venue pubs and fully justifying its reputation. The bright blue exterior with its ornate lettering is a relic from the days when pubs were designed to impress and whilst the interior is, shall we say, stylishly tatty, it retains plenty of interesting features; decorative columns, coloured glass, bar frame, patterned mirrors etc. A couple of well placed plasma screens often show sport and there is a pool table although the logistics of playing it during the busier periods are not good. On the beer front, there is Bass on hand pump but, and this appears to be a recurring problem, it was not available on my recent trip. The rest is of the standard keg and lager selections although prices are very reasonable given the usually inflated prices whenever live music is a feature.

The music venue itself is completely separate from the main body of the pub and has hosted many a famous upcoming band over the years. It is accessed through the Venue door to the left of the pub or via the toilets from the inside. A corridor leads to a sort of anti room with a skylight and access to an extension of the main pub bar. The venue itself is through the battered and sticker laden doors and is a typically dark, dingy and often stiflingly hot room. The stage is a decent size and sightlines very good, as is the sound and lighting.

The popular Forum music venue is a barely a drum roll away and the B&G naturally gets packed to the rafters prior to gigs. Sadly, the future of the pub is in some doubt so if you want to get to one of London’s must visit pubs, pick a gig and go for it before it’s too late.

27 Jun 2008 16:45

The Junction Tavern, Kentish Town

I have been here several times in recent months and never seem to leave disappointed. From the main road, only the restaurant is apparent and one can be forgiven for passing by without realizing that it is indeed a very fine pub. The interior is suitably dim despite there being large picture windows at the front. The main bar is all bare wood with paneled walls with sections of wood carvings, an ornate fireplace with a large surround / display unit and mirror. To the rear are large mirrors making the bar appear much bigger than it really is and a doorway to one side leads to an extention with more seating. Down a few steps and you will find yourself in a large glazed conservatory and this in turn leads to a delightful paved beer garden with plenty of benches and cover when necessary.

On the beer front, there are 5 hand pumps with Deuchars seemingly ever present. The rest offer a selection of 2 or 3 guset beers, often from Cornish Breweries as well as a more mainstream ale such as Adnams or Pride. The quality is alwys very good although the prices are higher than average with nothing under the £3 barrier (all the Real Ales are currently £3 regardless of their strength). The regular beer festivals also appear to be quite popular and successful.

Despite being a mere 5 minute walk from the Forum, the pub manages to escape the crowds that gather in Kentish Town prior to shows. It took me a long time to discover this place but I’m sure glad I did.

27 Jun 2008 16:17

The Red Lion, Snargate

Sometimes a pub can disappoint when so much has been said to recommend it but the Red Lion really does have that wow factor to justify its position as one of the countries most unique and oustanding pubs.

The interior is divided into 3 rooms with the main bar to the left of the entrance. Each room has barely enough space for a couple of well worn tables and a few old pew seats with homemade cushions. In the main bar itself, a few chairs are scattered around the edge of the room beneath the low beamed ceiling which is plastered with old coins and banknoters and has developed a gravity challenging bulge. The old marble bar top has 4 pumps although the beers are poured direct from the casks behind the bar, 2 Ales, a mild and a cider being the norm (Surrey Hills Ranmore Ale, Ellgoods Double Swan, Surrey Hills Hammer Mild and Double Vison Cider on my visit). There are no electric pumps so lagers and keg beers are satisfyingly absent.

Behind the main bar is a small room with an upright piano as its focal point. Old books and magazines are randomly piled up and numerous traditional pub games (cribbage, solitaire, naughts and crosses) as well as a few rather baffling ones (the Canada Dry mixer game?) recall the joys we had prior to the invention of computer games and electronic gadgets (and I’m not THAT old). Note also the old Allwin machine on the wall by the entrance that sadly didn’t look very functional.

Whilst the general décor has remained undisturbed for decades, there are a few more modern additions like the millenium quilt (presumably knocked together by various locals) that jockeys for position amongst the ciggy card collections, corkscrews, keys, a somewhat random selection of fading pictures and WW2 posters. Dotted about are other odds and sods like looms and airraid sirens making it seem like a mix of Treasure Trove and Steptoe & Son.

The tile floor public bar continues with the archive approach with more WW2 memorabelia and a fantsastic sign near the door advising that the room is now illuminated by Edison Electric Lamps and not to try lighting them with a match. It probably made good sense when it was put there. Maybe the no smoking signs will be of similar interest in years to come. Yet more traditional games (dominoes, table skittles, shove halfpenny and a rather challenging dart board) and books are there for general use. Through the serving hatch you can view an old room presumably used for off licence sales in days gone by.

Naturally the toilets are of the outside variety complete with cobwebs a plenty. The beer garden is quite small but extremely well kept and attractive and includes a small aviary.

All in all, a quite stunning and original pub, the type of which has all but disappeared and you really need no excuse to pay it a visit. Just make sure it is open as the opening hours are as dated as the pub.

27 Jun 2008 15:48

The Pembury Tavern, Hackney

I find the Pembury a bit of an enigma, so many plus points but, as has been pointed out before, it is partly let down by a rather uninspiring interior and at times, rather sedate and hollow atmosphere. It is easy to pass by the Pembury without actually realising it is open, such is the rather unappealing entrance (although there are apparently plans to put in glazed doors and make things look a bit more welcoming from the outside). The interior will hardly have designers foaming at the mouth; basically a shelled, knocked through old pub, a bit cavernous and with décor that can at best be described as monotonously plain. If it were not for the 1890’s photo that appears in the pub and London Drinker adverts, you could be forgiven for thinking that it is a converted Bank or Building Society rather than a long standing Victorian pub. Little, if anything, remains of any original internal features although to be fair, the pub was the victim of a major fire in the late 90’s. Modern art prints mix it up with old local black and white photos but there is not enough at the moment to cover the vast expanses of bare painted wall (the pub is openly requesting any old photos that people may have to add to their collection). An ever increasing collection of pump clips is beginning to wind its way around the ceiling beams and above the bar, the pub name is picked out in letters that resemble a junior school playgroup project. The tables are well spaced out but there is a distinct lack of small tables that means if there are just 2 of you, you will inevitably end up sitting at a table big enough for 6 or 8.

Where the Pembury excels is, of course, the beers. 16 hand pumps and even on the quietest evening there will be 8 or 9 in use. The majority of Ales come from the Miltons range and I have tried several different pints on my 2 recent visits and have no issue over quality or price (most are in the £2.80/£2.90 range). Also, it is worth noting that they serve in oversized glasses so don’t try and shout about short measures as I nearly did! There is usually a mild and real cider available as well as good selection of bottled beers, whisky and wines. Everything is listed above the bar including the forthcoming beers. Regular beer festivals are also a feature.

The pub does have a wonderful approach to pub traditions with classic board games available over the bar, unobtrusive pool table and bar billiards, knowledgeable and approachable staff and a surprising mix of customers of both sexes. The atmosphere may be a bit subdued in off peak times with no music or TV’s but this is not necessarily a bad thing and it can be a pleasure to drink in a place that is non threatening and amongst people who are in the pub for the right reasons, quality beer and social interaction. There is an ongoing programme of improvements which I am sure will address some of the negative aspects in due course but, as things stand, it is still a pub well worth seeking out.

25 Jun 2008 10:36

The Two Brewers, Dartford

I'm not sure what is happening here management wise but the pub is definately still open. There are also some new signs up advertising for weekend staff so it looks like there have been some personel changes. I have not been very impressed on my last 2 or 3 visits and everything seemed to be geared towards attracting the sort of people I choose to avoid hence I have steered clear of the place for some time now. I will give it another go shortly once the new management (assuming that is the case) has settled in but I am not expecting too much. Shame because as I have said before, the place has so much potential and for a while I thought the guy was beginning to make a decent job of it.

24 Jun 2008 14:29

The Golden Egg, Kilburn

The first thing you notice with the Golden Egg are the strategically placed boards outside advertisng its discounted product range and in an area where pubs attract the inebriated like iron filings to a magnet, you just know what to expect. Luckily, the interior is deceptively large and finding a spot away from the drunken renditions of Danny Boy is generally achievable. The front area has fairly plain décor and is quite spacious and airy with good natural light and high ceilings. Several old black & white photos of the area adorn the walls. Beyond the remnants of the dividing wall it opens up to the grander (but long since past its prime) remnants of what looks like an old ballroom or function hall, complete with ornate ceilings and an interesting but underused, wood paneled fireplace. The multiple TV’s & Big Screen are very good for sport and if karaokes and cheap live music are your thing, you’ll find them here. One big plus is the presence a Real Ale - only the 1 but it was at least a decently kept Brains Bitter, hardly normal for the area and £1.89 a pint (even though it still says £1.79 on the menus!). The food is cheap and fancy free and beer and cocktails are also available by the jug and pitcher making it a binge drinkers dream. Encouraged by such marketing, I did get the impression most of the punters here are surgically joined to the fixtures and fittings and probably wouldn’t be aware that there is an exit. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily say that everyone was particularly approachable, I didn’t feel too wary sitting there alone in a strange pub, which is not always the case in Kilburn. The retro music was actually quite listenable and made a refreshing change from the thumping clubby stuff or fiddly diddly offerings of some of the neigbours. The pub has certainly seen better days but despite its obvious lack of class, it is certainly functionable and not without its interesting aspects.

20 Jun 2008 19:19

The Two Brewers, Dartford

Stories of its ultimate demise appear to be somewhat wide of the mark. It was open when I walked past 15 minutes ago!

20 Jun 2008 18:21

The High Rocks, Tunbridge Wells

The High Rocks is a mix of pub, restaurant and Banqueting complex and is the hub of this local, and not widely known, beauty spot that comprises a scenic area of sandstone outcrops (very popular with climbers), woodland walks and the Spa Valley steam railway station. The extensively expanded main building is hidden under a mass of Ivy with the main entrance at road level leading to the reception and lounge area. The bar (which is what we are interested in on this site) is downstairs. Given that the area can attract large numbers of people, it is surprising that the bar is actually quite small in context of the building itself and, perhaps not so surprisingly, much of it is designated for diners. The style is mock Tudor with a central brick bar and rustic feel and whilst drinkers will feel less accommodated for than the diners, most people would only tend to come here during good weather so the huge beer garden more than compensates for the lack of space inside. 2 Ales – Flowers and Pride (albeit only the Flowers was available on my visit but good quality). Prices are high, especially the food so if you are planning to make a Sunday Lunch out of it, you will need to come with a bulging wallet. The large patio area and expansive lawns are spacious, well kept, extremely attractive and with the steam trains pulling up alongside, it all makes quite an idyllic afternoon after a stroll through the Rocks themselves (tickets are available at the bar). Service was pretty good and one of the waiters is quite a character. Whilst the bar / restaurant is family friendly, the Rocks themselves can be a very exciting but dangerous place for kids so care should be taken if planning take a walk over them.

20 Jun 2008 15:51

The Coopers Arms, Kilburn

For an Irish pub, the Coopers has a bit a more of a subdued influence as some of its neighbours and certainly does not come across as contrived as the usual Irish Pub by numbers found elsewhere. The single carpeted room has a central bar and still retains an element of its traditional style with latticed partly coloured glass windows and panelled walls. The front of the bar has high backed seats which look freshly upholstered and from the polished and scratch free tables, I would guess that the place has been recently refurbished albeit there is still an element of scruffiness about it. 3 TVs show mainly sport (cricket and horse racing were both being shown simultaneously when I was there). The traditional Bass brewery mirror is accompanied by ubiquitous Guiness posters although the Irishness is generally underplayed on the décor front. Thick Irish accents may abound amongst the customer base and I got the impression that everyone knows everyone but I felt more at ease here as a stranger than in some of the other local pubs. Not much of a surprise that there were no Real Ales, just the standard kegs, lagers and of course, Guinness, although the presence of a redundant hand pump suggests this was not always the case. There is a dartboard round the far end of the bar and a beer garden beyond although I didn’t venture this far. In short, the Coopers provides a no thrills approach but a friendly enough welcome for the unfussy drinker although it would be far from my first port of call when next in Kilburn.

19 Jun 2008 16:46

The Kingdom, Kilburn

Irish pubs and bars seem to be 10 a penny these days, especially in this part of the world, so they need to be something special to stand out from the rest. The Kingdom looks OK from the outside but for the most part is as plastic and contrived as an Irish bar can be. All the usual characteristics are present, the sports shirts, the homages to Guiness, Harp and Magners, multi channeled TVs showing Irish News and horse racing. In short it is all very typical with little to lift it over and above any other Irish Pub. The interior is a single, rather open room, comfortable without being particularly cosy, with built in seats along one side opposite the bar, quite plain décor and half frosted windows depicting the pub name and parent company. An impressive array of trophys are lined up at one end (not sure what for though – there are no obvious pub games played here). Being a sports ground enthusiast, a panoramic 1938 photo of Croke Park caught my eye, which left me wondering how people managed to get into the upper tier of the stand that seems to hover over the crowd. At best, I would describe the place as average but, whilst I didn’t witness or get any impression of the aforementioned tales of violence, I was hardly afforded a big welcome. From the moment I approached the bar to the moment I left with my pint of Guiness (Irish Bars generally mean no Ales), the barman did not utter a single word. Not a hello, a please, a thank you or even that’ll be £2 whatever. My change was virtually thrown into my hand and I got the distinct impression I wasn’t expected to stay long. They needn’t have worried. Being packed to the rafters on St Patricks Day may be one thing but whilst it displays such open coldness to a first time visitor on a quiet early evening, it isn’t going to win me over.

17 Jun 2008 10:35

Mannions, Wembley

Yet another typical and contrived Irish bar. You pretty much know what you are going to get before you walk through the door although the dazzle from the glaringly bright lights does come as quite a shock. The interior is very plain and rather monotonous with all the clean surfaces doing nothing to deflect or soak up the light. There are at least a few things that attract the attention, a couple of ploughs and even a couple of rifles hanging from the ceiling, a model boat stuck on the wall, a few candles along the ledge by the brick fireplace, lists of Hurling champions. Strangely, the 2 signed rugby shirts that I would have thought would have pride of place are relegated to the walls of the corridor to the toilets. Like most Irish theme pubs, there are no Real Ales, just the usual standard mass market kegs and lagers plus the ubiquitous Guiness. The locals tend to have an interesting line in colourful language and you will inevitably find them thronged around the bar watching the racing. Mannions warrants a visit simply because the other pubs in Wembley are so poor and that does not construe this review as a particularly worthwhile recommendation.

13 Jun 2008 16:40

The Windsor Castle, Clapham Junction

The mock Tudor fronted Windsor Castle is just a few sleepers along from the Clapham Junction station exit and holds a few memories for me as I used it fairly regularly 14/15 years ago when the Grand Theatre opposite was more of a regular music venue. I made a point of stopping by recently on hearing that it was to be demolished to see if it was how I remembered and to my recollection, it has hardly changed a jot. The interior is divided into 2 separate bars, a small, paneled public bar with dartboard at the front and a larger extended rear bar with an eyecatching vaulted roof. As previous postings have suggested, there is nothing particularly special about the food and drink, Pride & Bombardier Ales among the usual kegs and lagers, typical unadventurous food menu but prices are reasonable with bargain doubles available on various meals and spirits. The rear bar was far more active than the front with a generally amiable atmosphere although some of the customer base appeared a bit on the wobbly side and yet still managed to get served. Only 1 person behind bar despite being busy which meant a wait that bordered on a walk out but I held on simply because I wanted to have a final pint here before the demolition ball arrives. Other than on the personal nostalgia front, I didn’t really find anything particularly special here although its eventual loss will mean another part of my personal heritage is wiped forever.

13 Jun 2008 15:56

The Crooked House, Gornal Wood

The Crooked House must be one of the most unusual and unique pubs in the country. Built as a farm cottage in 1765, the pub was a victim of mining subsidence in the later 19th century that has resulted in one end of the pub now being 4 foot lower than the other. Despite being condemned in the 1940’s, the building was bought by Banks’ Brewery and restored it to what it is today. Propped up by supports and buttresses, the pub is still 15 degrees off centre and it shows, although some of the features such as window frames and doors have been deliberately altered to enhance the effect. The wonky bit of the pub consists of 2 bars, the saloon to the left and lounge to the right. As you would expect, the interior is like a fairground attraction with doors and windows completely at odds with the floor and wall angles. Pictures on the walls have been cunningly placed at angles to give an even more dramatic effect. A grandfather clock in the saloon bar tilts at an alarming angle towards the small serving area (you will need to ring the bell during quieter periods). In the lounge bar the floor is a bit more even but the remaining angles still confuse the mind into what is supposed to be vertical and what is horizontal. Bottles, coins etc run “uphill” on the tables and windowsills, such are the optical illusions created (they keep a few marbles behind the bar that can be borrowed for a small donation). For those who cannot handle the sloping floors, there is an extended bar at the back of the pub that caters for large groups and has more traditional angles. Fortunately this does not intrude or spoil the character of the “leaning” bars. There are also several benches outside. They do decent and reasonably priced bar food (mainly jacket potatoes and baguettes) as well as a more extensive restaurant menu. They serve decent well priced Bank’s Best and Banks Original as well as a guest beer. The only downside to the pub is that some of the seating is somewhat weathered and uncomfortable but despite this, the Crooked House is definitely a place worth travelling a few miles out of the way for (although it is hard to find).

22 May 2008 09:27

The Old Cannon Brewery, Bury St Edmunds

Terrific microbrewery pub tucked away in a residential area about 10 minutes walk from the town centre. They have a small range of beers brewed on premises, 3 available on my visit - Best Bitter, Blonde Bombshell and Gunners Daughter (temporarily renamed Gunners Slaughter by the Spurs fan owner following the 5-1 demolition of Arsenal in the Cup Semi). A couple of “ordinary” beers are also usually available (Adnams on my visit – the other pump was redundant). The interior is fairly basic with bare floors and plain décor although the ceiling above the bar has been removed to reveal a couple of precarious looking doors above that open out to a 10 foot drop. A false balcony has been put in at the original floor level. In one corner of the bar sits the large stainless steel vats used for brewing the beers and there is certainly no faulting the quality. It is a delight to find such a unique pub in a town dominated by Greene King and the only major disappointment was that a proportionally large area appeared to be reserved for diners given that the emphasis and main attraction is the beers. I didn’t actually note many people eating during the couple of hours we were there but the bar area was getting pretty full. Overall a very welcoming and also dog friendly pub and a place I will certainly seek out again when I next visit Bury.

16 May 2008 16:13

The Robin Hood and Little John, Bexleyheath

This cracking little country style pub is a short walk from the main shopping area but far enough away to lose the trappings of the town centre mentality. This place is very much CAMRA territory with a rotating selection of superbly kept Ales that justify the numerous awards as per the certificates on show around the pub. The boss is exteremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable about his beers and the customer base is far from the usual Bexleyheath feral gang mentality. If there are any pitfalls, the pumps are spread around the bar and not all easily visible so its best to check the notices and posters dotted around to see the full list of beers available (there are usually 7 or 8 different Ales on handpump). The interior can be a bit cramped when busy and tables (including a few old sewing machine tables) often come at a premium unless you are there early enough. The lighting could also be toned down a bit at times as well. Other than these rather superficial moans, I have found lttle wrong with the LJ&RH (I have never eaten here) and for me, its popularity and reputation among top pubs in the area seems pretty secure for the forseeable future. On my last visit I discovered the small but pleasant floodlit beer garden and really must take advantage of it a bit more over the summer months.

16 May 2008 12:24

The Pilot Inn, North Greenwich

First established in 1801 the Pilot is a rather isolated pub tacked onto the end of half a dozen cottages that appear to be the last remnants of a wave of redevelopment ahead of the Millenium. With the Dome being built nearby, the pub came into prominence as it was the nearest (actually the only) pub in the vicinity. When the Dome shut, the Pilot reverted back to its quiet and peaceful old self however since the Dome reopened as the O2 Arena complex, the Pilot would have expected to find itself at the forefront of mass invasions from Concert goers, Cinema fans and, currently, Egyptologists. Incredibly, most people still don’t realise that the Pilot is a mere 5 minute walk away and it currently remains a haven of decent beer, sensible prices and pleasant surroundings, a far cry from the crowded, corporate drinking and dining hell that exists underneath the O2 masts. How long will it last I don’t know but for now the Pilot gets my vote every time I am in the vicinity.

The mock Tudor interior has several nooks, crannies and split level side rooms. They carry a good selection of Fullers beers including any seasonal or commemorative specials and the quality justifies their Cask Marque accreditation. I have always found the service to be excellent (including recent visits) and I often feel like a regular despite my sporadic appearances. There is a general nautical theme throughout the pub with ship pictures, reproduction smuggling posters, wreck details, lifebelts, model boats etc as well as museum like informative displays about the observatory, Greenwich Mean Time and the importance of Greenwich and its maritime history. If that is not enough, there are also a few newspaper cuttings regarding the pub itself and its role at the time of the Millenium. The small, slightly more tatty TV room (there is only the 1 small plasma TV in the pub to my knowledge) to the left of the bar has a few old bits of Charlton Athletic memorabilia including carictures of the 1947 Cup Final team. The star of the show in the summer months is the well kept beer spacious garden with plenty of cover just in case! Overall I have always found the Pilot to be an excellent pub although I can’t comment on the food aspect as I have never eaten here. I just hope that the pub remains 5 minutes too far for the bulk of the O2 crowds.

16 May 2008 11:33

The Oxford, Kentish Town

I used to use this place regularly in its days as the Vultures Perch but have tended to ignore it since it has been gastro’d. On the plus side they do have one of the best Ales selections in the area, usually three or four excellent rotating beers – I have noted Harveys, Deuchars, Landlord, Summer Lightning, Union, Cornish Knocker, Dr O’Kells IPA and Doom Bar on my occasional vists over the past 12 months to give a good idea of what to expect. The main problem with this place is the space available for drinkers. The entire rear section taken up by the open kitchen and dining area and what space is reserved for drinkers is rather compact and cramped. Getting a seat is virtually impossible and to stand in the bar area means a constant jostle as people pass by. The décor has a sort of dated in a trendy way approach but in places, a fresh lick of paint is required. There are traces of the original features with mosaics in the entrance door and a few remnants of the old etched windows but for the most part, not unlike the Assembly Rooms up the road, the place is gradually giving up its traditional features to the ravages of time and apathy. The dining area does have a rather grand chandelier whilst the drinkers are offered more of a B&Q version. Given how busy it gets, I have found the service pretty good and they will direct you to an upstairs overflow bar if you look lost for a table. The upstairs is however a bit soulless and comes over as a bit too much of a chill out zone for my taste. The music is a bit on the nondescript side and is generally aimed at the 20/30 age bracket. There are a few seats outside on the pavement but overall, unless you are happy with crowded vertical drinking or get there early enough to bag a table, the pub is a bit disappointing, especially considering the good beers that are on offer. Oh, and the bogs are a bit rank.

16 May 2008 10:23

The Deptford Arms, Deptford

A bit of a mixed up mess to look at - part grunge, part bohemian, part student bar, part art gallery. No Ales, which is the general scenario with most of the pubs in Deptford. The cheap £2 a pint happy hour didn’t seem to be attracting too many people through the doors (although Glenn Tilbrook did walk in as we were leaving). We were greeted as we walked in by Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday clashing violently with some clubby rubbish at the opposite end of the pub and when you spot that the TV has an indoor aerial you just know that things aren’t going to be very good. The far end opens up to stage area albeit there were sofas (with no tables) taking up most of the space. Very tatty and basic, it probably has a certain unusual charm and eccentricity to some but there is little to tempt me back (unless Glenn brings his guitar with him next time).

14 May 2008 14:12

The Dog and Bell, Deptford

First visit since my review nearly 3 years ago. Whilst the place hasn’t altered in any visible way from my previous visit, I can’t help thinking it wasn’t as good as I remembered. The emphasis is still on the Ale selection although the beers available the night we were there were rather tame once you have inspected the clip collection above the bar. I resorted to the Allgate Mild at Heart as my first pint despite not being a mild drinker simply because the other choices were a bit too reglar (although I must say that it was one of the most palatable milds I have sampled). Maybe it was just an unlucky day but things were not helped by a few raucous locals who went unchecked by the staff. Nevertheless, the D&B remains the best (and probably only) pub in Deptford for Ales it still has a lot going for it. The plain unfussy interior has defied any attempts to go overly trendy and it is good to see such traditions as bar billiards present. The basic TV is yet to suck up to nightly football and it generally radiates a quite civilised ambience in an area where you would not generally expect much civility. Overall, not as great as I had remembered but I would put it down to an unlucky evening. It is still well worth seeking out and absolutely streets ahead of any of its local competitors.

14 May 2008 13:58

Princes Park Stadium, Dartford

Princes Park (or PP to the locals) is new eco friendly home to Dartford FC (and Kent Ravens Rugby League) and contains one of the better sports ground bars, particularly at this level. The bar is open to allcomers during normal pub hours although obviously on match days, entry is via the ground admission only. There are 2 bars, the main club bar and a separate banqueting suite. Both bars are situated upstairs in the main stand and between them, run the length of the stadium Entry on non match day is via the main stadium entrance lobby (there is usually someone at the desk to point you in the right direction if you are looking lost).

The main club bar is to the right, a single, quite spacious room that offers panoramic views of what has been described by Wayne Hemmingway on Soccer AM as the finest stadium in the country. From an ecologiocal point of view he may have a point with its solar power and recycled rainwater (note the recycling pond outside from the veranda at the rear of the bar). Whilst the bar is comfortable enough and has good facilities (pool table, 2 dart boards, 2 decent plasma screens, table football in the corridor) getting served is sometimes a problem as the serving area is at times inadequate to cope on match days. The rest of the week doesn’t pose such problems. The walls throughout the stand contain several famous and sometimes hilarious footballing quotes and the bar has a few signed shirts, photos and a unusually, a mounted jigsaw of the previous Watling Street ground.

On the beer front, PP is one of the few football grounds to offer Real Ales and whilst the quality has always been unexpectedly good, they tend to be hit or miss on their availability. Whilst there are 4 hand pumps they generally have 2 Ales (if you’re lucky) albeit one of them is likely to be a guest along the lines of Landlord or, on my last visit, Wadworths 6X. The rest of the beers are the standard kegs and lagers with afew select bottled beers.

The banqueting suite is mainly used only for functions, corporate events and on match days for selected supporters and club members but is basically a plainer and slightly hollower mirror image of the main bar with large circular funtion tables and a smaller beer selection, ie no Ales although the staff may wander round and fetch one from the other bar if you ask really nicely. The monthly quiz night is also held in here.

As one would expect, the customers are largely pooled from the clubs above average supporter base although it should be noted that there are few pubs or bars at this end of town and it does therefore offer a welcome addition in what is a bit of a pub void. The supporters are a friendly and approachable bunch and are fiercely proud and protective of their stadium (and bar). That said they will welcome anyone who shows a passing interest in anything footie related no matter who you support.

The ground also sits just off the Darent Valley walk and are some nice local walks around the lakes nearby.

14 May 2008 12:20

The Osborne Arms, Deptford

Whilst the Osborne is a long way from pub utopia, it is certainly far more appealing than most of its near neignhbours, the Dog & Bell excepted. The interior is nothing to get excited about but, apart from the tacky “Peckham” currency on the wall, it is at least neat, tidy and welcoming enough albeit my visit was at an off peak time. The lack of Real Ales is the norm for this part of London (only the Dog & Bell makes the grade in these parts) so it’s the usual standard kegs / lagers etc. There is a dart board and a small stage for live music (didn’t hang around to watch but looked more professional than the average pub fare) and Big Screen for sports. I wasn’t there long enough to make an informed judgement on the place and with the Dog & Bell 3 minutes walk away, it is only as part of a crawl that would justify a return visit however it is certainly a notch up some of the neighbouring pubs we visited.

14 May 2008 12:07

The Rose, Dartford

Spurred on by the previous report of the presence of the wonderful Deuchars, I paid my first visit since the (not so) big (now) guy left to check out the changes. I can confirm the introduction of 2 Real Ales so that’s at least 2 steps in the right direction. The standard Ale was off (looked like Courage Best from reversed the pump clip) but the guest beer last night was a most welcome Hooky and of a perfectly drinkable quality. The interior is still rather bland and nothing to write home about with much of the rear taken up by the 2 pool tables and a table football game. The large trophy cabinet is still bulging which suggests they still take things pretty seriously on the games front. The best feature remains the beer garden in which I could happily whittle away a pleasant hour or so now that the beers are back in town. Whilst I have never encountered any problems here, some of the customer base can be a bit on the raucous side and not of a particularly endearing nature.

12 May 2008 14:01

The Wat Tyler, Dartford

Much of Dartford’s medieval High Street is now hidden behind Victorian Facades but one small corner by the Norman church still retains its 14th Century appearance. Part of this is the Wat Tyler, formerly the Crown & Anchor and fast becoming my local favourite, certainly for beer selection. It now almost a Sunday evening ritual to pop in for an hour before heading off to the Ivy League quiz. They now offer 5 Real Ales, John Smiths and Courage Best plus 3 ever changing and quite interesting guest beers. Some make regular appearances (Rev James pops up now and again and the Black Sheep Riggwelter made a welcome return last night) and they also do their bit for the local Millis Brewery (Thieves & Fakirs is regularly stocked). A small display of pump clips can be found by the front door. The beer quality is always excellent and the prices are generally below average for town. Whilst the interior has clearly been much altered over the years it probably hasn’t changed much since the 60’s albeit in places things are getting a bit tatty and worn. The old pew seats and exposed brickwork add to its basic approach and there are a few intimate nooks and crannies to the rear of the pub. The walls contain some interesting turn of the century photos of the town centre and some old antique firearms, presumably not loaded. There is also a dart board that I have strangely never noticed until recently. The alley outside (Bullace Lane) used to be a major route into town but now is merely a passage to Waitrose car park although the pub makes use of it for some outside seating. The pub does attract a few interesting characters but is generally friendly for a town centre pub and I have never encountered any hassle. It rarely gets uncomfortably packed despite its prime position. There is a basic TV (no Sky) and unobtrusive piped radio on occasions. Other than that it is just conversation on offer. Despite the claims, there is no evidence that Wat Tyler actually lived here but I am sure he would have approved of the current set up.

12 May 2008 13:13

The Harp of Erin, Deptford

A more hideous sight I have yet to encounter on the pub scene than the interior of the Harp of Erin, not that it is particularly appealing from the outside. The multiple shades of orange on show here are enough to Stevie Wonder vomit and even my colour blindness could not mute the vivid tones. Vast expanses of wall space are coated in orange hues and apart from the occasional cheap poster, tacky entertainment flyer and a few LP records plastered by the DJ booth, there is little to break up the bright monotony. Even the pillars are painted top to toe orange. The green baise of the pool table makes for a violent clash and adds to the dizzying nausea. The rest of the décor is little better. The seating reminds me of the back of a Ford Prefect, not that you can sit down anywhere, much of the bar area being a bit cramped and when we were there, the locals had spilled their belongings over virtually every available table despite all congregating at one with the bar. Obviously they weren’t expecting anyone else to wander in that day, but then why should they? A radio blasted out at a ridiculous volume (I was amazed that the tiny speakers could handle it) which leads me to believe the Please Leave Quietly signs are merely for decorative purposes. It’s not all doom and gloom. The Barmaid was very pleasant and I even got my (keg) beer in an old dimpled mug. But that’s about the end of the plusses. In a corner, a young mother was cradling her recent family addition. I hope her offspring grows up to have better taste in pubs.

7 May 2008 15:13

The Gloucester Arms, Kentish Town

When I last came here they had just changed management so I could forgive them the mess that the pub seemed to be in. A few months later I paid another visit only to find it closed for a much needed refurbishment. I recently paid a third visit to see the results. There were certainly plenty of aesthetic improvements and it all looks a bit tidier and neater. A plasma screen had replaced the old basic telly and the manky old heaters in the fireplaces have now also gone. To the rear, the large room, more geared for functions, has seen a lick of paint and the dart board appears to have been permanently removed along with the tatty and decidedly empty trophy cabinet. There is a separate pool room accessed from the road (or via the Gents loos from inside). None of the improvement can however mask the fact that this remains a pretty basic and unappealing pub with equally unappealing customers of limited vocabulary. There is little on the beer front, just the standard keg beers. I have never seen more than half a dozen punters inside despite being situated in a largely residential area whilst every other pub in Kentish Town is usually bustling every night. I can’t really say I blame people too much for staying away.

7 May 2008 14:02

The Stage Door, Dartford

One of only 2 Shepherd Neame pubs in town (the excellent Royal Oak being the other), the Stage Door was originally called the Smiths Arms until the nearby Orchard Theatre opened in 1982 and the pub changed its identity to maximize the trade from its new neighbour. The exterior has an interesting balcony as can be seen in the magnificent photo above (taken by myself of course) although the upstairs part of the pub is not accessible to the public. The interior is a bit cramped in places but they do make good use of the space available and I have never failed to get a seat somewhere. Note the old wall lines at the front where the pub was extended to create a bit more space in front of the bar and create the aforementioned balcony above. The latest structural addidtion is the small intimate recess to the left of the bar up the stairs. Naturally things are themed around the theatre and the walls are adorned with old photos (many autographed) of the actors, comedians and musicians that have appeared in the Theatre. It is not unusual find the occasional celebrity holding court or propping up the bar depending on who’s in town. There is always a good selection of Shepherd Neame beers and the quality has always been first rate on my frequent visits. They have recently added a plasma screen but to my knowledge they don’t have sky so it is a bit wasted. A corridor leads to a decent sized rear beer garden for the summer months. The busiest times are pre and post theatre shows and a useful tip for anyone going to the theatre, it is actually easier, quicker and cheaper to head for the Stage Door during the show interval rather than try to get served at the Theatre Bar. All in all, the Stage Door is one of my favourite local watering holes with a pleasant, hassle free atmosphere, something that many of the other town centre pubs severely lack.

1 May 2008 15:59

The Assembly House, Kentish Town

The Assembly House near Kentish Town tube station has a 300 year old history as a coaching inn. The quite grand exterior dates from the late 19th/early 20th century and its majestic spires (not captured in the photo above) make an unmissable landmark. The interior still retains traces of its original opulence even though it is certainly not as grand as it would have been in its heyday. The front bar is a bit dim despite the almost floor to ceiling windows and was originally several smaller rooms if the old wall lines in the ceiling are anything to go by. Many of the old etched windows have sadly been replaced with plain glass which rather spoils the symmetry. The more lavish bar at the rear contains a wonderful ceiling and some spectacular glass work and mirrors that provide a glimpse of its original opulence. Beyond is an old ballroom with portraits, bookshelves and a skylight. It is not hard to conjure up images of many an elegant ball or celebration that may have taken place here. Whilst the pub certainly has more character that many other pubs in the area, the beers are a bit of a let down with the ubiquitous Green King dominating albeit the prices are reasonable for the area. The pub generally attracts a good mix of people and I have never encountered any hassle in the 20 odd years I have been using the place. Service has always been good even though it can get busy when there is anything on at the Forum 200 yards down the road. Whilst it may not be anything near its original grandeur, it has served me well as a meeting place (after all, that is what the name implies) over the years and will hopefully continue to do so.

28 Apr 2008 16:34

The Plough and Harrow, Welling

It is true to say that apart from its convenience to the Railway station, there isn’t a great deal here to warrant a worthwhile journey from afar. The horseshoe shaped interior is fairly basic and featureless with a pool table at one end and the usual standard beers. Just the 1 Ale (Courage Best) although to be fair, they have Cask Marque accreditation so it is obvious that they do care about the beer quality, all of which makes you wonder why they have 3 redundant hand pumps. To answer my own query, the customer base appears to be more along the lines of Stellaheads than CAMRAnauts. One major plus, there is a surprisingly large and well kept beer garden to the rear that make the pub more of an attraction on a balmy summers evening. Other than that, it is functional enough place for the local people who use it but a passing pint is perhaps the favoured approach by everyone else.

14 Apr 2008 15:37

Crush Bar, Dartford

Hammered, I would have responded earlier but I have been busy looking for your sense of humour. Judging by your previous (dated) reviews and your regularly choice of hostelry, I am of the impression that you evaluate the merits of a pub / bar using your testosterone levels for guidance rather than your knowledge and taste buds. Perhaps when you have finished the personal insults, you would be kind enough to let us all know something about Crush (assuming of course that you have been there) other than it having a selective customer entry policy, something that I already know about.

14 Apr 2008 13:28

The Johns Cross Inn, Robertsbridge

The Johns Cross Inn appears to be a bit of a labour of love for Bob, its long standing charismatic landlord who doubles the pub up as a showcase for his impressive artwork (he has an art workshop and signwriting business in the old function room behind the pub). The weatherboarded building dates from the early 16th century and has quite a history, serving not only as an inn but also as an army recruitment centre, mail coach collection point and a customs & excise office. It is quite isolated and probably relies mainly on passing traffic and diners although I wouldn’t say there is a large emphasis on dining facilities like many country pubs. It does however unofficially boast the UK’s smallest pub dining room, a small room containing 1 table and an old bread baking kiln. As you would expect, the ceilings are low and beamed and the old fireplaces must have beckoned in many a weary traveler over the centuries. The late 18th century extension now houses a games room. It is however the murals and paintings that draw the immediate attention, maybe a bit overpowering but a great conversation piece. Not a large selection of ales - 2 on my visit (Abbott and Harveys) but Bob (if I may be so informal) certainly appears to take pride in the quality.
The large garden affords panoramic views over the downs (or so I was told - it was dark when I was there). An odd quirk is to be found in the car park - a tapered roller designed for rolling sloping lawns that was apparently found when clearing some brambles (naturally Bob referred to it as having a Roller in the drive). An interesting pub made very welcoming by the landlord and well worth a stop off on the way to/from the Battle or Hastings area.

11 Apr 2008 15:30

The Fat Cat, Norwich

I made a specific effort to find the Cat whilst on a recent trip to Norwich to see if the place can live up to some of the hyperbolic comments and I must say I was far from disappointed. The beer selection is an Ale drinkers paradise with more pumps (12 I think) than an evening can entertain and further barrels piled up in a cellar room behind the bar (visible through a bottle laden window at the side). Add in a mass of continental draught beers and bottles, ciders and perries and it is not hard to see the place has such a reputation. A helpful “menu” guides you through all that is on offer and even the most novice Ale drinker will easily find something to suit their taste. I tried at least 5 different beers (I only had 2 hours) including 3 of the in house brews and the quality was second to none. And since some people are never satisfied, they do Carlsberg as well!

As for the pub itself, the interior is a rambling mixture of rooms with brick, wood and tiled flooring and a cornucopia of old adverts, pub pictures, brewery tools, jugs, bottles, barrels, brewery mirrors and pub signs presumably rescued from local hostelries and lovingly restored into the treasured works of art they are. There are several, snugs, recesses and screened off areas and even when busy (I was here on a Friday evening) there seems to be a corner somewhere to find some seating. A separate TV room keeps the sport fans happy whilst the rest can enjoy their pints in relative peace.

I am so glad this is not my local. I would never leave.

10 Apr 2008 16:22

The Codsall Station, Codsall

This is definitely one for the Railway enthusiasts. This station building dating from 1849 is now a fully fledged pub cum railway museum not unlike the Buffet Bar at Stalybridge. The interior is packed full of railway memorabilia, signs, maps, name plates, signs, clocks and even coal shovels. 3 Ales from the Holden range (Ordinary Bitter, Special and Golden Glow when I was there) are supplemented by 2 guest beers (upcoming guest beers are indicated on a blackboard at the side of the bar). Occasional beer festivals are also held. The food is reasonably priced but fairly basic with special deals for pensioners at certain off peak times. The carpeted dining room is opposite the main bar with its welcoming fireplace. A corridor runs behind the bar with a snug alcove and ends up in a rear conservatory in what was presumably the old waiting room. This is turn leads to an open terrace on the platform with a few canopies. Several certificates are displayed for the various awards that have been won. A really interesting and unusual pub even if you are not particularly railway orientated.

10 Apr 2008 16:09

The Two Brewers, Dartford

I fear that the Two Brewers honeymoon period is over and any great hope I had about the improvements over the past year are rapidly disappearing. On my last 3 visits, just 1 Ale has been on and the priority seems to have shifted from decent beers to live music (the pub logistics are hardly conducive to live bands) and dodgy named DJs (oh God!). We intended to go and watch one of the live bands over Easter but left after 1 pint because the atmosphere became quite intimidating with several unsavoury people eying up the place for potential trouble. The new perimeter fence already has panels hanging off and there does not appear to be any rush to fix them. I would go so far as to say that it is probably as bad now as it has ever been and with the nearby Plough now closed after a constant battle against troublesome customers, the Two Brewers seems to be trying to attract the same sort of people and is now potentially in the firing line to go the same way. A shame as the new landlord (is he still there?) initially tried so hard to realise the pub’s potential.

10 Apr 2008 13:50

The Innbetween, Usk

This solidly built old cottage style pub is situated on the main road through town and has an attractive, appealing exterior (they proudly display certificates for its Pub in Bloom successes). One big plus is that it seems to be open when the other pubs in the town have the doors firmly bolted. The 2 bars at the front of the pub are fairly small and cosy and similar in style with plenty of hanging jugs, old beams, brasses, lanterns, old prints, maps, brewery mirrors etc. The locals tend to gather in the left hand bar whilst the right hand bar seems to be used more for darts and quizzes. Note the remnants of a second fireplace behind the pew seat near the bar suggesting that this was originally 2 rooms – would have been rather cramped. There is also a room to the rear containing a pool table and TV. On the downside, the toilets were not the best in the world and the beer selection was rather mundane with no Real Ales at the time of my visit. Very much a locals place but as outsiders, we were made to feel particularly welcome - largely thanks to our participation in Rocking Roger’s (no relation to me) Sunday Music Quiz which was largely played out for laughs and local bragging rights.

8 Apr 2008 12:48

The Old Star, Westminster

Has been shut for the past few weeks undergoing a full refurbishment. Reopens on saturday 5 April

3 Apr 2008 19:08

The Dart, Dartford

Until the arrival of Wetherspoons in the town centre in the mid 90’s, the Dart was Dartford’s newest pub, opening in 1958. Set in a residential area midway between Dartford and Crayford, it is not a place you would really come across unless you were looking for it and to be honest there is little from the outside to warrant more than a courtesy glance. The interior is divided into 2 bars, the main bar being 1 large room, truncated by an isolated supporting wall containing a stone fireplace in the centre. The floor is bare and seating is soft padded retro style. It feels a bit like a holiday camp bar or a social club and to be frank, I didn’t expect much more. I was also not expecting any Ales but was pleasantly surprised to find 3 handpumps - Bombardier and Harveys (in good nick) with 1 pump currently redundant. From the display of pump clips adoning the bar canopy and encircling the room they have had some pretty decent brews passing through (albeit the presence of the likes of Strongbow and Carling clips is perhaps pushing the display to the extreme). There is a separate public bar with pool table and beer garden to the rear. Not the most appealing of pubs and I was there during a quiet spell so I am not sure what it is like at peak times but worth a lucky dip if passing just for the possibility of catching the occasional unusual beer.

1 Apr 2008 22:55

The Albion, Barnsbury

The Albion is very appealing from the outside with its lovely villagey type setting and pillored entrance. The recently refurbished interior is decidedly upmarket and perhaps geared more towards the winers and diners. The front bar area is quite plain with a few settles, an expanse of polished wooden floor and and an abundance of candles. The music is low and the atmosphere sedate. To the rear on the right is the designated dining room whilst behind the main bar to the left is a lounge area that almost begs you to put on a smoking jacket and slippers. There are plenty of al fresco options with a a patio and benches at the front or a spacious partly covered beer garden to the rear. 2 Ales - Green King IPA and Black Sheep which at £3.20 a pint doesn’t come cheap. Despite a packed house at the nearby Emirates (a brisk 20 minute walk) there were barely half a dozen people in the pub prior to the game but then this isn’t really a place for the sporting fraternity. It is more suited to trying to impress a first date but as pleasant as it is, it is not really a place I would spend an evening, especially with the high bar prices and tame ambience.

1 Apr 2008 22:53

The Bull, Woolwich

A rather unspectacular L shaped pub with a vague Irish theme near Woolwich Arsenal station. No Real Ales and whilst it seemed friendly on my recent visit, there would be little appeal hear to anyone other than a few hardy locals, budding darts players or anyone who has just missed a train. Atmosphere was pretty flat on the Saturday night I was in there and the main entertainment was courtesy of a punter’s dog playing fetch with a bottle top.

31 Mar 2008 20:10

The Peacock, Gravesend

Tucked away down a back street not far from the town centre, this extended corner pub proudly displays its illuminated Courage sign but the pub name itself is mysteriously missing. Not previously listed on BITE hence not on my list of places to visit, it was only by venturing in out of curiosity and reading the noticeboard that we knew where we were. The pub is no great deal with a rather dull, basic and featureless interior. It meets all the requirements aof a town centre locals pub, 2 dart boards, pool table, jukebox, fruit machines etc but lacks any reason to make a stranger return or a passer by to pop in (except the curious such as myself). There was certainly nothing particularly wrong with it and it seemed friendly enough. We had a chuckle over 2 girls playing pool (very badly) but the lack of Ales and its Social Club style décor didn’t really hit any plus buttons.

31 Mar 2008 18:51

The Market Tavern, Gravesend

Previously named the Chase, this pub got a hefty makeover a year or so ago and whilst it has been renamed, it still has a horse racing theme and a distinct Irish feel although it not what you would generally label an Irish pub. Racehorse prints jockey for attention with a sizeable water jug and ashtray collection (so that’s what happened to them all). An ornate and intricate wooden cabinet behind the bar also caught my eye. The interior is probably a bit too bright and the newish feel from the refurb is still evident but overall it has a pleasant enough ambience without there being anything exceptional about it. 2 Ales – nothing spectacular (Speckled Hen and Youngs) but of decent enough quality and price. It’s not really a pub that is worthy of a specific trip or an evening session but fine for a crawl or to break up a hard day’s shopping.

31 Mar 2008 18:41

Bird In Hand, Dartford

The pub has indeed now been raised from the dead and a few slight improvements were instantly noticeable. For a start, there are now 2 Real Ales – Green King IPA & Speckled Hen (and in good nick as well). The interior is pretty much as it was but the tacky flags are no longer present, the juke box at a more sensible volume and the half dozen punters were not as intimidating as on my previous visit albeit I called at an off peak time. Pool and darts are still present and conveniently placed away from the main body of the pub. The huge beer garden is a big plus for the summer months. Not exactly a place to go out the way for and the guy behind the bar wasn’t exactly brimming with personality but credit must go for the improvements and getting the place on the map again.

31 Mar 2008 12:06

The Waggon and Horses, Sudbury

A short stroll from the town centre, the W&H was easily the best pub on our Sudbury session by a country mile although finding it closed until 7.00 on a Saturday night nearly meant we nearly didn’t get there at all. Entrance is through a courtyard and glazed conservatory and from the central bar a series of extended rooms branch off. The main room has sewing machine tables and possibly 2 of the smallest snugs in any pub. At the far end is a separate pool table section. The other direction appeared to be more of a dining area although it was pretty full. Several old adverts and signs adorn the walls and these are complemented by displays of old Oxo and Colmans Mustard tins, miniatures, cigarette cards and other nick nacks. The ubiquitous Greene King IPA was supplemented by 2 guest beers (Old Hooky and Golden Glow on our trip). Good service and friendly locals – we ended up staying for much longer than we planned which is always the sign of a particularly good pub. Highly recommended.

26 Mar 2008 13:53

The Tottenham, Soho

For all the plusses about the wonderful interior, the pub fails miserably on service. How they remain Cask Marque accredited when they frequently serve woefully short measures and fail to turn round the pump clips when the beers are not available is beyond me.

26 Mar 2008 10:26

The Wheatsheaf, Gravesend

The wonderful green tiled façade and old Trumans sign are as old fashioned as the people who inhabit this rather dated and yet strangely homely pub. The horseshoe shaped interior has a dart board at one end and a small and pretty basic TV at the other. It will never win any prizes for architectural merit and the décor is rather tired and drab. The plain carpet is a bit rough around the edges and the tiled fireplace has sadly been made redundant by a storage heater. There are a few bits worthy of noting, the shallow built in benches being especially quaint. The only Ale was Green King IPA although I nearly opted for a draught Toby bitter just for the hell of it. It really is that sort of pub. There are enough toothless pensioners and Vicky Pollard lookalikes to keep scriptwriters in work for years and yet, beneath the veneer is a real community pub spirit that is hard to find. The youngsters seem happy to hang around chatting even though some old codger with a walking stick was feeding the jukebox with wall to wall Des O’Connor (I joke not) and the numerous Christmas Cards (review was written in December before pub was added to the site) that were pinned to the bar frame show that the locals hold the staff in high esteem. This strange mix of customers, styles and tastes seem to cohabitate happily with each other and makes for a quite welcoming atmosphere. It is not a pub that will appeal to many people but I do find I have a strange affection and curiosity for the place.

25 Mar 2008 15:11

The Terrace Tavern, Gravesend

A rather plain and uninteresting pub not helped by being virtually next door to the excellent Crown & Thistle. The exterior is probably its best feature with its classic tiling and old brewery wording. Several etched windows are still intact although any broken ones have sadly been replaced by plain glass. The interior feels more like a social club with unadventurous décor, round the edge seating and even a small dance floor. There is a large plasma screen and a couple of fruit machines but not really much else to attract the passer by. The Ales (Spitfire and Pride) were both off although I was not expecting to find any in the first place. For the summer months there is a decent beer garden but for the most part, the pub lacks any real pulling power and certainly wouldn’t divert the average punter from its neighbour.

25 Mar 2008 15:05

D:Ream Bar, Gravesend

My previous memories of this place were of it being very rough and ready, as one would expect from a pub serving a busy station. We recently ended a pub crawl and found it to be a lot more welcoming and comfortable than my previous memories with softer furnishings and a friendly, relaxed ambience although it must be said, it was not very busy at the time. The knocked through interior is quite spacious although the décor is fairly ordinary and uninspiring. Some of the original features like the fireplaces are still intact. No Real Ales which is always a disappointment but overall it is not the worst place in town and certainly superior to the Railway Bell on the other side of the station.

25 Mar 2008 14:59

The Lord Derby, Plumstead

Typical – no sooner have I visited it, nominated it and written a review of it, the place shuts down. For the record, this was never the most inviting of pubs from the outside although the interior was quaintly retro with lots old old panelling, a large island bar still with its bar frame intact and that ultimate symbol of old fashionedness, an upright piano. Surprisingly, the 1 ale (Courage Best) was pretty good quality. Judging from the number of people in there on the Saturday night of my visit, it is not hard to see why it hasn’t survived. A shame really because it was far better than I was expecting although I have no doubt it would have been frequented by some fairly offputting characters over the years.

25 Mar 2008 13:16

The Coach and Horses, Mayfair

This small, rather odd-shaped pub is hidden in the backstreets and is not to be confused with a second C&H a couple of blocks away. The exterior is Mock Tuder with an abundance of flower baskets and a rosy glow emenating from its interesting latticed windows depicting various coats of arms. The interior has quite a bit of character with some elegant cornices but there is little room for seating although there is an upstairs dining room. A good selection of decent quality (Cask Marque accredited) Ales available (Doom Bar, Pride, Adnams Explorer and Landlord on my visit) and very reasonable prices considering the location. An impressive collection of pump clips are neatly arranged around the pub so that they do not look cluttered and the hops around bar frame are a nice touch. Despite the apparent lack of space, they still cram in a basic TV and a couple of Quiz / Fruit Machines. The customer base appeared to be a good mix and everything seemed quite civilised. All in all, a pretty decent little place and one that is worth hunting down.

25 Mar 2008 12:54

The Belvedere Hotel, Belvedere

A bit of a rough and ready, featureless hotel / pub near Belvedere station built at the turn of the last century. The interior is not exactly brimming with architectural merit but it serves a purpose for the locals. 3 hand pumps but only 1 Ale was on (Abbott) although to be fair, I wasn’t expecting any Ales at all. Watching the barmaid take the best part of 10 minutes to pour out 2 pints was a bit comical and unfortunately the quality did not do her services justice. All the usual amenities you would expect in the way of pool, darts, TV’s etc and a functional beer garden. Some old local pictures and drinks mirrors on the walls with a few sticks of dynamite (not joking) but overall it is a rather tired and dated 60’s/70’s place albeit friendly enough on my visit.

25 Mar 2008 11:08

Founders Arms, Bankside

Do pub staff think we are stupid!

24 Mar 2008 00:12

Plough, Dartford

Yep - all boarded up, name removed and seemingly gone forever. Well done pikeys and druggies! Had some good times in here over the years but it was dragged down by local pond life. I dare say they will now target other local pubs to do their dodgy deals.

10 Mar 2008 13:24

The Bell Hotel, Thetford

This 15th Century coaching inn has now expanded a bit with a few modern additions but the core still retains plenty of its old character even though it is a rather dull place for anything more than a quick pint. The bar consists of a single room bar that is semi divided by a brick fireplace. Plenty of old beams (note the old calling bells) and pillars remind you of the buildings age but somehow the place just doesn’t conspire to feel particularly interesting in a way that such an old building should. The décor and furnishings are a bit depressing and despite a few old East Anglia maps and military bits and pieces (Thetford doubled up for Walmington on Sea in Dad’s Army and the cast were based here during filming) there is nothing that really catches the eye. Being Green King country, this is naturally an IPA / Abbot stronghold however the Abbott was off on my trip and the IPA just about drinkable. Not much in the way of atmosphere – a sedate and civilised hotel bar feel with virtually inaudible music. The most interesting feature (as any Thetford guide will tell you) is the outside corner post with its numerous iron nails banged into the wood, a legacy of this being where the public proclamations were posted in the days before Teletext and Sky News. By the look of the overhang, there have been a few scrapes with the local Lorries over the years as well. The pub also claims to be of the UK’s most haunted sites so keep an eye on your glass. Overall, a bit disappointing given the alluring nature of the building from the street.

22 Feb 2008 12:33

Bill Nicholson, Tottenham

In 2005, the old Northumberland Arms underwent a major £150k image change that transformed it from a traditional Victorian boozer that struggled to cope with the match day hordes to a trendy Spurs themed bar that still struggles to cope with the matchday hordes. The Spurs connections with the pub are more intrinsic than a brush of paint – the pub was originally where the players changed in the days of taped crossbars and pipe smoking goalkeeprs. The old pub décor and dated furnishings have now made way for a navy and white colour scheme and £25k worth of programmes, autographed shirts, boots, tickets and other Spurs memorabilia. A mass of old programmes run the entire length of one wall, lovingly organized like a keen philatelist with a prized stamp collection. Multiple screens show Spurs DVD’s and keep the pre-match crowds updated on the latest sports news. The bar staff wear matching matchday Spurs T-Shirts (Arse fans need not apply for vacancies here) and the only surprise is that neither of the teams on the table football game are in Spurs colours. Sadly the beers are pedestrian and mainstream with no Real Ales; mass product beer for the mass crowds seems to be the motto. The old bar frame has been removed making the pub appear a lot more spacious even though it is still impossible to negotiate your way round the pub on match day. A marquee in the now cheaply tarmaced beer garden copes with the overflows as best as it can and a BBQ is usually sizzling away on the front terrace. Aside form a bit of football nostalgia, this pub will not appeal to many people beyond non Ale drinking Spurs fans. They do have the occasional guest evening (speaker that is, not beer) hosted by former Spurs players. Bill Nick himself lived locally for virtually all of his life and I dare say he would have popped into the old Northumberland on one or two occasions. Being such a humble and self effacing man, he would probably be quite embarrassed at all the attention he is afforded in having a pub named after him.

21 Feb 2008 15:19

The Trout, Hammersmith

This is about as plastic and contrived as such pubs go. Plonked in the middle of a shopping mall, it has always been a place to steer clear of and apart from a curiosity visist when it first opened, I have always done just that. It recently grabbed my attention as it has recently gained Cask Marquee accreditation so thought I would give it a go this week during a pre-Apollo session. On the Plus side, the beer was indeed pretty decent quality however the excitement is somewhat diminished by the fact that the Ales are the ubiquitous Green King IPA and Abbott. The interior is hardly a wonder of architecture and generally reeks of burgers as you first walk in. It is akin to an airport bar with little soul or character and about as appealing as drinking a tin of Fosters outside the Tesco’s opposite. The usual run of plasma TV / games / Quiz machines are present and the customer base is sourced from shoppers too knackered to walk any further, office workers with a lack of adventure or Apollo goers falling out of the tube station and with no idea of anywhere else to go in the area. Chances of getting a seat are practically zero whilst the shops are open and once they are closed and the show at the Apollo has started, there seems little point of being here at all unless you are a Green King fan. That said, it is certainly not as unpleasant as the rating suggests although it is hardly a place to carry any particularly recommendation.

20 Feb 2008 15:49

Plough, Dartford

I haven't been in here for about 6 months, since the old regime kicked the Sunday Music Quiz into touch, probably the only night of the week when people with brains outnumbered those without. A scribbled note outside is advertising Speckled Hen & IPA at £1.50 a pint - good in that they have at least made an effort with the ales (it is years since the Hen last made an appearance here) but if they are trying to rid the place of druggys from the estate and general low life characters, knocking out cheap beer isn't going to help turn things around. All the usual cheap entertainment (DJ's, Karaoke etc) appear to be part of the way forward so I don't expect things to change too much from what they were. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss!

19 Feb 2008 16:23

The Belvoir Tavern, Belvedere

Modern 2 bar pub that was once handy for the adjacent Erith & Belvedere football ground before the main stand mysteriously burned down and the land sold for a B&Q depot. Many would argue that it was a shame that the fire was only limited to the football ground. As pubs go, this place has little going for it - dated décor, no ales (2 redundant hand pumps), dull layout, dubious customer base. It feels like a cheap social club at which the only entertainment is watching the fish in the tank near the bar. There are few pubs around here of note but none are as unappealing as the Belvoir. A reliable source tells me that it is earmarked for closure so avoid it while you still can.

15 Feb 2008 15:15

The Steamship, Blackwall

A quite spacious L shaped pub that you will never find by accident! With new buildings springing up in this area at alarming rates, the Steam ship is a throw back to old Victorian alleyways and backstreets and seems at odds with some of the surroundings. The interior, however, lacks any real character or warmth; everything seems very square and plain. The décor is quite old fashioned with dated wallpaper, bare floors and old paneling with a mix of hard and soft furnishings. A set of small canal themed watercolours of the sort that tend to populate car boot sales adorn the rear walls. The front bar is quite narrow but has a pool table at one end whilst to the rear the pub opens up with part used for dining. At the very back is a walled outdoor patio area. The bar can get a bit congested as this seems to be where the masses gather although this usually consists of a leaving do or post work drink up. The remainder of the pub has always been empty on my 3 or 4 visits. Decent quality beers (Green King IPA / Wadworth 6X / London Pride) but don’t expect all (or sometimes any) to be available. The 2 Plasma screens generally show Sky News or Sports, usually drowned by the jukebox. It is a decent enough place but it would be interesting to see how the place fared if there was some decent local competition.

15 Feb 2008 15:02

The Tom Cribb, Piccadilly

Originally known as Cribbs Parlour, the pub name honours an early 19th Century bare knuckle boxer (a.k.a. the Black Diamond) who later became a publican in the area. The current building dates from the early 1900’s and for the literarature fans, featured in novels by William Makepiece Thackery (Vanity Fair) and Arthur Conan Doyle (Rodney Stone). A select range of Shepheard Neame beers (Masterbrew + Spitfire as standards supplemented by one other from the range – Porter on my recent visit) at reasonable prices bearing in mind you are yards from Leicester Square. The exterior has some nice old tiling whilst the interior is a bit of an odd mix with polished wooden floor, padded seats, fairly dated wallpaper but modern doors and windows. The angled beam across the bright red painted ceiling suggests that there were once a few odd shaped rooms within the building. There are some interesting old London photos as well as a varied selection of boxing portraits. It tends to have more of a locals feel than being touristy and is a pleasant enough pub for a few beers if you can grab a seat but overall not a place that lingers as being particularly memorable.

15 Feb 2008 13:28

The Chequers, St James's

Originally the Masons Arms after the stone masons yard situated behind pub.According to Pub history, the pub was opened for the masons prepraing the stone work for the building of the nearby St James Palace and they used the pub as a base for playing chequers. By 1751 it had simply become known as the Chequers pub and the name has stuck ever since. The earliest records date from 1731 however as the nearby Palace was built some 40 years earlier, we can assume that there has been an pub here in one form or another since the end of the 17th century. The current building has a Victorian facade but theinterior is considerably older. The quaint, carpeted L shaped interior is quite small even allowing for the original rooms being knocked through. The décor is fairly simple with plain walls and a slightly wonky but heavily painted burgundy ceiling. There are various plates, bottles and figurines dotted around the high shelves and traditional features like patterned windows and a bar frame are still intact. A quite disproportionately sized plasma screen dominates the front of the bar. There are usually 3 Ales, Pride, Directors + 1 guest (Theakstons on my last trip) and an orderly collection of previous guest beer pump clips can be viewed behind the bar.

60’s music lovers will be interested in taking a short detour down the passage at the side of the pub into Masons Yard itself. No 6 was the art gallery where John Lennon first met Yoko Ono who was holding an exhibition there, No 9 was the photographic studio of Gered Mankowitz who took many classic photos here of legends such as Hendrix and the Stones and No 13 was the Scotch Of St James Club that hosted many famous 60’s bands and was a famous Swinging 60’s hang out. I think we can safely assume that the Chequeres was probably the 60's equivalent of Camden's Hawley Arms.

6 Feb 2008 15:00

Test 11, Gloucestershire

The Test 11 bar is not known for its wide range of real ales however there is a decent supply of Lapin Kulta. Naturally, for a Finnish icebreaking vessel, the beers are served far below the usual temperatures and would be far too extreme for the average Ale drinker. The décor has a nautical theme but is a bit basic although there is some splendid rivet work and traditional low bulkheads. Smokers can catch the wonderful scenery from the starboard deck although there is little shelter. In choppy weather it is not uncommon to be served short measures and the pool table is somewhat compromised. The TV reception is at best erratic with a few stretchy images caused by incorrect Aspect Ratio settings. Not the most accessible bar to visit but there is little else in the immediate area.

14 Jan 2008 10:07

The Dukes Head, Walthamstow

Christ, give me strength! My review was 18 months ago. If it has changed for the better then so be it but I would hazard a guess that the addition of a pint of Bass and something to mask the smell would make this a 10/10'er. Are you really putting this place on a par with the greatest pubs in the country? I would suggest you need to venture out a bit before you start having a pop at people who have reviewed hundreds of pubs on this site over many years. At least I have noticed that I never gave the place an actual rating. 3/10 is generous from my memories but should cover things. Thanks for drawing the place back to my attention again.

30 Dec 2007 23:44

The Angel, Soho

15 All.

29 Dec 2007 10:56

The Clytha Arms, Clytha

Situated on minor road between Raglan and Abergavenny, it can be a rather tricky place to find unless you know the area, definitely one to test out the SatNav. The first thing that you notice when you get there are the extensive gardens with benches and tables. The pub is a farmhouse style building with a pavilion style canopy along the front covering some outside seating. The porch contains a selection of the beer pump clips from the various guest ales that have passed through the multiple hand pumps. On my visit there was an excellent selection that included Rhymney, Double Dragon, Festivity, Old Hooky and Tally Ho as well as Adnams Barley Wine from a barrel on the counter, Old Rosie cider, Herefordshire Country Perry and Theakstons and Westons cider on draught. If you can’t be happy with that lot then you really should give up drinking. The pub has won several CAMRA awards and when we were there they had just that day won the South & Mid Wales Region pub of the year and to celebrate all the Real Ales were £1 a pint for the evening. Things really don’t get better than that. The interior is divided into 3 areas. The main bar has a bare wood floor, pews in the window bays, fireplace, brewery posters and mirrors, teddy bear figures, ceramics, urns and a table skittles board. Through to the carpeted lounge bar with impressive soot encrusted inglenook fireplace guarded by 2 stone dogs with shields, an old record player and a large settle. Beyond this room is the dining area, quite expensive but food is of high quality. Even a trip to the toilets throws up a surprise in the clever murals on the brickwork. The whole pub is very welcoming and there was a wonderful bubbly barmaid keeping evryone entertained. There were several dogs who also seemed to enjoy the pub as much as their owners. It is all very civilised and friendly and even though there is no music or TV’s the bubble of conversation ensures that there is never any deathly silence. To cap it all, they also sell their own hand made soap and chutney. They seem to think of everything here. A fantastic place and I was close to giving it the magical 10 rating however the £1 a pint celebrations may have clouded some of my judgement. I shall one day return and hopefully find enough for the missing point.

29 Dec 2007 00:04

The Clarence, Mayfair

Named after King William IV (Duke of Clarence) this is not one of the better Nicholsons establishments, in fact it is quite dull and uninteresting given its location. It is a bit of an odd mix of old and new styles and seems to want to be known for something historic or famous but just doesn’t have anything to grasp hold of to fill the requirement. The blurb on the walls go on about all the famous people who lived in the area (Alexander Pope, John Nash, Chopin) but there is nothing that actually links them to the pub. The interior consists of a front section with paneled walls and mirrors whilst the main bar to the rear is a bit narrow and cramped. The ceiling in the front bar is particularly ornate but generally the place is a bit bland. 3 Ales included Pride, Landlord and Waggledance all decent enough and reasonably priced. The place gets fairly busy and unless you know where to go, pubs around this neck of the woods are not easily stumbled on. There is an upstairs Drawing Room Bar & Dining Room with a table service and a bit more decorum but overall I cannot find anything about this place to lift it above average at best.

28 Dec 2007 23:45

The Chequers Inn, Bressingham

This 16th Century thatched coaching inn on main road just outside Diss on the way to Thetford is one of those places that just beckons you to stop and pop in for pint. Originally it catered for the workers restoring the nearby church however its recent history is a little more, er, chequered. A family dwelling from the late 50’s to the early 80’s it has been converted back to a pub albeit greatly expanded to cater for the modern demands. For what is essentially a dining pub, there is a good amount of space for drinkers and even the presence of a pool section does not limit the space. The main drinky bit has bare floor, old beams, pillars, tudor style walls, large inglenook fire with stove, a large settle, quiz machine and jukebox (low volume). Beyond the pool area is a large room used for functions and coach parties so don’t panic when that Shearings coach load of shopping grannies and grandads on the way back from Dads Army trips to Thetford pull into the car park. Your intimacy is secure. The bar area has stone floor and rugs with a modern inglenook recreation with barrels, kettles and brasses. A portable carvery counter looks a little out of place and intrusive. Ales included Woodford Wherry, Adnams, Green King IPA, Adnams Explorer and Whitbread mild. For my first round the prices seemed reasonable but when I bought a pint of Explorer on its own it weighed in at a hefty £3. The Cask Marque on display was long past its expiry but the beer quality was very good although the measures left a bit to be desired. The main dining area is to the right of the bar and extends through 2 rooms. Don’t be fooled by all the old beams and pillars, much of it is fake but it is still a tastefully recreation of an olde worlde pubbe using reclaimed wood. There are several pictures on display by local artists which are up for sale. I’m not generally one to dine out but we did so here and I have to say the food was top notch (The pheasant at £7.50 with all the trimmings, was excellent value for money). Overall, a really enjoyable evening and we stayed for a lot longer than we anticipated.

28 Dec 2007 23:34

The Jolly Drayman, Gravesend

A strange mock old world style pub with plenty of low beams, reclaimed timbers and exposed brickwork that make you forget that you are in a building that is no more than 100 years old. The pub is now part of a hotel / restaurant / bar complex that stands on the site of the old Walkers brewery. Entry is through a glass lobby which has a few seats and a fruit machine but little character. A panelled alcove on the left as you enter the main bar houses an unobtrusive darts area and from here onwards you need to mind your head. The bar itself is quite small but the beer selection puts it in the top 3 or 4 pubs in town. Deuchars has been the only ever present on my visits and on my latest trip Bombardier, Rosey Nosey and Hopback Elf & Hoppiness made up the numbers. There is a TV in the main bar and a curiously positioned seat beneath it in an alcove. A further bar area is beyond the divide with a brick fireplace and and windows looking out into the narrow alley. There is also a small outdoors patio at the front. Service has always been good and the atmosphere friendly and relaxed. A curious place but well worth seeking out and only a short stroll from the town centre.

28 Dec 2007 21:51

The Crown and Thistle, Gravesend

Everyone who ever recommends a pub to me in Gravesend nearly always quotes the Crown & Thistle. It seems to have reputation that preceeds it so a visit was long overdue. Actually we did come here a month or so ago after the Gravesend Beer Festival so things were a bit of a blur. The interior is long and narrow, carpeted and with a low ceiling, half panelled walls, old fireplace with stove, beams with jugs, ship pictures and a fair collection of rowing trophies. It’s all very cosy and civilised and a world away from the bustle of the town centre. At the rear is a pleasant courtyard with what looks like a fairly new sheltered area to presumably make life bit more comfortable for the smoking outcasts. It is of course the beers that raise the C&T to the top of the tree; 6 pumps with a good selection of guest beers which included the local Gravesend Shrimper, Everards Sleighbell and Oakham JHB. A pub that carries my endorsement alongside all those who pointed me in its direction in the first place.

28 Dec 2007 21:06

The Call Boy, Gravesend

The subtext of Sports Bar should give away a few clues as to what you should expect here; multi Screens, fruit machines, pool table and, er, not much else to be honest. A month or so ago we walked in and turned straight back round thanks to the noise and less than savoury mouthpieces inside. At least we had the place pretty much to ourselves yesterday afternoon. Despite being a Shephered Neame pub, there are no ales, just 2 redundant hand pumps and a selection of kegs. The interior is bland, the music rubbish and only the delightful barmaid and scared dog were worthy of any praise. My colleague tells me it was good here once. How times change.

28 Dec 2007 20:55

Robert Pocock, Gravesend

It seems that a town ain’t a town these days unless it has a Wetherspoons and Gravesend’s Robert Pocock (a local historian, naturalist, antiquarian, and printer) is probably one of the above average members of JD’s family. The large interior is quite rambling with lots of alcoves and recesses to hide away in. Further seating can be found on an upstairs balcony creating a sort of atrium. The usual snippets of local history, characters and old town photos are dotted about and the usual discounted food and drink apply. 2 Guest beers seem the norm for Wetherspoons these days and there are 2 or 3 pubs nearby that can now match the ‘Spoons Ale selection, if not the price. 2 large plasma screens cater for the sporting occasions and they even had the commentary on during our visit when they were showing rugby. There was no sign of the usual doughnut brained pond life or saturated wino contingent but I dare say they do make an occasional appearance.

28 Dec 2007 20:19

The Somerset Arms, Gravesend

Definitely one of Gravesend’s better establishments, the Somerset Arms rambling interior is a mass of angled brickwork, screens, twisted pillars, low beams and brick fireplaces. The walls are adorned with a fascinating mix of movie posters, gold discs, old records, brewery mirrors, old pictures, clocks and even a large Humphrey Bogart. Even the seating contains some unusual pews and settles. It probably offers the best selection of Ales in town (along with the Crown & Thistle) – 6 hand pumps with Youngs, Abbott and Pedigree for the unadventurous, Nelsons Revenge, Archers Wheat Beer and Summer Lightning for the bearded list tickers. On the downside the piped music was of at a Lionel Ritchie / Phil Collins level and the board outside advertises discos so I guess it is not always the tranquil oasis that we found yesterday afternoon. Nevertheless it is well worth a visit - just pick the right time.

28 Dec 2007 20:07

The Three Daws, Gravesend

I am trying so hard to like this place but it is always let down by the poor quality of its beers. I recall the most foul tasting pint of Brains Rev James on my previous visit and the Millis Kentish Red I had yesterday wasn’t much better although to be honest the Millis beers aren’t that great to start with. Unfortunately the Hydes Xmas beer (Yule Be Back) was gone and the only other option was the ubiquitous Green King IPA. Tough choice. The pub itself is a sprawl of alcoves and a mix of old features and sympathetic refurbishment. The pub was originally built in 1488 although how much of the original pub remains is not clear. It was reknown as a smugglers inn and there is a record of the innkeepers from when the pub was first built. The exterior is quite charming with towering chimney stacks, gabled windows, weatherboarded walls and mossy roof tiles. The interior features include some pretty ancient fireplaces and there is a nautical feel about the place with old ship wheels and drawings of famous Thameside pubs. There is also a bar billiards table, quite a rarity in its own right. At the rear is a patio overlooking the river and Gravesend’s piers although the industrial site on the far bank does take off a bit of the shine. There are a few function rooms that can cater for large or small gatherings, the main one being downstairs and which can easily mistaken as the main entrance to the pub. The main entrance is actually up the stairs at the front of the building. It is an interesting place and if they could improve on the beer quality it would rank as a “must visit” on any Gravesend visit.

28 Dec 2007 19:48

The Boar's Head, Stockport

Situated next to the historic market building, this rambling old hotel is now part of the Sam Smiths empire and has an interior that has merited inclusiuon on the CAMRA inventory of unspoilt pub innards although it should be noted that some of the interior walls were actually reinstated during a major refurbishment in 2002 so it’s not all original. A series of rooms radiate from the main bar all quaintly dtaed in style and ambience. The prices are also rather old fashioned as long as you don’t mind the infamous Sam Smith product range. There are plenty of old pictures to transport your mind back in time including a 1900 picture of the building itself showoing how little anything has changed, apart from the new open air smokers terrace that is. Well worth popping in for the experience although it will generally appeal more to us more mature drinkers.

28 Dec 2007 19:09

The Boileroom, Guildford

The Boiler Room is essentially a music pub although it is located in quite a pleasant residential area. Music pubs generally tend to mean basic dark interiors, flourescent lights, poor selection of overpriced beers and a motley collection of indoe kids, metal heads and goths. The Boiler Room meets most of these criteria although prices are quite reasonable. The stage area is small and there are sevral awkward pillars that obscure vthe sight line but it is still a lot better than someothers that I won’t care to mention here. The building is very wheelchair friendly and it is obvious that some thought has gone into arranging the interior when the place was converted. An airlock leads through to a decent beer garden and ensures that no noise escapes to wake up the slumbering kids in the nearby houses. There is also a Thai kitchen which seemed to be doing a good take away trade when we were there as well as attract the local feline colonies. All in all, a pretty decent place for what it is.

28 Dec 2007 19:00

The Bree Louise, Euston

The Bree Louise is a bit tucked away down a back street near Euston Station and from the amount of exterior foliage it is hard to believe there is actually a pub behind the forest of greenery. Once you have negotiated the office groups that tend to clog up the doorway, you will find a rather mundane and unremarkable interior. Plain walls with a few old black and white photos, plain ceilings, quite open with a couple of divides but there is a small cosy room at the front if you can bag a table there. The furnishings are a mix of pews and stools and it all feels a bit tatty and shabby. The bar is relatively small but they generally pack in 8 Ales which is the real magnet. Actually there were only 7 on my visit (Doom Bar / Harveys / Deuchars / Adnams Broadside / Adnams Regatta / White Star Dark Destroyer / White Star Crafty Shag) but that is plenty to keep me occupied over the course of an evening. It’s definitely worth a visit for the beers alone although the pub itself lacks any real character.

28 Dec 2007 18:52

The Peasant, Clerkenwell

The Peasant has plenty of positives that appeal to me but somehow I find it all a bit too open and lacking any intrinsic charm. The interior is spacious but the high dark moulded ceiling and large plain picture windows make it seem a bit cavernous. The real gem of the place is the fantastic mosaic floor, a bit of a rarity these days even if the wording does depict its previous life as the George & Dragon. The music posters give it a bit of an arty edge and there is a decent enough selection of beers (Bombardier, Crouch End Gold and Skinners Betty Stogs). There is an upstairs restaurant which gives the place its gastropub tag although the restauarant and bar are quite separate. All in all, this is a fine place for a couple of beers but I wouldn’t specifically choose it for a full session.

28 Dec 2007 18:41

The Coopers Arms, Northfleet

A short walk up the hill from Websfleet Utd (aka Ebbsfleet Utd, aka Gravesend & Northfleet) football ground, the Coopers leans heavily towards its sporting neighbour although it doesn’t seem to be that popular with the fans (I was one of about half a dozen people in here prior to a recent game). The interior is mock Tudor with plenty of fake beams, a large open screen housing a few trophies (for what?) and dimpled glass panelled windows. The main bar area is awash with football shirts and club scarves. Beyond the screen is an odd shaped area that houses a pool table, jukebox and good quality Big Screen. The bar has an interesting tiled roof with the moniker “Pips Bar” and the tiling is reflected on the bar surface itself. The football light / ceiling fan shades are a bit tacky but I suppose it’s in keeping with the general scheme of things. The beer selection is hardly extensive and my last visit saw both hand pumps out of action. It is a comfortable enough place to meet before a game or for a couple of pints afterwards and is handy for Northfleet station. One word of warning though; some of the conversations I have overheard in this and other surrounding pubs have been far from savoury and this is not an area to go around upsetting the locals.

28 Dec 2007 18:03

Ben Crouch's Tavern, Fitzrovia

This is one of the “Eerie pubs” owned by the Spirit chain and one of 3 that I know of in London. It is basically a normal pub that has been turned into a themed gothic horror movie set with lots of intimate alcoves and recesses to hide away. Visualise Frankenstein meets the Addams Family and you get the idea. You can almost expect Dr Phibes to rise through the floor or visualise silhouetted figures etched in the windows against a lightning backdrop. Stone floors, gargoyles, cabinets containing test tubes and conical flasks, old horror movies on screens behind the bar. It’s all very tacky but great fun and done rather well. There are several raised areas and finding a seat involves a bit of exploration when it is busy. The beer pumps are a maze of tubing but it has to be said, the beer selection is a bit mundane with Pride and Bombardier the only 2 ales (although the Bombardier was off on my visit). At £2.80 a pint, prices aren’t wallet busting especially for the experience of being here in the first place. The only concessions to normality are the 2 plasma screens showing Sky Sports that somewhat ruin the ambience. With a better beer selection, a few severed heads and the walk through bookcase as per its sister pub, the London Stone, it would be a classic. As it stands, it is worth a visit even if it is only for the novelty value.

26 Dec 2007 10:37

The Barley Mow, Shoreditch

A small basic single room Fullers corner pub with a good selection of beers given its size. ESB, Pride & Discovery on handpump + draught Litovel (4.2 and 5% versions), Fruili and Honey Dew. The helpful and knowledgeable barman was steering a couple of foreigners through the different beers and offering tastings when I walked in which is always good to see. The décor is fairly basic with bare wooden floors, settles, cream tongue and groove ceiling and large picture windows with the Fullers logo. Also noted some decent music when I was there but that’s just a matter of taste. Not sure where the Skull & Crossbones flag comes into the scheme of things but it was a jolly RogerB when I left. Ouch. Sorry about that one.

26 Dec 2007 10:16

The Apple Tree, Clerkenwell

Lost in the side streets in the shadows of the massive Mount Pleasant sorting office, the Apple Tree is not one of the better known London pubs. The place is pleasant enough, a refurbished, corner pub with an element of trendiness that does not offend the traditionalists and has a safe widespread appeal. The interior has been knocked through although a staircase now cuts awkwardly through the middle of the pub. It’s all very clean and tidy without oozing any great character, fairly plain decor, polished wooden floor, high ceiling and the now token sofa loungey bit at one end. 3 hand pumps – a very good pint of Davenport, the ubiquitous Green King IPA and a further redundant pump. There are newspapers for the lonely, a Big Screen for the sporty, a fireplace for the cold, a large mirror for the vain and outside seats for the smokers and sun worshippers. Not really sure who ventures here apart from the local PO workers and whilst it seems to cater for most tastes, I cannot see anyone making a special effort to seek it out. File under “if in the area…”.

26 Dec 2007 10:01

The Ship, Hextable

Historic church laws prevented any pubs in nearby Hextable village hence the Ship is stranded just outside the parish boundary down a narrow country road in the middle of nowhere. The Public Bar is at the roadside of the pub and on my visit was inhabited by a few gobby no brainers. The bar is tatty and worn with a plain floor, 2 small fireplaces, a dartboard and trophy cabinet that has seen more fruitful days. The carpeted rear saloon bar is far more tidy, comfy and inviting with long padded pews, low plain ceiling, a couple of ship prints and old clock. The focal point is the brick fireplace next to the bar although the plasma screen above diverts the attention. There is a conservatory at the rear and a sizeable beer garden with plenty for the kids to play on. The beer selection was standard lager and keg bitter supplemented by a polypin oif Brakespear that was long past its best. If the beers weren’t reason enough to move on, listening to the Darkness’s Christmas Time whilst the TV was churning out Strictly Come Dancing certainly was. With its pleasant country location, the Ship could be such a terrific place but as things stand, it fails to live up to its potential.

25 Dec 2007 23:44

The Angel Inn, Larling

The Angel is a 17th century old coaching Inn that once stood on the busy Thetford to Norwich main road but has now become a bit isolated by the building of the new A11 that now cuts off the village. The interior is divided into a public and saloon bars with an additional restaurant. The moment you walk in, the food smell hits you and tempts you towards the menu. The beer selection is equally enticing. In an area dominated by Green King it was a pleasure to encounter a pub offering 5 non Green King beers including the excellent Crouch Gold, Woodford Mardling Mild and even the ciders and lagers were a bit more adventurous (Adsells and Bitburger respectively). The mock Tudor Public bar is to the left as you go in and has tiled floor, beamed ceiling, darts, fruit machine and juke box. Water jugs hang over bar and amongst the old photos on the wall is one of the pub with presumably one of the current owners descendants (the pub has been in the same family for over 80 years). There are also several sporting pictures (mainly motor racing – Snetterton race track is nearby) drawn by noted local artist Alan Stammers who I believe is related to the owners. The carpeted saloon bar is more lounge like with warm oak panelling, inglenook fireplace and stove, cushioned settles, more water jugs, quiet unobtrusive background music and a more sedate and genteel approach. The restaurant is in an adjacent room although several people were dining in the bar area. Attractions include an annual Beer Festival in August and a tractor run on Boxing Day. Well it beats watching the Great Escape. There is also a caravan park and camp site within the 4 acres of grounds for those who find it a struggle to get back home. Despite the obvious plus points, I didn’t actually feel that overwhelmed by the place and it perhaps lacked a certain charm or intimacy. It is certainly worth a visit although you will need a SatNav to find it but ultimately it lacks that extra bit of wow factor to make it a real classic.

25 Dec 2007 22:21

Albion, Thetford

This pleasant old cottage style pub is a short walk from the town centre and close to the nearby castle hill and medieval earthworks. The carpeted main bar is nothing fancy or over the top but has a nice cosy glow to it with sash windows, drape curtains, old pictures and fireplace with woodburner. The beers are good quality (enough to make the Good Beer Guide) although the selection rather mundane – 5 hand pumps – 2 Green King IPA, 2 Abbott and 1 redundant. There is a separate pool area and a couple of fruit machines, a beer garden and seating out the front. The pub is nothing exceptional but it is far more enticing and friendlier looking than some of the other pubs in the town centre and worth the stroll for a pint before or after exploring the castle area.

25 Dec 2007 21:28

The Abbey, Westminster

This has always looked like a place to warrant walking past however the previous comments about good beer led me to believe that there was something worth exploring at the bottom of the stairs. This modern basement bar is not exactly oozing with character and the quite bland décor and lack of any natural light doesn’t help. It is fairly spacious with high ceilings and a separate balcony area but appears to be more of an evening venue than a quick lunchtime pint stop off. The bar, dominated by shelves of bottles and 3 large angled plain mirrors, extends the whole length of the floor and it would have to be extremely packed or have totally inept staff not to get served quickly. As it happens, on my 2 lunchtime visits, the bar staff have outnumbered the punters. The tables in the main bar area are standing height with tall stools although there is a raised area at one end with more traditional seating. There are a few large potted plants dotted about and 3 large cylindrical lights and a couple of ceiling fans break up the plainess of the ceiling. The music is almost as bland as the bar and there is the usual run of 3 plasma screens and quiz/games machine. As for the beers, the original enticement, there are 4 hand pumps, 2 with Marstons (Pedigree and Burton Ale) and 2 with Jennings (Sneck Lifter and World Biggest Liar). The quality was however poor and I get the impression on my first visit that mine was the first pint and no-one had pulled through the pump before they opened. It was barely drinkable and far too warm. The quality the second time was better but not good enough to carry any recommendation. As bars go, the place will appeal to those who prefer them to more traditional pubs (The photo above (not mine!) pretty much says it all) but it would need a sharp upturn in beer quality to get me back for a third visit, which is a pity given the selection available.

25 Dec 2007 21:18

The Ship, Tottenham

According to the brief history displayed on the wall, the Ship was one of 4 Coaching Inns in Tottenham that serviced the London to Cambridge route. A pub was recorded here as early as 1610 and one of the original buildings was an impressive and presumably sizeable place described as having 6 gables. The current version is late Victorian and still retains a few fragments of its original past, notably the green tiled façade with its large lantern, ornate patterned burgundy ceiling, an impressive fireplace, some of the etched windows and some interior tiling although sadly much of this is now hidden behind the current seating. There are still some dividing screens near the doors but most of the original divisions have been removed leaving an open, walk round pub with an island bar. Some parts of the look a bit tatty and the promotional posters and dangling inflatable Guinness glasses cheapen the overall appearance. A magnificent Taylor Walker mirror graces one wall and there are a few oddments that attract attention. There is the usual plethora of pub entertainment: plasma screen, games machines, juke box, pool table and a dart board area (minus the board). A small snug recess can be found at the very back of the pub behind the pool table and there is a beer garden mentioned but I have never ventured this far. Naturally it can get busy on match days when plastic glasses only are used but the rest of the time, the customer base appears to be made up of card schools and semi winos. The beers are nothing worth noting and whilst there are 4 hand pumps, I have never seen them in use despite a teasing Burton Ale clip permanently turned round on one of them. Potentially this could be one of the best pubs in Tottenham but it needs to add a bit more elegance and class and steer away from the cheap end of the market to achieve this. Then again, the best pub in Tottenham is not exactly a hard target to aim for.

24 Dec 2007 22:29

The Chequers, Belvedere

This pub is currently closed, boarded up and looking rather sorry for itself.

17 Dec 2007 20:08

The Ship, Dartford

Situated on the main road half way between Crayford and Dartford, this small Courage pub is one of the last in a dying breed of locals that have all but disappeared. The current building dates from 1891 but records exist of an earlier pub, intriguingly called the Jolly Lawyer although there are no apparent legal connections within the immediate area. The Ship is very much a quaint old fashioned place with little in common with its recently departed brash neighbour the Bird In Hand. Here there are no juke boxes, fruit machines, big screens or pool tables, just a a good old fashioned family feel and welcome amongst people who prefer enjoyable company and conversation to karaoke. The moment you walk through the door you will either be greeted by the landlady or more probably, the lovable dog, usually with one of its toys gripped firmly in the jaws. This is very much the sort of pub that doesn’t change hands for decades. The interior is divided into 2 small bars, the front bar with its worn bare wooden floor and basic furnishings. The walls are covered with all kinds of nautical oddments – photos, clocks, charts, models etc. Even the door to the loos has a porthole and the toilets are designated as Sailors and Wrens. The private areas are labelled Captains Quarters. Beyond the bar is another small room with large rug and display case wth yet more bautical bits and pieces. The whole place is quaintly old fashioned with dated flocked wallpaper, tongue and grooved ceilings and panelling. There is not a large choice of beers and they don't always have the pump clips on even if they are available so best to ask. There were 3 pumps but I believe they only sell Courage Best albeit it was in excellent condition when I came here previouisly. They also do a draught mild which is a bit of a rarity in the area. I recall years ago playing darts here although it seems impossible given the size of the place. An absolutely charming and friendly pub that I really should have made more use of over the years.

16 Dec 2007 13:23

The Sherlock Holmes, Charing Cross

First visit since the refurb despite walking past this place every night on the way home. Nothing really changed except the seats don’t collapse beneath you any more and everything is a bit cleaner and fresher. Usual Green King beers - IPA, Speckled Hen, Abbott and their own branded Sherlock Holmes Ale (which I understand is Morland in disguise). Decent enough prices for the West End and service fine. All the Sherlock Holmes memorabelia will be of interest to fans. Was packed to the rafters on Friday but at this time of year, where isn’t?

16 Dec 2007 13:01

Bird In Hand, Dartford

The review below was written a few months ago but for reasons unknown I forgot to actually post it on the site. It hardly matters now as the pub is closed, boarded up and seemingly has little future. I just hope the cat has now found a happier and more peaceful home.

16 Dec 2007 08:32

Bird In Hand, Dartford

Dating from 1869, the B.I.H. is these days a rather uninteresting, uninspiring and characterless pub on the main road between Dartford and Crayford and a total contrast to the welcoming Ship a few yards up the road. The quite spacious, almost open plan interior is extremely bland and has been refurbished without any real passion, thought or originality. Despite its size, the low ceiling makes the place feel quite claustrophobic without having any sense of intimacy - the swathes of built in seats around the edge would be far more welcoming with a few division screens. The England flags plastered on the ceiling give the pub a pikey feel and it must be said that the customers present when we were there were not exactly brimming with brain cells. The beer selection was rather standard and no Real Ales. The glowing juke box was turned up to 11 to satisfy the half dozen locals if not the neighbours. The only positives I can give are the friendly bar maid (I get the impression she hadn’t been there long), the adorable cat and the extensive beer garden. The Bird in Hand appears to be aimed at the pool and lager brigades and there is little here that would tempt me back.

16 Dec 2007 08:25

Bar Mondo, Dartford

Previously Korky’s Wine Bar, this fairly small place now seems to be more music based with DJ’s, Club nights and live acoustic music. The interior is plain, chrome and spotlight stuff that lacks any warmth, character or soul. The draught beers are somewhat limited (just 2 lagers if I remember correctly) and the duo I saw playing here were lamentable. With some decent local artists and a better beer selection I could see myself using the place a bit more but on the night I checked it out, the only worthwhile feature was the exit.

8 Dec 2007 10:18

The Long Hope, Angel, Islington

Originally known as Shaws after its Gooner loving owner, this place actually started life as a car repair workshop before embarking on its career path as a pub. As Shaws, it was a plastic, contrived and rather unspectacular pub that was home to hordes of Nat West employees from the twin towers next door. It also regularly played host to a certain frequently saturated former Arsenal centre half of dubious driving ability. When Nat West moved out at the turn of the millennium, the bar unsurprisingly closed its doors. They remained firmly shut until last year when the pub reopened as the newly branded Kings Crown Bar and Restaurant. Since then it has undergone a further name change to the Long Hope Bar and Restaurant. The layout is not much different to the old days but the rear has been knocked about a bit and it all feels a bit hollow and soulless. The brickwork behind the bar remains as do the arched windows but the general furnishings are a lot more severe and the painted concrete floor is just crying out for something a bit softer. Some of the seating is far too low for the tables and the mix of sofas and chrome stools are a bit of a clash. Multiple Screens relay bland music TV and presumably sports when the occasion arises. The beer selection is standard at best with the usual run of lagers, Bombardier and London Pride which at £3 a pint is a bit excessive and may go part of the way in explaining why the place has been empty on both my recent visits. Don’t be too fooled by the restaurant part of the title. The food is pretty basic cheap pub grub. I get the impression that this place is being geared up to cater for the new student accommodation in the old Nat West buildings next door at which time this place will be swamped with grant laden students and the place will be as bad as when the Bankers ruled the roost.

8 Dec 2007 08:58

The Swan Hotel, Alcester

This old coaching inn is situated just off the end of the High Street and dates from the 17th century when it was a popular stop off on the London to Midlands route. These days it is just a modest and rather dull multi functioning hotel with few thrills or spills. There is a futile notice on the wall in the rear bar requesting no singing, no dancing and no swearing - there is actually very little to sing or dance about here in the first place. My 1997 guide to Alcester picked up from my accommodation contains an advert boasting that Audrey and Roger do the best beer in town. It would seem that they took it with them when they left as the only beer on show now is mass produced lagers and keg bitters. The front bar is largely a pool room with a seated area near the door and a large fireplace with a soot stained wall above it. The carpeted rear bar is rather nondescript, characterless, uninspiring and way too bright. Any opportunities to get the most out if the building’s features or furnishings appear to have been cast aside in favour of a functional approach. There is a separate function room and restaurant although they didn’t seem to be in much use during my visit. Every night I walked past during my week long stay there seemed to be some woeful live music (what was that about no singing on the notice) that was a definite reason to avoid going in. A few TV’s, signs of a domino league and rotary club meetings were the only reasons I could see for the locals to drink here. There is certainly not much to attract the casual passer by. Very disappointing although they do at least show a good sense of humour on their web site!

8 Dec 2007 08:52

Virtual, Mile End

What? Never heard of it! Well you may have known it as A Matter of Time. Or the Flautist & Firkin. Or maybe the Horn of Plenty. Perhaps even the Cornucopia. Have I missed any? By the time this is posted it will be probably be something else and it will keep changing names until the bulldozers arrive because the bottom line is it doesn’t matter what it is called. It is an ugly, bare, uninviting, shell of a building with expanses of open floor space, seats from a 60’s Sci-Fi, keg beers, DJ booth, shady punters doing shadier deals, DVD racketeers, beer terrace with fine views of Mile End Road and worst of all, karaoke on Thursdays and Sundays. On the plus side, it is easy to find, the barmaid was charming and there is a decent plasma screen and pool table but don’t let such exciting features distract you from the serious business of walking past.

8 Dec 2007 08:44

The Quayside, Whitstable

Not one of the better pubs in Whitstable. As the name implies, it is situated near the harbour but don’t expect views of yachts bobbing up and down on the tide. This end of terrace cottage pub offers no sea views, just a main road and some industrial buildings. It has been extended over the years to cover 2 premises but the interior has been largely ripped out and lacks any character whatsoever. All the original features have been sacrificed for a fairly open plan shoebox of plainness. The cream walls, pine floor and plain ceiling do nothing to avert the attention and the large plain windows make the place far too bright. The 3 Ales (Adnams, Broadside and Pride when I was there) were of very poor quality on our visit and even though it was mid afternoon, the music was blaring out at an intolerable level. The food was largely seafood and if it was as bad as the beers is not worth the effort. It was also quite pricey. On the plus side it does have a small patio outside but with far more interesting pubs within a short walk, this is not a place that I would particularly recommend.

8 Dec 2007 08:42

The Horse and Groom, Dartford

Situated on the edge of Dartford Heath well away from the town, you would expect this to be a quaint rambler’s pub rather than have the feel of a town centre pub that has been built in the wrong place. From the road, the main entrance leads initially past the toilets and then into a bit of a pikey pool room with brick fireplace and big screen. Not the best introduction to a newcomer. The main bar is through a small archway and is comfortable enough but has a very tired and dated 70’s look about it with an abundance of plain mirrors, modern brick bar with pictures of actors and musicians, cheap copies of movie posters and numerous inflatable Guinness glasses attached to the ceiling fans. 4 unspectacular Real Ales (Courage Best / Directors / Tetleys / Green King IPA) but not particularly good quality on my recent visit. The décor is not currently helped by an overwhelming number of St George’s flags (presumably for the rugby World Cup) which make the place look like a BNP headquarters. The pub does have its political connections being the meeting place for the legendary Dartford Fancy Dress Party who stood at many local elections. As for entertainment, the usual run of quiz and fruit machines are supplemented by Karaokes and Elvis impersonators at the weekends but there is a large beer garden at the rear with childrens play area to escape when necessary. The Rua Thai Restauarant next door is part of the pub however our meal there was ruined by unbearable cacophony coming from the bar. On occasions, a seafood stall (one of the last in town) sets up home in the car park and if you are using the heath for a stroll, jog, nature trek or just a quick dogging session, this is the only option around for a beer. Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with the place, it could, with a bit of enterprise, be so much more enticing.

8 Dec 2007 08:41

The Cross Hands Hotel, Gloucestershire

Needing somewhere in a hurry to stay, we came across this place on a last minute cheapo hotels web site. We were not the first people to make a last minute booking. The Queen also turned up at the front door in 1981 whilst stuck in a blizzard, an occasion marked by a plaque in the hotel entrance. The building dates from the 14th Century and was a popular coaching inn in days gone by. These days the motorways steer everyone well clear of the town and everything appears to be a little more sedate. Whilst it is first and foremost a hotel, the bar is open to all comers and certainly has more of a pub feel than a hotel bar. The general ambience is very relaxed and peaceful with little nooks and bays and candles on the tables. You certainly won’t find anything too boisterous going on here although they do have occasional theme nights. The carpeted main bar quite is very civilized with a modern wood bar but is fairly plain and unadventurous. Whilst it has been refurbished, there is at least an element of the character that you would expect from a building of its age and history. The beers are not exactly exciting – this is a Green King establishment so IPA & Abbot are the order of the day – nothing great but better than the proverbial poke. There is a large courtyard and gardens with a few benches for sunny days and a function room for weddings, conferences etc opposite. For what its worth on a beer website, the en suite room we had was comfy with Sky TV, stereo, complimentary fudge and all for less than £20. Bargain!

8 Dec 2007 08:39

The Crock of Gold, Wembley

Let’s face it, you don’t come to Wembley specifically to drink. Even a pub crawl will find nothing more than the most formulaic and functional pubs. The Crock of Gold is hardly the most original or fascinating of establishments and definitely falls into the formulaic category. It is essentially a contrived Irish sports bar with a dart board at the rear, the usual run of plasma / big screens for football / racing and a couple of fruit / quiz machines. The décor is pub by numbers with nothing to attract the attention and it all feels a bit too open lacking any intimacy, even though the pub is quite small. The one thing that it does have in its favour (in common with its near neighbour the Torch) is direction, i.e. away from the Wembley Stadium / arena complex and that means that prior to a gig / football / Holiday on Ice you can avoid the majority of the crowds. This is the sort of place that will be refurbished and renamed at least a dozen times before it eventually becomes a newsagents. OK to kill an hour but nothing life changing.

8 Dec 2007 08:37

Barratts Free House, Wembley

There are very few places to drink in this bit of so this rather bog standard Irish bar pretty much caters for all comers. The beers are not exactly mind blowing, just the usual run of the mill keg bitter / lager / Guinness. Prices are reasonable and the 4 multi channel screens show the usual batch of news / football / racing. The walls and area over the bar are plastered with caricatures of Irish sporting legends and there are plenty of illustrated pictures of Dublin’s attractions for the local homesick Irish population. All the usual tricolour flags, bunting and Guinness mirrors are present and for what it is, the bar will see you through but it is hardly worth any special effort to visit.

8 Dec 2007 08:35

The Whitstable Brewery Bar, Whitstable

Just when you think that a pub crawl of Whitstable can’t get any better, along comes the Whitstable Brewery and plonks this superb bar into the town’s already abundant collection of excellent pubs. Situated in a large shed built from reclaimed timbers right on the beach front, there are panoramic views across the Thames Estuary. There is an excellent and comprehensive selection of Ales, all local, that are poured directly from the numerous barrels racked up beer festival style behind the bar. Apart from the Whitstable Brewery range there were also 4 guest Ales from the Crouch Vale Brewery just over the water. The lager is also from the Whitstable Brewery so don’t come here expecting the usual High Street tosh. The interior is light and airy with simple and basic furnishings consisting of a few benches, a run of sofas on a raised area in the corner and an old stove. The bar itself is made from old breakwater timbers. There are regular live music nights and there is plenty of seating outside for the smokers and sun lovers. This is a great place to spend an evening whatever the weather and a welcome addition to our annual pilgrimage to the town’s hostelries.

8 Dec 2007 08:34

The Torch, Wembley Park

One of the better options if attending events in Wembley if only because it is located away from the main traffic and has a fairly spacious interior that is more geared to dealing with crowds. I also believe that this is one of the few pubs in the area that does not exploit its customers and hike up the prices on event days although I have only been here once since the new stadium opened so I hope it hasn’t taken lead from its some of tis neigbours. Built at a time when the area was rapidly expanding, the Torch is well suited for the area but doesn’t really have anything of intrinsic merit to warrant much more than a passing pint. The carpeted interior is typical pub by numbers, bland and plastic but hardy and functional. Several TV screens are dotted about and there are some interesting old photos with a Barras Brewery theme (now part of Scottish & Newcastle). A separate games room has yet more TVs , 2 pool tables and a few quiz / fruit machines. The only ale was Courage Best but it was cheap and decent enough quality and more than you will find in most of its competitors. The menu was a typical 2 for £8 pub grub selection. If the inside is too packed, there are plenty of benches outside on the decking and also a rather untidy beer garden. In short, the Torch is pleasant enough and purposeful without having any character or soul.

7 Dec 2007 09:57

Two Brewers, Diss

The Brewers comes over as a pub that does not try hard to attract anyone outside of its own little circle. The L shaped interior has been refurbished leaving little character and is rather bland and uninspiring. Of the 4 pumps, 3 were redundant with just Adnams available, albeit quality was very good. The rear is taken up by a pool table and the Big Screen was showing footie to the half dozen patrons. I would ordinarily have sat and watched but the picture was of such poor quality and the screen badly positioned so we sat out of view in the pew seats at the front window and watched the world go by for 1 pint before moving on. A functional but hardly essential part of the towns pub circuit.

7 Dec 2007 09:36

The Waterfront, Diss

This town centre Green King pub was originally known as the Swan and from the outside is a fairly appealing prospect with its lakeside location. The interior however has become a victim of the modern makeover treatment and little of the historic outline of the pub or its character remains. That said, the pub is still pleasant enough and the changes are certainly not as tasteless and unsympathetic as they could have been. The original front bar still has its low beamed ceilings whilst the rear of the pub is more light and airy with a modern brick bar and further down, a conservatory housing a pool table. There is also a beer terrace which makes the most of its lakeside location. Plasma screens at front and back offer the usual sporting necessaries and a fish tank provides an alternative if you prefer watching something a bit less taxing. On the plus side, the usual Green King IPA & Speckled Hen offerings were (when I was there) supplemented by Old Trip which made a pleasant change. Overall I was disappointed with Diss’s pubs and whilst the Waterfront was far from perfect, it met our needs without us feeling the urge to return.

7 Dec 2007 09:04

The White Hart, Roydon

A short hop from Diss, this extended roadside pub manages to find a good balance between drinkers and diners. The main bar contains several original beams and pillars and a wonderful inglenook and stove. The rest of the pub is a more modern recreation and despite the woodchip wallpaper it still retains a sedate Olde Pubbe charm. It ws not the busiest night of the week on our visit and volume levels are fairly low with muted 70’s piped music and punters who appeared to be more of a genteel and civilised disposition. The carpeted main bar is the oldest part with its low ceiling and from here a Tudor style dining area and separate family room branch off. Real Ales include Adnams and Landlord. At the rear is a large well kept beer garden and beyond a car park although most people seem to use the church car park next door. It lacks any particular wow factor but is a pleasant enough stop off for a peaceful pint in a nice spot.

6 Dec 2007 23:00

The Phoenix, Dartford

The short walk down this dead end street that leads to the marshes is not exactly enticing but it does have 2 pubs, the latter being the Phoenix. Years ago it was a Courage pub and was part of my dart playing circuit in the days when I could actually see the board. For many years it has been run and inhabited mainly by a right wing bikers club. The interior is a tight L shape, narrow at the front but a bit more spacious to the rear and a small linked room at the back. The décor is plain and simple with an assortment of motor bike parts, biker t-shirts, spare wheels and a bar canopy littered with ticket stubs, pin-ups, bike adverts and other, shall we say, less tasteful literature. There is a pool table, quiz / fruit machines, juke box (I dare anyone to stick on the Country Classics CD amid the usual Maiden / AC/DC that pumps out at high volume) and the dart board I knew so well (probably the same one). More recently it has become more of a live music venue – punk and metal being the norm. Be warned though, the bands don’t play in the pub; there is a sizable compound (aka beer garden) at the rear with a stage that looks like an old shed with the front ripped out. It is loud, it is basic, it is open air and it goes on late. Out of curiosity, I went to see US Metal band Amen do an unscheduled gig here. It was freezing and didn’t stop until well gone 1.00am. Certainly the Phoenix is not for the faint hearted or easily offended but I have been here a couple of times in recent months and never encountered any problems and I feel more comfortable and safer here than I would in some of the chav infested rat holes in the town centre. Regarding the beers, there are 2 hand pumps but no Real Ales which is disappointing given the strong image of bikers and their knowledge of beers, but prices are reasonable, especially for a music pub. An experience but you wouldn’t want to use it for a first date.

6 Dec 2007 10:35

Crush Bar, Dartford

Some boundaries I have vowed ne’er to cross and Crush has hitherto been one of them. To my shock, last night having splendidly imbibed at the nearby Royal Oak & Court House, a colleague dared to mention a swift lager nightcap in this very establishment. Not one to shirk a challenge I reluctantly agreed. My eternal thanks go to the doorman who refused me entry on the basis that my Dartford FC shirt was likely to trigger World War 3 and possibly even provoke the clients into requesting the score from the afternoon’s game. Not wishing to upset any Chelsea / Arsenal / Man U / Great Wakering Rovers supporters that may be present inside, I gleefully walked on and thus the threshold has still to be crossed. Stupidity may yet get the better of me and in the meantime, if the doorman see a mid-40’s white male, 6’3’’, well built with fair, thinning curly hair, can they please continue to refuse him admission regardless of attire.

25 Nov 2007 09:49

J J Moons, Wembley

One of the poorest Wetherspoons I have been in and I have been in several. Even Wetherspoons usual good points seemed to be missing here on my visit. The service was appaling although this was hardly the bar staff’s fault – they worked like Trojans but management woefully underestimate the number required. Just the 4 Ales available on my visit with just 1 guest (great by an average pubs standard but poor for Wetherspoons). The tables were all unwiped and piling up with empty glasses and overflowing ashtrays. Even the pub itself was lacking any real focus and given the history of Wembley and ‘Spoons usual research into local history, there was very little to catch the eye apart from a superb giant aerial picture of the pre-‘66 Stadium. A small outside covered patio caters for the smokers and sun lovers but overall, not a place worth going out of the way for, especially when there is an event on at the stadium.

23 Nov 2007 15:54

The Greyhound, Wembley

I have used the Greyhound on and off for many years but would never venture here prior to a stadium event due to the crowds and exploitive pricing although it should be mentioned that the Greyhound is far from being the only culprit. It is OK for Arena events as the price hikes don’t apply however, like most Wembley pubs, you wouldn’t chose to spend the night here. Its proximity to the Wembley complex makes it OK as a meeting place but at best it can be described as an average, between the wars, boozer which is either packed to the rafters or dead as the proverbial dodo. The interior is smaller than it looks, mainly as the rear of the pub doubles up as a large pool room with 4 tables and a function room also tacked on. The main bar is fairly ordinary with a few bits of coloured glass and funnel lamps hanging over the bar but there are some interesting pictures and displays on the wall including picture of the original pub and a train timetable listing 48 special trains running from Scotland for the 1928 Home International. The beers are a bit run of the mill with standard lagers and bitters although whenever I am here the only Ale (Bombardier) is usually off. There are at least 4 plasma screens and the usual run of quiz and fruit machines plus a dart board and cash machine. Generally the pub has a bit of a run down and tatty feel to it but I have never experienced any major problems here with the service although I do pick and time my visits carefully.

23 Nov 2007 15:39

Golden Lion, Rochester

In a town packed with numerous quality pubs, this Wetherspoons comes over as a bit bland and contrived. There had been a Golden Lion pub here until the 1920’s but the premises had been a succession of shops until Wetherspoons got hold of it, extended sideways and backwards and hijacked the name. One thing that Wetherspoons do well is keep a local theme and the plentiful maritime pictures and displays about the rich history of the Medway towns feature prominently. I was especially pleased to see a local Chatham beer (Shipwrecked) as one of the guests amid the usual selection and as ever the quality was excellent. The pub extends quite a way back and with its fairly low ceiling can feel a bit claustrophobic but there is plenty of seating, a few snug areas and beyond the flagstoned rear section is a garden for the sun lovers and smokers. The silenced plasma TV, quiz and fruit machines do little to raise the dampened atmosphere. I have been if far worse but like most Wetherspoons it is worth popping in for the guest beers, then moving on.

23 Nov 2007 14:47

Nelson's Retreat, Old Street

This modern estate pub is comfortable enough but is hardly a place that oozes character. The interior is fairly uninspiring with the usual run of games machines, pool table, juke box and a couple of Gooner shirts on display. The basic but reasonably priced beers (London Pride / Green King IPA) were quite well kept but I was rather put off by the local punters whose loud and limited vocabulary was matched only by the staff. The Thai kitchen is reasonably priced although the Cocktail menu would probably be of more interest to the Obscene Publication Squad. Overall a rather common and functional pub geared to the younger football and pool brigade. There is little else around here to attract outsiders so I wouldn’t recommend making a specific trip.

23 Nov 2007 14:21

The Fish Inn, Wixford

The Fish is a welcoming and appealing old country pub with its leaded partly stained glass windows, gables, ivy clad walls and riverside location. The interior has plenty of beams, pillars and exposed brickwork despite being obviously refurbished, extended and opened up although the pub still retains its old world charm. Fortunately they have managed to find a decent balance between diners and drinkers with the area near the main door with its large brick fireplace mainly for the diners and the drinking area situated by the carpeted, barrel shaped main bar with its views up through the beams into the superb vaulted roof. There are plenty of pots and pans, bottle racks, lanterns, horseshoes and various nick nacks on display but a visit to the loos may take longer than expected as the corridor doubles up as a mini museum with wartime newspapers, old signs, 19th C key collections and various odds and sods. The furnishings are rustic with settles and plain wooden seating which blend in well with the ambience. 3 Ales when I was there (admittedly some time ago) - Black Sheep, Adnams and Spitfire. To the rear is a public bar with games machines & TV. They do speciality food nights (Steak on Thursdays, Fish on Fridays) but I didn’t get a chance to eat here so cannot comment on the quality. The extensive beer garden takes advantage of its setting on the banks of the River Arrow and has a childrens play area so there isn’t really an excuse not to pay a visit if in the area.

23 Nov 2007 13:17

The Torriano, Kentish Town

When I first came here, it was a rather gloomy and tatty place full of mothers, dogs and unsupervised kids chasing ballons. The beers were all off and I left after 1 expensive pint. Before I had a chance to place a comment someone had mentioned that it had been done up so I held back to give it a second chance. Whilst the interior is now a bit brighter with the black walls now painted in paler colours, it still looks shabby and little has changed from my initial impressions. Situated well off the beaten track the Torriano (or just the T according to the designer pub sign) comes over as an old local’s boozer that tried to jump on the good ship Trendy but forgot to put some sails on the mast. It all looks a bit of a mess and a clash of styles and eras with furnishings that look like they have come from second hand shops and car boot sales. A selection of worn sofas and battered tables is complemented by lights and vases that your granny used to take down the charity shop. The fireplace looks rather forlorn and the bar seems to be a DIY half-a-job. To some it may have a certain charm but to me it all looks as uncomfortable and univiting as the bare concrete floor. Both Ales (Pride and Marstens Pedigree) were off (again) and which really sealed its fate in my “Don’t Bother Again” book.

23 Nov 2007 12:25

The Pymmes Park Inn, Edmonton

This pub is currently closed and boarded off. Doesn't look like it has much of a future.

1 Nov 2007 10:20

The Moon Under Water, Leicester Square

I have already advised the BITE admin team that this person's personal crusade against Wetherspoons should be limited to the pub in question. As it happens he/she sat up until 2.30 in the morning posting the same thing against every Wetherspoons pub - a complete waste of time and totally irrelevent as far as I am concerned. Hopefully the other comments will soon be removed.

22 Oct 2007 11:03

The Green Man, Wembley

The climb up the hill should get you in the mood for a pint here and it does seem strange to find such a huge pub in this residential backwater, even given the proximity of the Wembley Stadium complex. Set back from the road in acres of car parking space, this place would have been built at around the time of the stadium when Wembley started expanding after the original stadium was built. Not unlike today, it primarily caters for people using the Wembley complex and the interior is definitely built for numbers with most of the interior walls being taken out to make one large walk through bar although there is a small sofa area in a conservatory off to one side. Given the poor standard of pubs in the area, this is one of the better options, although that is not specifically a recommendation. 3 not exactly earth shattering Ales (Tetleys, Green King IPA & Youngs) although quality and availability are not to be counted on. On the plus side, you can generally get served relatively quickly and, despite being off the beaten track, it does get packed on event days although on a good day there is plenty of space in the huge beer garden with its superb views. Other than that it is an average, functional pub with the usual pub paraphernalia that you really wouldn’t go out of the way for. There is one major final downside. On stadium event days they cash in on the crowds by hiking up the beer prices, a practice I find particularly exploitive although it should be said that they are not the only culprits in the area. Drinking in Wembley is hardly a pleasure at the best of times and if a pub wishes to treat its customer base with such greed and contempt then it just makes me vow not to return.

9 Oct 2007 16:03

The Duke of Edinburgh, Brixton

Under new management this week. They tell me they will be introducing Harveys Sussex Best as well as a new menu and live entertainment so expect a few changes but hopefully nothing that will diminsh the pub's character.

9 Oct 2007 12:40

The White Horse, South Lopham

This village pub on the main Diss-Thetford road was, in effect, my local for a week as we stayed in the Old Post Office Cottage opposite. The exterior is spectacularly clad in ivy that turns a deep red at this time of the year making the pub a real eye opener to passers by. The interior is divided into a main bar with a screened off darts area, small booth for DJ and separate pool room. There are plenty of beams, pillars and stripped brickwork but not all original as the building has clearly been given a modern makeover at some point. The bar is dominated by a large inglenook fireplace with wood burning stove. The area to the right of the entrance is more geared for diners although the only menu we saw was a fairly basic lunchtime menu. The beers were not particularly exciting; the ubiquitous Green King IPA, Abbott and Adnams with Bass making an appearance as the guest beer. Quality of the beer was decent enough although a group of locals seem to be permanently attached to the area in front of the bar and it felt quite intrusive trying to order. Fridays are to be avoided unless you are into Elvis impersonator style entertainment but overall the pub is fine and worth a stop for. I was however rather irked by being refused service at 10.30 one night despite their website stating they are open until 11.30 during the week and midnight at weekends. From my cottage window I could see the regulars still happily knocking them back an hour and half after I was told they were supposedly shut. Obviously one rule for locals and one for the rest.

3 Oct 2007 16:03

The Nutshell, Bury St Edmunds

One of the more interesting pubs to visit, noted for being the smallest in the country and certainly not geared up for darts, pool or smelly fart dispersion. Despite its miniscule size, it has bundles of character and plenty to focus on. Artifacts include a mummified cat and mouse, stuffed animal heads, bank notes lining the ceiling, an orderly collection of foreign coinage orderly labeled and displayed along the door and walls plus a few unexplained tools and instruments that would probably baffle Jack Hargreaves (ask your dad, kids!). The tiny bar still manages to fit 2 Real Ales among the more standard lagers; the ubiquitous Abbott and GK IPA although the Abbot is astonishingly expensive at £3.05 a pint. The IPA is a bargain by comparison. Furniture is restricted to a bench around one end of the pub and a small table at the other. Posters welcoming coach parties and function room available for up to 2 people show that they have a sense of humour. I actually thought the function room was a joke until I went up the stairs to find a small room from which the solitary toilet branches. Since there is no drinking allowed on the pavement outside, the interior can get quite cosy but most people seem to gel together and it is not hard to strike up a conversation. Bar staff tend to be interesting characters and the selection of CDs was top notch the night we were there. Yes it is a bit touristy with t-shirts and souvenirs available but on the whole, a must visit pub for the experience.

3 Oct 2007 11:55

The Kings Head Inn, North Lopham

Thatched country village pub a mile or so off the main Diss to Thetford road (or is it Thetford to Diss?) and the last of 4 pubs that were once found in the village. The future of this place is apparently in question as the owners are looking to sell which would be a great pity as the current knowledgeable and enthusiastic licencees appear to be doing an excellent job. 2 standard beers (Woodford Wherry and Adnams are complemented by a guest beer (Humpty Dumpty on my visit) usually sourced from one of the smaller local breweries. The main bar is dominated by a wonderful inglenook with stove, lots of brasses, old pictures of the pub, bottles and even a bugle. A grandfather clock ticks away in the corner, exploding into chime on the hour. Furnishings are fairly basic and rustic and behind a half timber screen is a large settle and interesting bottle rack. A separate public bar has another (apparently blocked) inglenook fireplace and traditional pub games including bar skittles, cribbage and shove halfpenny. 3 cats and a dog provide the entertainment along with piped music and quiz nights. A superbly run pub with good quality beers but perhaps a couple of pumps short of going up to the next level (a real cider and/or a mild would be welcome). It would be a shame if this place was lost as we found it one of the most welcoming pubs in the area during our short stay.

2 Oct 2007 16:18

Gilpins Bell, Edmonton

The Gilpin’s Bell takes its name from an 18th century poem by William Cowper about a hapless traveler whose family journey to the Bell Tavern in Edmonton becomes an escapade of Basil Fawlty style disasters. The original Bell pub dated back to 1603 and stood on the site of what is now the petrol station on the opposite side of the road to the current pub. Many pubs came and went with various corruptions of the name until Wetherspoons (who else) opened up the version we see today. The exterior is rather charmless and dull as one would expect of a former motorbike salesroom. The interior is huge and quite a rambling place and if you are meeting anyone here you will probably need to do a few circuits before finding them. The main bar area has a high ceiling with false balconies overhead. A clock and large bell dominate the bar itself and there are bell motifs in the windows and various local snippets on the walls including lots of old black and white pictures of the area. In the centre of the pub is a cosy section with a mass of bookshelves and to the left of the bar, another quite homely section with a large fire and plasma screen. There is plenty of room around the edge of the pub with various alcoves and holes to bolt yourself down. Of course when Spurs are at home you won’t be able to move and unless you have a home match ticket, you won’t get in. The best option is to make use of the patio at the rear if you can lump the weather. The pub offers all the usual choices of cheap beers and food with a couple of guest ales and all the pros and cons normally associated with the chain. Beer quality is generally good and there is, to my knowledge, nowhere else within walking distance north of White Hart Lane that does any Real Ales at all so for that reason alone, it fills a large chasm. One small point - I have recently noted on my last couple of visits that the prices seem to be raised on matchdays. Either that or someone keeps overcharging me. Must query it on my next visit! Generally trouble free and service reasonable given how busy it can get.

2 Oct 2007 13:32

The Wentworth Arms, Mile End

Tucked just round the corner from the tube station, the Wentworth is a smallish, no nonsense, local’s corner pub with no glamour or pretensions. As previously mentioned, this is a Wells pub but despite 2 hand pumps, they have no cask ales and keg Bombardier is the only option for bitter drinkers. There is a dart board at one end of the bar (mind the bookshelf below) and a couple of TVs and jukebox. The décor is plain and simple with polished wooden floor, padded pew seats and plain ceilings / walls. The windows are partly frosted with the pub name picked out and a staircase cuts across the bar that would have originally been divided into a typical public / saloon set up but is now knocked through into one. The beer garden has an interesting bus stop style shelter so smokers should remain dry. The pub may not be anything particularly special but there are far worse places in the area.

14 Sep 2007 11:29

Walkers of St James, St James

The name conjures up images of an old wine vault with cobwebs, old barrels and dusty bottles stacked up to the ceiling so I was a bit surprised to find that WOSJ is little more than a basic, functional but fairly cosy bar that appears to trade on a posh and rather pretentious name. Once through the reception like entrance, a short flight of stairs takes you into a quite spacious but rather dark split level bar. Being below street level, there is no natural light and the initial impressions as you descend are that this is a gloomy and rather soulless place. The previous postings appear to be a bit out of date as I saw no sign of a pool table, no “big man” and the prices are certainly not cheap compared to some of the other pubs in the area. The bar area has bare wooden floors and to the rear is a raised section with carpeted, screened off areas, built in leather seats and lots of fake wooden beams in an attempt to replicate an olde worlde flavour. The dark nature of the bar is kept up by the textured walls that are painted in a dark, rich burgundy and what illumination there is comes from some quite unusual lamps and the 2 large plasma screens (nothing anywhere mentioned anything about having Sky). There were 2 Real Ales on my visit - Deuchers (£3.00) and Pedigree (didn’t stick around to check price) plus 1 redundant pump. Service was fine although it was fairly quiet at the time. Overall, a neat, tidy and comfortable place but ultimately lacking any real character. There are far better options within a short walk.

14 Sep 2007 10:57

The Brunswick Arms, Poplar

The Brunny was never the greatest pub in the world but it served its purpose in a location that is painfully short of anywhere to grab a pint. The pub is currently in the process of being demolished creating an even bigger void in a supposedly up and coming area. From a drinkers prospective, I ceratinly wouldn't want to live or work around here as things stand.

11 Sep 2007 12:00

Quinn's, Camden

Have received the following from Stonch who has requested me to post it on his behalf for reasons unknown to all apart from him and the site administrators! :-

On one hand I disagree with the comments about rude staff, on the other hand I can see how they arise. Vince (Quinn Jr.) is a no-nonsense fella and I can imagine that if he took a dislike to someone he'd make it known. Personally I find him sarcy but agreeable - he went out of his way to stash my bike in the pub's yard last time I was in, and if you show an interest in the bottled beers he likes a natter about them. Most importantly, the place is well run. He knows what he's doing, an old school guvnor.

The bottled beer selection is cheap as chips - often the cheapest in London, and half the beers aren't available anywhere else anyway. Example - a bottle of the fabuloso Schlenkerla Rauchbier is £3.30. Go to Brew Wharf in Borough, it's almost £6. There's nowhere better for German beer in London - nowhere comes close. The Belgian stuff is good too, as what they do have is often genuinely rare, and again, cheap.

As Roger says, recently they've started having decent guest ales from brewers other than GK. Personally I stick to the bottles, but the first time ever the pub has something to offer on the real ale front.

The beer garden out back is pleasant with mental murals.

The quiz machine is very hard.

The walls are yellow.

It's a wonderful pub.

5 Sep 2007 18:27

The Market Porter, Borough

There really isn’t much to be said for the Market Porter that hasn’t been covered on this site on numerous occasions. This pub is a magnet for the serious ale drinker with 20 different Ales ready to be dished up at any one time. If you are expecting a pub of bearded clipboard bearers, you will be surprised just how varied the customer base is. People of all ages mingle together and the atmosphere is quite vibrant. Despite being one of the oldest pubs in Southwark (records date back to 1638), the current building is a pretty tatty and messy affair with few hints at its origins. The walls, ceilings and pillars are plastered with various pump clips and these alone are enough to get the beer experts salivating. There is not much in the way of seating in the front bar area, just a few barrels to lean on and place your pints. At the rear is an extended area with stripped brickwork, double sided fireplace, a few tables and seats in almost luxurious surroundings compared to the frenetic nature of the main bar. Old pictures of the adjoining Borough market (itself worth a wander around) adorn the walls. The staff are fantastic and despite the hoards that throng around the bar, I have never had to wait long before being served. There is a dartboard at the front and a 40 seat upstairs restaurant which no-one ever seems to mention as well as a separate function room. As a bonus, as if one was needed, they also always seem to have really good music in here as well. Harry Potter fans may be interested to know that the pub doubled up as the “Third Hand Book Emporium” in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” but fortunately the bar is still relatively free of wand bearing schoolkids drinking Dogbolter. This really is one of the must visit pubs in London.

5 Sep 2007 16:14

The Market Porter, Borough

There really isn’t much to be said for the Market Porter that hasn’t been covered on this site on numerous occasions. This pub is a magnet for the serious ale drinker with 20 different Ales ready to be dished up at any one time. If you are expecting a pub of bearded clipboard bearers, you will be surprised just how varied the customer base is. People of all ages mingle together and the atmosphere is quite vibrant. Despite being one of the oldest pubs in Southwark (records date back to 1638), the current building is a pretty tatty and messy affair with few hints at its origins. The walls, ceilings and pillars are plastered with various pump clips and these alone are enough to get the beer experts salivating. There is not much in the way of seating in the front bar area, just a few barrels to lean on and place your pints. At the rear is an extended area with stripped brickwork, double sided fireplace, a few tables and seats in almost luxurious surroundings compared to the frenetic nature of the main bar. Old pictures of the adjoining Borough market (itself worth a wander around) adorn the walls. The staff are fantastic and despite the hoards that throng around the bar, I have never had to wait long before being served. There is a dartboard at the front and a 40 seat upstairs restaurant which no-one ever seems to mention as well as a separate function room. As a bonus, as if one was needed, they also always seem to have really good music in here as well. Harry Potter fans may be interested to know that the pub doubled up as the “Third Hand Book Emporium” in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” but fortunately the bar is still relatively free of wand bearing schoolkids drinking Dogbolter. This really is one of the must visit pubs in London. 9/10 5/9/07

5 Sep 2007 15:55

Quinn's, Camden

My, how the mighty have fallen. From a 7.3 rating off 110 people (5 Feb) and a regular Top 40 place to 7.0 just 10 ratings later must mean there are a few recent zeros flying in here to accompany the negative comments. Good job young Stonch isn’t around these days to see one of his fave establishments being ravaged. I have been using this place on occasions over the last couple of years and always thought it a bit overrated. That said, I am not a big fan of Irish styled pubs anyway although, despite the bright façade, Quinns doesn’t actually feel like your stereotypical Irish bar. The interior has a contrived and plastic feel about it and lacks any intrinsic warmth or charm. It would however make a terrific bowling alley given its long, narrow layout and low ceiling. There are a few Dublin photos, portraits and bits of illuminated coloured glass dotted around but the cheap posters of Irish “humour” are embarrassingly tacky. Of course what most people rate it for is the beers. Until recently they only had a mundane selection of Green King Ales but in recent months they have introduced some unusual guest beers to complement the extensive selection of continental bottled beers of which so much has already been written. Not being a bottled beer fan I can’t comment on the choice but the prices do seem a bit steep. I have never had any real problems with the staff although I have witnessed others on the receiving end of their rudeness. One of the major reasons I come here is because you can generally get a seat and doesn’t seem to attract the less desirable of Camden’s populace. There is also a small patio at the rear when the weather allows. Overall I am quite happy to while away time here but if the guest beers disappeared, I would probably disappear with them.

5 Sep 2007 15:24

The Old Nags Head, Monmouth

A delightful, historic, old world, town pub a few minutes walk from the town centre. The building was part of the now demolished old town gates and although it is erroneously omitted from the 1838 map in the pub, there are records of it dating back to at least 1765. The interior is a labyrinth of rooms, corridors and niches which just beg to be explored. The front bar is quite small and carpeted with a brick fireplace whereas the main bar area is more basic with a flag stoned floor, half paneled walls, built in window seats and rough and ready furnishings. A piano is perched in front of the fireplace and the beams display a vast collection of sporting and music ticket stubs. Old photos of the pub skittle teams through the years adorn the walls. Branching off beside the bar is a corridor which leads to both the toilets and a small intimate arched recess. Another door leads to a pool room with a collection of movie posters and at the far end of the pub a seemingly anonymous short corridor leads to a small triangular room with pew seats and horse racing prints. 2 well kept Ales on offer – London Pride & a special beer brewed for the winter Ashes series (it was a few months since I was there). Live acoustic music nights and plenty of friendly dogs are part of the entertainment schedule. Monmouth is a lovely town to visit and the Old Nags Head a superb pub to savour.

4 Sep 2007 16:13

The The Old Monk Exchange, Westminster

The Old Monk is built into the basement of a dull and quite boring, modern office block and is quite easy to walk past in favour of the more alluring and traditional Strutton Arms next door. The rather mundane entrance leads downstairs to the spacious if somewhat dim and gloomy bar with its contrived décor and expanses of stripped back brickwork. The ceilings are a tangle of exposed pipes and air conditioning units and there are raised areas to the one side and at the rear. The main bar area has bare floors and plenty of tables so you can usually grab a seat unless it is exceptionally busy. The most interesting part of the pub is at the rear with its 6 carpeted arched snugs that are quite cosy for small groups. Note the small skylights where the pub extends underneath the pavement above. This provides the only natural light as well as the weird experience of watching people walk overhead. The beers are nothing to write home about – Green King IPA, Abbot and Pride although signs are up showing the introduction of Swing Low for the Rugby World Cup. The quality is variable and prices are OK for the area. Food looks nicely presented but a bit pricey. It can be a bit hollow and cavernous when not busy when the piped music tends to echo around the walls. A single central plasma screen is usually supplemented by a few makeshift TVs during major sporting events. On a hot day (remember them?), the Monk is one of the coolest places to escape the heat but overall, it’s really a pub geared up for the local office workers rather than anything to go out of the way for.

4 Sep 2007 15:43

The Railway, Putney

Built in 1899, this sizeable Wetherspoons has been given a modern makeover but it has been done relatively tastefully. The cut away ceiling makes it feel quite spacious and there is a large open staircase that leads to an upper floor which has its own separate bar. Service can be slow when it gets busy (I was here prior to a Fulham home match) and there is probably a better chance of getting a seat and service in the upstairs bar. Expect the usual ‘Spoons offerings of discounted Ales (6 standard and 2 guests), global lagers, bottles, wines, food etc. There are plenty of old local pictures including one of the original pub near the gents toilets and a couple of soundless plasma screens usually tuned to Sky Sports. Certainly not the worst pub I have ever been to but not exactly a place to go out of the way for.

24 Aug 2007 16:13

The Sun Inn, Barnes

Not being a regular but certainly falling into the “Ale Swiller” category albeit minus the kids, I can’t comment on the political history between the management and the regular punters but having popped in here during a whirlwind tour of the local hostelries, I have to say I found the place to be very welcoming, efficiently run and had a pleasant enough time. Due to that 2007 rarity of a sunny evening, the front terrace with its seating overlooking pond was fairly busy but there was plenty of space inside the rambling interior. The low ceilings, multiple pillars and fairly dim lighting make exploring the pub a bit like caving and there are several snugs, nooks and crannies that open up around every corner. The place has been sympathetically refurbished and retains a lot of character with its bare floors, oddball selection of seating, lighting, quirky décor and, er, an elephant! A selection of newspapers and board games are available to pass away the time although the Ale selection was, to be honest, rather standard (Pride, Adnams & Bombardier). Westons Organic Cider made a refreshing change and there was a good choice of continental draught beers. There also appeared to be good disabled facilities. Behind the pub is a walled bowling green, claimed to be the oldest in England, where they still play to the original rules. There are suggestions that Sir Francis Drake taught Queen Elizabeth I to play bowls here although the blurb on the wall of the pub says the club was only formed in 1725. If you are not familiar with the pub and are in the area, I certainly wouldn’t let the low rating put you off. It is quite an interesting place and I quite warmed to it.

24 Aug 2007 15:27

The Stoke, Guildford

Thanks for the clearing up the disappearing bottle mystery. As for me, Westminster, Yes. Civil Servant, certainly not!

24 Aug 2007 14:56

The Stoke, Guildford

A fairly expansive pub that doubles up as a pizzeria with an open pizza oven situated at one end of the lengthy bar. The interior is fairly plain but stylishly modern and aesthetically trendy without being pretentious or snobby. There is a mix of seating styles from high stools at ledges to sofas and padded cube seats. 3 well placed plasma screens and a big screen used predominantly for sport plus a separate pool area with 2 tables and a couple of fruit / quiz machines. Live acoustic music nights advertised as wellas the quiz evenings. 4 Ales usually available although one was off on my visit (Deuchars, Youngs and Landlord were the other 3). The staff were friendly and the customer base seemed to be fairly sensible types. There are plenty of outside tables for the smokers, sun lovers and rain worshipers and a separate function room is also available. As far as the pizza’s go, they are reasonably priced and there a few interesting toppings so if a pizza and a pint are your thing, this place should be right up your street.

NB re previous poster, I may have interpreted it wrongly but I can’t believe that someone can leave a pub to have a drink elsewhere and then moan that their drink has been cleared away when they come back!

24 Aug 2007 13:34

The Clarence, Whitehall

I started coming in here to watch some of the early evening World Cup games after work last year and have found myself popping in here on the odd occasion ever since. I have always found it to be one of the more accommodating pubs in the area and there are 4 constantly changing Ales including the occasional unusual offering. The Deuchers that kept me and my entourage going for a few hours last night was as good a pint as I have come across and deserving of their Cask Marque accreditation. The knocked through interior is quite dim and there is a false Ye Olde Pubbe feel about the place with chunky fake wooden pillars and beams, lattice windows and old lanterns over the bar. I would like to think even the most gullible tourist would see through the pretence. Nevertheless, it has a pleasant atmosphere with friendly, efficient staff and tends not to get too overcrowded. For some reason the TV’s appear to have disappeared but there are the usual run of fruit and quiz machines to relive you of any change from the bar. The stairs to the Gents are a bit hazardous after a few pints and the toilets themselves leave a lot to be desired but I have generally had some decent evenings here. The pub that is, not the toilets.

24 Aug 2007 11:29

The Queens Head, Stockport

A wonderful, if somewhat cramped, pub with a fantastic unaltered interior that has been recognised by its inclusion in the CAMRA inventory. A Sam Smiths pub so that means ridiculously cheap prices - £1.26 for a pint of Old Brewery Bitter is beyond the comprehension of someone who rarely gets change from £3. Friendly if rather overworked barmaid although the customer base can be a little worse for wear but at these prices I would easily go down the same path. The main bar is quaintly small with room for a table in the window and a couple opposite the bar. Beyond the bar area is a wonderful little snug and beyond this a slightly larger room at the rear of the pub. There are plenty of paneled walls and several wooden division screens but the most interesting features are probably the old wine / spirit / cordial dispensaries behind the bar, although they do not appear to be functional. Only the lack of smoke reminds you that this is the 21st century and is probably the only thing to have changed in generations although the old photo behind the bar suggests that some of the tiling behind the bar may have either been added recently or restored back to its original state. There are a few interesting old local maps in the doorway and a few old pictures, portraits and clippings in the main bar. This is a real museum piece and well worth going out of the way for if you like traditional unspoilt pubs.

17 Aug 2007 14:52

The Beehive, Tottenham

On the face of it, finding a pub of architectural interest in an area like Tottenham is a tall order and yet the Beehive has received special recognition by CAMRA who have included it as part of their National Inventory scheme. Set back just off the High Street, this mock Tudor pub dates from 1927 but the interior has remained virtually intact since then and has several interesting features.

The carpeted saloon bar is a quite spacious L-shape, its size almost doubled thanks to an extension at the back of the pub that was originally the luncheon room. The glazed upper part of the dividing screen can still be seen. There are fake beams in the ceiling, fine examples of wood paneling and a brick fireplace with a splendid brass hood. The walls are adorned with plates, brasses and even a stuffed fox head. The aesthetics are partly detracted by the bar canopy that has been spoiled by a mass of blackboard surrounds.
Of note are the coloured glass names on the doors and the numbered rooms, a throw back to when the use of each room had to be listed separately for licensing purposes. 3 large plasma screens and a few fruit machines represent some of the more the more modern features. Leading off the Saloon Bar is a Saloon Lounge which is not usually accessible but the last time I saw the door open it appeared to be used mainly as a separate darts room.

At the rear is a spacious beer garden with well worn grass, a few benches and, these days, several smokers.

On the other side of the pub is the much plainer and slightly tatty Public bar with a pool table and a couple of TVs. The brick fireplace is less ornate than its saloon bar companion but there are more fine dark paneled walls with interesting built in dartboard cabinets beneath the rather empty trophy cabinet. Behind the open L shaped bar is a glazed office and the front area that was originally an off licence, the name still marked out in coloured glass on the now unused exterior door.

Even on Spurs match days, you can generally get a seat in one of the bars. They offer 2 Real Ales (London Pride and Spitfire on my last visit) although you can usually count on one of them being unavailable and the other of variable quality.

This is certainly one of the better and more interesting of the pubs in the Tottenham area and on the whole you can expect a hassle free, friendly welcome.

15 Aug 2007 13:53

The Strutton Arms, Westminster

As the Grafton Arms this place is revered by Goons fans as it was here that the comedy team first met up under the watchful eye of the publican and radio scriptwriter Jimmy Grafton, after whom the pub was named. Spike Milligan apparently even worked behind the bar to make ends meet. In recent years it had a spell as an Irish theme pub called Finnigan’s Wake before reverting back to a more traditional pub. Sadly there is little if any evidence of its previous notoriety and is today a rather ordinary and unassuming hostelry. The interior is fairly narrow and extremely cramped with large pillars and badly positioned tables making it difficult to navigate, especially around the bar area. Down one side are 4 alcoves of varying size and intimacy and each having its own plasma mini screen to compliment the 2 main screens that are themselves obstructed from many areas due the aforementioned pillars. You can see from the extended bar canopy that the bar has at some stage been repositioned and I can only imagine that in days gone by there would have been even less space. The pub has a fairly worn look with thinning carpet, bare brick walls, dark wood paneling and a dark ceiling that makes the interior rather dim especially as there is little natural light to the rear. One is almost grateful for the glow of a few low lux lamps and the fruit machines. The beers are fairly mainstream with Broadside, Green King IPA & Bombardier making up the Ale selection. They seem to do a good trade on food (special offers of 2 meals for £8). Customers these days are more likely to be office workers, residents and market traders. In short, the Strutton Arms has its bit of history but for some reason decides to play it down and there is nothing else of note to lift it up above anything more than average.

14 Aug 2007 13:46

The Red Lion, Snargate

You're absolutely right Marshman, not everybody wants to drink in a time warp pub like someone's front room. That's why there are thousands of extended, modernised, plastic watering holes churning out sky sports and endless Radio 1 playlists for people who wish to go and indulge in a few Carlsbergs and scampi & chips. For every old pub that is modernised, convereted or closed, pubs like the Red Lion become even more precious. I am sure you didn't venture into Kents rural backwaters expecting to find a Slug & Lettuce!

14 Aug 2007 09:42

Rutland Arms, Hammersmith

The best thing about the Rutland is its location right on the water’s edge. The interior is rather plain and soulless, especially when the place is almost empty as it was on my visit. There is an underplayed nautical theme with a rowing boat hanging from the ceiling and a couple of oars (or paddles depending on your knowledge of such things) on display but the interior generally has a minimalist approach with bare floors, plain walls and ceilings and just feels very hollow. The only Ale was London Pride which was quite reasonably priced for the area and tasted OK but nothing great. The customer base seemed to be very upper crust university types spending daddy’s dosh. There is an upstairs balcony bar that commands good views of the river and Hammersmith Bridge. Personally, like most other people it seems, I much prefer the Blue Anchor next door which has a lot more character and ambience.

13 Aug 2007 15:54

The Royal Oak Hotel, Chorlton cum Hardy

Most people in here seem to be lonely old men making use of the bank and bookies either side before settling down for a day’s racing whilst being fed and watered at give away prices. The cavernous interior encircles an island bar and whilst there are a few comfortable corners areas, the lack of any partitioning means that there is very little intimacy about the place. There are multiple TVs + Big Screen showing various sports and 2 pool tables at the rear. In front of the raised area at the front of the pub is a dance floor (complete with mirrorball) and I can only guess at the horrors that are put on here in the name of entertainment All food (except Sunday Roasts) is under £3 and whilst the menu is hardly adventurous, it does represent excellent value for money. The beers are however shockingly bad and I would defy anyone to claim that Green King IPA smooth is their favourite tipple. I will give the barmaid the benefit of the doubt over my suvvern accent for pouring me the totally wrong pint and subjecting me to this pint of monstrosity. With no Real Ales I guess I should have stuck to Strongbow or better still, walked out. It’s clean and tidy but I certainly wouldn’t give it much of a positive recommendation.

13 Aug 2007 15:35

Elixir Bar, Euston

This pub is definitely open but obviously chooses some strange opening hours. It was deserted on my early evening visit although judging by the open floor space, lighting and mirrorball, I get the impression that this is more geared towards the late night clubbers. Whilst there was nothing particularly awful about the place, the contrived Irish theme is all to frequent in this area and the pub offers little to entice me back. The interior is overbearingly plain with an abundance of pine and very little character. A couple of fancy mirrors gain some attention and there are 3 TVs dotted along one side showing the usual array of sports. Other than that there is nothing to focus on and generally, this place really is as plastic as it can get. The beers are fairly standard with London Pride being the only Cask Ale and it wasn’t particularly good quality. Not really a place that warrants too much of a detour to seek out.

13 Aug 2007 15:02

The Hare and Billet, Blackheath

Formerly a Hogshead, this corner pub is now one of the better Greene King outlets. The interior is quite plain with lots of bare wood, a couple of brick fireplaces but nothing over the top. To the rear are a few bookcases but overall the pub has a refreshingly unpretentious approach with the emphasis on being a good solid traditional no thrills night out. Sadly there is no outside drinking so the views over the Heath are a bit diminished. The Staple Green King IPA & Abbot is supplemented by a decent pint of Flowers and the prices are very good for the area. As already mentioned, the customer base is derived from the sensible and more civil end of the Blackheath spectrum and you should have a relatively peaceful and hassle free time. On the downside, the Sunday quiz night is a bit dull but overall the pub is worth walking the extra few minutes to find.

13 Aug 2007 11:09

The Woolpack Inn, Warehorne

This wonderful old brick and partly weather boarded pub dates from the 16th century and lies in a remote village on the borders of Romney Marsh. It has strong connections with smuggling and even has a “secret” tunnel that leads to the church on other side of the road. The rambling but cosy interior is largely geared up for diners but does cater well for the drinkers also. The main bar has a tiled floor and contains a lovely large inglenook fireplace. To the right of the bar is a raised dining area with spiral staircase and until recently dried hops dangled from the ceiling (these have now sadly been removed as health and safety deemed them to be a fire risk). On the other side of the pub is a small simply furnished room with dresser, beamed ceilings and another superb fireplace. There usually some leaflets and postcards about the pub and the surrounding area which is very good for walking. Journey further on through the pub and you come to a smallish restaurant area with numerous old adverts lining the walls. They do an all you can eat carvery on Wednesdays for £7.95 which sound like my sort of thing – a shame I live too far away to take advantage. 3 changing ales available (Harveys + Summer Lightning + 1 other I have now forgotten) – very good quality on my visit. There is plenty of seating outside overlooking the churchyard and the Royal Military Canal passes a few hundred yards down the road. The 6 mile round walk to Appledore is thoroughly recommended and a few pints in the Woolpack at the end is just reward for the effort.

13 Aug 2007 10:24

The Tap and Spile, Wolverhampton

I accidentally stumbled across this pub whilst wandering aimlessly through Wolverhampton City Centre trying to kill a couple of hours. In short it is a rough and ready, dated, old fashioned place and the floor, pre smoking ban, was littered with discarded fag ends. The walls and ceilings are ingrained with generations of cigarette smoke and yet in a certain way, the smoking ban will probably detract from its character (my visit was pre-ban). The interior appears to have changed very little in the past 30 years and the worn and battered furnishings and décor give the place a certain charm that is hard to find in this day of plastic pub makeovers. There are a few snugs and anti rooms, the small snug to the right of the door as you enter being of particular note with its own little serving hatch. The customer base is a mix of strange but seemingly harmless characters, many of who are in various stages of liver malfunction. There is a selection of quiz & fruit machines, a small TV at the rear and an awkwardly positioned Big Screen that takes out a big chunk of seating when in use. The big bonus is the excellent beers that included Landlord, Banks and Stairway To Heaven on my visit and pretty cheap, especially when you are used to London prices. The pub wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste but if you like no nonsense boozers with a bit of character and decent beers, then this is an excellent choice.

9 Aug 2007 12:48

The Old Suffolk Punch, Hammersmith

Even by Green King standards, this is a modernized, plastic, fake, pretentious, bland, characterless, soulless, uninspiring and miserable apology of a pub. Another ghastly reminder of what happens when the interior designers are called in to “transform” a pub into something that is more befitting of the times, that is, throw tradition out of the window, alienate the regulars and try and attract no brainer crowds to watch end to end footie and play pool and darts. The only surprise is that they knock out a couple of Ales albeit IPA and Abbot are not exactly worth getting out the fireworks for. As for Speckled Hen smooth, aaaaarrrrgh! The Old Suffolk Punch (I hate pubs that shorten the name to a set of meaningless initials) has some of the most badly designed seats I have ever come across – you will know about it if you find the appropriate chairs. No amount of potted plants can make this place feel or look cosy and I for one wish it would enter a time warp and go back to what most people here remember it as.

7 Aug 2007 16:21

The Oxford Arms, Camden

The Oxford Arms is little more than a basic Victorian boozer that has been stripped back to the basics taking its heart and soul with it. The beer range is limited and expensive (London Pride £3 a pint on my last visit) and you would need to plant a forest the size of Brazil to offset the carbon footprint left by the multiple plasma screens. There is some nice original tiling in the entrance that the builders must have missed this as they tore away at the pubs innards. The décor is plain and unfussy with bare floors, large plain windows and dull cream walls and ceilings. On a positive note there are some nice old b/w pics of Camden and the music is generally a bit quieter than some of its neighbours and there is beer garden at the rear although this is little more than a paved area with a few benches. The Oxford is perfectly adequate and functional but as for being “unarguably the best pub in London”, I would say it’s unarguably the best pub at 265 Camden High Street and little more.

7 Aug 2007 15:25

The Trocadero, Birmingham

Trying to find a traditional style pub in Birmingham City centre when you have a few hours to kill is more difficult than I had imagined so when my eye first caught the elegant mosaic façade of the Trocadero, I was mildly excited at what delights the pub would offer. The first impressions were not good. No Ales for starters, just run of the mill kegs and lagers many of which were on cheap promotions making it a place for quantity drinking rather than quality drinking. The pub appears to have been extended in both width and length at some stage since its days as a fire station. The rear is probably the most interesting with its sofas, chessboard tiled fireplace and mock Tudor vaulted ceiling.
The rest of the pub is a diet of multiple TVs, game machines and mixture old modern art and old local pictures. Overall, a bit of a disappointment and my search for the definitive classic pub in Brum city centre must wait for a future visit.

7 Aug 2007 13:17

The White Hart Hotel, Hampton Wick

I recently paid my first visit here in the best part of 20 years since I lived in the area and I can’t believe that I was in the same place. What was once a decent and spacious pub has turned into little more than a hotel bar. From the outside the place is very appealing with it large patio, mock Tudor gables and latticed windows. The interior is pleasant enough and comfy with flowers on tables and lounge areas although some of the cushions look like they had been made by the local women from the OAP home. The first bit of the pub when you walk through the doors is more geared for diners which immediately makes you feel a bit awkward if you are just here for a few drinks. The stone floor bar area beyond is the only bit of the pub that it felt right to drink in but was fairly small and I felt uneasy taking a seat elsewhere in case the tables were reserved for diners. The neatly uniformed staff were constantly prowling as if they were waiting for someone to stray into no mans land so they could pounce. The beers were pretty decent (Fullers range – ESB, Swing Low & Pride on my visit) but this is such a far cry from how I remembered the place that I wish I just kept the memories.

7 Aug 2007 12:52

The Benjamin Satchwell, Leamington Spa

Benjamin Satchwell was the man responsible for turning Leamington from a small village to the elegant spa town it is today although the pub that bears his name is sadly little more than an extended bog standard Wetherspoons with all the pros and cons that go with it. The interior is long and narrow and covers what presumably would have originally been 4 premises (2 to the front and 2 to the rear). The front still bears the remains of the original 2 frontages. The bar area has a range of sofas off to one side and, the pub being on a hill, is a couple of feet higher than the main drinking area. Part of the original retaining walls are still in place to the front with the rest being opened up with a lower division along the original wall line. Down in the sunken lower side, the layout is fairly formal pub seating with mirrors and bookcases making it all look very traditional even if it is all very much Wetherspoons by numbers. Despite the large amount of floor space, the low ceiling makes it a bit claustrophobic and this isn’t helped by there being little natural light in the bowels of the pub. To the rear, stretching back to the street behind is a family area and dotted about are there is the usual array of local history displays, silent fruit machines and plasma screens (albeit with subtitles). Wheelchair users and skateboarders will be impressed by the large ramp to negotiate the split levels although I would not recommend the latter giving it a go. Basically, the B.S. fulfills all the functions that you would expect to get from a Wetherspoons without installing the desire to return in a hurry.

6 Aug 2007 14:51

The Earl of Camden, Camden

This spacious, modern pub was formerly a Hogshead and is placed handily for all the usual Camden attractions. The open plan interior is a mix of stone and wooden flooring, bare brick walls, large picture windows and a mass of exposed air conditioning pipes. It sounds horrific to someone who prefers pubs that are bit more traditional but I found it all quite aesthetic and harmonious. The open plan is interrupted only by a brace of brick pillars bridged by some shelves containing various jugs urns etc. The 3 Real ales (Deuchars, Pride and Bombardier) are complemented by Westons cider on hand pump although at £3.40 this seems a bit pricey, especially given that the Deuchers was only £2.70. There is also a selection of bottled beers from around the globe. The 3 plasma screens show a variety of sports but there are signs up saying that if there is something you want to watch, just let tell the staff and they will try and accommodate you. Nice to find a place with such a flexible attitude and it is simple things like this that sort out the good from the bad. At the rear is a pool table (weekly competitions held) and there are the usual run of quiz / fruit machines as well as board games and a weekly quiz night. There is seating outside under canopies for those that wish to watch the traffic pass by. For a pub that could easily be taken as a rather soulless cavern, I found the place to be a pleasant surprise with a fresh and vibrant approach. I would certainly pay a return visit.

6 Aug 2007 09:37

The Lion and Unicorn, Kentish Town

This fairly large, spacious traditional style Victorian corner pub is set in a leafy residential street far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the main road to remain largely ignored by those with little sense of venturing into the back streets. My previous visit was only memorable for 3 redundant hand pumps and a sozzled up local who insisting on holding an indecipherable conversation while I tried to get served. Given the subsequent postings regarding new management I recently returned to see what, if anything, has changed. Firstly there were no signs of anyone worse for wear propping up the bar which can only be a good thing and secondly the 3 redundant hand pumps are now down to 2 albeit the London Pride occupying the third pump was, at best, barely drinkable. One of the pool tables has been removed but apart from that the place is pretty much as it was and probably has been for years. The interior is a bit dated and tired but sometimes this can be part of a pubs charm. There are several wonderful brewery and whiskey mirrors but the abundance of cheap plastic flowers doesn’t do the place any favours. The rear pool and darts area is partly screened off by an isolated fireplace and there are several fruit and quiz machines dotted about as well as a juke box. The bare floors add to the basic approach and with a bit of imagination and better quality beers the place could be quite appealing. There is a shady patio at the rear and sectioned off tables under umbrellas at the front. As things stand it is a useful place to know if you want to lose the crowds and are not fussy about the beers. Otherwise it’s not really worth making a big effort to find.

3 Aug 2007 16:10

The Ivy Leaf, Dartford

There has been an Ivy Leaf here since the mid 19th century and according to “Cheers”, the book on local pub history, it was originally part of a scheme to build a grand crescent overlooking the park. Obviously that never came to fruition and the old pub made way for the current building in 1929. Situated a short walk from the town but far enough to keep the local pond life and social misfits away, this is a good example of an inter war pub. The fully carpeted interior consists of 2 bars, a saloon bar to the right and a smaller public bar to the left. These are joined by a narrow bar area which can be a bit of a bottleneck. Both bars are similarly decorated in a mock Tudor style with brick fireplaces and pews around the window bays but what really catches the attention are the masses of brass and copper pots, pans, taps, pipes, pumps and assorted oddments that hang from the ceiling. There is a dartboard in the public bar and a wide screen TV while there is a more substantial if cumbersome looking TV at the Saloon end. The 2 Ales (London Pride & Adnams) are, on the face of it, nothing special but are well kept and surprisingly for such common ales, there are few, if any, pubs in Dartford that actually stock either of them. The welcoming, charismatic landlord and friendly staff are very attentive and the chances are they will recognize you even if you are not a particularly regular visitor. There is a decent beer garden to rear as well as some benches out front with the views over the park. The Sunday quiz is always a bit of fun and it is also handy for the new football ground a few hundred yards down the road. Definately One of the better and more civilised pubs in the area.

3 Aug 2007 12:17

The Litten Tree, Westminster

Until recently this office block ground floor was another contrived, plastic example of the Litten Tree species, a place that was incredibly dull and boring without it being particularly unpleasant or ugly. It’s recent conversion to a Slug & Lettuce is hardly reason for fanfares and fireworks. The interior is slightly truncated from its original layout with the rear section now been sectioned off behind a curved screen and bathed in Orange neon. The main bar is very open plan with a fairly low ceiling that makes it feel a bit claustrophobic although the colour scheme is at least a bit lighter than it was. The pub by numbers carpet has been replaced by light tiles and it does at least feel a bit more bright and breezy than it was. The furnishings and décor are now more hotel lounge than plastic pub with sofas and modern arty farty prints of local landmarks at contorted angles. One thing that remains unchanged is the quality of the beers. Pride was off on my visit and the Deuchers was the worst I have ever tasted. I am not particularly known for my patronage of the likes of Slug & Lettuces, Litten Trees et al and this place gives me no reason to change my ways.

2 Aug 2007 15:18

The Arden Arms, Stockport

This classic pub is on the CAMRA Inventory for historic and unique pub interiors and is well worth a detour to visit. Situated down the hill from the Old Market and round the back of Asda’s it doesn’t look particularly enticing from the outside, just a plain brick turn of the century corner pub. The interior is however a bit special. Divided into several rooms each with its own character including one that can only be accessed by going through the bar itself although I wasn’t brave enough to march through to get there.

The bar itself resembles an old shop front with a partly glazed service area and serving hatches to the bars eitehr side.

To the right of the bar is a small plain public bar with dart board, various board games and a basic widescreen TV. Various old pictures on the wall include one of the pub itself that confirms that little, if anything, has changed over the years. Note the old calling bells dotted about behind the seats (not sure if they still work).

At the opposite end of the pub is the large Millfield Room which is actually 2 rooms with dividing doors that can separate the room when necessary. The room houses an impressive old grandfather clock, plenty of old pictures and mirrors and original fireplaces. Note the numbered doors, part of the original licensing laws where all rooms in a pub had to be numbered and listed for their purpose. In the area by the bar are some more interesting pictures including a contorted view of the interior and its customers. Several certificates have been warded for its beers and interior and these adorn the walls.

The beers come from the local Robinsons brewery a few hundred yards down the road, usually 3 on pump.

Outside is a small open air lobby that it probably best left for the smokers but to the rear is a large courtyard with several benches and stable outbuildings largely intact from its old coaching inn days.

An absolute treat and a must visit pub for anyone in the area.

1 Aug 2007 13:41

The Water Rats, St Pancras

This was originally the headquarters of the Grand Order of Water Rats, an organisation formed by showbiz celebrities in the late 19th century to organize charity events. These days it is mainly a music venue for up and coming rock and indie bands and can boast a large list of big names that have passed through the doors on their way to stardom (as well as a few who have headed the other way). As a pub, it is a basic single bar with very little of its Victorian charm left. As one would expect of a music venue, it is dark and tatty with pounding music, flashing lights and plasma screens. Unlike most music venues it does at least serve a couple of Real Ales (Bass & Spitfire) although the quality is not very consistent considering you are paying inflated prices for them. The music venue is at the rear of the pub and is pretty good what it is; a decent P.A., good lighting and a raised area at the rear that offers a fairly good view unless the place is packed to the rafters. Not a place to go specifically for a few pints but as part of London’s “toilet circuit”, it is a must for music fans to check out some of the up and coming bands.

1 Aug 2007 13:20

The Enterprise, Holborn

The last time I came in here was prior to the recent refurbishment. The basics were intact but the place was rather tatty with worn seats and a rather tired feel. The sympathetic refurbishment has given the place a modern trendy buzz without ruining the historic ambience. The elegant main bar area has a dark and rich feel to it and features some superb Victorian tiling, large mirrors and a fireplace with an ornate wooden surround. The pub narrows to the rear where the décor is a bit lighter and doubles up as a photo gallery. A couple of model WWI biplanes dangle overhead between a couple of coloured glass skylights and at the rear a small, bright, open courtyard is ideal for the nice weather that we frequently enjoy! The beers (Black Sheep, Old Hooky and 1 off – Pride looking at the shape of the clip) are well kept (they are cask marquee accredited) although you will experience the steeper end of “London” prices. The ambience is generally relaxed with easy going music and when it isn’t too busy, it is a great place to while away a few hours. Definitely recommended if in his area.

1 Aug 2007 12:46

The William Morris, Hammersmith

Named after the 19th Century writer and artist who set up a printing business nearby, this is one of the most depressing, dark, gloomy and claustrophobic places I have ever associated with the Wetherspoons chain. The rambling interior has all the appeal of a run down amusement arcade and totally lacks any character. The service was pretty awful; I seemed to wait an eternity without so much as an acknowledgement before being served and it wasn’t exactly heaving at the bar. The only salvation to be found here is the beers – Pride and Abbott are commonplace but the Damson Porter I (eventually) had was excellent and there the rather potent Old Rosie is available for the cider drinkers. If the gloomy interior is too much, there are some seats outside in the equally unattractive modern square but should you choose to emerge into the daylight after half an hour inside, you will get a bit of a pit pony effect. Not a place that carries any great recommendation.

23 Jul 2007 10:41

The Camden Eye, Camden

In March 2006 I wrote “If you could clear out the rabble, introduce some more sympathetic furnishings and insert a decent management team, this place could be a winner.” Someone seems to have taken note as the Eye is now a shadow of its former self and an excellent example of how to turn a total dive into something more respectable without destroying the character of the building. The dropouts and wierdo’s have been replaced with a smarter and more civilized crowd and the pub is far more hospitable than it ever was before. The basic interior is the same but the furnishings are slightly more trendy, the music more eclectic and a couple of Plasma Screens added. The Bombardier and Deuchers are enough to keep me happy and the staff have been top notch on the 2 or 3 occasions I have visited since the makeover. Still a great place to people watch with its panorama of the junction outside Camden Town tube station. Well done to whoever sorted this place out. Shame the rating reflects the old Halfway House rather than the Eye but it will hopefully adjust itself in due course.

22 Jul 2007 11:02

British Queen, Tottenham

A rather unappealing pub in a far from glamourous setting, this purpose built estate pub pretty much has do not enter written all over it. Ironically, its somewhat rough and scary reputation usually means that this is one of the few places that you can get served prior to a Spurs match without the need to shoulder charge your way to the bar. To be honest, if you are used to pubs in rough areas then a trip to the British Queen will not prove to be as daunting as some people will have you believe although there is very little of any interest to warrant going there. The beers are standard keg / lagers, the customer base male dominated, most of who look like they are out on day release. The décor is rather dull and run down with plain walls and a bare pine floor beneath a low partly angled ceiling. The interior features the usual run of TVs and fruit machines and also the most distorted and painfully inaudible music I have ever heard in a pub. Like virtually every other pub near the ground on match day, you can expect to hear a medley of Chas N Dave’s finest being suitably belted out. I’m afraid that’s as good as it gets.

22 Jul 2007 10:46

The Liquor Station, Wembley

From the outside, it still looks like the Post Office it used to be, complete with the old post box built into the wall. Part of the Barracuda chain which generally means avoid like the plague, but given the lack of any real decent pubs in this neck of the woods, the choice is generally this or the Wetherspoons next door. The interior is quite spacious and divided up into several sections although you need to avoid eye contact with the hideous deckchair material carpet. The staff do not exactly leap out of their way to serve you and on my visit all 3 ales (Green King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Courage Best) were all off so clearly something needs to be done on a staffing level. Apart from the aforementioned carpet, the décor is pleasing on the eye with tasteful modern prints and plenty potted plants although there is an abundance of empty shelves just calling out for some old books, jugs, urns etc. Multiple screens satisfy the TV addicts and the music was unobtrusive. It is all very clean, tidy and functional but not worthy of making a special trip to find.

22 Jul 2007 10:40

The Plough and Harrow, Hammersmith

Not one of my favourite Wetherspoon outlets. The modern interior is rather nondescript and soulless with little to attract the attention although the glass front and sides do at least give it quite a bit of natural light. It has all the feel of a staff canteen or a giant building society reception, far too open and impersonal. On the plus side there are 6 Real Ales, 4 commoners (Pedigree, Abbott, Courage Best & Courage Directors) and 2 guests (Bohemian Granat & Daleside Leg Over) on my last visit. There are the usual local information boards giving a potted history of the area’s theatres, buildings and personalities and it may come as a surprise that there has been a Plough & Harrow here since the 15th century. Sadly the current incarnation has little of the charm that the original probably did. It is a fair trek from the tube station and far enough out of the way to lose the Apollo crowds so it is decent enough as a meeting place or somewhere for a quick pint when the pockets are running empty but not somewhere that I would choose to spend an evening.

22 Jun 2007 14:54

The Rat and Parrot, Camden

The pub (sic) is now boarded up and it is now a deceased parrot.

4 Jun 2007 16:25

The Nell Gwynne, Covent Garden

My name has been now been firmly planted on the growing list of petitioners. Keep it up everyone!

3 May 2007 13:10

The Elmhurst, Tottenham

The Elmhurst is a stand alone brick and mock Tudor corner pub situated opposite Bruce Green Castle. Despite the Hotel title, it is geared up as a sports pub rather than a place to book for your holidays. The main bar is of a decent size with an ornate plastered ceiling seemingly propped up by 1 thin column in front of the bar. The rest of the decor is fairly plain although the tiled fireplace, heavy curtains and hanging brass lights give it a slight edge of decadence. It is let down by the number of cheap promo drink posters liberally stuck on the walls. There is a TV, big screen, fruit machines, cash machine and jukebox situated here and beyond is a small ante room with dark paneling, 2 dart boards and its own little serving hatch. The prices are fairly cheap but there are no Real Ales and only the bog standard lager and keg beer selections. Away from the bar is a huge games room with 4 pool tables and enough TV’s to satisfy any sports fan. There is a large terrace to the rear for al fresco drinking in the warmer months. The pub gets packed when Spurs are at home and at weekends there is the usual range of tacky pub entertainment. Not a place I would go out of my way for but you could do a lot worse if you in the area.

19 Apr 2007 12:26

The Hope and Anchor, Hammersmith

This old fashioned 2 bar local corner pub is quite rare in that it has managed to survive for much of its existence without being modernized into some trendy Yuppy type bar or knocked through into an open plan cavern. Perhaps not the most appealing pub from the outside, the carpeted saloon bar is nevertheless neat and tidy and has a largely untouched 60’s/70’s period interior with dark paneling and cushioned pew seating. The separate public bar has a large brick fireplace, touches of coloured glass and is fairly spacious, even with the pool table taking up one end. There is also a pleasant beer patio with high ivy clad walls that go some way to hide the rather dull estate that surrounds the pub. The beer front isn’t too exciting and the only Ale (Courage Directors) was off on my visit. On the commendable side, it has good wheelchair access. It is easily overlooked being set back just off the main through road but is an interesting place in its own way and a welcome change from the manufactured and refurbished pubs that dominate the area.

17 Apr 2007 13:11

Goose, Brixton

Large ex-Firkin pub mainly populated by the areas undesirables and those looking for a cheap beer prior to being ripped off in the Academy round the corner. Naturally gets heaving on gig nights. Of the 5 Real Ales on my visit, only 1 was on – the ubiquitous Xmas ale Santa’s Little Helper (this was in December!). London Pride, Tetleys, Green King IPA + 1 other were all off which doesn’t say much for the cellar management. The pub itself has very little merits in the way of class or architecture. The ugly glass front leads to a cavernous, soulless, plain and uninteresting giant shoebox of an interior. The multiple TV screens all had virtually unwatchable picture quality (widescreen - they need you!). The music was loud and monotonous and the modern art prints looked they have come from a 99p shop. The whole place is totally devoid of character and aspires to do nothing other than to pull in numbers and meet sales targets. This really is a dreadful place that exists solely for tasteless people who are desperate for little more than a cheap drink.

11 Apr 2007 16:18

The Cockpit, Blackfriars

The Cockpit has a history going back 400 years and the original building was apparently at one time owned by Shakespeare himself who used it as a refuge for persecuted priests. The current building dates from 1842 and was used for cock fighting until the sport was banned 7 years later when the pub was renamed the Three Castles. It reverted back to the Cockpit in the 70’s and much of the interior appears to date from this time. I am assuming that the balconies are recreations as they appear to be far too small and shallow for them to be practical. That said it is not hard to picture the days when they would have been full of yelling punters and the basic shape of the pub is probably not much different than it was in its Cockfighting days. Whilst the cockerels no longer populate the floor space, it is not without its wildlife – I witnessed a couple of mice scurrying around on my visit although no-one seemed to pay much attention when this was pointed out. Despite being dated in a “Watneys Red Barrel” kind of way, the pub is quite homely with dimpled glass windows, lamps, potted plants, lanterns and endless pictures of cockerels. Even the Courage symbols seem to be apt here. The high tongue and grooved ceiling gives the pub a much larger appearance although the bar area in particular can be a bit cramped. There is a big screen for sport although by kick off time you will probably have the pub to yourself as it is in an area not really noted for late nights. We watched an England game here and there were barely a dozen people in the pub. If you like unusual pubs with a bit of history, the Cockpit is certainly worth tracking down for a visit.

11 Apr 2007 15:45

The Castle Hotel, Eynsford

The Castle is handily placed in this picturesque village and is very appealing from the outside. The interior is a large single knocked through room with an abundance of fake hops hanging from the rafters and over the bar. Several prints and pictures mainly with a boxing theme adorn the walls although I am not sure what the connection is. Beers are from the Shepherd Neame range and tasted decent enough. There is a pool table and rear screen projection TV (showing dodgy Arabic football channels). On the face of it all sounds very accommodating however, on our visit, the place was crawling with screaming kids running around virtually unsupervised. Some of the locals populating the bar also left something to be desired and their impromptu singing talents were rather grating. Whether I called at a bad time I don’t know but we didn’t feel the need to stay too long, especially when there are other decent pubs a short spew away.

11 Apr 2007 15:33

The Chancellors, Hammersmith

The Chancellors is a fairly low key pub in the back streets near the river (but certainly not on or within view of the river as a previous poster intimates). The proximity of the Riverside Studios opposite means that it gets a fair share of musicians / performers, many of whom have left signed photos that now adorn the walls alongside lesser celebrities otherwise known as Fulham footballers. The mock Tudor interior is typically old fashioned and rather dated but fans of traditional unspoilt pubs will see the attraction of this place. The mature couple who appear to run the pub ensure that there are very few signs of it becoming too trendy or glitzy like several other pubs in the area. The only Ale is Courage Best but it is usually in good nick. It is less than a 10 minute walk to the Apollo but it is far enough off the beaten track to lose the crowds making it an ideal place for a peaceful drink on event night. Bar service is always good with any short measures being immediately topped up without prompting. There are a couple of basic TVs and a darts area to the rear. There is a small outside patio when the weather permits. It can be a bit smoky (but not for much longer) and some of the customer base can be rather worse for wear but there are a few characters and I have never been afforded anything other than a good welcome.

11 Apr 2007 15:24

The Central Bar, Shepherds Bush

A Wetherspoons in a Shopping Centre is probably several people’s impression of hell and the Central Bar goes some way to making this image a real one. The large neon sign that blazes out of the front windows across the pointy end of the Green announces the pubs presence. To get in you need to go into the shopping mall and up the escalator and you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in an airport.
The internal layout is rather uninspiring with little to focus on of any interest. The bar area can be a bit cramped – there are several pillars close to bar making it a squeeze when the bar is busy. It is rare that you will find a seat and on occasions, I have been turfed out of the half empty dining area because I was not eating despite there being nowhere else to go. On the plus side, you will find the usual good selection of Real Ales and usually a stout or a mild. All 10 pumps are usually operating and then there are the usual mix of mass market lagers and bottled beers from here, there and everywhere at knock down prices. They are Cask Marque accredited and I have never had any problem with the quality. Unfortunately the beers alone cannot disguise the fact that this is a rather soulless and uninteresting place to sit and have a drink or meal. It has its fair share of winos and gets busy if there is something on at the Empire. Unfortuantely, the lack of any other half decent pubs in the immediate area means you really have very little choice.

11 Apr 2007 14:51

The Two Brewers, Dartford

Paid my first visit since the pub reopened and the signs are very promising. Someone must have read my notes as the new boss has reintroduced Real Ales after an absense of several years. Sensibly, he has opted to initially stock Ruddles County and Old Speckled Hen (both £2.40) which is from the better end of the Green King range and neither are regulalrly found in Dartford. I was informed that a Real Cider is also due and the ubiquitous Strongbow is being replaced by Thatchers. All this shows a bit of imagination and endeavour that had previously been lacking under the old regime. Some of the furnishings have been swapped around. The pool table has been shifted to the other side of the pub and a few sofas put in its old place. The numerous fruit/quiz machines that stood in front of the old fireplace and range have now gone to reveal some of the interiors better assets. Part of the car park at the rear has now been turfed over and new benches laid out although not much can be done about the view of the multi-storey car park and my sneaky short cut through the car park on the way to and from work has now been curtailed. It would have been nice for the old pub sign in the car park to have been repaired and retained but sadly this has been sacrificed. The new guvnor is gradually pulling this place into a better shape although there is still work to be done. A few minor points: the picture quality on the small TV needs addressing although the plasma screen around the corner was fine. Some of the decor is getting tatty and the outside could do with more than a lick of paint, especially the rotting windows. Some of the customer base could also do with some lessons in language restraint. This pub has been neglected for several years but it is good to see that someone is finally showing some interest in it and hopefully it can soon reach its full potential.

11 Apr 2007 09:36

The Black Lion, Hammersmith

A history of the outside reveals that this haunted 200 year old pub started off life as a pig farm – it seems to have diversified a bit since then. Situated just an anglers cast from the riverbank, the pub is as homely and enticing as you could expect in these parts with its candles and lanterns in the windows and welcoming flower baskets. The range of beers include Deuchers, London Pride plus a guest (Cornish Tribute) and a fourth hand pump likes agonizingly redundant begging for another beer to be added to the repertoire. Prices are a bit higher than I would have expected but the quality is good. The interior is a series of rooms that have now been knocked through making it fairly open although the numerous high backed settles create their own snugs to give an impression of intimacy. The decor has a rustic and simplistic feel with rugs on the bare wooden floors, plain textured walls and ceilings, empty bottles on high shelves, old photos adorning the walls and various old tools dotted about. To the rear, beyond a stand alone pillar with its fireplace, is a carpeted sofa lounge area probably suited more for dining but not off limits if you just want to sit down with your drink. The atmosphere was very laid back and relaxed, the staff very welcoming and service was good albeit the pub was pretty quiet on my visit. This is the sort of pub where one would sit with their newspaper rather than be glued to the TV for sport – I only noticed a small basic TV so I would imagine that crowds watching England games is not generally the norm here. The mixed bag of music does not interfere with the ambiance and I would find it quite easy to while away an entire evening here. There is also a large beer patio to the rear, some of it under cover, and a children’s playground is situated 20 yards round the corner so there is really little excuse not to visit.

4 Apr 2007 13:19

The Lord Nelson, Alcester

This rambling old pub is set just off the main town centre and has a fairly sedate, convivial atmosphere albeit my visit was not exactly at peak hours. The interior is done in a mock Tudor style but there are a few old beams to give it a bit more authenticity. The carpeted main bar is divided up by a few screens and pillars making it feel fairly intimate and there is a handsome fireplace to warm up the winter nights. The walls are adorned with several pictures (mainly nautical), plates and brasses as well as a few bits of Nelson memorabilia. To the left of the bar is a games area with TV, darts board and an all too rare bar billiards table. The bar is quite small and 3 Real Ales available: Green King IPA, Bombardier and the more unusual P.G. Steam. It all comes over as warm and comfy and should appeal to a cross selection of customers although it is probably more geared towards the older generation or those who like their pubs a little less boisterous.

4 Apr 2007 11:48

Bishop Out Of Residence, Kingston Upon Thames

This place was a regular haunt of mine 25 years ago when I lived in the area and I spent many an evening (and lunchtime) out on the river terrace. Returning after an absence of several years, it is disappointing, although not particularly surprising, that it has lost much of its universal appeal and has become a bit of a trendy spot generally aimed at the under 30’s. The large bay front commands views of the riverside terrace and Kingston Bridge and whilst the modernist decor and sink into the seat sofas are not particularly out of place in such a modern pub, I preferred its previous pub by numbers interior, even if it did look like an embryonic Wetherspoons. As one previous poster has indicated, you need to pick your time and occasion to get the best out of this pub. As it was a special St Patrick's night bash and I had only come to see my friends band play (enter big plug for Never Mind The Bongos), I have no idea what the general Saturday night ambience is but I get the impression that loud, monotonous, clubby music is the order of the day. The mood is toned down on Sundays with live jazz. Out of peak hours it would be a lot more subdued and relaxing. The beers are from the usual Young's range and decent enough quality but prices are not cheap with Guinness weighing in at a hefty £3.20 a pint. It was nice to return after so many years but I think I’ll just stick to my old memories.

30 Mar 2007 13:36

THE Distillers, Hammersmith

I recently popped in for the first time since its refurbishment. The old run down cheap booze and food place has gone and been replaced by a decidedly smarter and up market venue with a more contemporary feel to it. The layout is essentially the same although the pool room is now just an extended drinking area. The furnishings are now more comfy with padded seating and sofas but they have least managed to keep some of the original trimmings, notably the large Distillers mirror that takes pride of place on the wall. Most importantly, they have introduced a few of Real ales: Courage Best, Youngs and London Pride - hardly exciting choices and quite expensive albeit the Pride was of good quality. The piped music was a bit of jazz / hip hop mix which isn’t to my taste but the place was rammed to the rafters so it obviously has proved to be popular. The seating outside is now a lot neater with a new perimeter fence although nothing can disguise the noise or fumes from the Fulham Palace Road. I am not sure I would frequent it as much as the old days as it gets far too packed and loud but if you like this sort of thing, you will probably be fairly impressed.

30 Mar 2007 09:41

The Sun in the Sands, Kidbrooke

The interesting name is derived from the original Ye Sunne pub that would be lost in a cloud of dust as the local farmers drove their animals down the dirt tracks to Blackheath. The current pub dates from 1841 and these days it is more likely to be lost in the smog of car fumes from the nearby A2. The pub looks far better than it actually is. The interior is now one knocked through cavernous room which makes it spacious but far too open and devoid of any character. The beer selection is poor and unimaginative – the only Real ale (Courage Directors) was off on my visit. The pub seems to be geared towards football fans, pool players, karaoke singers and fruit machine addicts. I would be the first to sit down and watch football but the picture on the big screen was of decidedly poor quality. There seemed to be no restraint on the punters language and I get the impression that it attracts some quite unsavoury characters. It certainly generated a very rough ambience and it is not really a place that I can particularly recommend.

29 Mar 2007 13:23

The Still and West, Portsmouth

Like most harbour side pubs, the Still & West claims to be the haunt of many a smuggler and press gang over its 200 year existence. These days it is rather stuck out in the middle of nowhere and not very accessible from the town. Its main asset is its commanding views across the waters to the Isle of Wight one way and the Spinnaker Tower the other. The outside seating is ideal on a warm evening to idle away a few hours watching the ferries pass by but in winter perhaps not such a good idea. The interior is quite rambling although there are a few screened off areas for a relatively intimate pint even though it all comes over as being extensively refurbished and contrived. Unsurprisingly the theme is generally nautical with boat pictures, knots, navy shields and seafaring murals on the ceiling. A decent range of Fullers beers: HSB, ESB, Pride and a seasonal offering (Winter Warmer on my visit). The piped music was a bit bland and, interestingly, I did not notice any TV’s. The restaurant upstairs seems to specialise in fish and chips and whilst I can’t comment as we did not eat here, I would imagine a nice window seat here would enhance any dining experience. I have not been here in the summer when I suspect it would be heaving and the “we welcome well behaved children” sign is usually a reason to avoid but this is a pub that is worth visiting, even if only for the views.

29 Mar 2007 12:42

The Golden Bee, Stratford Upon Avon

For a town as beautiful as Stratford upon Avon, Wetherspoons have chosen a rather dull and nondescript building to house their addition to the local hostelries. With so many pubs in the town housed in lovely historic buildings, it really is only the usual decent beer selection (5 Ales) and price range that would attract anyone through the front door. The décor is rather plain and the few historical snippets do not provide much of interest that a visitor to Stratford would not already know. The bottom line is that this is an aesthetically disappointing ‘Spoons that is OK for a lunchtime meal and a quick pint before heading off to the more interesting taverns dotted about the town. At least they can claim that Shakespeare never drank here.

29 Mar 2007 12:17

The Golden Fleece, Edmonton

From the outside, this looked like one of the better pubs in the area but appearances can be deceptive. The O’Connells Ales moniker on the windows had me thinking there might just be something in here worth drinking but, sadly, just the usual old common keg varieties were on offer. The interior is divided into 2 rather bare and uninviting bars, although the enlarged doorway between them is so open that the music from the TV in one bar seemed to be competing with the jukebox in the other to make an unbearable cacophony of sound that eventually drove us out after 1 pint. The general feeling is that it is a very run down with cracked windows including one that had what looked rather alarmingly like a bullet hole through it. The blinds are nasty and the general décor appears cheap, dated and unimaginative with promotional poster randomly placed wherever there is a space. Even the bunting for the upcoming St Patrick’s Day looked rather underwhelming and did nothing to brighten the place up. It is a shame because with a bit of care, attention and imagination, I get the impression that there is potential here. On the plus side, the service was friendly and efficient, the prices fairly cheap and it was not particularly busy even though Spurs were at home that night. Perhaps the Ragged Fleece would be a more apt name.

29 Mar 2007 12:06

The Blue Anchor, Hammersmith

The riverside location is the major draw here and it generally attracts a more mature and chav free client base. Don’t be fooled by the 6 handpumps though – 4 of them bore pump clips advertising the likes of Fosters, John Smiths Smooth and Kronenberg 1664. There were only 2 Ales actually on offer on my recent visit: Brakespears and London Pride. The interior is fairly small and it gets busy very quickly, especially on a warm sunny day although most people tend to overspill onto the riverside terrace with its views of Hammersmith Bridge. With a bit of patience, seating usually becomes available inside. The walls tend to act as a gallery for a local photographic agency although there are a few assorted tin hats, brass plates and other odds and sods on display. Pride of place probably goes to the sawn in half, upturned rowing boat suspended from the ceiling. Lots of dark paneling, bare floors and dated wallpaper. The piped music was a rather dull and repetitive but overall this is a far better and more homely pub than its next door neighbour.

29 Mar 2007 09:45

The Beehive, Brixton

This is a rather typical but small Wetherspoons and one would say rather inadequate for the area that it caters for. Only yards from the Brixton Academy and close to the market and shopping areas, it attracts a large number of varied punters and gets particularly rammed prior to Academy events. The interior is long, narrow and furnished in the usual ‘Spoons style with a few interesting old local photos and a displays. Although small, the beer selection is eclectic enough to suit most people’s tastes but then anyone on this site knows what to expect from a Wetherspoons, be it good or bad. The non smoking rear is divided up by wood and glass screens making a series of snugs, one with a fireplace and is probably the best bet to find a seat. I have never encountered any problems with service and this place has done me well on a few occasions although it must be said that there is not a lot of competition in the area unless you know where to go.

29 Mar 2007 09:33

The Queens Head, St Pancras

From the outside, the Queens Head looks like the classic Victorian shop front style pub with its recess doorways. I particularly like the Victorian postage stamp pub sign and the etched windows, even if they are modern recreations. Much of the interior has been knocked through to create one larger room with a small recess at the rear where the dart board is situated. Fortunately, some of the fine old tiling remains, especially on the floor although much of the wall tiles are now obscured the high backed padded pew seating. There are several ornate mirrors and a few remnants of its original interior but not really enough for traditionalists like me to get too exited about. Unfortunately, the first thing you notice in the QH is not the décor or the surroundings but the pool table – prominently placed at the front of the pub. I can’t help thinking it would be far better positioned to the rear under the skylight. The general décor is slightly cheapened by promotional posters and cardboard cut out Guiness glasses although I am pleased to say that since my previous visit, they have for the most part been taken down the posters from the lovely mirrors that align the walls. One of the ceiling fans is snapped off and on the 2 occasions I have been here in recent months, the only Ale (Adnams – 2 other hand pumps appear to be redundant) has been unavailable. It is simple things like this that generally let the pub down. There are 2 TVs and a big screen, a Quiz Machine, cash machine and jukebox and for the night owls, they don’t shut until stupid o’clock during the week and even more stupid o’clock at weekends, even though it is in a residential street. The locals and staff are friendly enough and there is nothing in particular wrong to not recommend a visit but it strikes me as a pub that doesn’t really make the most of its attributes and could be a lot better without using up too much effort.

27 Mar 2007 16:21

The Lucas Arms, Kings Cross

The Lucas is as much as you would want from a traditional style pub without having anything to make it stand out as being particularly exceptional. The smaller front bar and larger extended rear bar contain all the trimmings that you would ordinarily expect of a decent pub, TV’s, Big Screen, pool table, fruit machines, cash machine, juke box and so on. The service was fine and the beer is of the standard Green King range (IPA, Speckled Hen, Abbott), nothing spectacular but perfectly adequate and reasonably priced. In an area where pubs are either undergoing trendy makeovers or converting to Irish theme bars, the fact that this remains a straight forward no nonsense boozer may be its biggest asset and whilst it is not worth going out of the way for, it is certainly worth popping in if passing.

27 Mar 2007 11:21

The King Charles I, Kings Cross

This place was just called the plain old Charles I when I started working in the area but it then went through an Irish makeover (not unlike pretty much every pub around here) and became the Craic House for a few years. Now it has thankfully reverted to its original regal title albeit in slightly extended format. Not the easiest place to find but if you like quirky little pubs, it is worth the effort. It is not the biggest pub you will ever visit but it is probably the darkest. In the winter gloom, the tiny interior is lit by little more than the light that emanates from the small open fireplace. On the mantelpiece, a few candles pick out the mirror above and giving it a gothic Hammer Horror movie feel. The small bar usually has 2 decent beers including a guest (Deuchars and Camerons Soleys Choice were the recent options and at £2.70 for a 5.5% beer in London, the prices are pretty good). The furnishings are sturdy and basic with pew seats, benches and wooden stools on the bare floor. The dark paneling is battered and worn but fits nicely with the surroundings. The window sills are littered with more candles and a random selection of books and a newspaper rack sits by the door so you have plenty of reading material if you can’t find that elusive London Lite distributer. On the walls are a few old style adverts, a couple of mirrors (one nice old Guiness mirror and another with a rather ornate frame) and, rather bizarrely, a couple of African masks which coupled with the animal skulls on the bar canopy give the impression that the place is used for black magic after closing time. Despite the eccentric approach, the pub is quite welcoming and the staff very friendly. Until recently they had Bar Billiards but this has been temporarily replaced by a pinball machine although I was informed a couple of months ago that the Bar Billiards will return at a later date. The cues are still racked in the corner awaiting their next chalking. There are some benches outside for those who prefer to drink al fresco but the exterior of the pub and its surroundings are a bit glum. The pub is perhaps not to everyone’s taste but I always manage to fit in a visit when I am in the area. Given the quality of the competition in the area, you really can’t go far wrong here.

27 Mar 2007 10:19

The Albert Arms, Elephant and Castle

There is little doubt that this is my favourite pub in an rather dour area for imbibing. From the outside it looks like a straightforward local but the quirky and slightly eccentric interior shows great imagination: a good balance between clutter and functional features. The 2 bars have copious amounts of bare wooden floors and stripped brickwork and the walls are laden with everything from clocks to candlesticks, barometers to brasses and a few lanterns, tin helmets and road signs thrown in for good measure. Lots of screens for sport: 4 screens (+ big screen) in the back bar and another 3 in the smaller front bar. Fruit machines in both bars and a dart board in the rear next to a tiny but equally interesting snug recess. Good service with tables being cleared and wiped as soon as anyone left. The only downside was beer selection. Of the 3 hand pumps, 2 were off and only the ubiquitous GK IPA was available. They advertise Guest beers and a few old pump clips were on display so perhaps it wasn’t my day. A pub well worth knowing about if in the area and the short walk to avoid the dreadful pubs near the repulsive Elephant & Castle complex is fully justified.

22 Mar 2007 13:38

The Radnor Arms, Kensington

Despite being well away from my usual stamping grounds, I did manage to squeeze in a visit to the Radnor the week before its closure. The place was rammed although whether this was a usual Friday evening thing or everyone was paying their last respects I don’t know. The pub was quite small and was not really laid out particularly well to cater for crowds and as a result it was a constant shuffle to get out of peoples way. The interior was fairly basic and a little on the eccentric side with a veritable collection of pots pans, brasses, bottles, jugs, glasses, baseball caps, inflatables, ceramics reproduction posters, stuffed animals, plants and anything else that will fit into the available space. The rear had more of a lounge feel with the large aquarium being the focal point. Despite its imminent demise, the quality of beers did not lapse although not all were available on my visit – Midnight Sun and the topically renamed Rad No More Ale managed to satisfy my requirements. On the downside the music was crap, too loud and a bit out of place and the tiny TV in the front was hardly of much practical use (I didn’t notice any other screens). I certainly did not get the impression that this was a pub in its final days and it is a crying shame that such a popular pub showing some genuine originality has been forced to call time through no fault of its own. Glad I got there before the end.

22 Mar 2007 13:22

The Rockingham Arms, Elephant and Castle

Firstly anon 4 Feb, there are a few links between the 2nd Marquis of Rockingham, an 18th century Prime Minister and landowner and the firm who built Southwark Bridge so I am guessing that the pub, the local Rockingham Estate and adjoining roads are a nod to him (Wetherspoons have a tendency to link their pubs to its local history).

As for the pub, the terminal is a very apt description. It carries all the hallmarks of a sterile and faceless environment that you would really struggle to spend much more than an hour in whilst waiting for someone. It could also be described as a reception for a large office block which is probably what it was to start with. The glass frontage, plain walls and ceilings do not really conjure up any great inspirational or imaginative feats of interior design and the usual policy of no music makes the lack of atmosphere even more apparent. There are a couple of decent sized screens for when the occasion arises although it is hard to picture this place being a hotbed of passionate sport fans. On the plus side and contrary to a previous posting, the beer selection was a bit more adventurous than suggested. Last night they had Barnstormer, Theakstons, O’Hanlons Stout + 2 Real Ciders (Old Rosie & Westons) alongside the more regular offerings. Perhaps weak compared to some Weatherpoons but infinitely superior to what the neighbouring pubs have to offer. It does attract its fair share of well oiled regulars but there is sufficient space in here to steer clear of them. This is certainly not a great pub but probably the best of a bad triumvirate around the shopping centre.

8 Mar 2007 13:10

Charlie Chaplin, Elephant and Castle

To the initiated, Elephant & Castle is one of the Capitals biggest monstrosities, a prime example of the ugliest architecture that is fit for little more than a demolition ball. Needless to say the pubs around here are some of the worst imaginable and the Charlie Chaplin is probably the grottiest of them all. What one of Britain’s finest export comedians and satirists would make of having such a place named in his honour I don’t know but even he would struggle to find anything amusing here. This depressing place inhabits a dank corner of a shopping centre block and looks as welcoming as a noose to a condemned prisoner. Chaplin’s association with the area is written on the entrance door and a more comprehensive biography is attached to a pillar inside. The general interior is dull and gloomy with questionable taste in décor and lighting. Only the brick fireplace and the jelly bean machines are worthy of any attention. The beers are awful – no Real Ales so it was draught Websters Green Label, probably the worst pub pint I have ever tasted, even at £1.50. John Smiths smooth was a luxury afterwards although the extra quid still didn’t buy a smile from the barmaid. The pool table at the rear was occupied by people whose collective IQ’s would struggle to match the number of balls on the table and for good measure there were several depressive looking Placebo fans in here ahead of a gig at the Coronet next door. 2/10 ‘cos I am in a generous mood.

8 Mar 2007 10:57

The Duke of Edinburgh, Brixton

Perhaps not the most inviting pub from the outside but the Duke has now become my regular pre Academy haunt. Sufficiently off the beaten track to lose the crowds and yet only 5 minutes walk from the venue and more importantly, it sells a couple of decent beers ( Brakespear and Hobgoblin). The smaller front bar houses 2 pool tables (until recently there was table football in one of the pool tables places) and a screen for sport. Furnishings are basic with a couple of pew seats built into the recesses. The main bar to the rear has been extended and is quite spacious. The abundance of oak paneling gives the impression of being in 70’s version of a Great Hall and the solid brick windows with their frosted and stained glass panels create a wonderful lighting effect when the sun is right. The rows of good solid furniture has now been broken up by the recent introduction of some sofa’s around a coffee table and gives the bar a less severe and more relaxed feel. There is a Big screen at the rear but the other TV’s are really too small to be of much use. The large brick fireplace with its large Truman’s mirror acts as a good focal point although the portable radiator currently standing in front of it rather detracts from its grandeur (someone actually came in and chained a bicycle to it when I was here last week). Either side of the fireplace are 2 more pew seats although there are no tables or anywhere to put your drinks if you sit at them so they little practical value other than a feature. Finding a seat is not usually a problem and in summer, the huge beer garden is a splendid surprise. Meals are sufficient and served quickly and I have never had anything other than top class and friendly service here. Note that all the flat surfaces in the toilets have been textured to deter drug abuse which can only be a good thing. The Duke is almost a museum piece in a “Worthington E” kind of way and whilst dated (especially the bar), it is certainly not unattractive. There are not many of this sort of pub still around and in an area where good pubs are few and far between, I would thoroughly recommend making the effort to pay a visit if you are in the area.

27 Feb 2007 15:23

The Colonies, Westminster

Not the easiest pub to find being situated in the back streets between Westminster and Victoria. The pub is nothing spectacular, just a straight forward establishment catering for locals and office workers. The extended single room interior contains fairly standard pub décor with light papered ceilings, some nice wooden paneling, tiling around the bar and job lot pub carpeting. They have made the most of the floor space by putting in a t-shaped raised ledge in the middle of the floor although unless you are seated here in a group, it all feels a bit exposed. A well positioned and decent sized plasma screen will satisfy the sport fans. Liquid offerings include a guest beer (Everard’s Beacon on my last visit) however more often than not, there is no guest beer available leaving the rather dull selection of Youngs or Pride. They are Cask Marque accredited and I have had no complaints about the quality on my occasional visits. Prices are reasonable for the area (guest beer was £2.61 which I don’t consider excessive) although the food looks a bit more on the pricey side (around £7-10 for a rather mainstream selection). To the rear is a raised area behind some wooden railed screens with some interesting old photos of Victoria and St James Park and an Old World map. Beyond this are steps to an outside beer patio with some benches and a canopy if it rains but don’t expect a particularly interesting view. It can get busy especially towards the end of the week and the service can be indifferent. It is not unusual to have to point to the beer you want as just asking will usually gain a blank response. All in all, not too much wrong with the place but there is nothing special to make a specific journey for.

22 Feb 2007 15:52

The Bootlaces, Tottenham

This rather standard pub, a couple of corner kicks away from White Hart Lane, has designated itself as a Sports Bar although it doesn’t really offer anything different to the other pubs in the immediate area. The L-shaped bar would ordinarily be quite dull and dated with its cheaply painted radiators and wallpaper that would not look out of place in a 1950’s bedroom however the copious displays of Spurs pictures, team photos and memorabilia mixed in with boxers and caricatured snooker players do at least take the attention away from the blandness. Billy Nick seems to take pride of place on the corner of the bar as he casts his reverent eye over the punters below. The pub seems quite big due to its large mock Tudor frontage and the high fake beamed ceiling but on match day it can be quite packed although there is usually a bit of space at the rear if you can negotiate your way through. The choice of beers is as limited as pretty much everywhere else in the area with no Real Ales and just the usual mass market lager and keg bitter. As you expect of a Sports Bar, there are multiple TVs tuned to Sky, 2 dart boards and a pool table housed beneath a skylight at the rear of the pub. The music is usually modern clubby chart stuff and far too loud for my liking. In short, the pub is OK given the area, decent enough to watch sport on TV or meet before a game but nothing special and certainly nothing to set it apart from most of its equally functional but uninspiring neighbours.

22 Feb 2007 12:26

The New Inn, Whitstable

This is apparently Kent’s (and possibly England’s) first purpose built Ale house, dating from 1830. This cottage style corner pub was originally 3 rooms but these have now been knocked through to make 1 elongated narrow pub that would probably make a good bowling alley. There are areas that are embarrassingly narrow and you may need to squeeze past a few people to get around the bar area. The décor is fairly plain and basic with some nice old etched windows including one still depicting the bottle and jug area, a precursor to today’s off licence. Note also the wooden ceiling with several inlaid coins. Plenty of dimpled pint pots, decorative mirrors and a nice brick fireplace give the place a good homely local feel and the landlord was extremely friendly and accommodating during our visit. The beers come from a rather truncated Shepherd Neame range – only Master Brew was available on hand pump but the quality was fine. To the rear is a pool and darts area with a few trophies on the shelves and fruit / quiz machines. Not really a pub to specifically go out of the way for but if you like good honest down to earth pubs, you can’t really go wrong here.

20 Feb 2007 16:08

The Prince Arthur, Tottenham Hale

Situated in a particularly grubby corner of estate flats and derelict housing, the bright blue and yellow exterior does at least offer a splash of colour amid the gloom. It would be easy to bypass the Prince Arthur without giving it a second thought, as I have done for years, but inside is actually a quite decent pub. The large and spacious interior has seen a certain amount of knocking about and is a bit weathered around the edges but still retains an air of the splendour that it obviously had in days gone by. The high ceilings contain some quite ornate plasterwork with hanging fans and lights. The walls are partly paneled and plastered with murals of buildings, fading pictures, mirrors and other interesting, if sometimes tacky, bits and pieces and there is a large Mannions sign over bar canopy. The customer base can be a bit on the well oiled side but I was welcomed like a long standing friend when I went in and had no bother at all. There is a juke box by the bar and Big screens at either end of the pub, usually showing a different channel - Irish sports appear to be the norm. The big disappointment is the rather mundane selection of kegs and lagers and no Real Ales. At one end is a pool table and dartboard with a quite ornate clock above. At the other end is a raised stage area. Looking at the outside it looks like there was once a corner shop / off licence but this now seems to have been swallowed up into the pubs interior. Worth popping in for a pint but it is a bit out of the way for most people unless you live nearby.

14 Feb 2007 12:51

The Sir Colin Campbell, Kilburn

A rather dull and boring horseshoe shaped pub with bright interior, newish looking furniture and quite devoid of anything that stands out other than its blandness. Plain mirrors, plain walls, plain ceiling, in fact it is all very er, plain. The beers are also equally exciting, the usual mass produced kegs and lagers. The locals are friendly enough but are generally the oiled up variety there to watch horse racing and who tend to spontaneously burst into song at the slightest drop of a Frank Sinatra reference. It’s all very depressing or amusing depending on your outlook but overall, the pub is really not worth spending too much time over other than to get away from a crowd.

14 Feb 2007 12:34

The Three Crowns, Edmonton

I have walked past here on match day for years without feeling any great urge to walk in through the front door. A quick squint through the cracked windows reveals a rather dark and dingy interior that make the place quite uninviting. Recently I decided to give it a go out of curiosity and whilst it is hardly my regular sort of place, I did actually find the pub less menacing than I expected. The interior is long and narrow with a low ceiling that makes the pub feel quite claustrophobic. The furnishings are quite a mixture from tatty sofas in the front pool area to chrome seats at the rear, all offset against a bare wooden floor and dark ceiling. The lighting is quite subdued and the pounding urban music can make it feel like a bit clubby. A few remnants remain from its original features – the etched windows proudly proclaim that this is a free house although don’t expect anything more adventurous or appetising than Carling or keg John Smiths. I would have expected TV’s to be dotted about but this was not the case, just the 1 basic TV from memory. The walls are plastered with drink promotion posters which I think always gives a pub a cheap feel to it. One big plus was the food: I didn’t try any but the people on the table next to me were having a good tuck in and it looked and smelled delicious. Can’t be certain but there were quite a few no smoking signs but whether this was the whole pub or not I couldn’t make out. Come July it won’t matter anyway. Whilst I would hardly be drawn back again in a hurry, I certainly did not feel uncomfortable or threatened and it is far enough away from the crowds on match day to at least grab a pint without being herded about like cattle.

14 Feb 2007 11:57

The Hufflers Arms, Dartford

Tucked away down an uninviting no through road behind the station in the shadow of a gasometer, the Hufflers is a bit off limits to most people. The pub takes its unique name from a now extinct workforce of labourers who would steer the barges along the nearby Dartford creek. The interior does not look like it has significantly changed for several years although at some point the pub was much smaller but has been extended into the adjacent cottage. It has a fairly jaded look with worn carpets and a fairly tatty feel to it but is quite homely. There are several old photos, plates, irons, cigarette cards and nautical instruments, boat wheels and steering poles etc. The area around the street side of the bar where most people seem to congregate can be quite cramped and one can’t help thinking the general layout could be better. The pool table seems to take up a huge percentage of the floor area and frequently has to be uprooted and moved, especially when there is any live entertainment (and I have to say that the standard of live music here that I have seen does appear to be far superior to the normal Saturday night karaoke junk). There are 3 TVs generally used for sport and a small but not particularly picturesque beer patio. The only Ale is Courage Best and on the 3 visits I have made over the last few months, it has been virtually undrinkable. For all its shortcomings, the staff have always been friendly and welcoming and if it were not for the quality of the beers, this would be worthy of more frequent visits.

11 Feb 2007 17:32

The Phoenix, Edmonton

Every pub in this area seems to have someone describing it as the worst pub they have ever been in. This is my regional nomination. Originally called the Phoenix, for reasons unknown it now goes under the zingy, trendy but unfathomable moniker of LT’s. The single room bar is basically the shell of an old style traditional boozer that would have once had a traditional lounge/public bar set up. There really is little about the interior that warrants any mention. Dull plain walls, plain ceiling, plain open bar. Even the large mirrors that should break up the dullness are incredibly plain and boring. The windows are scruffy and partly frosted with nasty blinds. The number of TV screens (6 if I remember rightly) is totally out of proportion to the size of the pub. Some are so close together that there really seems little purpose in them being there. The beers are the usual standard common keg and lager varieties and certainly not worth the efforts of fighting your way to the bar for on match day when the place resembles the black hole of Calcutta. The sound of Chas N Dave blasting out endless Ossie’s Dreams and Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspurs is about as tacky as things get around here. A pre match drink here is a truly dire experience.

8 Feb 2007 13:34

The Albion, Barnsbury

Currently closed and undergoing renovation.

7 Feb 2007 10:03

The Gate House, Monmouth

The Gate House is situated by the river next to the historic 13th century Monnow bridge but does not really make the best use of its prime location. From the outside, the pub is quite tatty and run down with copious amounts of peeling paint, rotting wood and tired looking flower baskets. Check out the front door for starters! The small interior is divided into a stone floored main bar and a screened off dining area to the rear. At least the décor is in better shape than the exterior although it does seem a bit dated and the pink paintwork in the dining section is perhaps not to everyone’s taste. There are lots of plates and pictures adorning the walls and a few flickering lights but overall the interior is not particularly memorable. Space is at a premium when busy although the dining area was totally empty on our visit and we just managed to grab the last couple of stools around a pillar with a shelf. Of the 4 hand pumps, 2 were out of use but Hancocks HP and Sharops Wills Resolve were both available and seemed fine to my untrained palate. I certainly couldn’t complain about the service - unable to see what beers were on the barman / landlord was quick to point them out and a short measure was topped up without any prompting. The locals were quite friendly as was the cat. There were signs for a Thursday quiz night and there is an enclosed beer garden to the rear although it did not look like you get much of a river view. The other big plus was having a chippy next door - always pretty handy! Overall, not a particularly memorable pub, especially given its location but it is perfectly adequate for a friendly couple of pints.

5 Feb 2007 13:58

The Boot Inn, Flyford Flavell

Parts of this old coaching inn apparently date back to the 13th century however this is not apparent from the immediate exterior. Instead it looks like a typical Victorian detached farm house. The first thing that attracts the attention inside is however a magnificent inglenook fireplace that dominates the small carpeted front bar. To the other side of the bar and not really in keeping with the pubs ambience is a pool area and this seems to take up a lot of room for such a small pub. Given the lack of space, it can get busy very easily and can also be a bit smokey. The beer selection is OK without being specifically adventurous – Green King IPA / Speckled Hen / Pride / Adnams. The rear of the pub contains the much larger restaurant with its wattle & daub walls, old timbers, low beams and central dividing screen. The usual pots, pans, jugs and brasses are complimented by a large milk urn and some interesting aerial photos. The food and service was fine but the pub is definitely geared more towards the diners than the drinkers. Accomodation is available in the adjoining refurbished coach house.

2 Feb 2007 13:47

The Bell and Hare, Tottenham

The Bell & Hare is semi-legendary mainly due to its proximity to the White Hart Lane Stadium less than a good hoof away. Once upon a time the players could be regularly seen propping up the bar after a match but don’t expect to rub shoulders with today’s superstars, or even any Spurs players. At face value this is a quite dull but functional pub catering for the locals although in its favour it does still retain its original twin bar interior and has managed to resist the temptation to undergo any drastic modern refurbishments. The main bar is pretty standard with lots of paneling, plain ceilings, a rather nondescript brick fireplace, Big Screen and job lot standard pub carpet. Opposite is the public bar with pool table, 2 dart boards, DJ area and a few more TVs. Spurs scarves, pennants, pictures etc are dotted about but not as overpowering than some of the neighbouring pubs. Drink selection is pretty standard mass market keg and lagers – no real ales. To the rear is a conservatory which is usually the best place for a seat on match day unless you fancy a bench in the car park and a tinny from the exclusive match day footie bar but you would need to be really desperate to resort to such depths. This is the sort of pub that is best with the crowds and when not busy would come over as quite hollow, uninteresting, formulaic and probably best left to the locals.

2 Feb 2007 12:43

The Angel and Crown, Leicester Square

Not the most interesting of pubs but sometimes this can be of an advantage as it tends to be less busy than some of its illustrious neighbours. There is nothing specifically wrong with the C&A, it is functional, friendly and serves a decent selection of 4 ales – Theakstons, Directors, Adnams and on my recent visit Adnams Explorer. They are Cask Marque accredited so the quality is generally good. The pub is fairly small, a single extended room with bare floors and quite a bit of window space and whilst it is all a bit plain with no real character or features, there are efforts to make the place more cosy and inviting: large pot plants at either end of the bar, twinkly lights in the windows etc. The bar area is fairly open with seating around the windows but there is a small more intimate area towards the rear. A pub history on the wall says more about the area than the pub itself. There are 2 basic TVs, a fruit machine and upstairs is a restaurant with a typical tourist menu. Nothing spectacular but OK if you want to have a reasonably peaceful pint.

2 Feb 2007 12:14

The Volunteer, Tottenham

Finding any pub in Tottenham selling Real Ale is an achievement and that is one of the plus points of the Volunteer…or at least it would be had any of them been available when I called. Sadly the Winter Warmer clip was facing inwards and the other pump was devoid of any offerings at all so it was a choice of kegs or lager. Whilst the pub is fairly accommodating and functional, there really isn’t very much to get over enthusiastic about, even if the beers had been on. This place is tucked away far enough to lose the crowds on match days and basically does all the things it needs to without being anything that is memorable. The carpeted interior is neat and tidy if rather dated with plain textured wallpaper and tongue and groove ceilings. There is an interesting collection of brewery mirrors, some lanterns and a few brass jugs hanging from the beam by the bar. A dot matrix advertised the upcoming karaoke evenings and a dart board is positioned on one side of the open bar. The best features are probably the etched windows but even they play second fiddle to the bright, tacky Budweiser signs. There are a few benches out the front if the language inside becomes a bit too much. All in all it is not really worth a major effort to go out of the way for but it is a bit of an oasis away from the busy High Road pubs and for that alone is worth knowing about.

29 Jan 2007 13:34

The Driver, Kings Cross

When I worked in the area I could be found pretty much every lunch time propping up the bar of this place in its former guise as the General Picton. In those days it was just a straight forward local’s boozer with darts, pool a pleasantly tatty and run down feel and maybe the odd questionable character. Like pretty much every pub in the area it has now lost its original identity and resurfaced following a trendy makeover although it has at least steered clear of becoming another Irish theme pub. The candlelit tables and extensive wine list could not be further away from the no thrills down to earth former life. The once unused fireplace now burns brightly and the basic furnishings have given way to dining room tables and sofas. The lighting is intimately subdued and where the jukebox once emitted Britpop’s finest, we now get funky R&B club rubbish (fortunately not particularly loud when I was there). Since the first thing I always do in walking into a pub is check out the Real Ales on offer, I am rather miffed to discover from the website and previous posters that they do 2 Real Ales. I must be going blind because I certainly did not spot any hand pumps and would certainly not have opted for a Fosters if Real Ales were available. All I can say is they are either cleverly hidden or no longer available. Whilst the bar obviously has a certain appeal to some in the regenerated Kings Cross scene, I for one lament the passing of yet another real pub (not that the Picton was that great) and I am sure the good General would turn in his grave to lose the only pub that honoured his name.

26 Jan 2007 14:53

The Thornhill Arms, Islington

I recently revisited this pub after a gap of a few years to find it almost unrecognizable from the old fashioned traditional boozer it once was. These days it has been given a more modern makeover that gives the pub a more up market appearance although to be fair it does not seem to have lost its community roots. The wooden floor is well trodden and the dartboard, 2 plasma screens and several fruit machines seem at odds with the settees, leather sofas, potted plants, fireplace and candlelit tables. It feels more like a lounge bar than a local community pub. The island bar itself in particular looks very open and bare with very few taps to be found given the expanse of bar surface. Disappointingly they have no Real ales, just the usual mass production lagers and kegs. Some things have not changed in that it is still a Gooner stronghold and there are lots of Arsenal pictures, signed shorts, banners etc on show. I am not sure whether the makeover is really to my taste and there are sadly very few pubs in the area that have escaped either transition to Irish theme pubs or trendy refurbishments. I would have thought that this place would have been one of the few pubs that resisted the temptation.

26 Jan 2007 13:27

The Kings Head Inn, Lymington

Situated at the top of a picturesque cobbled street that leads from the quayside, the Kings Head is quite a large rambling pub with several nooks and crannies to explore. The interior contains plenty of exposed brickwork, tongue and groove paneling, old beams, handsome brick fireplaces and bare floors. Dotted around the rooms are plenty of old pictures, reproduction posters, newspaper clippings, pewter tankards, portraits of Kings Heads, a collection of brewery clocks and keep an eye for the 3d pub picture. The bar itself is quite small and slightly raised from rest of pub - 5 Real Ales – Speckled Hen, Ringwood Porter, Pride, HSB, Adnams Explorer. It’s all very homely and civilized in winter but I magazine during the summer months it can all get a bit too crowded. There is also a seasonal garden / patio area to the rear. Well worth a visit.

24 Jan 2007 16:15

The Posada, Wolverhampton

Formerly known as the Noahs Ark Inn, The Pasada is apparently the oldest pub in Wolverhampton depending on what web site you read. It certainly has some fine features, not least the façade with its bow window and some exquisite lettering of the sort gradually being lost to modern funky branding. The interior consists of front and rear bars although they are quite small and tables are at a premium. The L shaped front bar has lots of old tiling and ornate dark coloured plaster work on the high ceilings. The elaborate bay window has built in seats and a good view of the TV which usually displays subtitles. They were playing decent Indie music when I was there which is always worth an extra point over the bland R&B clubby music that seems to infiltrate so many pubs. Through the arch is a slightly larger but plainer rear bar with a handsome fireplace and a couple of recesses for an intimate pint. A big screen projects directly onto the plain white wall as opposed to a screen. One of the big plusses was the variety of Ales - 6 available on my visit: Spitfire, Landlord, Abbott, Deuchers, Bombardier, Adnams although it would have been nice to have seen at least 1 local brew. Overall a pretty decent pub and not the sort of place I was hoping to come across on my brief visit. Will definitely return if around this area again.

24 Jan 2007 15:53

Red Lion, Chalton

The Red Lion is apparently the oldest pub in Hampshire and comes with all the picture postcard attributes that you would expect from a pub of this age – thatched roof, timbered walls and not a right angle to be seen. Bits date from the 12th century and it has been a licenced inn since 1503. The main bar is a delight - small, cosy and dominated by a magnificent inglenook fireplace complete with seats within the fireplace itself. A line of old 3d pieces line the mantle piece above and there are pots, pans, brasses, bed warmers and dangling dimpled tankards in abundance. The ceiling is naturally very low and contains gnarled beams aplenty. The furnishings are very rustic and in keeping with the buildings character with pew seats, a settle and an old clock. Only the floor covering lets things down - it is just crying to have flag stones or even bare wood. Beers on during our visit were HSB & Winter Warmer and as you would xpect from a Cask Marque accredited pub, tasted fine. Just as we were wondering why we virtually had the pub to ourselves, a trip to the toilets revealed another large bar and restaurant area which was fairly busy. In hindsight I wish we had not discovered this bit of the pub as it seemed at odds with the intimacy of the main bar. At the opposite end of the pub is another bar with a partly wooden floor and another fine fireplace. As there was no one in here I assume is only used when busy or for private functions. To summarise the Red Lion, stick to the main bar for a taste of the ye olde drinking experience. Unless you are specifically going for a meal or need to use the loos, pretend the restaurant end doesn’t exist. Alternatively there are apparently some wonderful views from the garden but as it was dark I can’t really comment on that side of things.

24 Jan 2007 14:54

The Two Brewers, Dartford

The Brewers is currently closed whilst undergoing a major refurbishment. Hopefully when it reopens it will be cared for in a way that the building deserves. And can we have some proper beers!

24 Jan 2007 13:40

Plough, Dartford

Thanks for the interesting insight ex-guv. Your efforts were appreciated if somewhat fruitless. You are not the first to have tried and failed here and certainly won't be the last. There is currently no Sky TV, attempts to introduce food have failed, live entertainment is cheap and tacky. Basically it is a Catch 22 situation - everything avaialble here drink or entertainment wise is already available at better pubs in town and unless someone wants to really gamble with something completely different it will probably remain the rather dull and uninteresting pub that it has been for some years. The latest incumbents have at least replenished the drink stocks although it is still a bit hit and miss whether the only ale (IPA) is available (and where the justification for Cask Marque symbol above comes from I will never know - it certainly is not currently accredited). Unfortunately there are probably more questionable characters frequenting this pub now than I have ever known before although I have never noticed any specific drug use, not to say that it doesn't occur. With Green King currently looking to offload several of thier pubs before the smoking ban comes in, the Plough may have an uncertain future.

24 Jan 2007 13:37

The Three Horseshoes, Wixford

After a 4 mile hike from Alcester, the Three Horseshoes was a rather welcome sight. A typical country dining pub that has undergone an extensive refit and now has a fairly spacious and rambling feel to it. Whilst the pub is very pleasant, it lacks anything that makes it stand out from other pubs of this ilk. A mix of floor coverings: bare wood, carpeted areas and a few flag stones, plain walls and beamed ceilings give the pub a bit of its traditional feel but whilst it is all very pleasant, it is all quite bland and tame and comes over as a country pub by design rather than anything that has evolved over the years. The piped music is safe, the staff pleasant, the ambience civilized and you get the impression that anything above a whisper would be classed as inappropriate behaviour. The openness of the pub is only interrupted the occasional pillar and an open wood fireplace is the only real internal feature of note. No TV’s or games machines that I could see – not always a bad thing and probably right for this pub. One of the biggest grumbles is that for a large pub, only the small area immediately in front of the bar appears to be designated for drinkers, the rest appearing to be reserved for diners and it is clear as to what customer base they are aiming for. On the plus side, there was a decent range of beers: 4 Real Ales – Adnams, Purity Gold, Landlord and Marstons Pedigree. The pub was empty when we visited one lunch time and I was surprised to see another couple arrive looking to get a meal only to be told that they could not accommodate them as they were expecting a large party to arrive. I can’t help feel that finding a table for 2 was not totally beyond their capabilities. By the time we left, the pub was still empty. Moral of the story: book in advance when you intend to get a meal at a spacious empty pub. If the interior is a bit too sterile for your tastes, try the decent beer gardens at each end of the pub. Failing that you can sit by the stream that runs through the car park. If still not happy, go to the Fish down the road – it’s far more interesting.

24 Jan 2007 11:26

The White Horse, Edmonton

Possibly the most uninviting pub in Tottenham from the outside and that is saying something. Don’t be too put off though. Whilst overall the pub is far from perfect, the interior is quite a surprise, if a bit kitsch. The mock Tudor innards are divided into 2 areas, the main bar being a cross between a punch up in a flag shop and an exhibition of American diner neon tackiness. The ceiling is a mass of flags, billowing like clouds, ranging from the ubiquitous cross of St George to the Irish tricolour, the Saltire to the Australian whatever and somehow Glasgow Rangers also get a look in. Didn't see any Spurs though! Interspersed between them where space allows are bits of netting, bird cages and the odd teddy bears. The walls are plastered with promotional mirrors, holograms, neon guitars and J&B mirrors, somewhere between this clutter there is a brick fireplace and even a large aquarium. On the far wall a giant (and I mean giant) plasma screen which is so big that bit splits into 4 normal size screens. There is a separate games room with pool, darts and a couple more TV’s and when busy there is a better chance of getting a seat here. The bad news is that the beer selection is the usual mass market brands and no real ales which is pretty much par for the area discounting the ‘Spoons up the road. On the plus side, the prices were quite cheap and I was served almost immediately despite it being packed. As I have said, far from perfect but given that I was expecting to do a massive hatchet job on this pub, I found this place to be surprisingly interesting and much better than many of its local competitors.

23 Jan 2007 16:12

The Kings Head, Monmouth

This old coaching inn dates back to the 1640’s and graces the central square in this historic and interesting town. It has been given a sympathetic makeover by Wetherspoons who have added its own usual touches without compromising the building’s character and traditional values. The interior is expansive consisting of several rooms that are tailor made to cater for varying tastes and requirements. The entrance hall contains some fine tiling and this leads to 2 small rooms on the left and a larger room on the right. The first of the smaller rooms is very much in the style of a Gentleman’s club with its sofa’s and well stocked bookcases. It does not take much to visualize well off Victorian gentlemen sitting by the tiled fireplace puffing away on their pipes reading newspapers. The next room contains a magnificent fireplace with a17th century plaster over mantle, the story of which can be found on a display board in the entrance hall. This appears to have been designated as a children’s room and has a small stage at the rear for entertainment. It is perhaps a bit of a shame that a room with such wonderful features is done up like a nursery. On the other side of the entrance is the main drinking area overlooking the historic Shire Hall and statue of famous local, Charles Rolls (of Rolls Royce fame). It is quite spacious with paneled walls and what appears to be a fairly small fireplace considering the size of the room. A smaller room leads off to the side but I didn’t venture this far. To get round the whole pub is a task in itself. Up the main stairs is the bar and dining area. The Bar area has a few fruit machines and high tables and the usual good selection of Ales at the affordable prices normally associated with Wetherspoons. The large spacious non smoking dining area has an air of grandeur with its high ceiling, portraits and huge book case that includes displays of various relics from the pubs past, reproduction price lists, old drawings etc. A potted history of a perhaps not so famous local, early 19th century countryside author William Cobbett can be found on the wall. Note also the recesses at the rear with its lifelike (at least from a distance) painted vases. The menu has a good selection of Welsh specialties for those like me who fancy something a bit different to the standard ‘Spoons menu that we are used to on the other side of the border. An entrance at the side leads to the hotel area – decently priced rooms available. Returning back down the central stairs towards the toilets, this leads to a courtyard with sheltered seating for the summer months.

This is a terrific pub and one of the best Wetherspoons I have visited. If it is not busy, it is well worth taking some time in here to explore the pub and read various historical display boards before having a wander round the town.

19 Jan 2007 12:12

The Two Chairmen, St James's

This being one of the closest pubs to my office, I have tried hard to get to like this place. It has all the ingredients of a decent pub but somehow it just lacks anything to make it stand out. Dating from 1756, it stands in a grand street where every other building seems to have a blue plaque. The alley that runs down the side, now called Lewisham Street, was once a major thoroughfare linking St James to the Houses of Parliament and was a base for operators of sedan chairs and the pub name is derived from this trade. The interior of the pub is quite cosy but rather dimly lit and with little natural light to lift the gloom. The décor is fairly dated with old fashioned wallpaper, dark paneling and a dark patterned papered ceiling. The central area is divided by 2 low angled wooden screens with pew seating and a tiled fireplace in a wood panel surround. At the back is more pew seating and 3 fading murals depicting 18th century scenes but these are badly lit and best observed from distance. They do a decent range of Real Ales, usually 6 at any one time although the guest beers generally tend to be rather unadventurous. Quality is usually OK and they have Cask Marque accreditation. Food is reasonably priced and looks fine but the choice is standard pub fare. There is an upstairs “Sedan” bar into which I have yet to venture. It can also be very smoky although this will thankfully be a thing of the past come July. I can’t help feel that this pub is a bit of an underachiever given its location and targeted customer base and whilst the cornerstones are in place to make this place become one of the best in the vicinity, it really needs a bit of brightening up.

17 Jan 2007 16:12

The Blue Boar Inn, Temple Grafton

A typical country dining pub situated between Stratford upon Avon and Alcester. Originally a small farmhouse style building, over the years it has been extended to the side and rear and now has a quite spacious interior. The main bar at the front is fairly small with a plasma screen and seems to be where the locals generally gather. A decent beer selection: 4 Real Ales – Ulay, Theakston, Speckled Hen and Shakespeare Taming of the Brew were on during our visit (the Shakespeare brewery is a few miles down the road and the apparently the pub always try to include 1 beer from their range). The area to the side is a mix of diners and drinkers with another plasma screen and various hunting pictures. With its fairly bland colour scheme it comes over as the least interesting part of the building. To the rear of the bar is a narrow flag stoned passage that would originally have been exposed to the elements as it contains a well. This has now been glazed over and is used to keep fish making a fairly unusual and unique feature. On the wall is an interesting display giving the history of the pub name. Beyond this is a is the main restaurant area in what was presumably a separate building before it was all roofed over and knocked through. The carpeted restaurant is spacious and quite welcoming with the usual lashings of brickwork, beams and fireplaces. It was initially our intention to have a meal here but the menu was a bit limited for Mrs B who is a vegetarian but looked okay for me, being a flesh ripping carnivore. Given the time of year I did not get a chance to enjoy the gardens but in summer months it would appear to be a pleasant place to while away a couple of hours. They also do B&B at a quite reasonable rates if you are looking to stay in the area.

17 Jan 2007 15:05

The Betsey Trotwood, Clerkenwell

Only had one visit here and that was effectively a private party for a Get Cape Wear Cape Fly single release. As a pub I wasn’t over impressed. The main bar is a rather basic and bland affair with wooden furnishings and not much that stood out other than a broken clock on the wall that is at least right twice a day. There was a limited range of Shepherd Neame beers but these were all off on my visit and the prices were higher than I would have expected. On the plus side, the staff were very friendly, chatty and efficient. Downstairs is the rather dingy Todd’s wine bar that is more reminiscent of a dungeon and it is here where they have live music and comedy acts. Be warned – it is tiny. At best you can get an audience of 25 people squashed in beneath the brick arch and if you get to see a decent act in here as I did, it can be quite memorable. Otherwise, it is not a pub I would go out of my way for given that there are some superb pubs in the vicinity.

2 Jan 2007 16:37

The Victoria, Tottenham

The Victoria is just tucked away enough from the High Street to lose the masses walking to White Hart Lane on match day, although it can still get quite busy. The bright red brick gabled façade make this pub stand out among the bland neighbouring buildings although the interior does not meet the expectations. Clearly someone had a job lot of polished tongue and groove wooden paneling and its domination of the main bar is quite overpowering. The bright red ceiling (with a couple of fans) and the plain flooring make the place look a bit dull and the staircase cutting its way across the bar makes it a little claustrophobic, especially at the rear. There are several virtually empty shelves that just beg for some books or ornaments to pad them out and take the attention away from the general blandness of the pub. A few pictures on the walls help but overall the pub has an air of glum emptiness about it. Sport is shown on a couple of screens and there is also a juke box. Unfortunately, the beer department is not exactly adventurous - no Real Ales, just kegs and for the non lager drinker, Guiness is probably the best option otherwise it is a pretty rank Green King IPA smooth. Note – they only serve in plastic glasses on match days. A carpeted rear function room is usually open to cope with any overspill when busy and has a pool table and its own separate bar. A large trophy cabinet appears to have pride of place. I was unfortunate enough to be in here when the pub was attacked and trashed by Cardiff supporters a couple of years ago but I have generally found the pub to be fairly welcoming to all comers and with the demise of several other pubs in the area, this still remains one of the better choices for a pre match pint as you will get served reasonably quickly and won't be rammed up against a pillar to drink it.

2 Jan 2007 15:57

The Two Brewers, Tottenham

2 decent plasma screens and good speedy service when busy are about the only plus points I can conjure up for this dreadful place. From the outside it still looks like a quaint old cottage style corner pub but the interior has been subjected to the sort of bland modernization that has destroyed too many traditional locals. It is now a bland, dazzling single room akin to drinking in a large shoe box. No Real Ales and prices are vastly inflated prices (John Smiths at £2.70 in Tottenham is almost criminal unless I was overcharged). There was certainly nothing here that left me with any desire to return in any great hurry.

2 Jan 2007 11:27

The Windmill, Stratford Upon Avon

A pub for 400 years although the current building appears to be a combination of various neighbouring buildings knocked through and extended over the years as a resul it has a rather rambling feel to it. The dimly lit interior is divided into 3 separate drinking areas, all fairly cosy and comfortable as you would expect from a building of this era. To the right of the entrance is a quite spacious carpeted bar with the usual low beams and ye olde worlde feel. The main bar has bare floors and rugs, a lovely old fireplace, lots of pillars and very low beams (that are fortunately padded). A former passage runs down the centre of the pub but this has been roofed over and makes the pub interior look a lot larger than it would have done previously. The front area offers some nice views into the historic street. There is a fairly decent beers including Flowers, Ruddles and (the not so exciting) Green King IPA and a decent looking beer garden for the summer months. Low piped music, unobtrusive fruit machines, quiz nights. A very pleasant, attractive and historic pub and well worth a few hours sauntering away some idle time.

21 Dec 2006 15:27

The Courthouse, Dartford

Jimmy - still plenty of pubs in Dartford and elsewhere awaiting my unrelenting praise or poison pen. Stay tuned. I am currently trying to pluck up courage to go into the Crush Bar. That will be fun. You must be following me about!

19 Dec 2006 15:18

The Sanctuary House, Westminster

Whilst this is actually a hotel, the pub element is far more noticeable, the hotel entrance being little more than a doorway to one side. This was apparently an MI5 building until being converted to its current purpose. The interior consists of one large room, expanded by knocking out a few walls. Despite the high ceiling and open, spacious expanses, it does not feel cavernous. The decorative mirrored pillars, oak paneling, brass lighting and large windows with the now commonplace etched Fullers Ale & Pie logo give the place quite an elegant feel. The wooden bar has a dark polished marble top and traditional wooden back bar. The floor tiling around the bar soon gives way to a polished bare wooden floor with a decent amount of seating without feeling claustrophobic. To the rear is a raised carpeted area to one side with a monastic mural and tucked away in the corner is a carpeted non smoking area with pictures of London and in particular, Westminster. A basic TV in the main bar has never been on during my now numerous (admittedly lunchtime) visits. A couple of fruit machines do not intrude on the civilized atmosphere. Naturally the beers are all Fullers but the prices are a bit higher than I would expect albeit not exactly extortionate (my usual Fuller tipple, Discovery is £2.80). They are Cask Marque accredited and the standard is therefore usually pretty good. The food is also fairly pricey but is home cooked according to the menu - main meals are generally around £7-9). Service has always been good although a smile and a welcome wouldn’t sometimes go amiss. Customer base is generally office workers, tourists and government types, being close to the Houses of Parliament. Perfectly accommodating without being particularly extraordinary but a visit is recommended if in the area.

12 Dec 2006 18:34

Yard Of Ale, Birmingham

Situated in the basement of a rather dull modern shop and office block, it is easy to walk past. The interior is a decent enough attempt to recreate a Ye Olde Worlde pub using black gnarled beams and pillars that are either very good reproductions or salvaged from some other now demolished building of considerable age. They work well against the white walls and the modern brickwork also blends in to good effect. Despite the attempts at tradition, they fall a bit short of the mark when it comes to actual delivery. No Real Ales on offer and not even a token Yard of Ale glass on display. There are multiple screens for footie watching and various fruit / quiz machines are dotted about. I have certainly experienced far worse places and with its snuga and well planned layout, it is actually quite cosy. With a few proper beers this could be a fairly decent pub and given the apparent lack of competition in the immediate area, the place is certainly worth knowing about.

12 Dec 2006 13:13

The White Lion, Alcester

A decent sized brick and mock Tudor pub near the town centre with a spacious if rather featureless and uninspiring interior. Divided into 3 areas, the main bar is rather characterless with dated décor and false ceiling. No Real Ales, just standard keg beers / lagers. The pub is mainly geared up for live sports and offers the usual selection of pub entertainment (fruit machines, karaoke, quizzes and the like). A large room off the main bar has 2 dart boards and can be used for private functions. One item of note – there are old fashioned call bells in the wood paneling – not something you see much of these days. The décor is rather monotonous and could do with a few pictures or something to give it a bit of focus. To the other side of the main bar near the entrance is a separate pool room. The pus is very much a functional and workmanlike local’s pub rather than anything special but we found a friendly enough welcome. There is a car park and some outside seating. OK for a quick pint or if there is something specific going on (they were half way through the weekly quiz when we arrived) but I wouldn’t make this a regular haunt for the sake of it

12 Dec 2006 12:46

The Roebuck Inn, Alcester

An old early 18th century Inn on the edge of town, a bit of a walk from the town centre but 5 minutes in the car. The first things to catch the eye are the old urinals on the outside wall of the pub near the entrance – they now have a new use as flower pots. The pub was rather quiet and sedate on my visit. The interior is a good balance between dining and drinking areas. 2 Real Ales on pump – Websters & Old Speckled Hen. The main bar area is partly flag stoned, long and narrow with a couple of TV’s, fruit machines, dart board and small dais at one end that is occasionally used for live jazz music. There is a real fire near bar where the regulars seem to congregate. Various jugs and pitchers hanging from ceiling and line the shelves. There are some interesting old pictures and the ubiquitous Guinness mirror. A small room leads off to the rear of pub. From the main bar there is an oak beamed restaurant and this in turn leads to a large modern conservatory, also used for dining. There are some benches out front for warmer days and 11 en-suite bedrooms are available if you cannot stagger home. Homely and welcoming but there just isn’t any one particular thing that stands out as making it exceptional and it is probably better to visit on a busier evening.

12 Dec 2006 12:33

The Fleece Inn, Bretforton

Not just a pub but a national treasure. This place is the real deal and a finer country village pub you will be hard pressed to find. Set just off a pretty village green the Fleece has probably adorned any number of chocolate boxes and Christmas Cards. Originally built around 1400, the interior has been virtually untouched since it was first used as a pub in 1848. The building was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1977 by the last private owner, Lola Taplin (who was a direct descendant of the person that built it) on the proviso that it is kept as a pub and, rather bizarrely, that no crisps are sold.

The pub is divided into 3 rooms with the bar in the centre, each room being crammed with antique furnishings and dripping with history. Each has its own characteristics and are worthy of taking some time in to enjoy. My favourite is the Pewter Room with its wonderful fireplace, flag-stoned floor, grandfather clock, plates, bed warmers, candlesticks and a magnificent display of 300 year old pewter that would not disgrace any museum. The huge curved settle is the ideal place to enjoy the glow of the fire but if there is no room, try the rocking chair in the corner. Prints of the Death of Nelson and an 1859 Parliament meeting add to the Englishness however one modern import that has infiltrated the pub is the budgie who chirps away in his cage near the doorway to the bar. As you would expect, the ceilings are held up by black gnarled beams and the walls are as wonky as they get without falling down. To the rear of the building is a larger room with a cheese press, more beams and flag-stones and another large settle in front of the fire by an antique grandfather clock. To the left of the bar down a couple of steps is what would pass as the public bar. A dart board near the window shows that the pub is not just a museum piece but a living community establishment although throwing a dart under such a low ceiling would present a few aerodynamic difficulties. Old plate racks adorn the wall and an old table is stacked with books. Don’t be surprised to find yourself seated at an old sewing machine table. This room also has its own convenient serving hatch to the bar. The collection of medals belonged to the last owner’s brother, one of many family links throughout the pub.

As for the beers, on my recent visit they had 5 Real ales including Old Hooky, Pigs Ear and Uley and 2 ciders (Old Rosie and Thatchers). A selection of certificates for the various CAMRA Awards is on display in the Pewter Room if you need any evidence of the quality. There is a very reasonably priced menu (main meals £6-10) but service can apparently be slow as the kitchens were never built for catering on a large scale.

There are several interesting stories that surround the pub. One is that Lola Taplin herself has been reincarnated as an owl and watches over the pub from the thatched barn (available for hire free) in the beer garden. Note also the 3 circles painted in front of the fireplace. This is an old custom to stop witches entering the building via the chimney although what stops them going through the front door during opening hours is beyond me. My wife managed it.

The pub is a magnet for traditional English customs and events – Morris dancing, classic car rallies, brass band competitions and even an annual asparagus auction. There are weekly folk evenings in the Pewter Room and there has even been a song composed to commemorate the major fire that nearly destroyed the pub in 2004. Thankfully, a major refurbishment programme has restored the building to what it was and everything is now as it was. Long may it continue.

12 Dec 2006 11:48

The Turks Head, Alcester

I found the Turks Head a bit of a mixed bag. Better than most of the other pubs in the vicinity but some way behind the Holly Bush and Three Tuns. There is no doubting that the building is very old and there appears to have been attempts to give it a more modern feel without ruining the traditional feel of the building, something the Bear a few doors down has not managed to do. The building did have a spell as an Antiques Shop until reverting back to being a pub in 1999. The main bar area is a bit cramped when busy as people tend to hang around here despite there being plenty of seating away from the bar. 2 Real Ales (Archers Autumn Mist & Hereford Pale Ale when I was there). There are still plenty of old exposed wooden beams, bare floors and brick fireplaces and the furnishings are quite basic but the music was disappointingly modern and clubby albeit not loud enough to ruin conversation. A corridor leads to the not particularly pleasant toilets and a rear non smoking dining area (apparently known as the Mirror Room). The tacky Vegas style lights are a bit out of place. I didn’t notice a TV although I did not really get a chance to have a decent look around. The food is more restaurant style than pub grub with main courses around £7-9. Certainly one of the better pubs in town and worth a visit but with the Holly Bush and Three Tuns 100 yards away, I know where my preferences lie.

11 Dec 2006 20:53

The Three Tuns, Alcester

The second best pub in Alcester, just pipped by the Holly Bush. A very old fashioned single room pub geared to the person who wants a no nonsense drink and chat. No games, no food, no music, no TV, just a down to earth pub with a superb selection of beers and knowledgeable welcoming staff. Up to 8 Real Ales available - mainly local but a couple of Cornish beers on my visit. Sadly no real cider on pump but bottle of 7.2% Hogans is a decent alternative. A frequent winner of the local CAMRA pub of the year (they have an annual running battle with the Holly Bush for the title), they are regulars in the Good Beer Guide. The furnishings are basic with flag stoned floor and low beams although the modern brick bar is an unsympathetic addition and the absence of a fireplace suggests that there have been some quite substantial makeovers over the years. Part of the wall has been exposed to reveal the wattle and daub construction. The shelves and window sills are full of empty bottles and a selection of collectable tankards hang above the bar. The toilets are outside through a yard piled high with empty barrels. Interesting old prints on the wall including some photos including some the town in flood. There are also several certificates on show for their charitable work. A great little pub - thoroughly recommended.

11 Dec 2006 20:51

The Prince Albert, Whitstable

The first impressions of this small locals pub in the heart of town are that it is very ordinary however to a certain degree, it is this no nonsense unpretentious approach that makes the Albert quite appealing. The L shaped interior seems a bit dated and even a little tacky with its modern brick fireplace and ships wheel mirror but pubs like this are becoming a bit of an endangered species. At least they didn’t stick to the temporary 1980’s trendy name change to “Alberres”. That would be definitely be way too much. The beers are fairly decent with a guest beer supplementing the Green King IPA and London Pride. Despite the lack of room, they have managed to squeeze in a dartboard and the rear of the pub has at some time been extended into the building next door to give the place a bit of breathing space. The best feature is perhaps the small beer garden although this is not accessible through the pub, you have to go outside and round the back where a few table and chairs sit among the potted plants. Be warned - it can be quite a sun trap here. The Albert is a pub that is easy to bypass in favour of more visually appealing pubs but we have never had anything other than a good time here and are always made to feel welcome.

11 Dec 2006 20:45

The Holly Bush, Alcester

In a town with pubs by the dozen, the Holly Bush outshines the lot. This is the sort of pub that needs to be explored rather than just sat in. A central corridor leads to 4 different rooms. First on the left is a carpeted front bar that is delightfully simplistic with built in pew seats and a welcoming fire. There are no TV’s or games machines to distract one from conversation and the music from the other bar is barely audible. Without doubt, you will end up chatting to the locals. 2 rather interesting pictures London Bridge designs seem a bit out of place here but they make interesting viewing.

On the other side of the central bar (note the unusual central stack for storing bottles etc) is what appears to be the local’s favourite gathering spot. The tongue & groove wood paneled room contains brasses, old pictures, a post horn and few more personal artifacts like cards and teddy bears.

Opposite on the other side of the corridor is another small room with old photos of town (including an aerial view), a newspaper rack and a couple of solid and sturdy tables. Tongue & groove wooden planking covers the upper part of the original wattle & daub wall (some of which is exposed behind a glass panel). Yet another room branches off at the rear, probably used more for dining but again, it is cosy and simplistic with just a couple of tables and a welcoming fireplace.

As for the beers, there were 7 Real Ales including a mild and they have been regular winners of the local CAMRA pub of the year (there seems to be an annual battle for this with Three Tuns down the road). The only downside was the absence of a real cider, something the barman was genuinely apologetic about.

During my stay in the area, the pub was undergoing refurbishment so I was unable to get into the remaining rooms or the garden but there was certainly enough here to more than warrant a return visit. I understand that they do regular folk evenings and have a beer festival a couple of times a year. Very highly recommended to anyone who likes a real and genuine, unpretentious pub. 8/10 11/12/06

11 Dec 2006 20:41

The Dog and Partridge, Alcester

Not initially noticeable from the main road but the long pub sign hanging halfway over the street gives its presence away. The interior, it must be said, is a huge disappointment – a single extended room that has been drastically modernized without any feeling or sympathy. This refurbish by numbers approach has, for me, ruined far too many traditional old pubs. The plain walls and bare floors are rather dull and characterless and the low ceiling makes the place feel very claustrophobic. The chrome stools at the bar just about sum it up. There are 2 TV’s (1widescreen & 1 Plasma) largely aimed at the live football crowds. The customer base on the Saturday night I was there was young and clubby with a lot of football shirts so don’t expect an evening of solitude and well mannered speech. On the plus side they did a couple of decent tasting ales (Old Hooky and Landlord). The D&P is probably best for a quick pint on a pub crawl or a TV football match but nothing particularly exciting to make a night out of.

11 Dec 2006 20:39

The Bear, Alcester

A very appealing pub from the outside but once you walk through the door, there is a huge overwhelming disappointment. The whole place has been thoughtlessly refurbished seemingly with little respect for the building’s history. It now very much aimed at the young drinker of no fixed taste who is more likely to be admiring the Sky match and the pool shots than the architecture and heritage. The main bar area off to the left is quite bare but at least has some of the old exposed beams. The sofas (without any tables in front of them) look rather out of place and there is very little other seating here. The beer selection is poor with no Real Ales and standard kegs, oh, and a Slush Puppy machine to keep the under 10’s happy.

To the right of the bar is a large room with a wonderful vaulted roof and large brick fireplace that sadly is used for nothing other than to act as a useful spot for their “Watch Live Football Here” poster. The seating is by way of extremely uncomfortable benches and there is no attempt to retain the room’s essence. Mounted football shirts are on display where perhaps a few medieval artifacts (torch holders, shields, coats of arms etc) would be more apt. The area is presumably also used for DJs, karaoke, live acts etc - it deserves better.

Down the centre of the pub is a corridor that was probably once an open passageway but has now been roofed over to create a larger interior. A row of seats line one side and there are quiz / fruit machines at the end.

On the other side is another large room used exclusively for pool (2 tables). Again there are some nice features (particularly the fireplace with its adjoining cart wheel) but the room just begs to be admired by more than a lagered up pool player.

To the front is a small recess with a dart board and another big screen and a table looking out into the pretty high street. All in all this is a bit of a waste of a lovely building and with a bit of imagination, care, thought and even some proper beers, it could be so much better. Maybe one day it will be.

11 Dec 2006 20:36

The Colyer Arms, Betsham

This quite large pub is in a rather uninteresting village that we came across by accident whilst looking for a different pub. It can best be described as functional but lacking any real charm or character. Courage Best & Shepherd Neame Master Brew on hand pump. A pool room leads from the main bar and there was another room but quite frankly, this wasn’t the sort of pub that we found interesting enough to explore in any great detail. A fairly sizeable conservatory to the rear suggests that it can get busy and they do have a programme of the usual pub entertainment - quizzes / karaoke / live music. Nothing in the décor or architecture catches the eye and only a large model ship over door provided any focal point. Very much a pub for the local community but quite disappointing if you have made any special effort to visit.

8 Dec 2006 16:11

The Falcon Hotel, Stratford Upon Avon

This large 16th Century hotel in the heart of this historic town is very impressive from the outside with its timber frame and latticed windows. It has been an Ale House since 1640 but has obviously been extended over the years. The main bar (the Oak Bar to give it the correct title) is off to the right before you get to the reception and I have to say is really disappointing given the rest of the building. The bar is oak paneled (hence the name) with a wonderful large brick fireplace but this is ruined by a TV screen sitting beside it. There appears to have been a large amount of interior renovation – many of the beams / pillars etc appear to be a fairly modern addition albeit done in sympathy with the traditional framework. The carpet is a very modern style pub carpet where bare wood or an extension of the flag-stones that surround the bar area would have given the place a more authentic feel. The plasma screen is fairly prominent and is not in keeping with the building. Only one Real Ale, a rather uninteresting Bass although there was another hand pump that was redundant. Service was not great – they did not have enough change for a £20 note despite this being a sizeable and historic hotel. The bar itself was virtually dead when we were there. The piped music was on a par with elevator music and casio ringtones – enough to drive out the most loyal of customers. Despite its shortcomings, it is worth a visit, even if only to have a wander around the opulent reception area with its comfy lounge and servants bells. Such a shame as this could be so much more without too much effort.

8 Dec 2006 15:52

The Fulwich Hotel, Dartford

Built in the early 1900’s when Dartford was rapidly expanding, the Fulwich is generally listed as a hotel but is first and foremost a pub. Pubs like this are currently part of the endangered species list, a typical local’s pub with a very old fashioned approach but all the more appealing for it. The temptation to knock through the 2 bars has so far been resisted so it still retains the classic saloon / public bar divide that is now all too rare. The saloon is a rather straight forward carpeted bar with a modern brick fireplace, flower vases on the window sills, a couple of plain mirrors, brass plates, some pictures and just to add a bit of culture, some framed poetry. The circular brass top dimpled tables and the bar cover are a throwback to the 70’s and the Double Diamond on draught rather completes the scene. In the Public bar (there is access via the rear of the pub) the furnishings are a more on the rough side with some rather cramped seating, especially if the pool table and dartboard are in use. The tatty appearance is not helped by the curtain less windows but it does feel like a traditional public bar, a sort of maens play room and definitely not suitable for the ladies. There a few photos and trophys as testament to the pubs sporting achievements and rather unusually, a board listing the winners of the Fulwich Golf Society. It is difficult to picture any of the locals here being particularly golf orientated – this is more of a dominoes and darts establishment. Apart from the aforementioned (and quite disgusting) Double Diamond, the drink selection is rather standard and uninspiring - just 1 Ale (the ubiquitous Green King IPA) although it was in decent condition. The customer base will not be to everyone’s liking unless you are fairly broad minded but the pub is generally friendly and welcoming and worth visiting as an example of how many old local pubs would have looked in pre decimal days.

8 Dec 2006 13:51

Catch Corner, Stafford

This modern family dining pub is signposted from Junction 13 of the M6 and is reminiscent of a slightly superior version of a Hungry Horse. Whilst not really the sort of place for a nights boozing, it is a far superior option for a motorway break than your average Service Station. The 2 for 1 meals are very good value if somewhat formulaic but the deserts look good. Bass & Marsdons Pedigree on hand pump (you won’t get this at a Little Chef). Inoffensive piped music. Naturally it is full of families with kids during the day but there is a play area to keep the little monsters occupied. The décor is very plastic and contrived to look like a traditional pub but this is not why you would be here in the first place. For what it is it is functional and more than adequate and as a convenient motorway break, I would certainly use the place again if the need arose, especially as Mrs B would be driving.

8 Dec 2006 13:25

The North One, Islington

Having been a couple of times recently, more for convenience than choice, I can’t see that the closure of this place will be a big loss to many people if the previous poster is correct. The only real plus points are that it is cheap and you can guaranteed a seat. It hardly has the most inviting exterior and once inside it does not take long to soak up the rather grim, plain and drab interior. The whole place looks like it is on its last legs with redundant beer pumps, unused food counter and a general atmosphere of depreciation. Where there was until recently a relatively comfy sofa lounge area, there is now a pool table (being used last night by the sort of person who should not have been served in the first place) and a pile of empty kegs. The furnishings are basic and the drink selection is at best poor. The music is a weird mix of anything from jazz to Genesis and there is an old upright piano in the corner although I really can’t imagine there being many Knees Up Mother Brown sing songs on a Saturday night. The plasma screen was pointlessly on with the sound down and there are a few fruit machines etc but very little has been done to make the place attractive or inviting. I'm afraid that this place is as depressing a pub as I have been to in a long while.

8 Dec 2006 12:39

The Black Lion, Kilburn

The very impressive Grade II listed interior strikes you the moment that you step through the door. This well preserved Hotel is classified as a gastro pub but still feels like a normal pub, albeit one that bears all the trappings and opulence of its original splendour.

The main bar once consisted of separate Saloon and Private bars (the signs are still visible outside) but have now been knocked through to make one sizeable room. The ornate burgundy and gold patterned plaster ceiling with its brass candelabras and ceiling fans is a real eye catcher. Despite the refurbishments over the years, they have retained many original features like the large etched arched windows, fireplaces, mirrors, what appears to be gas lamps and the original bar (with the remains of an old water tap), behind which there is a generous amount of space for the staff. The rather subdued lighting and candles in the windows make the place feel quite relaxed and intimate even though it was quite busy on my visit. A mix of furniture styles with Chesterton sofas, dining room tables, lamps and an unusual looking throne like high backed chair which does not look particularly comfortable. Not sure I have ever seen office chairs in a pub before either! The plasma screen is another modern concession and I have to say the lights around the windows are a bit tacky.

There is a not a massive or particularly interesting selection of beers (Broadside and Hoegaarden were the only ones worth mentioning) but there is an extensive wine list and cocktails. To the left of the bar is the screened off hotel reception area and to the right is a dining room with a skylight and impressive fireplace. The pub was a runner up in the Evening Standard Gastro-pub of the year competition so the food comes with a good recommendation but you will obviously pay for the quality.

There are some benches outside alongside the park entrance when weather permits but it is really the interior that is the main attraction and definitely worth a visit to view.

7 Dec 2006 13:41

The Swan, Tottenham

Situated next to the bus garage, the Swan is probably one of the most unwelcoming pubs that I have come across. The exterior is at best tatty and run down. Peeling paintwork, rotting wood and cracked windows greet the visitor and it is difficult to make out the interior through the half frosted windows. If you do feel brave enough to venture inside you will find the pub surprisingly light and airy with plain cream walls and dark patterned ceiling but the bar is unsightly with a plain ugly low canopy and the overall décor is bland and boring. Don’t expect an oasis of Ales – standard kegs prevail. The drug warning notices says something about the potential customer base and most people only seem to be there to play on the 2 pool tables or hang around the doorway on their mobiles. The music will inevitably be pounding dub reggae from the large speakers. The fact that it doesn’t even get busy on Spurs match days despite being the first pub on the walk from the tube to the ground suggests that this place is a bit out of bounds to all but the regulars.

6 Dec 2006 12:27

The Elbow Room, Tottenham

Many years ago, this place was an early Wetherspoons before they began to take over the world and you can still sense the Wetherspoons brand in the air. They still do decent and cheap beers albeit not on a Spoons scale. A pint of Directors will currently set you back £1.65 (plastic glasses on Tottenham match days). Courage Best and Youngs are also available. The pub is fairly small and on Spurs match days can get very busy but I have always found the service acceptable even at its busiest. Overall the pub is fairly cosy and intimate with carpets throughout and several pillars and posts making the place appear smaller. There is a raised area screened off by a low wooden division with a Big Screen and 3 more TV’s are dotted about the pub along with the ubiquitous fruit machines. There is Spurs memorabilia by the bucket load - flags, banners, scarves, photos, programmes etc. The pub currently resembles a Santa’s grotto and full marks to the staff for the obvious effort that has gone into the decoration. Quite spectacular without being obscenely tacky.

6 Dec 2006 10:22

The Corner Pin, Tottenham

This pub is certainly NOT closed as per the current BITE heading – it was certainly rammed to the rafters before last night’s Middlesbrough game and has been on every other occasion I have walked past. This pub is Tottenham through and through and being 20 yards from the ground it is hardly surprising. The exterior is painted in (now out of date) Tottenham colours (fortunately the chocolate brown has yet to be used in any makeover) and the interior likewise with blue walls and a white tongue & groove ceiling. The plain windows are covered by curtains that resemble mosquito nets and when a particularly undesirable team is in town, metal shutters protect the incumbents from any potential missiles. You would need to get here very early to grab one of the leather sofas, otherwise it is vertical drinking and permanent jostling. Billy Nick stares down from the side of the bar onto some of his great companions and memorabilia, photos, signed shirts and programmes adorn the walls. There is a TV and fruit machine but these are largely superfluous on match day. You would certainly not come here for the beer – keg rubbish only. What you do come for here is to soak up the pre match atmosphere and preview the latest anti-Arsenal songs, that is if you can get in the door in the first place. There is a sizeable beer patio at the rear that copes with the match day overspill although the temporary bar is somewhat limited and service is slow. There is an extremely makeshift tarpaulin cover and a couple of heaters to make the area a bit more engaging in the winter months. A brick BBQ presumably does not see much action in winter. On any other occasion this place would be a rather dull and ordinary pub unless you were a Spurs fan but I have always felt that this place is part of the football clubs heritage and for that alone, every Spurs fan should go there if only to say they have been there. As they say, “Beers Up If You Hate Arsenal…”

6 Dec 2006 09:48

The Crescent, Mornington Crescent

Pubs like this are now all too commonplace. Take one traditional old pub that is down on its luck, call in the interior designers, rip it to shreds, stick in bright lights, a couple of plasma screens and a pool table and hey presto, one faceless, soulless modern pub aimed at people who really can’t be bothered to walk an extra hundred yards in search of anything with a bit of charisma. Standard keg selection, in fact nothing of interest whatsoever unless you want a game of pool, watch footie or are just trying to get a cheap pint in before being ripped off in Koko opposite (that’s the Camden Palace for you oldies like me). Functional but uninteresting and boring and not a place I can see myself returning to in a hurry.

5 Dec 2006 15:10

The Speaker, Westminster

Originally called the Elephant & Castle, the name is now more in keeping with the proximity of the Houses of Parliament a few hundred yards down the road. The interior consists of a quite small single carpeted room, comfortable, light. airy and welcoming but not really much to look at architecturally. From the newish wooden bar and furnishings, I would deduce that the pub has undergone a fairly extensive “sprucing up” in the not so distant past. They take great pains to let you know that there is no music, TV, big screens, fruit machines or the like, just beer and conversation, or in their words, a real pub. The beers are the main attraction with Spitfire & Youngs complimented by 2 constantly changing and interesting guest beers (sometimes a mild). Being close to our seat of government, there are political cartoons and prints and the façade depicts the history of the various Speakers and how the position came to be. There is a collection of books above the bar, a shelf of empty bottles where a TV once presumably sat, a few displays of clay pipes, packs of cards on the tables and, rather interestingly, a few sticks of quarry dynamite, presumably past their sell by date and no longer able to turn the pub into a mini Hemel Hempstead. In summer it can be a bit stifling and a few ceiling fans wouldn’t go amiss. The customer base seems to be local office workers and presumably the odd MP (aren’t they all?). Good friendly and helpful service and definitely one to seek out if in the area if you want a peaceful pint of decent beer.

5 Dec 2006 11:05

THE Distillers, Hammersmith

The Distillers is now closed. There is a notice saying that it will reopen as a venue for live music and comedy. Make of that what you will.

25 Nov 2006 11:07

The Tally Ho, Kentish Town

It's worse than closed - it's now semi demolished!

4 Nov 2006 09:08

The Sherlock Holmes, Charing Cross

Now reopened again - have not been inside yet to see what has changed. Might nip in tonight after work for a quickie!

23 Oct 2006 13:51

The Sherlock Holmes, Charing Cross

Currently closed whilst undergoing a major refurbishment so you're too late if you wanted to try out the bottomless seats!

5 Oct 2006 11:19

The Townhouse, Borough

In an area totally redeveloped since the war, The Town House appears to be the last traditional building standing. The modern monstrosities make this brightly coloured Victorian corner pub stand out like the proverbial aching digit. Inside it is all very neat and polished but it is difficult to make out what this pub is trying to be. The single room interior has all the kitsch and tackiness of a Vegas bar with its polished floor, spotlights, neon hues, wax laden wine bottles on the tables and that masterpiece of the disco era, a mirror ball. The live music adverts proudly boast Elvis impersonators, Rat Pack tributes and karaoke evenings. The interior is quite dark with little natural light penetrating through the partly stained glass windows and the décor is generally contrived to look traditional but is probably the result of fairly recent refurbishments. Bits of stained glass are dotted around on the bar frame and wooden screens, a few small old film posters adorn the walls, the odd pot and pan and a small clock with a hypnosis inducing swinging pendulum. 3 of the 4 beer pumps were inoperative when I visited (1 redundant, 2 off - Adnams and I think Bombardier judging by the shape of the pump clips) and only the London Pride available although in fairness it was very well kept and topped up before I had a chance to bemoan the initial short measure. Piped easy listening music. 2 well placed widescreen TVs (good for sport). Fruit machine. Overall, a fairly comfortable and relaxed pub outside the peak hours but I can’t help feel that it is best suited for middle aged women with a passion for cheap entertainment.

22 Sep 2006 16:58

The Vale Bar, Dulwich

I don’t know what this place was like in its previous incarnation as the Hamlet Inn but it is now a hideous example of what happens when interior designers get a free run on redeveloping your local. Any original features and characteristics have been removed leaving a rather cavernous hollow interior with bland and plain décor. One side of the bar is reserved for the Chesterton sofa brigade and the other half for the gastropub fans with its open kitchen and dining tables. Drink selection is rather standard and there are no Real Ales. I would certainly agree that the staff are very good – I was unknowingly overcharged but the barmaid made an effort to find me after I had sat down to return my extra change. There are a couple of screens for sport and some outside seating under a canopy but I am really clutching at straws to find any positives. The pub is convenient for Dulwich Hamlet football ground but to be perfectly honest, the clubs bar is far better if this is the reason for being in the area.

22 Sep 2006 14:59

White Hart, Sibsey

Situated on the main road north of Boston, the White Hart is, from the outside, a welcoming roadside tavern beckoning passing traffic to pull over for a pit stop. The interior has however been rather unsympathetically modernised and is a total contrast to what you would expect for a village local. The carpeted front area is now a games room with pool table taking pride of place whilst the main bar area towards the rear has a rather nasty tiled floor, ugly seating and modern art prints that would be more suited in a trendy town pub. The small plasma TV is rather inadequate and a badly positioned dart board would involve the removal of several tables if one were to have a game (although I believe there is another board in the pool room). With 6 people present at peak time on a Saturday and this being the only pub in the immediate vicinity, I would guess that the locals in this expanding village are not too enamoured with spending much time here. The beer is nothing to shout about with 3 of the 4 pumps either off or redundant (John Smiths the cask only bitter available) and the tendency here is to save on the washing up by not giving customers a fresh glass. No food. Bland piped radio. Not really much going for it at all. The best option if stopping here is a necessity is to enjoy the beer garden, should the weather permit.

22 Sep 2006 13:43

The Marquis of Granby, Covent Garden

This was a decent small, wedge shaped pub with a bit character, good beers and good service but probably overshadowed by the reputation by the Harp a couple of doors down. It all looks rather sad boarded up and I just hope whoever takes over keeps it as it was.

22 Sep 2006 12:09

The Sherlock Holmes, Charing Cross

Originally called the Northumberland Arms, in the late 50's this pub became the home of the Sherlock Holmes exhibition that was previously part of the Festival of Britain (the pub itself stands on the site of the Northumberland hotel that featured in certain novels, hence the Holmes connection). It is also close to the old Scotland Yard police station. The horseshoe shaped interior has walls littered with Sherlock Holmes memorabilia, letters, Victorian artifacts, business cards, letters, stamps, police whistles, magnifying glasses, prints and pictures from TV and stage performances and of course, the iconic Sherlock Holmes pipe. There is even the stuffed head of the Hound of the Baskervilles! Upstairs, the restaurant offers views into a faithful recreation of Holmes study complete with a wax model Sherlock. It all sounds very tacky and touristy but I personally did not find the museum approach detracted from the pub. That said, strip away the Holmes memorabilia and you would be left with a fairly ordinary traditional style West End pub. Cosy enough and welcoming but nothing startling. The Green King beers are nothing special and I bow to the previous posting that the Sherlock Holmes Ale is in fact Morland bitter in disguise (not sure what Holmes would have made of this!). Some of the seating needs some attention as you almost fall to floor through the seat when you sit down. The 2 small TVs above the doors seem a little inadequate. There are some seating on the pavement outside and the passing traffic is generally tolerable for a main road in London. A short stroll from Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square, the pub is worth a visit, especially if you are a Holmes enthusiast, but then if you are, you have probably already been here. One last bit of trivia – this apparently used to be a regular watering hole for Jimi Hendrix.

22 Sep 2006 11:29

The Plough, Tottenham

This pub has unfortunatley been closed and is now a bookmakers. Strangely, the pub sign still hangs on the wall above the doorway. That is now 6 pubs that have closed between Seven Sisters station and White Hart Lane football ground in the last couple of years. This was one of the better ones!

6 Sep 2006 16:58

Reflex, London

Oh, and yes I know the book was 1984 - see what this place has done to my brain!

3 Sep 2006 20:17

Reflex, London

Ah the 80’s, a decade I mostly missed through inebriation. A time when the Barclays Premiership was just Division 1, the Carling Weekend was the Reading Rock Festival and Big Brother was a book. In fact most of the people I encountered in here wouldn’t remember the 80’s if you hit them on the head with a Rubik Cube. This is not a place for a quiet beer and a chat (for beer read lager). This is a place where the girls go to dance and the fellers go to watch the girls who go to dance. If your 80’s consisted of sweaty nights at the Marquee watching the delights of prog rock and the evolution of death metal then you should avoid at all costs. If your tastes are more Wham!, Witney and clapping along to Radio Ga Ga then dig out that old Frankie Says T-Shirt, join the lengthy queue outside and prepare to be mightily impressed by the tackiness. You can even save yourself £2 by taking along your own inflatable guitar providing the doormen don't confiscate it first. The one certain thing is that you will leave with perforated ear drums, burnt retinas, a blinding headache and a dented wallet.

2 Sep 2006 09:29

Throgmorton's, Bank

One of the City’s best kept secrets, or at least it was until now. Behind the unpromising and easily missed entrance lies a Tardis of multi floor bars and the restaurant itself. The large spiral staircase with its gold mosaic walls first take you to the Mosaic Room, a bar that has more resemblance to a Gentlemans Club with its Chesterton sofas, cosy alcoves, marble pillars and light paneled ceiling. The beer selection will satisfy all tastes from the Carling drinkers to the continental beer experts. The range includes Spitfire, Black Sheep, Deuchers, Addlestones Cider, Hoegarden, Erdinger, Fruili, Kuppers and a small but varied range of bottled beers. A smiley message on a blackboard breaks up the formality and stuffiness that could exist in a bar historically frequented by traditional city cigar chompers. Beyond this is a small reception area with an old fashioned kiosk and this in turn leads to a further bar and the Long Room, the scene of many a business deal over the 106 years since the place first opened as the flagship of the J Lyons Empire. The bar is as it says on the tin, long and narrow with mirrors along one side making it look far bigger than it really is. Lighting is in the form of bunches of grapes that dangle from the ceiling and the seating is arranged in small intimate alcoves. Just when you think you have seen it all, signs lead you back through the Mosaic room, down the spiral staircase to the Oak Room, now a rather handsome sports bar with its rich red carpet, paneled walls and portraits. The multiple plasma screens and twin pool tables do not interfere with the restrained atmosphere. The whole building is just begging to be explored and I would guess that there are other treasures behind some of the doors. Always opulent but never vulgar and judging by the minimal number of reviews and ratings, this would appear to be a place just waiting to be discovered. Give it a try.

31 Aug 2006 13:12

The Bolt Hole, Cannon Street

There is nothing like a good cellar to have a wine bar and this one certainly meets that particular requirement. Tucked away down the backstreets near Cannon Street station, one can easily lose oneself among alcoves beneath the dimly lit brick arches and it is all rather cosy, a bit like the downstairs of the Olde Cheshire Cheese. They take bookings for all or part of the premises and it is probably good for leaving dos and functions. They do sell bottled beers at a price (£3.50 for a bottle of Pride) and whilst I am not really a wine bar person, I could happily while away some time here if my pocket would allow it. Friendly bar staff but as we were the only customers at the time (it was pretty late and this was the only place still open) I can’t speak for the customer base or how busy it gets.

30 Aug 2006 13:46

The George IV, Kentish Town

In an area of boarded up shops and endless graffiti, the first sight of the George IV is like coming across an oasis in the desert. The first thing you notice is the jungle of plants, ivy, palms and creepers that would keep an horticulturalist happy for hours. Beneath this excess foliage lies a typical Victorian corner pub however the interior is every bit as fascinating as the exterior. Floor to ceiling is plastered with pictures and painting of all sizes and subjects. The high ceiling is home to a couple of fans and is propped up by a couple of thin pillars in front of the bar. A rack of wines sits atop the bar frame. As one would expect, there is not a lot of natural light due the jungle outside and the grand but heavy curtains but the internal lighting is subdued and tasteful. The presence of a small table lamp on each table is a nice touch and the carpeted bar is very sedate and comfortable. There are 2 TV’s and a couple of fruit machines / games machines. Perfect? Not quite. The big downer here is the lack of Real Ales. There are 2 redundant hand pumps at the rear of the bar so they obviously did sell it at some point. The food is also rather basic food, mainly sandwiches. And finally, as a previous reviewer has pointed out, the gents do need some serious attention. A lot of care and effort has gone into turning what would be a mundane ordinary boozer into something a bit special and it is worth making the detour to visit even though the locality is fairly run down. With a bit of attention to the food, drink and toilets, this place would be hard to fault.

29 Aug 2006 16:31

The Albert, St James's

This wonderful large Victorian pub juts out like a brick peninsula from the jungle of steel, concrete and glass office blocks that now dwarf it. The downstairs has been knocked through into one continuous room, the front being an open spacious area with plenty of tables, large etched windows with grand curtains, a high decorative ceiling and different areas divided by wooden screens. To the rear is a smaller cosier area with a fireplace, fruit machine and several old pictures of either Royalty or Parliamentary themes, pride of place being Queen Vitoria’s wedding. The L shaped bar has a traditional frame with an inbuilt clock and still has gas lights attached. There are usually 5 Real ales albeit nothing adventurous (Pride, Youngs, Courage Best, Bombardier, Deuchars if you are lucky) on offer at fairly reasonable prices given that the pub can be very touristy - Westminster Abby and the Houses of Parliament etc are a few minutes walk away. Personally I have never had any problems with getting served. The staircase to the right of the bar is adorned with portraits of distinguished prime ministers, many of whom have dined in the upstairs restaurant. The choice of bar food is not particularly extensive given that they seem to do a good lunchtime trade – expect to pay around £6.00 - £7.50 for a main course although there are specials on the boards near the bar. It must be said that parts of the pub are getting a bit tatty in places, notably some of the seat coverings but this former Evening Standard Pub of the Year (1984) still carries enough grandeur to keep it as a regular main entry in the Good Pub Guide. The pub is generally relaxed with unobtrusive piped music and a fair bit of character. Apart from tourists and office workers, it seems to be popular with Chelsea Pensioners whose presence feels so in tune with the surroundings. Despite its shortcomings, if you like traditional pubs with a bit of character then you won’t go far wrong here.

29 Aug 2006 15:15

The Duke of Somerset, Aldgate

Fairly large, faceless, ground floor pub set into a drab modern building. It has all the hallmarks of a featureless plastic Wetherspoons without the benefits of a decent beer selection or the cheap prices. The large multi screened single room has a twin pool table area at one end and a small raised area at the other than can be closed off for private functions. In between there are several tables but not much chance of getting one when busy. The beers are standard fare (Pride / IPA) and the staff totally inept. Every pint we witnessed being pulled was a short measure and when my wife couldn’t see what beers were on, she asked what Real Ales were available only to discover they did not know what a Real Ale was. Awful music, dreadfully packed with large office groups blocking the entrances and totally lacking in character. The outside patio is probably the only redeeming feature but unless the weather is right and the hordes are elsewhere, it is probably best avoiding the pub altogether unless you like this sort of thing.

29 Aug 2006 13:43

The Hoop and Grapes, Aldgate

In an area that was virtually levelled by the Lufwaffe and has undergone major redevelopment in subsequent years, it is hard to believe that a pub of this age is still standing amid the concrete. Parts of the pub predate the Great Fire in 1666 and the building is not only listed but protected by English Heritage. Despite the wonky wooden frontage, it is obvious that the interior has undergone various refurbishments, extensions and rebuilds over the years with the bar now set into an alcove off to the left and the rear extended to accommodate pool tables. Despite concessions to the current times like fruit machines and multiple TV’s, it does retain its old world character with its abundance of wood and bare floors. Beyond the flag stoned pool area towards the back is a small recess with comfortable settees for those who rear ends cannot take the wooden seating for any length of time. The toilets are in the basement and must be visited, if only to see the mass of exposed old brick arches. A detailed history of the pub can be found on the wall near the front windows. Beers are rather mainstream (Adnams / Pride / Bombardier) but reasonable priced. One final note - the lampshades – is it me or do they look like the spaceships from an Ed Wood movie!

29 Aug 2006 11:22

The Whyteleafe Tavern, Whyteleafe

In an area totally devoid of pubs, the Whyteleafe Tavern needs to have a universal appeal to accommodate all tastes and luckily it does seem to achieve this. The neat and tidy U shaped bar has a pool table area at one end, comfortable surroundings for the chatty types, TV’s for the sport fans and an outer beer patio for the sun lovers. The drinks range was fairly typical but the Spitfire and Pride were of good standard. Unless you live in the area there is little to attract you here however the the pub is friendly and the nearby football ground is quite picturesque with its tree lined terraces and is 5 minutes walk away.

29 Aug 2006 10:38

Moon Under Water, Boston

A large pub with a fairly grand interior and a reasonable amount of character compared to the typical plastic Wetherspoons offering. The interior is divided into 3 specific areas emanating from the main bar. To the left of the bar is a non smoking conservatory type area for want of a better description. Comfortable enough with plenty of tables but one can’t help feel that it should make more of its location overlooking the river. The central area in front of the bar is dominated by a curving staircase that should lead to somewhere a bit grander than the toilets. At the foot are a couple of fruit machines and a quiz machine minus, of course, the volume. The paneled room opposite has a fireplace with a large mirror now partly obscured by a Plasma screen hanging down from the ceiling with a few nice old pictures of the town. To the other side of the bar is another large room, a bit plainer, usually a bit quieter and with less features. Another plasma screen breaks up the fairly empty wall and the room is desperately in need of a good elaborate chandelier and a few old portraits to give it a bit of character. There is also a small outside terrace when the weather permits. As per the usual Wetherspoons outlets, there is a decent range of inexpensive beers and food. One of the better 'Spoons pubs.

23 Aug 2006 16:50

The Castle Inn, Freiston

The Castle is situated on the main A52 road between Boston and Skegness rather than in the village itself. Like many country pubs, it tends to be geared more towards dining pub and the generous food helpings here come highly recommended by people I know who regularly visit. The service can get a bit slow when busy. The carpeted main bar has a low beamed ceiling with high shelves containing several model ships. Whilst the bar is quite cosy it is a bit contrived and most of the fittings appear to be the result of fairly modern refurbishments, the brick fireplace being a good example. A decent selection of Batemans beers (not one of my favourites) although 3 of the 4 pumps were off on my visit leaving just the Valiant available. The wide screen TV looks a bit odd perched on the corner of the bar itself. 2 dart boards and a few trophies suggest that they are pretty nifty with the arrows. Beware not to tread to the cute pub dog that will almost certainly come sniffing around your ankles at some point. There is a small dining area beyond the main bar and a spacious beer garden in good weather. They have a decent quiz night on a Friday although the prize of a meal voucher is hardly worth winning unless you regularly use the pub (although the Jackpot is worth picking up). The pub appears to be fairly popular and is a safe bet if in the area.

23 Aug 2006 12:04

Crossways, Kings Lynn

The abundance of screens, decent quality if unadventurous Green King beers and reasonable prices mean very little when the customer base consists of people of limited vocabulary and who frequently refer to coloured footballers as black c*nts. I would be interested to know if the shaven headed, loud mouthed morons passing themselves off as Spurs fans that I encountered in here yesterday are regulars or were just passing through. Given the locality of the pub it is unlikely you would stumble across the pub unless you know about it and if this is an example of what it is like to watch sport in here then I would suggest that decent people give it a wide berth until the management stand up and get rid of the society maggots that darken its doorstep. Without them it would be a half decent pub.

20 Aug 2006 19:28

The Tav Bar, Bloomsbury

This is basically the bar for the Tavistock Hotel but it is very accessible and open to anyone just like a normal pub. In fact they have several signs outside to tempt people in from the street. It is probably one of the best examples of an Art Deco bar in London, well maintained and largely untouched by the passage of time. The only concessions to the 21st century are the out of place plasma screen and the noise from the bowling lanes in the basement below (especially when they have the occasional rock concerts there). The beer selection is admittedly not very adventurous (the ubiquitous Greene King IPA & Abbot) but they come surprisingly cheap and are certainly of drinkable quality. The bow tied barmen give the bar a touch a class and it is not difficult to settle into one of the comfortable sofas and transport yourself back the 20’s and 30’s when this hotel would have been state of the art. It will not be everyone’s taste but fans of the period will adore it and it is certainly one of the most pleasant discoveries on the central London pub circuit I have come across for some time, especially given the lack of decent pubs in the immediate area. It is well worth the walk round the back streets from Tottenham Court Road to find if Art Deco is your thing and is especially handy for gigs at the ULU, just down the road.

17 Aug 2006 16:06

The Railway Hotel, Dartford

Built in 1851, 2 years after the railway came to Dartford, the Railway Hotel is a rather down market pub but typical of the many pubs built primarily to service the short term requirements of rail travellers. The Railway is basically 3 rooms knocked through although they do have a separate identity. The main area nearest the station is a carpeted lounge albeit rather basic in approach with a couple of TV’s largely used for sport. Down a few steps is a smaller central bare floor area with just a couple of high chairs and tables and another small TV. Beyond the pillars, in what used to be a totally separate function room (and home to the Dartford Folk Club for many years) is a games room containing 3 pool tables. The pub is quite vibrant and with all the plasma screens, fruit machines and video jukebox, they must burn enough electricity to light up a small nation. The clientele can be a mix of the occasional suited and booted just off the train types to a more permanent regular base of rather unsavoury looking stereotypical characters wandering around shirtless and flaunting their tattooes although to be fair, I have never witnessed any trouble in here. The beers are keg bitters and lagers only (no real ales) and sold at discount prices. The food is also basic and cheap (2 burgers for £5.45). If your idea of a good pub is cheap beer, a game of pool and Karaoke on a Sunday then you could probably spend a good evening here. Otherwise, you will find the pub rather lacking any class or finesse but OK to meet someone for a quick pint before / after getting off a train.

17 Aug 2006 11:34

The Green Dragon Inn, Hardraw

I have a lot of wonderful nostalgic memories of the Green Dragon and technically it was one of the first pubs I ever went in. On a school field trip in my teens we were marched up the road from our campsite in Hawes to visit Hardraw Force, the highest single drop waterfall in England - Robin Hood Prince of Thieves fans will recognise it as the place where Kevin Costner bathes in the pool at the foot of the falls. To access the falls you must first pass through the wonderful historic stone built pub where they will relieve you of a small but worthwhile fee. It has been some time since I have visited this area but still retain fond memories of the pub and would dearly love to revisit, in fact just thinking about it makes me want to leave my desk and journey up north. One of my personal favourite pubs in the country and one to which I will hopefully return soon.

NB Administrators - the address should read Hardraw, not Hardrow!

16 Aug 2006 13:16

The Prince Albert, Whitstable

The first impressions of this small locals pub in the heart of town are that it is very ordinary however to a certain degree, it is this no nonsense unpretentious approach that makes the Albert quite appealing. The L shaped interior seems a bit dated and even a little tacky with its modern brick fireplace and ships wheel mirror but pubs like this are becoming a bit of an endangered species. At least they didn’t stick to the temporary 1980’s trendy name change to “Alberres”. That would be definitely bee way too much. The beers are fairly decent with a guset beer supplementing the Green King IPA and London Pride. Despite the lack of room, they have managed to squeeze in a dartboard and the rear of the pub has at some time been extended into the building next door to give the place a bit of breathing space. The best feature is perhaps the small beer garden although this is not accessible through the pub, you have to go outside and round the back where a few table and chairs sit among the potted plants. Be warned - it can be quite a sun trap here. The Albert is a pub that is easy to bypass in favour of more visually appealing pubs but we have never had anything other than a good time here and are always made to feel welcome.

4 Aug 2006 21:26

Pearsons Arms, Crab And Oyster House, Whitstable

Don’t you just love the Whitstable pub names. This partly weather boarded 17th century pub is just a few lobster’s tails from the shingle beach and full of ye olde pub by the sea character. The ground floor is a split level carpeted bar with old boat names and bits of driftwood. Upstairs is the seafood restaurant and although I haven’t tried it personally, I was surprised to learn that it does not have a very good reputation. I certainly had no problems with the beers (Flowers, Pride and Speckled Hen) or the service – the bar staff revealed a rather Carry On style sense of humour during our last visit! It gets particularly busy during the Oyster Festival and you will get plastic glasses if drinking outside, in fact I have probably spent more time drinking outside than in. I haven’t really fully made up my mind about this place. I like it but not as much as I should, maybe because it is always so busy when we are there. We have vowed to come back out of season and it will be interesting to see what it’s like on a dark November evening in the rain.

4 Aug 2006 20:49

The Royal Naval Reserve, Whitstable

It sounds more like a forces club than a pub but a pub it certainly is. The name is derived from the Navy's reserve forces, in particular the Sea Cadet Corps who first formed in Whitstable in the 1850’s and were incorporated into the Royal Navy in 1910. Situated in the middle of high street, the pub is popular with shoppers and tourists alike and can get very busy. The interior is quite dim and intimate with low ceilings and plenty of brasses, collectables, cigarette cards, old prints and photos, mainly as one would expect, of a nautical theme. The layout of the pub makes the bar a bit awkward to get to when busy but the Shepherd Neame range of beers are of a good quality and they also have mild on tap, a rarity in SN pubs. To the rear, beyond the outside toilet, is a cosy beer garden set among the evergreens where you can usually blag a table even on the busiest days. The upstairs seafood restaurant has a very good reputation although I have not personally tried it. An essential stop for anyone visiting the many pubs in the area and one day I will definitely try the restaurant.

4 Aug 2006 20:09

The Jerusalem Tavern, Clerkenwell

The pub is named after the nearby Priory of St John Jerusalem founded in 1140. A gatehouse is the only significant part of the priory still visible. Do visit the pub though, it is a cracker!

3 Aug 2006 15:44

The Westminster, Westminster

Take care not to confuse this place with the far superior Westminster Arms. The Westminster is one of the most cold, hollow and soulless pubs I have encountered. As for “enough Real Ales to keep CAMRA devotees happy”, where are they? They have 1 pump for London Pride and they took so long to change the barrel that I ended up having a pint Carling. Coors, Staropromen and Strongbow were the other choices. The plain off white walls and ceiling are interrupted only by a barrage of plain red wall behind the bar, the well trodden dark wooden floorboards and the grey pillars and doors. The windows are crying out for some curtains and the décor consists of a few dated lampshades, a large plain mirror and the occasional potted plant. The tables must have come from a second hand dining table sale and the whole pub is visually vacant with no real feature to attract the eye. Meals are pricey (£5-6 for starters, sandwiches £6, main meals £7-8) and the menu is hardly extensive. People may laugh at the prior existence as a “Trekkie” pub but I imagine it would have had a bit more spirit and soul then than it does now. Beam me up!

2 Aug 2006 15:34

The Woodman, Dartford

Before the Dartford Historical Society start sending me complaint letters, I should point out that it was the Victory at the top of East Hill, not the Ship, and a fine little pub it used to be.

1 Aug 2006 16:10

Ha! Ha! Bar and Canteen, Victoria

One of a range of Ha! Ha! Bar and Canteens that are gradually being introduced around the country. The traditional pub lover will hate it, the chrome and neon brigade will love it. Those who baulk at the sight of All Bar Ones and Piano and Pitchers now have a new monster to contend with. This latest addition to Victoria’s drinking scene is set over the first 2 floors of a 60’s high rise and comes complete with wall to ceiling windows, pink neon lighting, pine floors, square furniture and plasma screen (with limited viewing). Up the large metal staircase is the restaurant – I didn’t bother venturing this far. Outside in the canopied shopping precinct are a few chrome seats where you can watch the shoppers roam by. Don’t look for any bitters – they don’t have any, not even keg bitter which is probably a plus. Fosters, Stella and Guinness are the mainstream attractions. The adventurous can go for Peroni or 1664 Blanc. If you are feeling affluent, they do “wine bottle” sized Hoegaarden for £7.95 or Leffe, a snip at £10.95. That all said, Wines start at a “reasonable” £10.95 and someone somewhere may be tempted by the Krug Grande Cuvee NV at £119.95 that will apparently leave your palate dominated by honey and nuts. A bowl of sugar puffs and a packet of dry roasted will also have the same effect for a lighter tariff. Personally if I were spending £120 on a bottle of bubbly I would choose somewhere a bit more special than this. Shooters are available for £3 and a range of cocktails are £5 a glass or £10 a jug. Main courses for lunch start around £5.50 for Egg and Chips with “proper meals” around £7-£11 which is again fairly reasonable for the area. All cynicism aside, this place will probably appeal to many young office types and I would expect it to get quite busy in the evenings. Personally it’s not my cup of tea.

1 Aug 2006 15:57

The Bears Paw Inn, High Legh

Situated on the A50 close to Junction 20 of the M6, this 17th century country inn is useful as a welcome stop from a long motorway drive (I will resist the temptation of any Knutsford City Limit jokes here). As the previous reporter mentions, the pub appears to be largely dependant on its evening restaurant trade with 3 of the 4 internal sections being laid out specifically for diners on my visit. Only the small bar area with its 3 small metallic round tables and a couple of stools at the bar appears to be designated solely for drinking. The character of the building is evident inside with its textured walls, log fire, beamed ceilings, latticed cottage windows and an array of gathered firewood, brasses, pots and pans etc. Not a big selection of ales – just 2 hand pumps (Thwaites Original and Marsdon Pedigree) but worthy of their Cask Marque accreditation. If the weather permits, there is a spacious and well kept beer garden and a good play area for the kids. Obviously popular locally for diners but I did not get a glimpse of the menu. As mentioned, worth a quick stop off the motorway if passing by. One point that needs clarification - they advertise a quiz night on Monday nights but according to the opening hours, they don't open on a Monday evening!

1 Aug 2006 11:02

The Welsh Tavern, Stone

Situated near what was an old turnpike (a street called Tollgate Road still exists a few yards away), the Welsh Tavern (or Welch Tavern as it was originally spelt) has been around since 1827 although the current building was built around the 1870’s. Originally there was a shop next door and this later became part of the pub and is now the pool room. The interior is quite shallow especially around the bar area and the décor a bit dated but still has a good community feel to it and a few nice features like the etched windows remain. They run a successful Sunday League football team, originally formed in 1976 by Dartford supporters – the club’s old Watling Street ground was a short stroll away. At the rear is a separate games lobby with fruit machine and a pinball machine. This leads to the well kept and spacious beer garden complete with children’s play area and a bat and trap pitch. The choice of beers is not particularly extensive (Courage Best is the only Ale available) but there are far worse pubs in Dartford and on a decent summer evening, a session in the garden is can be very pleasant.

25 Jul 2006 11:00

The Wharf, Dartford

Not the most accessible of Dartford’s pubs, you either need to drive or be in the mood for a long walk. Although the pub is signposted it is easy to get lost around here or even accidently end up on the motorway. Don’t let the Crossways Business Park location or proximity of the M25 and QE2 Bridge put you off. This is a fairly tranquil spot and there are enjoyable nature walks around the landscaped surroundings. Despite the out of the way location, the Wharf is very popular and it is very easy to spend an entire balmy evening here watching the sun go down over the lake. The pub is built in the style of a Thameside trading house and has a spacious interior with many separate areas to suit a variety of tastes. The main bar area overlooks the lake and there is now a recently added non smoking split level conservatory. Outside, there is a children’s play area and several benches along the wooden verandah that laps the waters edge where ducks, swans and coots battle it out for territory among the bulrushes. The beers are from the Shepherd Neame range and there is also a carvery restaurant on the lower floor. The only major downside is the bland music that is also piped to the outside. One of the few Dartford pubs that has made it into the Good Pub Guide and well worth the effort to visit.

24 Jul 2006 10:19

Bonapartes, Waterloo

Station bar but has more of a continental cafe approach, probably quite apt as it is situated close to the Eurolink terminal. Pleasant enough to use for a meeting place but is hardly a place for an evening although the seating on the concourse provides a good opportunity to watch briefcase laden commuters rushing to miss their train. The beer selection is rather standard and rather disappointingly, they have no Real Ales.

24 Jul 2006 09:29

The Smack, Whitstable

The Smack of the pubs title refers not to the beating of unruly customers but to a type of boat used in the local oyster trade. This is very much a love it loathe it pub and be best described as cluttered and a bit eccentric. The Shepherd Neame beers are fine but the surroundings are not to everyone’s taste. The fairly small bar is a bit cramped at the front and the overall impression is that of a tatty old boozer in need of a good clean. The 2 aquariums (or is it aquaria) seem bereft of any wildlife although I recall them being home to several angel fish on my previous visit. The ceiling is plastered with old posters and the walls are covered in bottles, trophies and all kind of nick nacks. The beer garden is also a very cluttered with a fish pond being the central feature. Its alternative approach would not be out of place in Camden and it is a bit different to the other pubs in the area. Personally I like it although it was not a big hit with some of the people I was with. They probably also have the least energetic cat in Whitstable.

23 Jul 2006 15:40

Ship Centurion Arminius, Whitstable

Whitstable must have the highest ratio of unique pub names in the country. Known locally as the U-Boat, the owner is German hence the strong German influence in the beers and food. The exterior is bright with flower baskets and traditional etched windows. The interior is not particularly well laid out and can be a bit cramped during busy spells although there is a room to the rear room with decent sized TV where a seat can usually be blagged when busy. The walls are adorned with several informative local pictures, lanterns, certificates and a couple of clocks showing the time in Berlin and New York for those who need to know. Apart from the bottled beers, there are 3 regular Ales and a guest beer. Oh, and Arminius was a Germanic war chief who drove out the Romans 2000 years ago just in case you wondered.

23 Jul 2006 15:20

The Duke Of Cumberland Hotel, Whitstable

Probably the largest pub in Whitstable, there has been an inn on this site for 300 years but the current building was rebuilt in 1878 following a fire that destroyed the original. There have been several restorations and improvements over the years but it still retains the charachter of an old coaching inn. The ground floor is divided into a main bar and a large rear seated area although the dividing corridor has been partly removed giving easy access between the two rooms. The main bar is quite spacious and comfortable with partly tiled, partly carpeted flooring and arched windows. The rear room (possibly the original dining room / banqueting Hall) is very light and airy thanks to its bright colour scheme, pine floor and the natural light that floods through the skylight in the roof. There are a few prints and large mirrors but the centerpiece is a large model ship perched at one end of the room. There is also an attractive courtyard with additional seating outside in good weather and a separate function room. The beers are from the usual Shepherd Neame range. The Duke has a vast amount of character and appears to be very popular although it is probably best avoided during the Oyster Festival when it seems to be taken over by Brass Bands and Morris Dancers!

23 Jul 2006 14:28

The Old Star, Westminster

This Victorian corner pub is spread over 3 floors. The ground floor has a great deal of wasted space with about 25% of the floor space lost courtesy of a large open stairwell that leads to the cellar bar. The area around the bar is partially blocked by a large pillar and the overall space for seating is minimal given the overall size of the ground floor. The décor is rather bland as is the piped music. There is a fruit machine and a solitary TV that does not really cater for everyone who would want to watch. Beers are predominantly Green King IPA, Abbot, Morland and Ruddles County and are not always particularly, shall we say, palatable, rather disappointing given the Cask Marque accreditation. Downstairs (note the interesting panoramas of medieval London on the way) is the cellar bar although this comes as a disappointment for to who expect a dark and dingy dungeon like environment with bare bricks and a good musty smell. Instead, it is quite well lit thanks to the open stairwell and is of modern pub décor, again rather bland. The 2 recesses that go under the arches are fairly inviting but can be fairly cramped. On the top floor is a further bar that never seems to be open when I am there but doesn’t look particularly interesting from my peep through the door. You have to take your chances on what floors are open – on one visit both the cellar bar, the upstairs and half the ground floor were reserved leaving everyone squashed into the remaining area or onto the street. The food is a bit pricey and not anything particularly interesting and the wine also seems a bit on the dear side. This is one of those pubs that is fine on the first visit but the more you go, the more you begin to dislike it.

13 Jul 2006 21:31

Adam and Eve, Westminster

Despite being situated close to a main tourist area (Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament etc are 5 minutes walk away), this typically old-fashioned Victorian corner pub is pleasantly refreshing in that it feels very much a locals pub unspoilt by any cynical tourist marketing programme. Despite the obvious refurbishments, the pub retains a decent amount of character with its unusual panelled windows, plenty of bare floorboards, dark ceiling and panelled walls. One side of the pub is given over to a number of carpeted snugs separated by patterned glass screens. Note also the central pillar with its extended shelf (also separated by glass screens). There is a small no-smoking room to the rear. In keeping with its basic approach, there is just a solitary fruit machine, piped music and 2 fairly inadequate TV’s. Usually 2 guest beers on such as Wadworths Summersault or Holts Fifth Sense however sometimes the guest beers tend to be rather uninspiring (Spitfire is hardly a big effort for a guest beer). Meals are typical pub fare and for those in a hurry, they do a 10 minute express lunch. Food and drink prices fairly typical for the area, service generally fine and on the whole, quite a decent pub.

13 Jul 2006 21:06

The Bath House, Soho

A rather typical West End pub with a single room downstairs bar and a function / overflow room upstairs. The downstairs bar is L shaped, not particularly spacious and getting a bit tatty in places. The carpets are wearing a bit thin and the dark red ceiling paper is beginning to show signs of age. Note the unusual front zig-zaggy windows. Can get extremely busy and very rarely have I been able to find anywhere to sit. Decently kept beers (IPA / Abbott / Morland - seems to be creeping into a few pubs around town) at reasonable prices. Wall displays of keys, suitcases, cigarette cards, old watches and old signs. Lots of wood paneling and the windows let in a reasonable natural light. Background music is rather nondescript. 2 well placed TVs and a games machine. I have found the service pretty good even when busy. Tends to attract a general West End mix of office workers and tourists and pretty much a trouble free environment but can be a bit smoky (no non smoking area). The resident dog tends to ignore you and is usually found slumped across the doorway. Not much to separate it from several other pubs in the area but worth staying a while if you can bag a place to sit.

28 Jun 2006 13:39

The Princess of Wales, Charing Cross

Handily placed for Charing Cross station but a rather dull pub by Nicholsons standards. Unadventurous beers (Bombardier, Pride and IPA) although reasonably priced for the area. Quite dark with very little natural light. Decent screens for footie although the big screen suffers from poor definition during daylight hours. Good service even when packed with World Cup viewers. Nothing particularly offensive but there are better pubs around if you know where to look.

26 Jun 2006 19:57

The Malt Shovel, Dartford

The Malt Shovel is certainly one of the best of Dartfords numerous pubs. Situated half way up East Hill overlooking the park, the core building is probably about 250 years old but has been extended and modernised without detracting from its old farmhouse style appearance. The small front bar is probably the quaintest drinking spot in Dartford with its low ceiling, old pictures and basic furnishings. The newish plasma screen is the only real concession to the modern age but is so small that it is hardly noticeable. The totally separate main bar is larger and more spacious but is just as comfortable and civilized with various prints and nick-nacks on the walls. Beyond this, situated in a modern glass conservatory, is a dining room / restaurant and this in turn leads to an attractive 3 tiered beer patio, a real sun trap when circumstances allow. The building of a new bus route road just behind the pub will hopefully not detract from this tranquil spot. I have never had any problem with the beers – usual range of Young’s on offer. The pub is aimed at the mature sensible drinker / diner and is generally off limits to the moronic element that can be found patronizing the newer pubs in the town centre, a short walk down the hill. Well worth a visit if in the area.

26 Jun 2006 13:50

The Foresters, Dartford

Tucked away and not visible from the main road, its secretive location means that it attracts only the locals. As such it has a good community spirit and on my numerous visits playing for darts and quiz teams, I have found the Foresters quite welcoming and friendly. The pub itself is a traditional style with a U shaped bar with a section at the rear that can be used for functions. 2 TV’s and a well positioned darts board and pool table. It has to be said that the pub is rather dull and gloomy – a lighter wall covering would make the place seem so much brighter and the general interior is a bit dated and featureless. Well kept Spitfire and Courage Best on pump alongside fairly standard lagers / kegs etc. Overall, it is nothing special but it’s worth the walk up the hill if you want to get away from the bustle of the town centre pubs.

26 Jun 2006 12:14

The Greenwich Union, Greenwich

The Union has become a well establshed microbrewery but unless you are a specialist beer drinker you will not necessarily see the attraction. If chocolate and raspberry beers are your thing, then this is the place for you. It is certainly not for the casual drinker and I would almost dare anyone to spend an entire evening on the rather heavy beers on offer. The pub/bar is fairly small, cramped and quite plainly furnished but is very popular and reasonably welcoming. On its own merits it is proably not a place for a long session and they are quick to let you know when time is up at the end of the evening. Situated out of the general touristville Greenwich area, the Union is probably worth going that extra few hundred yards to visit in conjunction with 2 highly recommended pubs - the Richard I is next door and the Prince Albert less than 30 yards down the road.

25 Jun 2006 00:58

The Dukes Head, Walthamstow

I was hardly in here long enough to write a realistic review but unfortunatley the stench from something resembling toilet cleaner was so overwhelming we didn't stay long enough even to get a pint in. It doesn't look like we missed much. A rather bland, soulless and featureless interior. No ales. Nothing particularly inviting at all. On the plus side they have occasional live music and a few screens to watch footie but there are far better pubs in the locality should we ever find ourselves with time to kill.

24 Jun 2006 09:16

The Pig and Whistle, Walthamstow

Larger inside than it looks from the outside and despite being fairly open plan, the low ceilings make it seem more intimate. Watching the TV in the corner is like sitting in your living room. Service was fine but no Ales (there were at least 5 redundant pumps). The locals were approachable and friendly enough although the vocabulary was at times a bit limited. Overall, nothing to write home about but I have been in a lot worse.

24 Jun 2006 08:58

The Flower Pot, Walthamstow

Popped in for a quick pint whilst in the area - seems a decent enough traditional local community boozer. Nothing to note architecturally but friendly and welcoming atmosphere and good service. Beer range was a bit limited (just 1 ale - Bass). Decent Plasma screens for sport. Certainly one of the better pubs in the area from what I have seen.

24 Jun 2006 08:50

The Plough, Walthamstow

Went here for a gig last night and despite e-mailing the pub for info (timings, ticket availability etc), they never responded. Went along anyway only to find the gig cancelled. Even now the website says "tickets available". If it wants to take itself seriously as an entertainment venue then it needs to sort out its communication problem and keep things up to date! The pub itself is an extended Victorian corner pub with a fairly standard layout and basic decor with bare wood and plain windows but quite friendly and welcoming. The big plus is the good well kept range of Fullers ales including Discovery, ESB and Festival mild. Having checked out the other local pubs, the Plough easily coms out as the winner and they do get some well known musicians and comedians appearing here. I will hopefully return for other gigs but the lesson here is ring the venue if travelling as the website is unreliable and they obviously don't read their e-mails.

24 Jun 2006 08:42

The Minories, Tower Hill

Situated below the main railway line into Fenchurch Street by the entrance to Tower Gateway DLR station, the crumbling Victorian brickwork overhead appears ready to fragment and drop into your pint every time a train rumbles overhead. The thick brick walls are complimented by a heavy flagstoned floor and they have at least made an effort to retain the "under the arches" feel but without the pigeon shit. Plenty of cubby holes tucked away and usually several seats available even at busy periods. Service was fine although 2 of the 3 (rather mainstream) beers were unavailable. Fairly cheap (Courage Best £2.30 is at least 50p less than avarage for the area). Given the tills by each entrance, I get the impression that it turns into a more clubby establishment later in the evenings when the volume probably gets turned up loud. Plenty of screens for sport. It does get a bit smoky and it attracts its fair share of loud and lairy city office workers who are usually worse for wear after4 pints. There is a sizeable seated area outside when the weather permits. Overall, certainly not brilliant but it has its merits and makes a change from the usual standard pub.

24 Jun 2006 08:22

The Feathers, St James's

The Feathers is a decent but aesthetically disjointed pub and certainly not one of the better Nicholsons establishments. Being one of the closest pubs to my new office it was one of the first I tried and walked out the first time over the standard of service. Things have not got much better in almost a dozen visits. The staff never acknowledge your presence while you are waiting and every, yes EVERY, pint that I have drunk here has been woefully short measured. Despite constantly requesting top ups I still get short changed with the next pint – if it isn’t a management scam to cream more profits then they must be the most inadequately trained bar staff in the country. The only reason I continue to (temporarily) venture in is because they show each World Cup match on the 3 decent plasma screens. The pub does have an unusual layout and an element of character although the better features are usually offset by tacky or uninspiring décor. The mix of styles may not be to everyone’s taste – the walls are adorned with either dull paintwork, elaborate rich wallpaper, fine wood paneling or bare brick depending on which part of the pub you are in. Despite the dark interior there is a lot of natural light emanating from the large picture windows and a skylight at the rear where there is a raised almost dining room type area although the furniture here is again a mixed bag of stylish chairs and airport waiting room padded seats. An open staircase leads to the balcony bar although I have yet to see this bar open (it should be said I have only used this pub at lunchtimes). The beers are rather mainstream – the guest beer is Landlord which is hardly a rarity but to their credit, they do hold Cask Marque accreditation and my (almost) pints have been pretty decent. Prices are reasonable for the area (£2.50 Bombardier) and food looks presentable. With several decent pubs in the immediate vicinity, the Feathers will need to considerably up itself in the service stakes for me to cross its threshold once the World Cup is over.

21 Jun 2006 09:52

The Woodman, Dartford

Since the demise of the Ship (now a Take Away Pizza parlour), the Woodman is now the first pub encountered on the climb up East Hill from the town centre, although the Foresters and the Tiger can be found down the side streets. Sizeable from the outside, the interior is partitioned into a main bar and separate pool area though it is possible to walk straight between the two. The main bar would be larger if it were not for the disproportionate amount of space behind the bar itself – you could almost fit as many people behind the bar as in front of it. The décor is a rather dated mock Tudor and rather one dimensional. There is a large screen TV (poor quality in daytime) and fruit machines etc but there were very few features that drew any attention. Even being kitted out in World Cup colours didn’t raise the appeal above dull and uninteresting. Standard range of lagers / kegs + Green King IPA and Spitfire although it must be said that the Ales were of abysmal quality – virtually undrinkable. There appeared to be a decent beer garden at the rear but I didn’t really get a chance to check it out. Very much a locals pub and despite being on the main road, not really a place that would attract passing custom.

20 Jun 2006 09:39

The Tiger, Dartford

Rather camouflaged within the surrounding houses and barely noticeable from the main road, you would not know the Tiger existed unless you lived next door or were making a specific trip. Having lived in Dartford for nearly 25 years I can honestly say this was only my second visit – the first probably being 10/15 years ago. I have no recollection of my previous visit and wasn’t expecting too much this time but my quest to get all Dartfords pubs on the BITE site rallied me into making the effort. The first impressions were that the mock Tudor interior is perhaps a bit dated and there are few signs of any creature comforts. The L shaped pub has a darts area one end and pool table at the other. The 3 TVs were basic types rather than flashy plasma screens and overall it appears in need of a bit of modernization. That said, the welcome from the locals was second to none and I get the impression that there is a good community spirit here – the sort of pub where everyone knows everyone else. Expecting only keg beers, I was surprised to see a guest ale (Golden Delicious) to supplement what would otherwise be a fairly standard selection (Courage Best was the other Real Ale on offer). Overall, a far better pub than I was anticipating and I will certainly not wait another 10 years before I go back.

19 Jun 2006 13:30

The Marquis of Granby, Cambridge Circus

Saw the England v Trinidad match in here. Not much seating but my spot by the bar in front of the decent sized plasma TV enabled me to watch the match and get served easily (and very efficiently given the number of people inside). Rather standard beers (the usual suspects - Pride, Adnams, Bombardier etc) - prices about average for the area. Not changed much since the refurb - remains a rather straight forward and typical West End pub but the large picture windows enable you to get a good view of the (busy) world outside on the circus. The landlord is a character (I remember him from my occasional pint in the Lyric (now sadly demised). He may not serve you if you are carrying a copy of the Sun! A great night (eventually) due to the football but a bit more mundane on normal nights.

18 Jun 2006 14:22

The Black Bull, Stamford

We stopped off at Stamford looking for a pub to watch the FA Cup Final and this was the only pub in town that we were able to get a seat which suggests that the pub is not particularly popular with the locals. It certainly has its down sides starting with the beer. The Mansfield bitter was one of the worst pints I have encountered. Not being familiar with it I don't know if it was the beer itself or how it was kept but with little alternative on offer I had little option than to persevere and thanks to Steve Gerrards late equaliser was forced to struggle through a final pint during extra time and penalties. Thanks Steve. Some of the clientelle also left a lot to be desired with a healthy dollop of wierdos and nutters, kept under close scrutiny by the abundance of CCTV cameras. The interior consists of 3 rooms knocked through although still partially separated by the remaing walls and a separate pool room. The main bar offers lots of stripped brickwork and wooden flooring. The bar is unusual in that it is set along the window side of the pub and there is an impressive brick fireplace and Big Screen TV (poor picture quality in daytime). Around the corner is a stone floored and rather plainer area with a few pew seats that buckle alarmingly under those of us that are now a little over their fighting weight. Adjoining this is a rather uninteresting carpeted lounge area. There is potential for this place - it is ideally located and does display elements of its character but as things stand they need to do something about the beers and take a more selective look at the custonmer base.

11 Jun 2006 13:23

The Prince Albert, Greenwich

Being far enough away from tourist Greenwich to still have a "locals" feel to it. We occasionally use the pub for darts evenings and have always been made to feel welcome. The interior reveals a U shaped bar and is fairly spacious but not cavernous enough to lose its cosy appeal. The decor is fairly basic and the carpet well worn but there is little here to for anyone to take any major disliking to. There are also some unusual collectables on the walls. Decent ales including adnams new Explorer. Well worth a visit in conjunction with Top 40 regular the Richard I a few doors down.

11 Jun 2006 12:33

Rising Sun, Dartford

Since becoming part of the Harvester chain, every element of the pub's original guise has been eroded to the point that there is now not even a sign declaring the pub name. The interior has been extensively refurbished and will satisfy the demands of designer decor fans but traditionalists will rue the lack of any original features or character. The pub is divided by sevral wooden screens that look like they have come straight from the B&Q timber yard and the overall colour scheme and modern prints lean more towards a trendy art gallery than a cosy pub. The beer selection is disappointing with no Real Ales on offer. Food is obviously the usual Harvester restaurant range which geneally means good value and plentiful portions. Being a family orientated restaurant, you an expect hordes of children running around the bar or screaming because they don't like carrots. The bottom line is that it is OK for a meal and Harvester regulars will know what to expect. As a pub though, I wouldn't pay it too much attention.

11 Jun 2006 12:17

The Wheatsheaf, Borough

Youngs pub opposite the historic Borough Market. Situated in an area of exceptionally good quality pubs, the Wheatsheaf offers an unpretentious and basic approach and is certainly not overawed by its more popular and talked about neighbours. The standard Youngs regulars are complemented by a seasonal beer (currently St George Ale - perfect for England World Cup day). A bit pricey but probably on a par for the area. The central bar virtually divides the pub into 2 and the decor is quite plain and bare but in keeping with the atmosphere. Popular with market workers, tourists and office workers and an essential stop for any (highly recommended) pub crawl of the area. Several medium sized plasma screen - ideal for sport (I saw the Sweden v Trinidad match here). Friendly staff and customers - the pub is "Twinned" for want of a better word with the regular Top 40 pub The Bell in Bush Lane near Cannon Street. There is a small if unspectacular courtyard at the back a regular overspill into the street outside when busy or sunny.

11 Jun 2006 12:04

Hostinec U Cerneho Vola, Prague

I will bow to your admission of fairness, truthfulness and literary skills. Not sure why the rating is now 8.8 from 8 people now though! I may have actually been here - I have done many a bar in Prague but it was in the days before I even contemplated doing pub reviews and I can't now be certain of exactly which bars I went in. Now the mighty Spurs are back in Europe where they belong, there is a possibility of coming up against one of Pragues finest and if so, it will give me a good excuse to check out this place and offer my own humble opinion.

24 Apr 2006 10:17

Hostinec U Cerneho Vola, Prague

I am not doubting any of Stonch's comments regarding the quality of this establishment but it does seem strange that such an obscure place receives 9 consecutive 10/10 ratings in a short space of time and yet only 1 person leaves a review. If I rated a pub 10/10 I would certainly want to leave a few comments. This rather smacks of collusion to have some influence on the Top 40 listing. Please tell me I'm wrong.

21 Apr 2006 16:45

Expectations, Rochester

The Dickens connections in Rochester are hardly subtle and Expectations is just about the biggest cash in going on the High Street. Well situated to attract visitors to the castle, one should not be fooled into thinking that Dickens would even have considered having a pint here. Very much a tourist trap with the main area more suited to cream teas. There is a smaller public bar area with a more of a local’s feel but is really quite old fashioned with its dull, outdated wallpaper and 60’s fireplace. The only features that did stand out were the tiled tables – most unusual. The only Ale was unavailable on our visit – the remaining choice was the usual bland standard selection of keg beer and lagers. Only worth going into if everywhere else is packed.

16 Apr 2006 19:37

The Kings Head, Rochester

From the outside, the Kings Head is an inviting old building and being situated on the medieval High Street is very accessible. The interior however is rather disappointing and rather tacky with cheap England flags immediately drawing the attention. Whilst mainly geared towards a football watching customer base, there are also Folk nights, quiz nights and a Sunday carvery. Bar appears too small for the pub but there is another bar in a sort of side annex. Speckled Hen and Flowers were the Real Ale options when I was there. Nice little beamed ceiling, pool-room at the rear with a few old photos although you need to be a contortionist to play some shots. Another Rochester pub that is decent enough but best as part of a pub-crawl unless you intend to catch a match.

16 Apr 2006 19:23

The Jolly Knight, Rochester

If there is an air of familiarity between this and Ye Arrow round the corner, do not be surprised. This is the only example I know of 2 different pubs in 2 different streets sharing the same beer cellar (I am sure someone will come up with another example). The Jolly Knight is however little more than a refurbished medieval theme pub and very plastic at that. Very little of the interior or décor is convincing: Coats of Arms, suits of armour and a stags head over the fireplace may satisfy the tourists but personally I would prefer to see a bit more originality. The fireplace contains modern brickwork, the walls are mock Tudor and the furniture far to comfortable to believe that Ye Jolly Knights Of Olde would come here for a few flagons. On the plus side, there is an good range of decent beers – Masterbrew, Bombardier, Directors, Courage Best, and Ruddles County and very friendly staff (even the Arsenal fan). 2 plasma screens on the wall for the archery, I mean football. Good for part of a pub-crawl but on its own, only worth a quick pint or two.

16 Apr 2006 19:10

The Newton Arms, Holborn

Modern ground floor office block pub that would not look out of place on a council estate. The interior is, at best, boring and uninteresting but there is something about its no nonsense approach that is strangely acceptable. It does offer a decent, cheap but basic meal and a good view of the footy on one of the 2 large plasma screens. They also serve a good pint of Adnams although the beer range is as standard and bland as the pub. Little in the way of character but very functional.

14 Apr 2006 20:22

The George, Soho

The George is a typical late Victorian, single room pub in the depths of Soho. Rather awkwardly laid out with a fruit machine almost blocking the one door and a generous amount of space behind the bar given the size of the pub. 2 ales but the pumps are rather strangely situated at opposite ends of the bar and you cannot tell what they are without asking or fighting your way around the bar to look (Courage Best and Bombardier is the answer). Quite airy with plenty of windows, bare floors, basic furniture and 3 TVs (a bit excessive for a pub this size), however the best features are probably the old mirrors advertising Friary Meux (remember them) beers and Mineral Water. Nothing specifically wrong with the pub but there is not really enough to warrant going out of the way for and is probably best as part of a crawl or a meeting place.

10 Apr 2006 19:00

The Cambridge, Soho

This is one of those pubs I have walked past a million times but rarely entered. Part of the Nicholsons chain and recently undergone a hefty refurbishment. Fairly small pub in a very busy area but there is an upstairs bar to take the overflow if necessary. Plenty of old London prints going up the stairs. Main bar has a very intricate ceiling and a few brass chandeliers. 3 regular ales (Bombardier, London Pride & Young’s Best) supplemented by a guest beer (Landlord at the time of writing) and an extensive range of continental lagers including Starpramen, Amstel, 1664 and Stella. For the uninitiated beer drinker, they do a “try before you buy” deal (I have now come across this in a couple of Nicholson’s pubs) and label them with a description. Quite civilised for a pub on such a busy tourist junction.

10 Apr 2006 18:59

The Coopers Arms, Rochester

Very picturesque weatherboarded Ye Olde Worlde pub just a few minute stroll from the main tourist area of Rochester. I’m not sure exactly how old this pub is but there is a list on the wall of all the innkeepers since 1549. The interior retains many of the characteristics for a pub of its age: low beamed ceilings, bare brickwork, timbered supports, old fireplaces, stoves etc. Well kept beers Courage Best & Directors - there may have been more the other side of the bar. Excellent food. It can be very popular so get in early for a seat. Good beer garden for summer months. Highly recommended.

10 Apr 2006 18:44

The Cheshire Cheese, Temple

Not to be confused with the famous Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese a few hundred yards away, this delightfully enticing corner pub tucked away down the back streets has a charm all of its own. Run by a very welcoming and approachable Irishman, the pub has a bit of an Irish feel but does not fall into any trashy theme pub category. Once inside, your mind is transported into a country pub atmosphere a million miles away from the rush of the nearby Strand. The single room carpeted main bar has plenty of oak paneling and latticed windows with displays of plates, police badges, cheese dishes and a few stein hanging from the rafters. There is a wide if rather unadventurous selection of beers : Courage Best, Directors, Bombardier and Adnams with Wadworth IPA providing the only relatively uncommon pint on my last visit. Fosters, John Smiths, Strongbow and Guinness make up the rest of the beer taps. Food is limited but very reasonably priced with main courses between £4-£7. Small TV but that is all that is really needed here. There is also a downstairs bar that I have not ventured this far. Well worth the effort to find if you are looking for a decent civilized pint but seating is limited and it can get full very easily.

10 Apr 2006 15:33

The Tipperary, Fleet Street

This rather quaint little Irish pub has been around for 400 years. Situated on Fleet Street it generally attracts local workers and appears to be overlooked by tourists in favour of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese almost opposite. Originally called the Boares Head, the pub’s main claim to fame is that it was the first Irish theme pub outside of the emerald isle and was the first pub outside of Ireland to sell Guiness. The interior is very narrow with barely room for anything but a few stools at the bar and a ledge along the wall opposite. The paneled walls are adorned with large advertising mirrors and old photos and the floor contains a fine shamrock mosaic. The old clock above the bar is a replica of one that was stolen some time ago. Being another Greene King acquisition, the beer selection is not very inspiring (the ubiquitous IPA and Abbot) but I suppose one should really go for the Guiness here. There is an equally narrow upstairs bar – the Boares Head bar, the pub’s original name. Despite a few minor shortcomings this remains one of my favourite pubs in the area.

10 Apr 2006 15:07

The Devereux, Temple

Been in here a few times now and whilst the pub is comfortable and pleasant enough, it does come across as a bit “pub-by-numbers”. The history on the wall outside informs us that the building dates from 1676 and, like many pubs, it was previously a coffee house. There is little of historical interest in the L shaped bar and the interior is rather typical and, dare I say it, a bit reminiscent of a Wetherspoons. A few screens and partitions offer a few intimate areas and there is a widescreen TV for sport. I have not tried the upstairs bar. There is a decent range of Ales including the Greene King triple whammy of Abbot, IPA and Speckled Hen along with 2 guest Ales (Youngs and Batemans XXXB when I was there last week). The food looked pretty decent but was a rather typical and unadventurous selection (Fish & Chips, Pasta’s, Burgers, Ham & Eggs, Chickin Tikka). With main courses between £5-7, the prices are pretty reasonable for this area. Overall, nothing particularly wrong with the pub and with 4 pubs within 100 yards, this area of back streets makes a good night’s drinking but the pub itself comes over as a bit devoid of its own character.

10 Apr 2006 13:40

The Crown, Bloomsbury

A Sam Smiths pub so it’s good or bad depending on your tastes. I have no problem with Sam Smiths products and it makes a change from the usual formulaic beers of the other chains. They have no hand pump bitters here although the cask version of the Old Brewery bitter I always find perfectly drinkable and often wonder if there is any difference between them. 3 separate drinking areas partitioned by wooden screens. Not a very big pub and can get very busy at peak times but there is an outside drinking area when the weather permits and this makes a handy overspill. A few old pictures and cartoons on the walls alongside a clock purloined from Paddington station and some nice old traditional tiling on the exterior but overall, not a particularly interesting establishment, especially by Sam Smith’s standards.

9 Apr 2006 23:57

The Rising Sun, Eltham

Wonderfully well-preserved example of a late Victorian pub situated at the end of the high street. Mosaic entrance lobby, central traditional style horseshoe bar, etched windows, large ornate mirrors, fireplace, snug screens and some interesting displays of shells and swords (I just hope they are securely nailed to the wall!). The modern till, piped music and fruit machines are the main concessions to the present day. The rather standard selection of beers (Green King IPA and Abbott) is probably the biggest disappointment but then again, very few pubs in the area have any Real Ale selection at all. It can also get a bit smoky but this will gladly become a thing of the past from next year. Friendly staff. Pubs like this are now hard to find as intact as this and it is well worth popping in if you are in the area.

9 Apr 2006 20:07

Tudor Barn Eltham, Eltham

What a waste of a fantastic building. Dating from 1568, the pub from the outside is as enticing as the name suggests. The interior is however a major disappointment. Obviously undergone several refurbishments and these have done little to retain the buildings character. Much of the original brickwork has been crudely overpainted, none of the timber beams or flooring appears to be very original and modern radiators, prominent widescreen TV, fruit machines and other modern fittings rather destroy any notion that you are in a building with such history. The drink selection was, along with the local’s vocabulary, rather limited. A rather uninspiring choice of 3 ales, all of which were unavailable on my visit, left us with lagers or the ubiquitous John Smiths. Beyond the bar, a large area has been set aside for darts and at the rear is a restaurant area behind a wooden screen. A noticeboard on the wall provides details of upcoming events, special offers, a brief history of the building and even a lost dog. A decent outside drinking area for the summer where the true attributes of the building can be admired.

8 Apr 2006 11:05

The Crown, Eltham

One of the blandest and most uninteresting pubs I have encountered. An England flag and a dartboard are the only features that grabbed my attention. The beer selection was equally uninspiring – standard lager and keg bitters. Seemed friendly enough although it was virtually empty and I can imagine that Friday / Saturday nights it would attract some of Eltham’s biggest meatheads. A pub that’s instantly forgettable from the moment you walk in.

8 Apr 2006 10:19

The Bankers Draft, Eltham

Well, it’s a typical Wetherspoons so that saves me having to describe it in any detail. Formerly a Bank (as the name would suggest) it could well be the smallest Wetherspoons in the country and this is probably its only claim to fame. It may also explain why there is a more limited range of beers than Wetherspoons usually offer although this is still somewhat superior to most of the local competition. Eltham has its fair share of moronic drinkers and it is safe to say you will encounter some of them in here but for a quick pint or a handy meeting place, you could certainly do worse in the area than this.

8 Apr 2006 10:09

The Lass O'Gowrie, Manchester

Since my review I have been contacted by Gareth the owner who has taken some of my comments on board regarding the table layout and "veggie" menu. It's good to see pub management that responds quickly to any constructive criticism and with my adverse comments now addressed, another notch up on the rating is very much merited. Hopefully I can return in the not too distant future to get another fix of the Lass Ale.

7 Apr 2006 09:51

The Narrow Boat, Islington

Returning here after an absence of 4 years, it is hard to believe the transformation of what I always remembered as a bit of a rough and ready pub whose main feature was a pool table taking up most of the main bar. It has now been fully refurbished and, if my memory serves me right, extended (I am sure there was an open terrace at the back where there is now a sort of conservatory and I don’t remember there being a downstairs bar before). It is now a bright and breezy pub with full length glass windows that overlook the canal and the towpath. There are several candlelit window seats to idle away the evening and watch the barges, joggers and dog walkers pass by. Friendly staff serving 3 Real Ales (Adnams, Pride and a rather unseasonal Jack Frost when I visited), cocktails at £2.95, decent looking wine list and a range of teas and coffees – basically, drinks to suit all tastes. Main courses on the menu range between £6-£11 (can’t remember any specific details and didn’t notice anyone eating to comment more). Decent sized plasma TV. I am generally not a fan of pubs trying to be too trendy but the Narrow Boat’s transformation is quite refreshing and tastefully done. It is universally appealing enough for almost anyone to have a pleasant evening and is far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the trendy bars that have sprung up in the Islington area to be worth making the effort to find.

6 Apr 2006 13:42

The Mucky Pup, Angel, Islington

This dog friendly Victorian corner pub seems to have been given a new lease of life thanks to a few bright innovative ideas. True, the Real Ale selection is a little limited (Green King IPA and Eden Ale) and the 16 specialist bottled beers come at a price – between £3.50 and £4.90 a bottle. I'll take Stonch's word for selection - he seems to be an expert in this field. The Hot Rocks food is served on a preheated granite plate that continues to cook the food as you eat it and prices look quite reasonable for something a bit novel. Unfortunately no-one was eating while I was there so I cannot comment too much but I personally would like to give it a go. I too did not see any dogs but it was early in the evening and rather lacked any atmosphere at that time. The main bar is a bit of a mix with bare floors, heavily overpainted wood paneling, a mixture of seating styles, unused fireplace, juke box, TV and a rather strange sculpture in the corner. I also agree that the food banners are a bit "in your face". There is a separate pool/darts room and also an outside courtyard. Quiz nights on Wednesday. The pub may not be to everyone’s taste but credit must given for trying something a bit different and it is well worth seeking out or popping in whilst taking the dog for a walk.

5 Apr 2006 16:13

The Old Bell, Fleet Street

Good bloke Christopher Wren. While his builders and masons were slaving away building his churches, he had the great idea of building them a few pubs to relax in after work. 3 of his pubs remain in the area of which the Old Bell is one. Built in 1670 on the site of a previous pub destroyed in the Fire of London, it has been serving the local workers ever since although the builders eventually gave way to the Press men and today it is the haunt of office workers and tourists. The small area to the left of the entrance was originally the off licence and is probably the pubs best feature. The sun streaming through the stained glass windows is one of the more spectacular pub sights in London. The main bar area is rather cramped, the central bar taking up far too much room and squashing all the punters into a narrow area around the sides of the pub. The pub doesn’t actually feel very old, probably the result of various refurbishments over the years and apart from the fireplace, very few original features are apparent. The back of the pub opens up to the courtyard of St Brides Church, a rather tranquil spot in contrast to the hustle and bustle of Fleet Street. Now part of the Nicholsons chain (the pub that is, not the church), the fare includes 3 Real Ales (Landlord, Pride and Young’s Best) and the usual pub grub menu at reasonable prices. The pub gets busy very early and seating is limited. Certainly one of the most historic pubs in London and well worth a visit, although some may find the main bar lacking any real character for a pub this old.

5 Apr 2006 10:43

The King and Keys, Fleet Street

Fairly small and, in places, cramped L shaped pub. Pleasant enough decor but little to make it stand out feature wise other than the impressive mosaic floor. Some of the seating is best left to people of Twiggy proportions especially the small built in tables for 2 opposite the bar. Lounge type area at the rear with coffee tables but rather uncomfortable for tall people. Prices are hefty to say the least. When we queried the price (£4.85 for a pint of Landlord and a bottle of water – the water being £1.95 alone) we were rather patronizingly told it was city prices. Being no stranger to the City and having spent the evening in 6 pubs in the immediate vicinity (not including the Sam Smiths / Wetherspoons cheapo pubs) I can only assume that the City of London now starts and ends at 142 Fleet Street because everywhere else was at least 10% cheaper. I have no problem paying OTT prices for somewhere exceptional but this pub is very ordinary and to cap it all 2 of the 3 ales were unavailable. Overall we left with a rather poor impression of the pub and the staff.

5 Apr 2006 09:55

The Lyceum, Strand

They have removed the landmark barrell clock from the exterior - I hope this will be put back as it is a good pointer that I use for anyone trying to find my office along the road opposite!

4 Apr 2006 16:53

The Lass O'Gowrie, Manchester

I have noticed this pub several times in various Pub Guides and conveniently found myself in the area. Behind the Victorian tiled façade, the pub opens up into a bit of a mixed bag of styles, 3 or 4 rooms all knocked about leaving a mass of beams, pillars and stripped backed brickwork. I found the interior very badly laid out and it was a struggle to reach the bar even though it was not that busy – far too many tables in the immediate bar area. Away from the bar there are several large tables that create bottlenecks and make moving around the pub almost impossible. Good for watching sport – they have multiple screens and also show Prem Plus games. The main draw here is the beers – at least 5 Real ales including their own Lass Ale brewed in their own brewery (I noted Old Speckled Hen, Black Sheep, Green King IPA and Abbots among the other beers but didn’t notice what they do by way of bottled beers). The bar is surrounded by a dozen or so large empty barrels and there are several informative Manchester Heritage pictures on the walls for those interested in the local area. A reasonable menu but strict veggies beware - they include prawn, chicken and tuna dishes in their vegetarian range. Overall a bit disappointing given its reputation but I did not notice any other decent looking pubs on my walk down Oxford Road to the Academy so I am sure I will be using it again some day.

4 Apr 2006 10:23

The Albion Inn, Clayton Le Moors

Rather uninspiring from the outside, this Canalside pub has been sympathetically refurbished and has a more universal appeal than the exterior suggests. The pub is separated into 3 rooms, the main bar, comfortable without being anything striking, with bare floors, Sky TV and several old pub pictures on the walls, a small lounge bar with big but rather ungainly TV and a pool room. There is also a small outside terrace with some seats overlooking the canal although it must be said the view is not particularly picturesque. 2 decent Ales were on offer (Bank Top Flat Cap and Ring ‘O Bell's Porky’s Pride) alongside the usual array of lagers / cider. I did not notice anything by way of food (contrary to the admittedly out of date Good Pub Guide that led me here in the first place). Not really situated anywhere to attract anyone other than locals but it has a Car Park and makes a decent pre-match pint for anyone going to Accrington Stanley a couple of miles down the road or the Gawthorpe Hall National Trust Property at nearby Padiham.

4 Apr 2006 09:31

Ye Arrow, Rochester

Ye Arrow be housed in an olde building situated in ye medieval part of City. Singularly roomed at grounde level with much civility entailed within surrounding walls. Splendid flagons of Ale are served by kindly wenches and include those from the Master Brewer of Shepherd Neame, The Directors and Best of Courage, a Bombardier and one from the distant County of Ruddles. Good Lords and Ladies shall be correctly attired for there be local byelaw passed by Ye Landlord that shall result in admonishment if the visitor is deemed sartorially insufficient. The wheels of passing pilgrim’s wagon have been plundered and made into ornamental lighting, ye tables appropriated with dining utensils and the battlements of the bar do overgrow of fake hops. Further imbibing may be undertaken in the outer bailey during clement weather. More raucous inns abound in surrounding district and Ye Arrow should be deemed a civilized and tranquil area of solitude and reflection.

28 Mar 2006 14:02

Eagle Tavern, Rochester

Rather uninspiring single room pub situated on the high street. 3 Real Ales - Bombardier, Speckled Hen and Young’s Special but didn't taste too good. A colleague complained that lagers were a bit warm. Beer Garden looked OK with good views of part of the old City Walls and drinking outside is probably preferable to sitting in the rather boring interior. Apart from a few local pictures on the wall, there is little to divert the attention away from the bare floor, plain windows and hideous cabinet housing the large TV screen that seems to dominate the room. There is a jukebox but volume tends to be a bit high. They do advertise live jazz and this is probably the best time to visit if you have to visit at all. In a delightful city such as Rochester, there are many far better pubs within spewing distance.

27 Mar 2006 16:29

The Lemon Tree, Covent Garden

From the outside, the Lemon Tree ersembles an Irish bar with its blue exterior and bright but not too overpowering interior. The simple single room bar is fairly typical for the West End with a well worn wooden floor, picture windows and, this being Theatreland, several theatrically themed photo’s adorning the wall. The pub is significantly well hidden to avoid the general Covent Garden throngs and doesn’t generally get too uncomfortably packed. The decent enough beers include Adnam’s Broadside and London Pride and it is a pleasure (and a rarity) to find a barmaid who takes care pouring a pint and makes an effort to ensure you do not get short measures. Mainly Thai Cuisine (main meals around £5-£6.50) plus a limited menu of more standard fare (Fish and Chips, Baguettes etc). Sky Sports is shown on widescreen TV above the door, unobtrusive piped music and a single fruit machine. Overall, quite a refreshing pub: traditional but with a bright, airy relaxed feel. Well worth popping into if you want to get away from the crowds.

27 Mar 2006 15:38

The Sussex, Covent Garden

I can empathise with many of the comments below. On the face of it, the Sussex is a reasonably decent pub. Obviously the bar has been entirely rebuilt since the horrific events of ’92 and it must be stressed that the pub is on the ground floor of a rather mundane office block so one should not expect great architecture, vaulted ceilings, ionic columns or grand fireplaces. The interior is predominantly dark with panelled walls and wooden floor with partly decorated chessboard style tiling, a few patterned windows, fireplace, the odd candle, lanterns above the bar, all very pleasant but nothing spectacular. For a Friday lunchtime it was fairly quiet and seemed fairly spacious. 4 rather mainstream Real Ales (Abbot IPA, Young’s bitter, London Pride and Bombardier). The token non smoking area appears somewhat superfluous as smoke will easily waft into this area and the small Wide Screen TV is rather inadequate for a whole pub to watch anything worthwhile. 1 fruit machine. There is also a non-smoking restaurant downstairs (not been there). I cannot speak for the food but my pint was woefully short measured (it is almost as if foreign bar staff are being trained especially for this practice). The prices were steep even by this area’s standards - £2.99 for Bombardier is pretty hefty…then again maybe the barmaid just hasn’t grasped English currency and gave me short change! OK to pop into if passing by and you don't mind baulking the prices but there are plenty of better value and more interesting pubs within spewing distance.

24 Mar 2006 17:00

The Punch And Judy, Covent Garden

My only previous visit was spent in the balcony bar which feels more like a café than a bar. It does offer a splendid panorama of the courtyard below with the chainsaw jugglers and unicycle riders entertaining the masses. I don’t recall the prices being OTT given the area but the beers selection was very uninspiring. Decided to try the downstairs cellar bar at lunchtime and was pleasantly surprised at the surroundings – maybe I am a bit of a sucker for a good dingy cellar for a few beers. Lunchtime is obviously the best time to avoid the crowds (or is the food so bad no-one goes here) and it was surprisingly empty. They also did a couple of Real Ales unlike the balcony bar, albeit a rather mainstream selection (Bombardier and Pride). Unfortunately I never got as far as getting a drink. By doing the decent thing and directing the solitary barmaid to the chap next to me who was, in fairness, first in line to be served, my chances of getting a pint were scuppered as he proceeded to order several meals and drinks in somewhat limited English. With no other staff around I waited until it was obvious I would not get served for an eternity and walked out. The pub is very much a victim of its location but if you go at the right time can be a decent enough place…if you can get served.

23 Mar 2006 15:49

The Essex Serpent, Covent Garden

This is probably one of the most bland and uninteresting pubs in the area. The traditional pub frontage is about the best feature of the pub. The single ground floor bar has lost any character that it may have once had and there is little that catches the eye. The rather ordinary décor is not enhanced by plain mirrors and a couple of blackboards for the menu and wine list, neither of which appear to be particularly stimulating. The beer selection is uninspiring (Pride and Bombardier alongside the usual suspects in the lager / cider stakes). Even the piped music is as dull it can be (Barry Manilow, Wet Wet Wet, Barbra Streisend etc). 2 TV’s and a big screen used mainly for sport. Fruit machines / Quiz machine and a soon to be redundant ciggy machine take up much of the limited wall space. There is an upstairs restaurant but I have never ventured that far. The pub enjoys a prime position right next to Covent Garden market and the area is rampant with tourists and office workers but there is little here to entice them in and surely no-one is dumb enough to be taken in by the “Covent Gardens best kept secret” sign.

23 Mar 2006 15:28

The Sun, Covent Garden

Not to be confused with the Sun Tavern, 300 yards away on Long Acre, this Sun is a far more simplistic establishment with very few thrills or spills. Rather tucked away, far from the crowds, this pub is not very well known (I can find very few mentions of it on any web sites and it appears to have escaped BITE until now). A single room pub with wooden floor, traditional bar frame, basic furnishings, window ledge seating and plain picture windows, it is perhaps the simplicity of the pub that makes it fairly appealing. There are a few interesting old photographs of the Covent Garden market and some of its workers on the walls. It is hard to imagine that you are on the edge of one of London’s premier tourist spots but the Sun acts as an oasis of peace and tranquility when all the other pubs are laden with luvvies and babbling with foreign accents. 3 Real Ales (Flowers, Pride and Deuchers when I was last there). A basic TV (generally showing sport), fruit / quiz machines and unobtrusive but decent piped music. Nothing fancy but it worth a visit just to get away from the crowds.

23 Mar 2006 13:29

Eltham GPO, Eltham

As a Post Office it would have been a useful community building. As a pub it appears to be a gathering place for local undesirables seeking cheap beer, clubby music and unintelligent conversations. There are enough warning signs around advising what not to wear and how to behave and quite frankly if it attracts the sort of people that need to be policed every minute of the day then the pub needs to be given a wide berth. Just in case you do feel it necessary to rub shoulders with some of Elthams dumbest, expect to have your evening monitored on CCTV. Don’t expect any decent beers despite the Cask Marque symbol – the barman advised me that none of the handpumps are used so it’s keg beer and lagers (I never realized how foul Marsdens Pedigree can be as a keg beer), usually at discounted prices so very affordable for the "barely out of school" brigade. It is a bit of a shame because the building is reasonably attractive and has a few features of merit including a decent large fireplace however the owners seem to think that fruit machines are more important than the décor and the over abundance of these money grabbing boxes are enough to satisfy Las Vegas’s most addicted gambler. Not one of the must visit pubs in the area unless you are under 20 and have a limited outlook of what makes a good pub.

22 Mar 2006 16:29

The Litten Tree, Dartford

This place is largely for the illiterate and uneducated who think the term “great beers” stops at a pint of Stella and that the only pre-requisite of being a good barman is to be “fit”. The only good thing about the Litten Tree is that it keeps the morons out of the decent pubs. If anyone knows “anonymous” of the last posting, can they lend him a few commas and full stops. He/she seems to have lost a few.

22 Mar 2006 13:42

The Park Tavern, Eltham

4 years ago, on another pub review website, I wrote that this pub should be avoided at all costs having spent a miserable half hour in drab surroundings trying to escape from the local pub bore who enforced himself into my company. I even suggested that the pub would not look out of place in an episode of Steptoe & Son and certainly did not expect to venture through the doors again. Having discovered the positive comments and high rating (albeit from 2 people) on this site I decided to give it another go along with all the other pubs in Eltham. All I can say is that the Park Tavern has blossomed into a cracking little pub. This is mainly due to the hard work of the amiable landlord who treats the pub as a labour of love and has sympathetically refurbished the whole pub without losing any of its traditional characteristics. The 2 bars are still completely separate – if you want to move between the two you have to go outside and down the alley – a rarity these days of knocked through bars. The small front bar that was so drab 4 years ago has been brought to life with careful refurbishment, traditional trimmings and strategically place plants. I am reliably informed that this bar tends to be a meeting place for horse racing fans during the day. The slightly larger rear bar is crammed with nick-nacks from bugles to bottles, posters, old mirrors, a portrait of the pub and even a mannequin perched precariously over the bar. The walls are part pine and part original brickwork with every nook, cranny and recess being put to some use. There is also a well positioned big screen. The beers are fairly mainstream apart from 1 revolving local guest beer provided by the Millis Brewery of Erith with whom the boss has a good relationship (apparently they have made a beer especially for him). Expect to see one of Dartford Wobbler, Kentish Red, Gravesend Guzzler or Thieves and Fakirs on offer – it is a shame that there isn’t enough room for them all but it is always a delight to find a pub that supports the local independent brewers. The images of my previous visit have been well and truly buried and I can only endorse the current 8/10 rating. All I need now is an excuse to go to Eltham more often.

22 Mar 2006 13:19

Ye Olde Greyhound, Eltham

This is currently closed and boarded up. Looking at the previous comments, many will say this is not a bad thing. My only previous experience of this pub was on a Sunday evening 4 years ago when it was full of undesirables singing excruciating bad karaoke. Obviously things never improved.

22 Mar 2006 11:53

Hops!, Covent Garden

Close to Covent Garden and all the pros and cons that go with it, Hops finds itself tucked far enough down the side streets not to attract a passing crowd. I have passed this place several times and it is rarely busy anmd even today (Friday lunchtime) I only counted 6 people including staff. My only previous visit was about 6 months ago when it was a rather dingy and tatty bar that was more often closed than open. The bar has since undergone a refurbishment, looks much the better for it and now has more accomodating opening hours. It is difficult to make anything aesthetically pleasing out of a place resembling a storeroom that would not look out of place in the basement of an office block but to their credit, I find the basic and simple décor unfussy, not too overbearing and even the maze of air conditioning pipes in the ceiling doesn’t look too out of place. The floors are stripped pine and they make good use of pictures on the plain walls. The main bar is separated by a screen with seating at a ledge. Behind the screen is a raised area with some lounge type seating mixed in with more basic furnishings. There is a big screen used mainly for sport and contrary to the previous (now out of date) posting, the pool table is alive and well. The big downside of this place is the rather bland beer / lager selection. Any pub or bar advertising Carling, Blackthorn and Worthington (amongst others) as Specials needs to have a good look at their marketing strategy, and apart from the Carling (£2.20), the other “special” beers are not exactly Wetherspoon’s prices. They do pitchers if you are in a group or fancy a quick 4 pints on your own. The food menu is again, very limited and unimaginative but fairly cheap (Burgers and fish and chips both £4.95 + sandwiches). Overall they are heading in the right direction but still have a lot of work to if they want to attract a few more punters. Getting in some proper Ales and a more imaginative menu would be the next step before I (and hopefully a few more people) would make more use of it.

17 Mar 2006 16:35

The Marquis of Granby, Cambridge Circus

Was closed for refurbishment when I walked past a couple of days ago.

15 Mar 2006 11:46

The Worlds End, Camden

One of the best known pubs in the area and due to its size and location near the tube station, it makes an ideal meeting place for the many and varied attractions in Camden. The main flag-stoned bar is not part of the original pub but is situated in what appears to have been an old courtyard that has since been glazed over. Along the sides are fake Victorian shop fronts that give the bar an outdoor Dickensian feel. A narrow spiral staircase leads to a balcony above the bar with a few tables and offering a birds eye view of the hordes below. There is quite a selection of lagers of varying strengths, keg bitters, Blackthorn cider and 2 Real Ales (Bombardier - a bit off - and Directors - tasted fine) - prices are average for the area. Branching off the main bar are dining rooms and other bars that were part of the original pub. This being Camden, expect a good proportion of Goths, Punks, Metalheads and general weirdos but in all my visits I have never seen any trouble or had any hassle. I have also yet to spend any time in here without hearing a Doors track being belted out of the speakers. Down in the basement is the excellent Underworld live music venue hosting mainly punk, metal and indie bands. The Worlds End may have its faults and detractors but for me it is an integral part of the Camden scene and the area would be a lot worse off without it.

14 Mar 2006 13:37

The Eagle, Hoxton

I didn't realise this place had already been "Stonched". You're quite right - it's not really an out and out gastropub but then it can't really be categorised as a full blooded pub or a wine bar. It's a bit of a mix of all 3 and difficult to pigeonhole. I was a bit miffed that I was the 10th rating and unwittingly sent it temporarily flying to No 1 in the Top 40 but fortunately it has now come down a couple of pegs.

12 Mar 2006 18:51

The Eagle, Hoxton

I popped in here a couple of times a few years ago when I had to walk past on Tube Strike days. I remembered it as a pretty decent pub displaying all the merits that go with a traditional Victorian local’s pub. Went in here this week for an “emergency” pint whilst passing by and found the place has been gastrocised although to be fair, the transformation has at least been done sympathetically. The decorative pillars still remain and whilst not being a fan of gastropubs, the Eagle has at least retained some of its old charm. Dim lighting gives the pub a intimate feel and there a mixed style of seating to suit both drinkers and diners. Not sure about the hanging fairy lights though or the “dentists chair” by the door. 3 Real Ales including Batemans XXXXB. My main gripe would be the lack of attention from the staff – apart from giving my wife a sparkling water instead of still (rather grumpily replaced), my elbow was positively sticking to the bar every time I leant on it and the toilets were awash with what I hope was water. The main claim to fame is of course its mention in the Pop Goes The weasel nursery rhyme and will always therefore have a place in London pub history. These days it is not my cup of tea but if you are into gastropubs, this is probably fairly decent choice.

10 Mar 2006 16:28

The Camden Eye, Camden

If ever they need to do a remake of Night of the Zombies, they could do far worse than cast the regulars of the Halfway House. When a pub in Camden is empty, you know it must be bad. On the face of it, this could be a decent enough boozer with its ideal location in the middle of Camden next to the Tube Station, handy for the market, the High Street and the various music venues. Its single bare floored bar offers no thrills and the beer was surprisingly well kept albeit not too adventurous (the Bombardier was in far better shape than the Worlds End opposite). The big downside is the customer base. Camden has its fair share of dropouts, down and outs, druggies and weirdos and they all seem to use the Halfway House as their local. Pretty much everyone I have encountered in here has either been stoned out of their minds, compulsive gamblers, plain drunk or all three. Even the barmaid didn’t seem to be all there although she was pleasant enough. I didn’t encounter any violence or particular nastiness but the atmosphere is quite intimidating, even when there are only a handful of punters present. If you could clear out the rabble, introduce some more sympathetic furnishings and insert a decent management team, this place could be a winner. As things stands, it is definitely one to pass by for the time being.

9 Mar 2006 10:58

The Rose, Dartford

The presence of the big fella and his darts trophies cannot disguise the fact that this is a rather dull and ordinary pub, even by Dartford’s standards. If you want to hang out with the boys, watch football, play pool and exercise your limited vocabulary, the Rose will be right up your street. No great choice at the bar – standard lagers and keg bitters make a rather unimaginative selection. The only redeeming feature is the decent sized and well kept beer garden. The boss may be a big hitter at the dartboard but the pub doesn’t score too many bullseyes.

8 Mar 2006 10:25

The Brackenbury, Shepherds Bush

The Brackenbury Arms (formerly the Wheatsheaf) is a pretty good example of pub hell. A characterless, featureless, modernised pub with keg beers, hollow atmosphere, bland décor, rubbish music and just when you think it can’t get any worse, 2 screaming 6 year olds messing around on the pool table. The highlight of the week appears to be a karaoke evening. Say no more.

8 Mar 2006 10:05

The Coach and Horses, Covent Garden

Despite being situated in the heart of tourist theatre land, the C&H still manages to retain its “locals” feel. Behind the floral laden façade and Watney Combe Reid windows is a surprisingly small, single room, carpeted pub with Irish connections and barely enough room to gyrate the proverbial feline. Just 1 table is all that can be squeezed in and if you cannot blag a seat here then it is stools at the shelf only. The traditional style bar is bedecked with various urns and ornaments and is surprisingly well stocked with bottles and optics filling every available nook and cranny. The beer and food selection is fairly standard (Pedigree and Courage Best for the Real Ale fans) but the beer was well kept and food (sandwiches (£5 hot / £3/4 cold) and ploughmans (£4.75) did look very good although I didn’t try any. Plenty of pictures and a quite impressive Coach and Horses etched mirror. Basically a no thrills pub without any great features to make it stand out from the competition but if you have time to kill and are passing by, it is certainly worth popping into if it is not too crowded

7 Mar 2006 15:03

The Goldhawk, Shepherds Bush

In an area not known for great pubs, you could do a lot worse than the Goldhawk. Despite numerous apparent makeovers there is still some character left. The spacious, truncated U shaped bar has bare floors, dim lighting, a mixed style of seating and is partly non-smoking. The décor is also a mixed bag with modern art and leopard skin (effect) light shades but somehow, the clash of styles and furniture all seems to work. The beer selection was not too impressive – Youngs Special (at £2.70) was the only Real Ale and was interestingly served in an old fashioned dimpled pint mug. The wine list and food menu looked fine with main courses between £7 and £10. There are also some tables outside if you want to take in the traffic fumes of the Goldhawk Road.

1 Mar 2006 13:50

The Crown and Sceptre, Shepherds Bush

This rather secluded, typical Victorian corner pub has been converted into a sort of gastropub although it is hard to see exactly what sort of customer they are aiming for. Originally 2 or 3 rooms but now knocked into one large open plan bar interrupted by the occasional roof support. Overall, the interior is a bit drab and dull with dated décor and lighting. Some of the padded seats have also seen better days. They have table football but I did not notice any fruit machines or quiz machines. There is a wide screen TV tucked away in a cubby hole and unobtrusive piped music. A fairly standard drink range although they did have the Japanese beer Kirin Ichiban. The only Real Ale I noted was London Pride though it was a good pint and poured with great care by the attentive barmaid. There was a decent wine list and the menu included such delights as Ostrich Steaks, Red Snapper and Wild Boar with main courses priced from £9 - £12. The candles on the tables are always a nice touch but the photocopied menus left lying around on cheap clipboards make the place look a bit down-market. I can’t help thinking that if I wanted to have a decent meal out I would want to eat in somewhere a bit smarter than this. Being so tucked away means there will be very little passing trade and the pub is not really close enough to any of the local attractions (QPR, Empire etc) to be of much use to anyone other than the locals.

1 Mar 2006 13:30

The Dolphin Tavern, Bloomsbury

A small, wedged shaped, single room pub set slightly back from the Theobolds Road in a fairly village type setting. The interior is quite cosy with a well trodden carpet and small snug like seated areas. There are a few high stools along the extended window ledge separated by small screens giving one an intimate view of the passers by although the general view is of a rather unimpressive office block. The walls and ceiling house a varied collection of plates, pots, pans, pitchers, bottles, urns, books, lanterns and taking pride of place above the bar, a vintage camera. It is also, one of those rare patriotic pubs that still displays a picture of HM (Alf Garnett would be very impressed). Reasonable priced but rather mainstream selection of beers (London Pride, Youngs Best and 1 other - off when I visited) and usual lagers / cider. Pride did not taste that great on my visit (was better in the Enterprise across the road). TV, fruity and ciggy machine, piped music. Friendly service and, all things considered, quite a pleasant find.

27 Feb 2006 16:33

The Anchor and Hope, Charlton

The Anchor & Hope is a bit off the beaten track but worth the extra effort to pay a visit, especially given the lack of decent pubs in the area. The riverside location is its strongest selling point and there is a reasonable sized patio with benches and purpose built BBQ right next to the river where you can sit and watch the boats go by. The interior is L shaped and divided into 2 areas, the partly mock Tudor “Doubles” bar and through an arch in what was probably an old pool room, a more luxurious sofa lounge. As you would expect, the pub is nautically themed with boat pictures, model ships, maps of the Thames and bridge equipment (wheels, telegraphs etc) and even the pillars look like old ship masts. There is a big screen TV, a couple of “fruitys”, and either a quiz machine or cash machine (couldn’t quite see), and somewhat novel in today’s day and age, a pay phone. The biggest disappointment is the beers - no Real Ales, although there are 2 hand-pumps, and just mainstream Lagers / Cider. To somewhat offset this, you can only marvel at the impressive display of snacks, nuts, crisps, olives etc. As the pub is only known to locals and more adventurous Charlton fans, it doesn’t get as packed as some of the other pubs in the area on match day. This is probably the only pub in the area worth making a specific effort to visit and would make a decent summer evening out but would be so much better if it offered some decent beers.

27 Feb 2006 12:24

The Lyceum, Strand

Has been closed for the past few weeks and is undergoing a major refurbishment. Nothing outside to say when it expects to reopen. I will keep an eye on the place.

24 Feb 2006 13:07

The Horse And Groom, Charlton

I didn’t spend long in here but long enough to note that this really is a pretty awful pub (I had been forewarned not to expect much). Unimaginative, plain, cheap décor with Venetian blinds on the windows and probably the ugliest bar surround I’ve ever seen – the canopy is so low that ordering a pint is like looking through a letter box opening. Standard beers (no ales), android bar staff, some of whom don’t look old enough to drink in pubs let alone work in them. Devoid of any meritable features although it was hard to see much owing to the masses crowded in here prior to a Charlton game. The only positive thing I can say is that at least we did get served reasonably quickly given the crowds but to be honest, the only excuse to go back here would be to remind myself how dull this place is!

9 Feb 2006 15:30

The White Swan, Charlton

A traditional looking pub in Charlton Village and unsurprisingly crowded before Charlton matches. The smell of paint suggests that they are currently doing something to make the place a bit smarter and they probably have their work cut out. The public bar has a Pool table and vast expanses of plain walls interrupted by the occasional poster and a large panorama photo of The Valley. It all looks very cheap, unimaginative and dated which is a shame because there are some interesting features, namely the division screens and the stained glass Swans in the windows. The lounge bar is long and narrow and can be a bottleneck when busy. The rather unimaginative beer selection did include 2 ales and despite being packed the service was good and prompt. There were several away fans (if you can call Cockney Scousers away fans) and no problems. In fact the most unsavoury characters were not the football fans but the alcoholic bunch congregating around the bar where they had probably been all day. Not really a pub to visit by choice but I have been in a lot worse.

9 Feb 2006 10:26

The Bugle Horn, Charlton

Been in here a couple of times prior to Charlton games but match day is probably not representative of its normal atmosphere. Service can be slow when busy (I was overlooked several times before eventually being served) but they were quick to offer a fresh pint when a cloudy Bombardier came out the barrel. Outside of match day, this is probably the most attractive of the pubs in the Charlton area with its mock Tudor décor and country pub ambience and one of the few that I would chose to spend some time in, just as long as the “This is a Charlton / Millwall (delete as appropriate) pub” brigade have a night off and Handgun Harry stays locked up.

9 Feb 2006 10:11

The Valley, Charlton

Not the most visually stunning pub you will ever come across. In fact, unless you know it’s here you wouldn’t come across it at all. More functional than fashionable, this concrete block serves the local estate and whilst friendly enough inside when we visited prior to a Charlton match, there really isn’t much here to attract anyone beyond the local neighbourhood. The interior is very dated and unimaginative with modern brickwork, uninspiring decor and plastic flowers to give it that extra touch of cheapness. A small raised area in the corner presumably hosts live entertainment / DJs and there are a couple of large TVs generally tuned to sport including one in a separate pool room area. It is far enough away from the football ground to lose the crowds on match day and this is probably the biggest plus. They offer a disappointing range of standard mainstream beers / lagers and have no ales. I am not sure I would want to be here on a Saturday night given the local area but it does cater for a pre-match pint and any pint is welcome after the steep climb up the hill from the station. There are a few benches on the beer patio (for want of a better word) but not the most attractive vista. The Valley is probably best left for the locals.

9 Feb 2006 09:37

The Antigallican, Charlton

Aesthetically, not the best of pubs but it comes in handy for a pre match drink before Charlton matches (note – it is usually closed after games). They also allow in away fans (strange considering the name of the pub implies that “foreigners” are not welcome) – quite handy as they get dropped off from their coaches virtually opposite the pub. The 2 bars are crammed on match days but there is usually some space to be found in the “ballroom” annex in the main bar. I don’t go there very often but generally find the service pretty good in the circumstances but the beer selection is very limited. The “ballroom” is probably the only feature worth commenting on with a raised dais at either end, skylights and a large if somewhat outdated low tech TV in the corner. I am sure there used to be a couple of pool tables but no sign of them on my recent visit. The pub is very much a “take me as you find me” sort of place and on match days there is at least a bit of atmosphere but generally, not really a place to spend too much time.

7 Feb 2006 13:49

The Willoughby Arms, Kingston Upon Thames

Having done the majority of my drinking apprenticeship in the pubs of Kingston, I was surprised that pub has remained anonymous to me but its occasional visit to our humble Top 40 and some large adverts in the London Drinker guide put me on a mission to partake in their services. From the outside, the pub is a bit disappointing with the windows and doors plastered with notices advertising the forthcoming football matches giving it a bit of a cheapo look. The interior looks much smaller than it does from outside due to the fact that there are several dividing walls. The 2 lounge areas are comfortable enough but animal campaigners should be warned - it looks like the result of a hunting expedition with several “trophys” on display. Above the well stocked bar are many of the certificates that have been awarded for the numerous guest beers, best garden, best drinking pub and so on. The larger sports bar is particularly worthy of attention, almost bordering on a museum. The walls are covered in signed football shirts (and we talking about the biggest names in the sport - Henry, Zidane, Zola, Rooney, Hurst, Davids and Kluivert are among those represented). There is also plenty of rugby and boxing memorabilia on show. There are plenty of seats with barrel tables and well positioned TVs and big screen. The adjoining pool room pays homage to showbiz and you can play pool in the company of Munroe, Bogart and Dean Martin amongst others. There is a real community feel about the place and they have regular live music, beer festivals, pool teams, darts teams and theme nights. Whilst not perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing of joints, they do offer pretty much all you can expect from a pub and praise must be given for their approach and the efforts that have transformed this place from what could otherwise be a rather dull and bland pub.

7 Feb 2006 12:24

The Wych Elm, Kingston Upon Thames

A fairly spacious Fullers pub tucked away in a residential area of Kingston. The pub is divided into a comfy carpeted lounge area and a more basic and spartan public bar. The lounge is neat and tidy with a real fire, piped mainstream music and floral portraits. It is probably a bit too sedate and inoffensive for everyone’s taste, a bit too Radio 2ish if you get the drift and would only really appeal to the more mature drinker. The Public bar has darts and TV for sport and is quite a contrast to the lounge. Good range of Fullers beers (Casque Mark accredited) served by friendly and welcoming staff.

7 Feb 2006 11:09

The Park Tavern, Kingston Upon Thames

This is a good example of what a mundane ordinary pub can achieve with an enthusiastic landlord and a bit of imagination. Situated in a smart residential location and a bit off the beaten track, it is not particularly easy to find. The entrance is via a small beer patio at the front. The interior is U shaped with a central, quite lengthy bar and pew style seating around the edges. There is no real style to the pub but there are enough oddities and interesting nick-nacks to give the place enough character without going over the top. Patriotic pictures of the Queen Mother and God Save the King posters blend in with a selection of brewery clocks, barometers, carved animals, lanterns, bedwarmers and assorted jugs, pots and pans. A deers head acts as a handy hat rack and the fireplaces still contain the old pokers and coal scuttles. A cabinet contains a selection of old international rugby caps and a rugby shirt signed by Rob Andrews and Bill Beaumont. Much is made of the beer selection and with 6 Real Ales including several rotating guest beers, there is little to complain about on this front. One wall of the pub is actually plastered with hundreds of old pump clips. It was fairly quiet on my visit (a Sunday evening) and therefore not smoky. Very much a locals pub but well worth searching out if in the area.

7 Feb 2006 10:53

The Opera House, Tunbridge Wells

The Opera House can hardly be described as a “bog standard” Wetherspoons. I have been in enough Wetherspoons to last a lifetime and I don’t recall too many being located in such opulent surroundings. The building first opened in 1902 and has been used for opera, theatre and as a cinema. The interior has been restored to its finest glory with its ornate boxes and splendid ceiling. The drinking area is in the stalls but for a more unique experience, try sitting on the stage and milk the imaginary applause. It can be argued that turning such a magnificent and historic building into a pub is a rather tasteless example of cultural vandalism and many old performers who have played here in the past would probably turn in their grave to see such a building put to such an uncultured use. Personally I would rather see the place taken over by Wetherspoons than being turned into a carpet warehouse or pound shop. Everyone has a view on Wetherspoons and yes, some of their pubs are located in hideous office blocks with absolutely no character. This cannot be said of the Opera House. I have been here a couple of times, the last time just before Christmas with my wife and 2 friends from New Zealand. We had a great time with decent enough food, good beer and good service in a rather unique setting. As far as I am concerned, the good people of Tunbridge Wells have one of the best Wetherspoons in the country so don’t ignore it just because of its brand name, go in and savour the character of the building. Albatross anyone?

6 Feb 2006 16:35

The Marquis of Granby, Fitzrovia

It had been some years since I have been here although I often walk past so I decided to include it on my Nicholson’s Dick Whittington Ale Trail. Whilst not far from the bustle of Oxford Street, this part of Fitzrovia has a village feel not unlike bits of Hampstead. When quiet the pub has quite a relaxed and calm ambience but I have often seen it in summer with people teeming onto the pavements. The interior is not too overpowering and candles on the tables give the place an intimate touch. The service was excellent from the welcoming and chatty (Aussie) barman. Cask Marque accredited but for a Nicholsons pub the beer selection was quite poor with only 2 mainstream ales. A decent enough pub when quiet but I wouldn’t want to be here fighting through the crowds.

2 Feb 2006 16:20

The Dog and Duck, Soho

This tiny Victorian corner pub can be an absolute treat when it is not too busy but rather unbearable when crammed (as it often is). The bar area is limited with just a few seats at a ledge opposite. The pub is full of very ornate tiling (spot the dog and duck tiles) and a few unusual advertisement mirrors. Away from the bar area is a small room with a few tables but you need to get there early to blag one. There is also an upstairs bar that offers a bit more room and a good view of the surrounding streets for those who like to people watch. Good selection of beers (Nicholsons range) but can be poor service (expect to have to go through a topping up ceremony with the pidgin English bar staff). Whatever the faults, this remains one of my favourite Soho pubs.

2 Feb 2006 15:13

The Kings Arms, Fitzrovia

I found the Kings Arms a bit of a mixed bag. The awkward layout means that some areas are reasonably spacious whilst others are tight squeeze with quite a bottleneck at the bar. At one end of the pub is a partitioned off lounge with comfy sofas whilst the remainder of the pub is a traditional style but rather blandly refurbished. There are a few nice touches such as the old clocks, book shelves and two old fashioned tills that probably started life in the shillings and pence days. They were selling Cumberland Ale when we were there which makes a change from the usual mainstream beers. We had no problems with service and the customer base was pretty civilised. Not worth going too far out of the way for but you could do a lot worse if you are in the area.

2 Feb 2006 14:57

The Kings Arms, Soho

I unwittingly walked in with a friend to discover it was a gay pub and whilst this would not generally concern me, I did find the Kings Arms quite uncomfortable, probably as it had an all male customer base and there were some decidedly shady looking characters among them. The pub itself is fine, a bit dark but not in any way tacky. Good service, decent beer and a good mix of music. If gay pubs are your thing then I guess you could do a lot worse.

2 Feb 2006 13:33

The Rose of Denmark, Charlton

As one of the best pubs in an area bereft of decent drinking holes, we usually frequent the Rose after midweek Charlton matches and generally have no problem (I should explain that I am not a Charlton fan but am usually lucky to be given use of someone else’s ticket for midweek games). Last night we found the pub “closed” but we followed everyone else round to the back entrance. Despite our protests that we do use the pub and waving 3 Charlton season tickets in their face (in case they thought that 2 suited people and an 11 year old kid desperate to use the loo were some king of West Brom terror group) they slammed the door in our face with a curt “I don’t recognise you.” I wonder if we will be recognised when we try again next week after the Liverpool game! Fortunately the Pickwick Arms 100 yards away were far more accommodating. For the record, the Rose is a down to earth, straight forward locals pub with a mainstream no thrills selection of beers / lagers. Good for watching sport. Obviously busy on match days (when open) but service has always been very good. Some seating outside but it is on a busy road and it’s hardly an attractive area. I have never seen any trouble despite away fans being accommodated but something must have happened for them to introduce a “closed after match” policy (unless your face fits). With the Antigallican also closed after games, there are now rather limited options for a post match midweek pint. I am not crass enough to boycott the place for not allowing us in but the attitude did leave a nasty taste.

1 Feb 2006 10:36

The Ship, Soho

I recently revisited this place after an absence of several years. Until the mid 80’s it was handy as a meeting place for the old Marquee Club that was situated a few doors down and along with the proximity of all the major film companies, you could always count on a bit of celebrity spotting. Today it still retains its classic rock angle and can best be described as a more civilised version of the Intrepid Fox further down the road where the music is more suited to extreme tastes in metal. At the Ship expect to hear the likes of Guns N Roses, Kinks and Black Sabbath from the well stocked CD collection behind the bar. One important rule - no dancing (there are signs up just in case you fancied a quick head-bang and the local council will jump on the pub like a ton of bricks if such deplorable behaviour is witnessed!). Instead, watch the sad old rockers of yesteryear (like me) tapping fingers on the bar whilst sampling the good range of Fullers beers like the good mature Real Ale tasters that we have all become (go on - admit it). The pub itself is 3 or 4 rooms knocked through and despite being a reasonable size, does not offer much in the way of seating. There are a few tables towards the rear but unless you are early enough to grab a stool at the bar or along the ledge running down the side of the pub, standing is the order of the day when busy. The carpet, windows and general décor are perhaps looking a bit tired but give the place a lived in, homely sort of feel with plenty of old pictures. If the walls could speak there would be a few good stories about this place (Keith Moon was apparently once a regular) and whilst those days have disappeared (like the Marquee) it is still worth a visit as it does offer something alternate to the so often bland, plastic, clubby bars that are springing up all with alarming frequency.

31 Jan 2006 16:02

The Marquess of Anglesey, Covent Garden

Not too much to shout about here. A rather uninspiring modernized pub aimed more at diners, theatregoers and one off customers. There is a restaurant upstairs yet the main bar is still predominantly geared at eating. There is a rather spartan feel to the pub that consists of 2 largish rooms separated by a large pillar in the middle. Basic furnishings and plain decor contrasted by a few sofas and modern pictures. The best feature is probably the roaring fire at the back of a pub - most welcome on a cold winter day. Decent enough Young’s beers but they come at a price. Winter Warmer was £2.90 and given the previous comments about the lager prices, this must be a candidate for the most expensive pub in the area. With several other pubs close by (2 within 20 yards of the front door) there is no shortage of competition and for me, there just is not enough character about the place to warrant paying over the top for more frequent visits.

27 Jan 2006 16:23

The Intrepid Fox, Soho

Not so much as a pub but a Metalhead Mecca. The normal rules of the planet should be left outside. Here tatty, ugly and broken are seen as positive aspects. Any note taking beardo types looking for Real Ale here will have his head sliced off with a well aimed Korn CD. Here you will have the Sex Pistols and White Zombie overlooking your table but rather perversely I always find the music at a tolerable level - certainly enough level to have a decent conversation. Unless you have a wad of tattoos, a few piercings and haven’t washed your hair for a few weeks, you will feel decidedly out of place. It’s basic, it’s rough, it’s weird, it’s relatively cheap and it’s out of bounds to all but the most ardent metal fan. Do NOT wear a James Blunt T-Shirt in here. There are enough characters to write a book about and don’t expect great service if you look normal. As a pub it leaves a lot to be desired but it’s definitely an institution that must be visited at least once in your life for the experience.

27 Jan 2006 16:21

The Carlisle Arms, Soho

A basic no thrills, single room pub that looks quite attractive from the outside but is less appealing inside. Geared mainly towards to local workers, it can get a bit cramped around the bar and quite smoky when busy. Good prompt bar service. 3 pumps for Real Ale but only 1 (Speckled Hen) was on when I was there. TVs for sport but generally I found the Carlisle Arms to be a friendly but rather plain, unadventurous and featureless pub. There are far more interesting pubs in the area.

27 Jan 2006 16:17

The Three Greyhounds, Soho

The first thing that hits you about this recently renovated mock Tudor pub is that it looks 3 times larger from the outside than it is when you walk in – a sort of reverse Tardis effect. The interior is dimly lit with dark floors and walls. The compactness of the pub makes it quite intimate but they try to use every available bit of space (note the small shelf around the pillar in the middle of the pub). The customer base is largely office workers and the pub comes over as a bit more civilized than most of the others in the area. Part of the Nicholsons chain that seem to be revamping their products as well as their pubs. The Greyhound has an extensive range of changing guest beers (they keep a tally of how many pass through). One novel touch is that all the bitters are all served in old style dimpled tankards. They also do a reasonably priced wine selection and a decent food menu. Given the amount of times I drink in the area I am surprised that I have not been here before but it certainly won’t be long before I return

27 Jan 2006 16:15

Molly Moggs, Soho

This has to be one of London’s smallest pubs. The interior is a bit camp and tacky but not too outrageous. The 2 busts on the wall holding up the ceiling are somewhat eccentric and immediately draw the attention. The ceiling is partly decorated with some old Theatre posters and there are a few jugs hanging from the rafters in between an excessive amount of mirror-balls. Not too much selection on the beer front (and the only Real Ale (Adnams) was off when I was there). Despite its size we managed to get a table and whenever I have walked past, it rarely seems to be packed. It is hard to imagine having live entertainment in such a confined space but they apparently do although drag artists are definitely not up my street! Whilst the pub is welcoming enough and the service fine, there is nothing special to go out of the way for other than its curiosity value. OK for a quick pint if on a crawl.

27 Jan 2006 16:13

The Royal George, Charing Cross Road

Set back from Charing Cross Road, it is quite easy to walk past the Royal George and some would say that’s not a bad thing. Built into a rather nondescript and unattractive building down a rather unwelcoming yard, the pub has little going for it to attract new customers off the street. The interior can best be described as Continental Bar meets Las Vegas - a bit tacky with an over-indulgence in left over Christmas lights and mirror balls making the place look like a seedy strip joint. London Pride is the only bitter (and is hard to spot being tucked away at the end of the bar) but there is a decent selection of continental lagers. The Elvis pinball machine adds to the Vegas feel and there is a widescreen LCD TV (presumably for sport). You certainly do not feel like you are in a London pub and traditionalists should steer clear. It can get packed and service can be very slow (I have walked out of here in the past as it was impossible to get served). There are some seats outside but Goslett Yard is not the most attractive place at the best of times. Basically, not a lot going for it in my book but if you are looking for something other than the typical West End pub, it may have some appeal.

27 Jan 2006 16:11

The Tottenham, Soho

This is the only remaining pub on Oxford Street (there used to be 38) and its proximity to Tottenham Court Road tube station makes it a fine meeting place for a West End jaunt. Personally I find the Tottenham very underrated. A decent enough range of beers including guest ales (a good pint of Old Hooky was on the agenda last night). Reasonable prices (Nicholsons do generally offer good value for money). The main bar is a traditional Victorian style with many interesting and quite lavish features, paintings, mirrors, lamps, tiling and a quite unique ceiling. The 2 LCD Screens look a bit out of place but are well positioned and handy for sport. There is also a less grandiose downstairs “Astoria” bar (note the old picture of what is now the Astoria Theatre in its warehouse days). There is a decent food menu and despite being in one of London’s busiest areas, I have never had any problems with service. The customer base is a mix of office workers, shoppers and tourists and I always find it quite a bubbly atmosphere.

27 Jan 2006 16:09

The Nags Head, Covent Garden

A deceptively large and spacious corner pub barely 30 yards from Covent Garden market, the Nag’s Head is perhaps a bit more “touristy” than some of the other pubs in the area. That is not say it’s not worth a visit, you just need to dodge the rucksacks. The pub is very appealing with many interesting traditional features: stained glass windows, bar frame, etched mirrors, alcoves, dim lighting. The decorative tiled floor around the bar immediately draws the attention. The pub is owned by McMullens brewery so it does offer a change of scenery from the usual Ales although it was a bit pricey compared to other pubs in the area (McMullens Best was £2.80 compared with Youngs Best at £2.35 in the White Lion opposite). Plenty of seating – I managed to get a stool even on a Friday lunchtime although beware of the stools towards the rear of the pub – they are barely 12 inches off the ground and make you feel like a kid at the dinner table.

20 Jan 2006 15:32

The White Lion, Covent Garden

The White Lion is now back in business after a sympathetic refurbishment. Apart from the smell of new varnish and the shine of the wood, it appears pretty much as it was, just a bit fresher and smarter. A small corner pub barely 30 yards from tourist hot spot Covent Garden market, this place has a surprisingly non-tourist feel to it and despite the refurb, still feels like a traditional basic boozer with bare floors and wooden division screens between the tables. Prime seat has to be at the ledge by the front door where the masses of tourists and office workers march by, occasionally stopping to admire (or laugh at) the human statues, buskers and street entertainers. If this is not the best people watching space in the area I don’t know what is. A history of the area is in a frame at the end of the bar and there are a few old prints of the surrounding area on the walls. An impressive coat of arms (presumable the Duke Of Bedford’s who has connections with the area) stands above the doorway to the upstairs Bedford Room (probably answered my own question here). 3 regular ales (IPA £2.60, Young’s Best £2.35 and London Pride £2.45) supplemented by a weekly guest ale (Landlord this week £2.70). They also operate a try before you buy policy which is worth taking up for that extra mouthful. They have a Casque Marque plaque outside that usually guarantees a decent pint. Lagers include Amstel and Starpramen (didn’t note prices). They also do good deals on drink/meal combo’s and are currently advertising a sausage festival. Basic TV is all that I could see entertainment wise. Surprisingly empty for a Friday lunchtime given the hordes passing by. Now it’s back open, it is definitely worth stopping by for a pint or two.

20 Jan 2006 15:03

The Theodore Bullfrog, Charing Cross

It had been a couple of years since I have been to the Bullfrog (I originally remember it as a Berni Inn some years ago). Since I keep hearing good things about the place and I now work 200 yards away I thought I would give it another try as my memories were not particularly favourable. My first attempt 2 days ago resulted in walking straight back as it would have been an adventure of Palin proportions just to get to the bar. Today was a bit more civilized and a straight run to the bar resulted in a decent pint of Bishops Finger. With 3 other Ales (Pride, Abbott & Green King IPA) and a decent and varied selection of lagers / cider (Bell & Compass are you watching), the range on offer is certainly not a problem. The main reason I have never taken to the Bullfrog is that it just appears so tame, monotonous and featureless. In all fairness it is not easy to make something attractive or interesting out of a rather dull and bland, modern building but they have at least tried to make the exterior a bit more welcoming with a few flower displays. The customer base is generally suited office types and bored pub reviewers. There are a couple of basic TV’s and some rather dull background music. The candles on the tables are a nice touch and give the pub an air of intimacy but, for an old git like me, this place is just too modern and characterless. I will give it a decent enough rating (7) as it does have a good beer selection, is obviously popular and does try hard to address its less positive aspects but at the end of the day it just isn’t my sort of place.

19 Jan 2006 14:38

The Courthouse, Dartford

A Young’s pub house in what was (amazingly enough) an old Court House although I understand it also had a spell as a Bank. There is still a lot of character to the building and one can just imagine what sort of interesting cases were dealt with and punishments meted out within these walls over the years. Today’s Court House is a lot more welcoming. The impressive exterior gives way to a more simplistic interior with bare floors and plain furniture. A couple of separate rooms / drinking areas peel away from the main bar area, one of which is a child friendly non smoking room. Typical Young’s beers offered at the usual Town Centre prices. At least 3 TVs including 2 Plasma / LCD and a Big screen - can be popular for big football / rugby matches. Regular Quiz nights and live music also feature. I am not sure if it is still there but on the notice board is a short story featuring several Dartford pub names (and there are plenty to choose from). The Court House has generally been a moron free zone when I have been in there.

19 Jan 2006 13:11

The Harp, Covent Garden

The Harp (formerly the Welsh Harp) is a fairly small pub that can easily be overlooked due to the proximity of at least 4 other pubs / bars within 30 yards. This is probably one of the most homely and civilized pubs in the area with friendly staff and welcoming group of locals. The pub is long, narrow and full of character. Very much a traditional style pub with bare floor, large mirrors, several portraits, brass chandeliers, lamps and stained glass windows at the front (note the harp depicted in the door). Along one side is a ledge with built in tables at the rear. On top of the bar frame are several jugs and urns just asking to be shot at like a fairground stall. Entertainment is minimal with just a basic TV in the corner. There is also a no-smoking room upstairs. The real icing on the cake is the beer. 3 regular ales (Harveys, Black Sheep and Landlord) complimented by 2 ever changing guest ales (a selection of the pump clip-ons can be viewed above the bar). The sausages were very popular although I did not try one. Definitely one of the best pubs in the area for the serious drinker.

19 Jan 2006 09:42

The Bell And Compass, Charing Cross

I have just wasted 90 seconds of my life in visiting the Bell & Compass, time I will never get back. This used to be a dump of a pub called the Griffin until a recent makeover and re-branding. I thought I would give the new look pub a try and can honestly say it was better when it was a dump. The interior suffers from the “just came out of the box” look and is totally soulless and lacking in any character. The only bitter (Marston’s Pedigree) was unavailable, and unless you have pockets of Roman Abramaovic proportions and can afford to pay £3.30 and upwards for trendy continental and Belgian lagers, there is nothing to chose from unless you like Carlsberg. Not even a token keg bitter. I left without even having a drink and I know people who would send me for conselling if they ever found that out. It may appeal to some but the only positive note I can make is that I spent 30 seconds longer in here than the Theodore Bullfrog down the road.

17 Jan 2006 14:39

The Silver Cross, Whitehall

Now that you mention it, smelfungus, I seem to remember going in here many years ago when I was doing a walk from a Ghost Walk book that I have. It was a small narrow pub, certainly nothing like the current incarnation. I should imagine that the ghosts have probably found somewhere better to haunt by now.

ps - I'm not deliberatley following you around but if you see a suspicious character wandering around a pub on his own making indiscreet notes, that'll probably be me!

17 Jan 2006 11:17

The Silver Cross, Whitehall

I have been coming here on and off for a few years now and every time I visit, the place just gets worse. The beer (Adnams) was almost undrinkable on my last visit and my friend even moaned that the Strongbow tasted dodgy (this would suggest the pipes are in need of a good clean). The service is shocking. I was charged an extra £4.75 for a Waldorf Salad when all I asked for was 3 pints and a bottle of water! It then took management intervention and 10 minutes waiting at the bar just to sort it out. The pub itself was probably once a small typical West End pub similar to the Old Shades or Clarence just down the road but in recent years it has obviously undergone major refurbishment with extensions tacked on in a fake traditional style and even the basement has been opened up to optimise the crowds. The result is a rather disjointed, cavernous pub with a very plastic feel about it. Regarding the previous comments regarding tourists, I agree that 50 yards from Trafalgar Square you should expect a large proportion of tourists and personally I have no problem with this, in fact I am delighted they want to be part of our unique experience of pubbing, however, there is a big difference between the tourists who venture in off their own back and the “Optional Excursion To A Traditional London Pub” brigade. The main problem with the Silver Cross is that they reserve massive areas of the pub especially for the tour groups so it is not unusual to struggle finding a seat whilst half the pub is closed off. At some stage of the evening you can expect a 50 strong coach load to march through the pub, fill the reserved seats, eat their fish and chips, sample a ½ pint “beer” and then disappear for the “London at Night Tour” as per the itinery, t-shirt in hand. Given that there are several more pubs of much better quality in the area, I do not envisage stepping foot inside the Silver Cross again.

17 Jan 2006 10:00

Plough, Dartford

First visit back since Christmas and hey, yet another management change. Tonight we have no Strongbow and even the choice of soft drinks seems to have evaporated. Can this place get any worse? Plough - SORT YOURSELF OUT BEFORE THE LOWFIELD STREET REDEVELOPMENT PLAN ENSURES THAT YOU GET DEMOLISHED!!!!!!!!!!!!!

15 Jan 2006 23:46

The Seven Stars, Chancery Lane

One of the oldest (dating from 1602) and probably one of the most cramped pubs in the area. The main bar is very narrow and having seating at the bar leaves very little room to maneuvre in the remaining space. A narrow ledge offers some solace if you want to put your pint down somewhere. There are a couple of small tables but you would need to be there early to nab one. There are 2 rooms to the side of the main bar, one used primarily for dining has a few more tables with their café type tablecloths and the other is quite frankly best avoided unless you like bright purple paint. They have Adnams and a couple of guest beers (Dark Star Solstice and Hophead when I was last there). Prices appear to be slightly higher than the surrounding area but I suppose this is to be expected when the customer base consists largely of professionals – the Royal Courts of Justice are opposite so the pub is used extensively by lawyers, solicitors etc. The walls are adorned with various prints and posters with a legal theme and the almost tatty appearance does lend the pub an air of authenticity. There are some interesting characters among the staff and customers but it is difficult to know what to make of the Seven Stars. It comes well recommended in various guidebooks, the beers are excellent and the food looks good but the pub comes over as very insular and you get the impression that you are either standing in someone’s reserved space or sitting in someone’s chair. It is certainly worth a visit but perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea.

12 Jan 2006 16:43

The Royal Oak, Charlton

I have only ever been here prior to Charlton matches when space is at a premium. Despite being rammed wall to wall, the service is usually very good and there is plenty of space either outside on the street or in the large (if rather unkempt) beer garden. Being about 300 yards from The Valley, the Charlton Athletic connections are obvious and there are several interesting photos of the ground during its many phases alongside various other CAFC related bits and pieces. There are a couple of TVs and fruit machines. I have never seen any trouble and the Charlton supporters are generally very accommodating. It would be interesting to visit on a non match day when the whole place is presumably a lot more civilized. That said, without the crowds it is hard to imagine the Royal Oak as anything particularly special.

12 Jan 2006 12:53

The Crown, Covent Garden

Just when you think you’ve unearthed all the decent pubs tucked away in the back streets of the West End, you walk past another. In fact, I have probably walked past the Crown a dozen times without really noticing it. Situated on Dial Square, it is just far enough away from the bright lights to remain undiscovered by the hordes that throng nearby Covent Garden and Charing Cross Road areas. A fairly small pub established in 1833 with many traditional features including a glazed tile exterior, bar screens, ironwork and some interesting clocks, 2 on the walls by the door and a railway station style clock hanging from the ceiling near the bar. They serve 3 Real Ales alongside the usual array of lager / cider at reasonable prices for the area. The bare floorboard area in the front of the pub has a few stools and there is a partition that leads to a carpeted area with a few tables at the rear. Customer base tends to be office workers and the atmosphere is quite civilised. On the downside, bits of the pub are tatty but this probably adds to the authentic feel. The fireplace is rather wasted and there are a few bare shelves and cabinets that are just asking to filled with bric-a-brac. For the scientifically minded, on the outside of the pub by the doors is a plaque that shows how to convert the sundial in the square from solar time to Greenwich Mean Time although using a watch to tell the time will be a lot quicker and easier. Well worth a visit.

12 Jan 2006 11:50

The Blue Posts, Fitzrovia

Yet another cannon in Sam Smith’s West End armoury offering the usual range of Sam Smiths cheap but like ‘em or not beers. At least they have the Old Brewery Bitter on handpump unlike many other Sam Smith establishments in London. The pub itself is full of character - a single room with bare floors, latticed windows, dim lights and very dark ceilings, paneling and wall coverings. Note also the mosaic floor in the door lobby - it is small features like this that weed out the plastic renovated pubs. There is a dartboard area and a further bar upstairs (not tried it). It can get very busy with office workers after and can be a bit smoky but is worth a visit if you can hack the produce.

12 Jan 2006 10:44

The Spice of Life, Cambridge Circus

Pleasant enough pub but it has a bit of a plastic feel about it and gets very busy. You could almost imagine you were in a Wetherspoons but the “Spice” is actually owned by McMullens brewery which at least means that some unusual beers are on offer and at reasonable prices considering where the pub is. The main area of the pub is spacious with several tables although they get full very early. There is a raised stripped pine floor area with some imaginative tiling where the bar is situated. Service is very good – I was acknowledged by 2 different bar staff while they were busy serving other people. There is a false ceiling with built in lights and extractor fan outlets that contrasts with the chandeliers hanging either side from the original ceiling. Food is basic but looked fairly good when I saw it being brought out. There is a Wide screen TV but it is not really a pub geared for watching TV.

12 Jan 2006 09:52

The Barley Mow, Histon

From the outside, the Barley Mow is a typical country village pub set in a reasonably attractive village. Walk through the door however and expect a bit of a shock. All the original features have been ripped out and replaced by an interior designer’s dream of a dining pub (Thai food appears to be the thing here). The colour scheme, décor and furnishings are a bit overpowering and the interior is totally out of character for the building. The 2 Real Ales (Greene King IPA & Abbots) were both off due to problems with the gas and the barmaid managed to overcharge us for 2 drinks and a packet of crisps. Interestingly, for a pub designed for diners and the more affluent and classier drinker (of which I am not one), they have a pinball machine and advertise live football on their plasma screen. Despite this being a Saturday lunchtime with live FA Cup football on the screen, there was no commentary, instead we had a soundtrack of rather bland music at quite a high volume considering there was no-one else in the pub apart from 2 of us and the barmaid. In the drinking area were a couple of coffee tables with chairs that were far too high to make them practical. There were some benches outside and this is probably the best option (weather permitting) as the pub is far more attractive outside than inside. As I said to my wife when we left, I would rather the place had been a dump (or similar such expression).

12 Jan 2006 09:47

The Red Lion, Histon

Histon is a reasonably sized village with a picturesque green complete with hungry ducks and, more importantly, 5 pubs within a few hundred yards. The Red Lion appears to be the pick of the bunch. There are 2 separate bars leading from a small lobby – the Lounge Bar has several tables, real fire, old wooden pillars and several old advertisements and signs. The ceiling is covered with beer pump clasp labels from the hundreds of guest beers that have passed through. There are usually 6 Real Ales, 3 Belgian beers and a Perry alongside the usual array of lager and ciders. The quieter saloon bar had bare floors, sturdy furniture, an unobtrusive dartboard, 2 widescreen TV’s, fruit machine and a juke box. There is also a vast collection of bottles, ashtrays and pub memorabilia including the old pub sign plus more old signs and advertisements. There is a small patio outside and I understand there is a beer garden but did not see it. There is a basic food menu but this appeared quite pricey in comparison to the drink prices. Despite the mobile phone warnings, I did witness one person taking a call without receiving any hostility (landlord obviously wasn't in). It has pretty much everything you can require of a pub and a universal appeal. Well worth a visit.

12 Jan 2006 09:38

The White Lion, Covent Garden

The White Lion is currently closed whilst undergoing a major refurbishment. I will keep an eye on it!

11 Jan 2006 15:21

The One Tun, Goodge Street

A decent enough Youngs pub situated in the heart of Fitzrovia. Set out in a traditional style with a circular bar, wooden division screens, a few snugs, large mirrors and a few prints. Dart board area at the back and a basic TV for sport (they advertise a big screen but I didn’t see it and it is hard to imagine anywhere practical to have it). Fruit machine / quiz machine. Quiz night on Tuesday. All things considered, a bit bland but decent Youngs beers and pleasant enough for a couple after work.

11 Jan 2006 10:35

The Cambridge Arms, Fitzrovia

A medium sized 1 room pub in the heart of Fitrovia. Whilst there is nothing specifically wrong with the pub, it does come across as a rather bland and uninteresting place to spend an evening. Beer selection is very ordinary (2 ales - IPA & Bombardier). Overall the pub is a bit cavernous with a high ceiling and large arched windows. A pillared beam spans the pub at an odd angle like some kind of viaduct. Behind the bar is a rather ornate clock built in to the surround. Entertainment offered by way of 2 large well positioned plasma screens and a Quiz night on Thursdays. And that is about it. Fine for a quick pint or to meet someone but not worth an evening session.

11 Jan 2006 09:41

Barley Mow, Leicester

Went here before the Leicester v Spurs FA Cup tie (the less said about the match the better). Not a bad pub – unfussy, straight-forward and down to earth. In a city centre full of chain pubs and trendy bars, the Barley Mow is a welcome find - one of the few traditional style pubs that we found in the area. Pretty much empty given that it was an hour before kick off although I was informed that they don’t usually open on Sundays (they were about to close when we left at 6.00). They do a decent pint of Everards and have a couple of guest beers on offer. One extended room with plenty of seating and a few bits of Leicester Tigers memorabilia on the walls. For a pub that obviously caters for a sport crowd there were disappointingly no TVs (or at least none that we could see). We had hoped to catch the end of Burton v Man Utd but it was not to be. They were playing some decent indie / britpop music though! Karaoke nights advertised. Friendly staff (including the informative doorman).

10 Jan 2006 12:16

The Oast House, London Bridge Station

It may be a station bar but I have spent whole evenings in far worse places than the Oast House. It rarely gets busy and service is usually quick. Most people call in for one drink, play the fruit machine and then leave. The high turnover of customers make it an interesting place to people watch. There is a decent selection of Real Ales although it is not unusual for there to be only 1 on at any given time. Prices are reasonably considering it is on the concourse of a main station. The only down side is that there are no toilets and you have to pay to use the station loos. Handy for meeting people before a good crawl of the area (and there are about a dozen good pubs within a 10 minute walk of the station).

6 Jan 2006 16:04

The Rose Inn, Plumstead

The Rose is a basic, no thrills pub in a somewhat ropey area near a large council estate. A wide selection of lagers and a couple of keg bitters are on offer at fairly chap prices but no real ales. There are very few seats or tables in relation to the size of the pub and a large area is taken up by a pool table. Expect the music to be Top 40 / R&B / Club and the volume to go up the later it gets. A sign on the toilet door warns that staff may enter at any time to check up on things so I suspect that some less than legal activities have regularly occurred. They have made an effort to make the place presentable with several pictures etc but this cannot hide the fact that the Rose is not really geared for the casual passer by and I would not recommend going out of your way to visit it.

6 Jan 2006 15:20

The Prince Albert, Plumstead

Given the pubs location on the edge of Plumstead Common, a trip to the "Albert" is somewhat disappointing. A few benches overlook the common and would make for a pleasant evening drink in the summer months but the interior is rather bland, dated and featureless. There is a separate area with a pool table and a wide screen TV for sport. There are 3 real ales (Ruddles County was the only one on - Bombardier and Pedigree were both off) but what really ruins the pub is the chav like behaviour with copious F-words on offer from staff and customers alike. Being discreet is one thing but virtually shouting them across an empty pub is something else. There is potential here but the Old Mill a few doors down offers a far more civilized option.

6 Jan 2006 13:39

The Old Mill, Plumstead

The Old Mill stands out as one of the better pubs in an area where quality pubs are few and far between. Originally a corn mill, they have been serving beer here since 1848 and the original windmill (minus its sails) is still standing behind the pub. The pub itself is a bit tatty from the outside with peeling paint and rotting windows but does retain a certain character. The Inside is L shaped with a fairly modern brick fire being the main feature. What sets the Old Mill apart from the normal bland local boozers is the range of beers (5 Real Ales) and the welcome afforded by the landlord to anyone who walks in through the door. The pub is being steered away from a basic lager den to suit a more mature beer drinking customer base and has met with some success. There is a pool table and a few fruit machines but no TV’s. The Guvnor reliably informs me that the negative aspects mentioned in earlier reviews (including the curtains) will be addressed in due course but he is anxious not to ruin the character of the pub. There are a few benches outside overlooking the common and in the summer the Old Mill would make a pleasant evening session. It is a bit of an effort to get to but there is enough potential to make a visit worthwhile and it will be interesting to see how the pub develops over the coming months

6 Jan 2006 13:07

The Two Brewers, Dartford

Not a pub for tall people. The low beams have claimed many a 6 footer who forgot to duck. Behind the wonderful Victorian green tiled façade lies a typical Kent weather boarded building, probably about 300 years old. The interior was completely renovated about 15 years ago and is now more in keeping with the buildings character than it was previously. There is a pool table, games machines and they regularly show sport. The beers are nothing fancy but are reasonably priced. There is a beer patio out the back but this is usually covered in broken glass and litter. It does, however, have a lovely view of the multi-storey car park. The building is generally very tatty, especially the outside, and this is a real shame because with a bit of care and attention, the Two Brewers could be one of the better pubs in Dartford.

23 Dec 2005 10:37

The Bell, Cannon Street

The Bell claims to be a survivor from the Great Fire of London and whilst it is undoubtedly old, it has undergone several refurbishments. If the first impressions are that it is cramped, note the old building plans on the wall that show the pub divided into even smaller rooms. Most of what can be seen probably dates from the sixties when the previous owner took over. She recently retired and the current incumbents have given the pub a more modern approach with the addition of 2 small plasma screens and even doing a small food menu – unheard of during the previous regime. Some of the old character has now gone - the old “clink, clink, kerching” till has been updated by a faceless plastic bleepy thing and the old bar frame removed. The previously charismatic bar staff who had all been there for the best part of 20 years have been replaced by the ever increasing band of overseas labour and this will no doubt lead to a high turnover of bar staff. One of the Bell's main assets was always the familiar, knowledgeable (and sometimes extremely rude) staff and without them the pub has become a bit faceless. The beers are still top notch but they are among the most expensive I have come across in the City. They do basic food but this place is really for the after work city suits. At least the toilets still resemble a plague pit. The last trains leave the adjacent Cannon Street station around 8.00pm and after this, the pub starts to shuts down, not unlike most of the City. Worth a visit but you will have to battle your way to the bar as it gets crammed to the rafters by 5.00pm. 7/10 23/12

23 Dec 2005 10:15

The Windmill, Dartford

Further to my previous posting, just wanted to say to all the old regulars that I have had just received a Xmas card from Bert & Cynth - both are fine.

22 Dec 2005 13:53

The Greenwich Pensioner, Poplar

Warning. This is a prime example of what could happen to your local if it falls out of popularity and into the wrong hands. From the outside this is a typical traditional Victorian local with a fine façade bedecked with flower arrangements and a beckoning welcome. Indeed, I thought I had found a back street gem in a somewhat bleak part of London as I approached, especially as the only 2 people rating it so far have given it 10/10 each. Inside you will be in for a serious culture shock. This is a cynical designer pub that has had every last drop of its 100 odd year old life and atmosphere removed and shoved down the nearest drain by people who do not seem to care one inch for a building’s past. Heaven knows what the previous regulars must have thought when this place reopened. It is now a kind of modern art deco yuppy pub with designer lighting, cushioned cube seating, glass top coffee table, even designer nibbles (£1 for a packet of designer crisps if you please) and just so you don’t forget where you are, there are business cards neatly arranged on the tables. I am surprised I didn’t get my change on a silver tray. The only feature worth mentioning is the living room mural plastered across one wall (I assume from the previous report that this is a prized piece of art). There is hardly a single original feature left and it is impossible to imagine what the pub looked like before the makeover. Outside it says “Prized Ales”. Inside you will find Fosters, Stella, Guiness and John Smiths - hardly a great selection and none that I would describe as “Prized Ales” by any stretch of the imagination. Other than that it is wine, spirits and cocktails, and this is the customer base that it is obviously aimed at. I don’t mind there being modern, trendy and fashionable bars around but not at the cost of the established local pubs and especially in an area that is somewhat sparse for pubs in the first place. I can only assume that this place was a complete dump beforehand and was forced to close before being turned into this. The moral of the story is if you want a decent pint, don’t be fooled by the exterior and walk on by. Support your local to prevent it becoming designer twaddle like this. 10/10? I don’t think so!

10 Dec 2005 22:02

The Railway, Blackheath

Now I have a thing about railway taverns. Every good station should have a pub next door called the Railway Tavern (or similar). Every commuter should make an effort to go to their Railway Tavern on a Friday after work before trudging home to his nagging wife and screaming kids. The pubs should be basic, smoky and serve a decent pint of cheap Real Ale. They should be largely a male bastion with conversations dominated by weekend football and tales of work journeys. They should not be used for a full evening session, just as an end of week wind down. This brings me to Blackheath’s very own member of the Railway pub fraternity. Having gone through more image and name changes than Prince, Bowie and Puff Daddy combined, they have reverted back to its Railway name. WHY? There is nothing remotely railway like about the place. They have done nothing to encapsulate its setting or past history. No railway pictures, no railway memorabilia, no timetables, no nameplates, no Flying Scostmans or Mallards puffing majestically over viaducts, no railway anything that a Railway pub should have. Probably not even a commuter inside. Instead we have a gloomy, purple walled, modern art gallery aimed at servicing the well heeled Blackheath socialites rather than the poor sods pouring out of London on the overpriced, cattle wagons that stop next door. On the plus side it is has friendly enough staff and does some decent beers (Adnams Broadside, Spitfire + a hefty Belgian beer 6.6%ther when I was there) and whilst I don’t have a problem drinking there if I have to meet someone, the pub is not befitting of a Railway Tavern. Now the Head of Steam at Euston and the Buffet Bar in Stalybridge are different animals altogether. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

8 Dec 2005 09:46

The Rising Sun, Fawkham

An extended 18th century farmhouse style country pub / restaurant handy in pretty village near Brands Hatch. They serve an excellent range of beers including some beers from the local Millis brewery that I have only previously seen at beer festivals (namely Dartford Wobbler and Kentish Red). The comfortable interior consists of 3 rooms with no door separation and a restaurant (didn’t see the menu but their NewYear’s Eve “special” looked quite reasonable. One end of the pub is dominated by a magnificent inglenook fireplace although it is a shame that each section of the pub is similar in décor - it would be nice to have a bit of flagstone floor to compliment the older original features and brickwork on show. Some of the modern extended parts of the pub look a bit out of character. Very friendly and welcoming barmaid on our visit. Well worth checking out for its beer selection and possibly making an evening meal of it.

5 Dec 2005 10:33

The Shakespeare's Head, Holborn

The Shakespeare’s Head is a rather faceless, featureless and soulless example of a Wetherspoons. The spacious pub is very dim inside and lacks any intimacy. The large seating area is quite dull and apart from a few wooden screen divisions with etched glass, there is little that catches the eye. I am not sure what the Shakespeare connection is but a few pictures of scenes from his plays is all there is to pay homage to the man after whom the pub is named. There is a non smoking family area at the back. The prices are the slightly higher central London JD prices which are very still good value and there is a good selection of well kept ales. Good service - even when busy you rarely have to wait and the customer base is mainly office workers as opposed to the usual down and outs. Worth going to for the beer choice but don’t expect anything too exciting or grand with regard to the interior.

2 Dec 2005 15:12

Old Bank, Southport

A dreadful waste of what was probably once a fine and majestic building. It is now a soulless cavern with a limited range of overpriced lagers and keg beers. Large screen and plasma TV’s for sport but obviously geared toward the late night clubbers. I can picture the scene at 10 o’clock when the place turns to a meat market and heaves with the local chavs, screaming their limited vocabulary above a pounding bass beat. Definitely not for me.

30 Nov 2005 22:09

The Bulls Head, Clotton

Situated in a small village on the A51 between Nantwich and Chester, it is hard to see where they get any customers from apart from passing traffic. A traditional old farmhouse style building, the pub has been extended but has very little character. The one stand out feature is a wonderful fireplace but this is rather ruined by having an ugly TV set placed in it. The walls are quite bare and there is too much flagstone floor on show. Friendly staff but the locals were a bit coarse. Only one hand pump and this didn’t have the advertised brew! Good for a loo stop but not a night out.

30 Nov 2005 21:53

The Plough Inn, Lathom

A typical extended country farmhouse that is more of a dining pub. The pub part is fairly small and whilst cosy it does not stand out for any particular reason. Decent enough beers and TV but it was fairly quiet when I was there and this was a Saturday night, although to be fair, it is in the middle of nowhere. The dining area is somewhat larger (two rooms knocked into one) and has a couple of fine original fireplaces, plenty of brass and pictures. They do a carvery to supplement the extensive if not adventurous menu. Decent portions served and prices are very reasonable. In an area devoid of many good dining pubs, this is well worth an evening out.

30 Nov 2005 21:40

The Railway Hotel, Parbold

As the name suggests, the Railway Hotel is next to the station and is probably the liveliest of the pubs in Parbold. There is a lot of railway memorabilia and some fine original fireplaces and tiling. The main bar can get quite full but there are 2 quieter rooms either side of the main door. There is a pool table at the back of the main bar plus TV's for sport. Not a large selection of beers but worth a visit if in the area.

30 Nov 2005 21:17

The Angel, Angel, Islington

A dull and rather plastic looking Wetherspoons that comes with all the usual JD trimmings. Interesting local snippets on the walls, a good range of beers and spotless loos are enough for me to give a decent enough rating but on the downside, the food is a bit bland along with the décor and it does attract its fair share of down and outs. That said, I have never seen any trouble or had any problems here. Nothing to write home about but in today’s day and age, I never feel at home unless there is a Wetherspoons close by to fall back on.

21 Nov 2005 16:54

'Round midnight Jazz & Blues Bar, Islington

I never really used the Agricultural much despite working 100 yards away for the best part of 2 years. No real major problems with the place but they had a poor reputation for the quality of their beers. The prices are a bit higher than normal but this did help keep out the local riff-raff from the nearby street market. The interior is fairly comfortable without being snobbish or up-market and the large picture windows ensure that you can decide whether it is to your taste before you go in. I certainly never had a problem with feeling (or being treated) as if I was too old or too young and I would say it has a fairly universal appeal. You could certainly do a lot worse but, in an area with a huge diversity of pubs, you could also find a lot better.

21 Nov 2005 16:33

The Circus Tavern, Manchester

The Circus Tavern has been operational for over two hundred years and has survived the ravages of heavy wartime bombing and the subsequent major city redevelopment schemes. This is probably the smallest pub in Manchester and it shows. The bar itself is little more than a cupboard under the stairs, with room for no more than one person to serve and one person to queue. Every inch of bar space is precious. There is not even room for a proper till, the money being placed into a small coin drawer that pops in and out of its hidey-hole beneath the optics. The size of the bar may in fact be the pubs biggest drawback, being only able to stock a limited selection of drinks however all but the fussiest drinkers would appear to be catered for. The rest of the pub consists of two tiny rooms leading from a wooden partition that forms a corridor from the bar. The cosy front room is simply furnished and the lightly coloured walls are bedecked with photographs of local celebrities. The rear room is similar but the décor is geared towards the football fraternity. Both City and United's supporters clubs use the pub, an unusual choice of venue given the logistics of having organised meetings in such a small space. One wall of the room is dedicated to the red and white of United with photographs of old players and matches mixed in with various items of memorabilia whilst, in a rare example of football harmony, the adjacent wall pays homage in a similar fashion to the pale blue of City.
The pub is at it’s best when it is at its busiest and most claustrophobic. It is virtually impossible to move without squeezing past other customers and, in a different environment, one could possibly feel quite uncomfortable. In the Circus Tavern, however, bodily contact is necessary, unavoidable and all done with great tact and northern humour. Striking up a conversation with a complete stranger in such intimacy is almost expected and all adds to the fun of being there in the first place. What the Circus Tavern lacks in size, it more than makes up for in atmosphere and ambience. It is truly one of the few great, unspoilt inner city pubs left in the country.

20 Nov 2005 18:42

The Royal Oak, Dartford

Without doubt, the Royal Oak is one of the best pubs in Dartford, if not, the best. For the most part, the pub attracts sensible drinkers, serves decent Shepherd Neame beers and has friendly staff. The building itself is quite old and despite several alterations it retains a lot of its character with plenty of original brickwork on display and an open fireplace. The basic furniture includes a few barrels for tables. A new plasma TV looks a bit out of place but comes in handy for sport events. The pub doesn’t usually get too crowded or smoky and there is also a decent beer garden for summer months. A very underrated pub that gets better with every visit.

18 Nov 2005 16:27

Wibbly Wobbly, Surrey Quays

One of the more eccentric “pubs” in London, the Wibbly Wobbly is a converted barge (or tug boat depending on which report you read) founded by local comedian Malcolm Hardy (and I believe Jools Holland had a hand in it as well). Malcolm sadly drowned in January 2005 when he fell into the dock whilst rowing home to his houseboat on the other side of the dock but he has left us with this wonderful unusual legacy. There is a restaurant on the upper deck and the main bar is situated on the lower deck. Unlike other boats (namely the ones moored on the Thames) the Wibbly Wobbly feels more like a pub than a bar and is certainly not an expensive tourist trap. Given that it is in a sheltered dock and not on a river, you have little chance of being seasick unless you are intimidated by the smallest of ripples. There are a few concessions to this unique experience. The first is that when busy, it can get very smoky when inside. The second is that they don’t have any real ales (probably too difficult to keep) so the beers / lagers are fairly standard. There is an outside seated section where you can sit and do a bit of seagull feeding and cormorant spotting. Well worth going out of the way for and several other good pubs dotted around.

18 Nov 2005 15:49

Nell of Old Drury, Covent Garden

The Nell of Old Drury is similar in size, age and layout to its near neighbour the Opera Tavern, a couple of doors down. Situated opposite the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the pub is obviously geared towards the theatre-going crowd. The interior is rather scruffy with walls plastered with photos, posters for plays and theatre productions plus a few theatrical masks and instructions regarding interval drinks. Whilst the general layout of the pub has probably remained unchanged, the interior appears to have undergone many refurbishments and does not appear to have retained many original features. Both the bar and the wooden flooring appear to be relatively modern. Even the bay fronted façade appears to be in too good a condition to be original. It can probably be rather cramped pre-theatre but there is a corridor partitioned from the main bar that leads to an upstairs bar. Regarding the previous comments regarding the landlord, I found him friendly enough, welcoming me when I first came in and thanking me when I left although I get the impression he stands for no nonsense (he threw one chap out while I was there who was wandering around without a drink or attempting to buy one – I have no problem with that). They serve two Real Ales, Adnams and Spitfire alongside the usual selection of lagers and cider but the prices were slightly higher than similar pubs in the area. They have a TV but it is not particularly well placed and certainly not worthy of a night out watching any sporting event. My overall opinion is that "Nell" is not a bad pub, but not as good as some of its close neighbours

18 Nov 2005 14:53

The Wellington, Strand

A late Victorian corner pub opposite Waterloo Bridge in the heart of theatre land, the Wellington is popular with Theatregoers, office workers and the odd tourist (being fairly close to Covent Garden). Part of the Nicholson’s chain which generally means decent beer (3 real ales) and food and reasonable prices. The pub layout is a bit awkward. Originally two rooms knocked into one, the pub is long and narrow and the bar is positioned along a wall in such a way that it can get a bit cramped in the middle of the pub. There is more space at either end of the bar and there is a large seated area outside that is ideal for the tourists on a nice day. There are 2 well paced plasma screens which are usually used for sport (it was very popular during the recent Ashes series). Despite having undergone various refurbishments, the pub does not lack its original character with lots of original features retained, dark wood, a few etched windows and a few gargoyles protecting the entrance. There is an upstairs bar but I genearally only stick to the downstairs in pubs so I have not been up there. One major gripe I have is that the (mostly foreign) bar staff have a nasty habit of pouring short measures. They will always top up if you ask them to but it shouldn’t be necessary. It happens so often that I am beginning to wonder whether this is a sinister ploy to boost profits. I hope not because this is one of my favourite pubs in the area. 7/10 18/11/05

18 Nov 2005 14:19

The Odd Fellows, Dartford

The main claim to fame for the Oddfellows is that is was an early drinking establishment for Mick Jagger who attended the Grammar School virtually opposite (and I am not implying that he drank here while still at school!). Quite frankly there is no reason to wander from the town centre to visit this pub other than being convenient for the nearby Mick Jagger Centre arts complex. It was totally refurbished about 18 months ago and what was once a decent straightforward local’s pub has now had the heart ripped out and been turned into a horrific tribute to the worst excesses of modern pub design with cube chairs and trendy lighting. The whole thing is a shocking contrast to what it was and the old regulars must have been shell-shocked when it reopened. I was. The only consolation is that you only have to walk 10 yards across the road to the Rose and Crown for something a bit more traditional. Mick probably would.

18 Nov 2005 13:06

The Walkabout, Embankment

Situated on the Embankment next to Temple tube station, this is a much larger establishment than its Covent Garden equivalent. The drinks are standard fare but expensive even for this area. The interior is bright, soulless and lacking in character. It has the usual array of TVs mainly for sport but basically has nothing special to make you go out of the way for, a bit like most Walkabouts really.

18 Nov 2005 12:38

The Litten Tree, Dartford

If you need a perfectly good reason not to go to the Litten Tree then just read some of the comments below. You can just picture Chris Mac and his mates who apparently “own the back of the pub on a Friday night”. God help anyone who steps on their patch. And wouldn’t you just love to be having a quiet drink with a friend while the lovely Michelle and Sexy Lady stand close by casting their eloquent observations of everyday life at the top of their voices over the pounding bass system. Hammered loves the place because it is “rammed with girls”. A quick look at his review of the Royal Oak tells us that he is (or was) married and he even has the audacity to moan that his wife and friend were ogled at! Does the word hypocrite mean anything? Just a few examples of the sort of people attracted to the Litten Tree - walk past this pub at midnight and feel very scared. I get the impression that the doormen are there to protect the people outside from the doughnut brains who are drinking inside.

18 Nov 2005 10:27

The Hercules Pillars, Holborn

Set in a dour and featureless modern office block, the “Pillars” is not particularly inviting from the outside. The interior is a medium size single room bar that probably looks bigger than it is due to the abundance of mirror tiles along the walls. The central area is divided in two by a shoulder length wood and glass screen with brass trimmings that stretches between 2 pillars. The bar is more wood and brass and the floors are part tiled, part wood and part carpet. All in all, the interior is that of a traditional pub that has obviously undergone many refurbishments and I would hazard a guess that there are very few original features. There is a plasma screen, games machine, cigarette machine and a separate function room. Behind the bar, 2 busts of Hercules prop up the ceiling and further busts and murals can be found on the opposite wall. The main reason for anyone to come here are the Real Ales – 7 hand-pumps (6 were on during my visit including 2 guest beers). That said £2.71 for a 3.7% Ruddles Best is probably a bit higher than I would expect in the area. The food menu looks OK and they have a separate sausage menu (7 different types). To summarise, the “Pillars” is a rather plastic pub which is fine if you like sausages with your Real Ales.

17 Nov 2005 14:52

The Windmill, Dartford

I was a regular here for 10 years during which time some of Dartford’s roughest would happily mix shoulder to shoulder with local businessmen under the watchful eye of Bert, the no nonsense, long standing landlord. There were 3 darts teams (2 male, 1 female), quiz teams, card schools, Sunday meat raffles, even shove ha’penny. Many of the regulars, myself included, did sessions behind the bar and it was a real community pub and often packed with local characters. In the years since Bert left, there have been a succession of dubious landlords and all the regulars have either passed on or moved on leaving just the bare shell of this once hospitable tavern. Nowadays, I rarely see more than half a dozen people in there when I walk by and everything they do to attract people is usually done better elsewhere in town. I occasionally visit more out of nostalgia than loyalty and to be fair it had improved a little the last time I was there (at one stage it had plastic flowers that resembled something out of a funeral parlour). Basic keg bitters (admittedly they never did real ales even in the good old days) and not much in the way of food. Housed in a wonderful old building, there have been a couple of refurbishments in recent years but the basic layout remains the same. I doubt that the Windmill will ever be what it was it is quite apt that the framed history of the pub on the wall inside ends with Bert.

17 Nov 2005 11:20

The City Pride, Clerkenwell

A down to earth, no thrills, no nonsense, Fullers pub just off Clerkenwell Green. The main bar is quite bare with wooden floor and geared more to stand up drinking with just a few small tables. The walls are plain with the occasional picture, mirror, plate etc but nothing over the top. A large plasma TV perched above the door appears to be too big for where it is situated and awkwardly overhangs part of the window behind. One interesting feature is that the front of the pub is entirely full length doors so in the hot summer months (or should that be 2 days a year) the entire bar can be opened up straight onto the pavement, continental style. There is a separate room in an extended area in what was, I presume, originally the premises next door. This is a bit more geared to seating. Reasonably priced and well kept Fullers beers. The pub is friendly enough and fine for what it is but not special enough to go out of the way for.

17 Nov 2005 10:36

Turnmills Top floor, Farringdon

More of a nightclub than a pub, I went to a Corporate "gig" here, invited by a friend who was in the band. I was spoilt a bit as it was a free bar for most of the evening. Just as well because a choice of 2 beers (Sol and Red Stripe) in expensive bottles hardly makes an extensive bar and I am not one for wine and cocktails! I would not ordinarily give this sort of place a second glance but it was an intriguing blend of modern and gothic with chandeliers dangling between the giant air conditioning pipes. I imagine the atmosphere in the place is usually nothing like the evening I went, when it was rammed with bankers. With less people and the right music I can imagine the place being quite comfortable so it gets a few brownie points for its interior and potential atmosphere but it is let down badly by the limited bar choice.

17 Nov 2005 10:17

The Three Kings, Clerkenwell

Remember that old Eiffel Tower in a snowstorm that Aunt Agnes brought back from Paris when you were a kid. Well give it to the Three Kings. They will find a loving home for it alongside all the other weird, quirky, tacky, unusual and downright eccentric bric-a-brac that can be found lining the shelves and windowsills. A plastic rhino head casts its eye in a watchful gaze over the candlelit bar. A plastic Chinese lion waves gleefully underneath it. Pictures, posters, mirrors, and flyers advertising anything and everything fill in any space on the walls that are left. Anything that looks out of place is well suited to this pub. I would not like to be the cleaner who has to dust everything but I am quite happy to be a customer, sampling any of the 3 well kept beers. The rest of the single room main bar is quite basic with bare floorboards and plain décor and it is fair to say that the interior is, in its own way, pleasantly grim. There is an upstairs but but I didn't have time to sample it. Full of character and set in a village type area of London, this is one of the more unusual pubs in London and well worth tracking down.

16 Nov 2005 18:30

The George, Temple

Before anyone gets all historical about the George, it should be mentioned that this is probably the most “fake” pub in London and I don’t particularly mean that in a bad way. The mock Tudor façade is very impressive and one can easily mistake the building as being medieval. It isn’t – the current building is Victorian at best although there has been a pub on the site for much longer. A plaque outside provides a potted history of the pub. Its proximity to the Royal Courts of Justice means the customer base consists largely of lawyers, legal teams, alleged criminals and local office workers. The pub is quite spacious inside and is basically one long room, the bare floored front area being divided from the carpeted rear area by a screen. All the features from its fake beams to its deer antler light fittings are all recreations. There are 4 well kept and reasonably priced Real Ales, a decent food menu and friendly staff. It is a bit out of the way from any of the tourist areas but is worth a visit in conjunction with some of the other excellent pubs in the immediate vicinity.

11 Nov 2005 15:50

Milfords, Temple

Firstly it should be pointed out that for several months the “Edinburgh Tavern” has been called “Milfords”. Basically it is a typical small, single room pub with an additional bar upstairs and is frequented mainly by local office workers who all appeared to be regulars and well known to the bar staff. The main bar is cosy enough with potted plants and a reasonable amount of seats given its size. They do 2 Real Ales alongside the usual run of lagers & cider but I could not fathom out the pricing – my pint of Adnams cost £2.60 (and was not very good) and yet the usually more expensive Strongbow only cost £2.50 . The food looked very good and was reasonably priced. There is nothing exceptional about “Milfords” and the sight of bar staff (I get the impression it was the manager/landlord) happily smoking behind the bar, even while customers were eating at the bar, was inexcusable and forces me to knock down the rating. Also, call me pedantic but, the fact that they are still advertising “Summer Specials” in November gives me the impression that whoever is in charge (probably the same person) does not appear to be on the ball. With better bar discipline this place could be much better and given that there are at least 5 other decent pubs within 100 yards they need to work hard if they are to attract any new custom.

11 Nov 2005 15:14

The Old Neptune, Whitstable

No drinking trip to Whitstable is complete without a pint in the Neptune. A mainly wooden building that has been ripped apart by wind and wave on many occasion but still props itself up on the beach. Tables outside look over the beach. Inside it is bare basics with several interesting old photos of the pub in various states of repair. A real old sea captains pub.

10 Nov 2005 22:27

The Maid of Muswell, Muswell Hill

The Maid appears to have changed her clothes since my last visit there in Jan 04. Then it was a straight forward, no nonsense, 5 pints of lager, footie on screen boozer. 18 months on and the ugly duckling is not so ugly anymore and is now a bit more fitting for such a “well to do” area. The patio outside now looks very smart with a wicker fence and potted plants. Inside has been transformed with a more up-market customer base in mind. It still retains some of the original stripped back features and bare floorboards but these now blend in with a mix of seating styles, potted plants and subtle lighting. The bar staff were very welcoming and the well kept beers include London Pride and Marstons Pedigree. Unfortunately, it would appear that the change has come at a price - £2.90 for a pint of Addlestones Cider compares badly to the £2.70 a pint I pay in Central London but, if this is your local, then you can probably afford it. The Maid won't be everyone's cup of tea but there is little competition in the area. Handy for Alexandra Palace, 5 minutes walk up the hill.

10 Nov 2005 09:55

The Savoy Tup, Strand

This pub must have the most unwelcoming bar staff in London. I work 20 yards away so we use it for leaving dos etc - I certainly don't go in there by choice. When quiet the barmaid will sit at the end of the bar reading a paper and woe betide if you dare to ask for a pint during this period. If there are 2 behind the bar they will more than likely be busy chatting than serving. The pub itself is OK but nothing special, a single room with a sepaarte upstairs bar. TV's for sport and a weekly quiz night. 3 overpriced and not particular good ales (£2.80 for Greene King IPA is a bit much) On the plus side, they don't do food (it would probably be overpriced and served with a grimace anyway) but they let you bring in your own. The sign outside says friendly welcome. Don't believe it.

4 Nov 2005 20:04

The Opera Tavern, Covent Garden

A Small 1 room pub opposite the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (so expect it to be packed pre-theatre). The original pub was built in 1846 but the present building dates from 1879 and retains some of the original features - etched windows, fireplace etc. There are a few pictures and mirrors on the walls but not enough to make the place feel cluttered. 3 Ales on handpump including a guest beer. Reasonably priced (the Hobgoblin was £2.50). The food looked fine and was, again, reasonably priced. 2 TV's. Very friendly staff (the barman checked to see how my Hobgoblin was and advised me of the other beers they are expecting in the forseeable future). In an area teeming with pubs it is the small details like the peronal touch that makes pubs stand out and the Opera Tavern will definitely be getting a few more visits from me.

4 Nov 2005 19:51

The Wat Tyler, Dartford

Housed in a wonderful medeival building near a Norman church, this is supposed to have originally been the home of Wat Tyler (leader of the Peasant's Revolt in 1381) although this is largely disputed. The building certainly is old and the pub is one of the few in Dartford town centre where you get away from the chavs and gobby idiots who appear to be taking over the other local pubs. The interior is long and narrow with old town prints on the walls. There is a secluded raised area at the back for those who prefer an intimate pint. Pew style seating. Basic food but excellent guest beers. Along with the Malt Shovel and Royal Oak, one of the best pubs in Dartford for those who like a more peaceful drink.

4 Nov 2005 19:31

The Barfly Club, Chalk Farm

Part of music's toilet venue circuit. As a pub it is pretty awful, with bland and overpriced beers, gloomy decor, uncomfortable seating. Only the weirdest member of the Camden weird brigade would find it appealing. The fact of the matter is that no-one goes here just for a drink (except the Camden weird brigade) but for the bands, who play in a tiny room upstairs with a bar serving an equally expensive and uninspiring choice of beers. The Barfly is today what the Marquee Club was in the 60's and 70's - a starting point on the road to riches for many a great band and a graveyard for several others. Many a great band has passed through, some on their way up, others on their way down. For a packed gig you won't see a thing but it is fine for the preverbial 2 people and a dog gig. The Barfly, like the old Marquee that I used to frequent regularly, is a dump. I love it.

4 Nov 2005 18:48

The Royal Oak, Borough

The Royal Oak is a rare example of an unspoilt, Victorian boozer but with the added attraction of top drawer beers courtesy of Lewes’s Harvey’s Brewery. Tucked away in a not so attractive housing estate off Borough High Street, you would not find it unless you are specifically heading for it. The exterior is that of a typical Victorian corner pub with no real discerning features but once through the front door you enter a classic Victorian lobby resplendent with its etched glass windows. The inside is divided into 2 rooms by a central bar. The room to the left the lobby is the smaller, “comfy” bar with interesting photos and prints (especially note the old interior pub photo’s by the Gents toilets). There is an original fireplace with books on the mantle piece, more etched windows and a few stools at the bar. To the right of the lobby there is a more open area with seats and tables by the picture windows and a larger area to congregate at the bar. The beers are all top notch Harvey’s bitters and whilst they do the usual run of lagers etc, about 90% of the people in the pub during my visit were all drinking the bitter which says something for the quality of the beers. The food looked very good, was reasonably priced and was still being served beyond 8.00pm. The pub has no modern thrills, no games machines, no music, no pool tables and no dart board, just sensible, friendly customers and staff. Many Victorian pubs have lost their shape and character through various refurbishments over the years but the Royal Oak is the real McCoy. Make an effort to visit.

4 Nov 2005 16:08

The Trinity, Borough

The Hole In The Wall is a strange mix of both styles and customers. The main drinking area at the front is a mixture of comfy sofas and the usual seats and tables. The décor has a sort of art deco feel with subdued lighting that totally contrasts with the back of the pub that is bright and more like a sports bar with its twin pool tables, TV’s etc. The customers are a mix of young pool hustlers in baseball caps, local office workers and people who like they are having their first pint after being released from jail. 2 Real Ales - tasted fine but generally not a very inspiring selection of drink or food. OK if passing but not worth staying too long.

4 Nov 2005 13:43

The Blue Eyed Maid, Borough

The bright blue frontage immediately catches the eye of this pub come bar come indian restaurant. The Spice Lounge upstairs does the Indian food but manages to avoid stinking out the main bar downstairs. Not being an Indian food eater I cannot comment on prices / quality of the food but other sites suggest that it is quite cheap and quite edible. The main drinking area on the ground floor is geared to being more of a trendy bar with stacks of wine bottles and spirits etc but the traditional pub fanatic should not be put off - there are 2 Real Ales that tasted fine and the atmosphere quite comfortable and not too clubby. Note the unusual wooden seats. 1 small TV. Unobtrusive music. Friendly staff. One of the better bars of it’s kind and well worth a visit if in the area or part of a crawl.

4 Nov 2005 13:30

THE Distillers, Hammersmith

The Distillers Arms is situated on the busy Fulham Palace Road just around the corner from the Hammersmith Apollo (it will always be the Odeon to me!) and close to Charing Cross Hospital. Formerly a traditional 2 bar pub, it has been knocked into a large spacious single room. The décor is a mixed bag with art deco style lighting, original fireplace, modern beamed ceiling (held up by numerous pillars with decorative tops - history buffs can debate whether they are Ionic or Doric!) and large picture windows giving the Distillers a bright and airy feel. There is a separate pool table area tucked away the other side of the bar. There are several tables and seats and a comfy sofa area in the middle. Beer and food are fairly basic with no Real ales (the only hand-pump appears to be redundant). The prices are reasonable for the area although they do special offers (see the blackboards for details). Unobtrusive mixed music, games machines, cash machine and a tiny TV (don’t expect to watch sport here). Customers are largely locals, hospital visitors (even the odd patient) and people meeting prior to the Apollo shows so it can become full and then empty out rather quickly. There is a small patio area outside if you can handle the noise of the traffic. A decent enough meeting place but not one for a full evening session.

2 Nov 2005 12:40

The Bristol Bar, Brighton

Situated just off Marina Drive in the middle of hotel country, it looks more like a hotel bar from the street but feels more of a pub once inside. Good range of beers (excellent pint of Harveys) and decent looking menu. Nautical theme with the walls covered with oars, knots, prints and posters of ships, boats, wrecks etc. Interesting cabinet of porcelain figures. Far enough away from the town centre to avoid the "kiss me quick hat" brigade. Separate pool room. Dogs allowed in (canine variety). Not really handy for Brighton's attractions but the Concorde 2 music venue is within shouting distance. Well worth the walk if you want to get away from the usual Brighton crowds.

30 Oct 2005 08:37

Ye Olde White Horse, Aldwych

Tucked away is not the word - I have wandered around this area many a time and never noticed this place un til I accidentally stumbled upon it today. The first thing that hits you is that the interior is very dark; dark wall coverings, dark ceiling and dark carpet. Several mirrors on the walls probably help to reflect some of the natural light but the overall the lighting is very dim. The pub consists of a single room with just one table in the front bay and a raised seated area towards the back. It would appear that sitting at a ledge by the wall is the order of the day. A very good selection of ales (4 on tap – Deuchars IPA, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Woodforde Wherry and Breakspears Bitter) and reasonable prices (the Wherry was £2.60 – pretty good for the area). Aside from the rather plain mirrors, the walls are adorned with legal cartoons that suggest the pub is popular with the guys (and gals) from the nearby Royal Courts of Justice. The service was friendly and efficient albeit there were barely 4 or 5 people in there, and this was Friday lunchtime. Facilities were few – I didn’t notice any games machines or the like (no bad thing), piped mainstream radio, small TV, basic food counter and that's about it. As far as customer base goes, having read the previous comments, I saw no notices saying that students were banned and nothing about any dress code. It did however seem strange that 50 yards away were hundreds of students on their Friday lunch break and not one of them were in this pub. I must conclude that the word among the students is to boycott the pub as they are presumably not welcome, as the previous reports suggest. As far as I am concerned the pub is little more than a down to earth, common or garden boozer with nothing special apart from a decent selection of beers but I doubt whether this would be enough to entice me there on a regular basis.

28 Oct 2005 15:49

The Pillars of Hercules, Soho

I have been coming here for the best part of 20 years and don’t think I have ever managed to get a seat in this typical characteristic one room Soho pub. Originally built in 1733, the present pub dates from around 1910 and retains several features from this time. There is a good range of beers at reasonable prices and served by efficient staff – you rarely have to wait no matter how busy they are. Food is somewhat limited but you wouldn't come here to eat anyway. The initial seated area inside the door leads to a bit of a bottleneck adjacent to the bar. Beyond is a further small seated area. The stairs to the toilets are reminiscent of a cliff face. Despite the obvious cramped conditions, the atmosphere is very friendly and welcoming. It attracts a mixed bag of customers and is often populated by music fans, the Astoria, Mean Fiddler and Borderline all being within a stones throw. Such is its popularity, there are usually twice as many people drinking outside on the pavement than there are crammed inside the pub. Definitely worth a visit.

28 Oct 2005 10:45

The Canterbury Arms, Brixton

Typical. The day after doing my review I find myself having to meet someone in the Canterbury Arms. It is the first time I have been here for about 3 or 4 months and waddya know. There were tables and chairs on the outside patio, the back bar was open (and virtually emoty) and no sign of a pool table. Even the seats appear to have been reupholstered. The TV screens are still dreadful and the pyub still appears a bit drab but it is still one of the best of it's kind in the area. I am happy to move my previous rating up a notch!

28 Oct 2005 09:27

The Canterbury Arms, Brixton

I usually drink in here before Academy gigs mainly because it is slightly off the beaten track and does not get rammed with people like the Beehive and Goose round the corner. It is basically an on old-fasioned pub run by an Irish landlord (as opposed to an Irish pub in the usual sense of pub vernacular). Prices are OK but the choice of beers is bland with no real ales. There is an open terrace area in front of the pub that is sadly underused (maybe the licence does not allow them to have people drinking outside). I have yet to be there when the back bar is open which means all the pre-gig punters have to use the front bar and unless you are there early, there is little chance of a seat. There are 2 large (but poor quality) TV screeens for sport and a pool table that takes up far too much room. If you are lucky enough to get a seat, you will probably find it the most uncomfortable you have ever encountered in a pub – the word lumpy springs to mind. One interesting feature to note is an increasingly rare tiled corridor leading to the toilets. Service is always fine and with the local cop shop 20 yards down the road, there is less chance of encountering any trouble here than probably any other pub in the area. Fine as a meeting place but little to deserve anything other than a passing glance.

27 Oct 2005 16:20

The Lyceum, Strand

Situated on the Strand in the heart of Theatreland so don’t be surprised to see a few tourists and theatre-goers. Before entering, look out for the interesting barrel clock on the pubs façade. The main bar is a single room with 3 very small snugs (room for 4 people in each) and a larger recess opposite the bar. Cheap beer prices but as per Sam Smiths pubs, the lagers and soft drinks in particular can be an acquired taste. They do have Old Brewery Bitter on hand pump (I have noticed that more often than not Sam Smiths tend to do keg beers only). The panelled walls are adorned with pictures of old music hall and theatre stars from Victorian / Edwardian ages, none of who you will likely have heard of but it is in keeping with the area. Not usually very crowded but pre theatre can be a bit hectic. There is a comfortable upstairs bar to take the overflow of customers if necessary. Not the best of the Sam Smith chain in London but excellent value for money and well worth a couple of pints if passing by.

27 Oct 2005 15:57

The Tollgate, Dartford

18 months on from my initial review, I have been back to the Tollgate on a few occasions and have to say the pub has not lived up to it's initial promising expectations. Being of the more mature fraternity, there have been times when the staff have ignored me and my friends for their younger and more trendy clients. I have seen people sick in the pub and yet they still continue to be served. The beer is often of poor quality and the pub has generally been taken over by people who I quite frankly choose not to drink amongst (and they probably feel the same about me). It will take a lot to get me back in there.

26 Oct 2005 18:57

Paper Moon, Dartford

A typical Wetherspoons situated in the old Lloyds Bank building offering an excellent and cheap selection of Real Ales and unusual bottled beers amongst the usual fizz. On the whole it is difficult knock Wetherspoons and the Paper Moon is a typical example with the standard decor and old prints of the town. Unfortunately the pub is directly opposite a barracuda pub that also offers discounted (but much worse) beer so this area does tend to attract the lower end of the market, ie the 18 year olds who go for the cheap booze rather than the mature drinker who actually knows and understands what he is drinking (and knows when to stop).

26 Oct 2005 18:51

The Nell Gwynne, Covent Garden

One of the smallest and hardest to spot pubs in London, sandwiched between 2 theatres down an alleyway between the Strand and Maiden Lane. The weathered sign at the Strand end hardly advertises the pub and but for a small plaque on the wall and a humorously written blackboard, there is no indication that there is a pub within the locality and yet it is barely 10 yards from the Strand. If approaching from the Strand end, notice the wonderful old tiling on the walls before the alley opens up by the pub. A sign on the pub wall gives a brief history of Nell Gwynn and tells of the murder of an actor outside one of the nearby theatres. The pub is said to be haunted (aren’t they all?). The pub itself is one small room, slightly terraced to take into account the hill down which the alleyway runs. The first thing you notice is that it’s dim, very dim, with heavy curtains, dark wooden panelling and wall coverings. The walls are adorned with vintage prints and paintings, some barely visible in the half light. Whilst small, the pub is well laid out and makes the most of its limited space, even managing to fit in an unobtrusive dart board. There are 2 well positioned TV’s usually showing Sky Sports. I picked a bad time to try the beers, they had just had a delivery and all 4 hand-pumps were out of action but there was the usual selection of lagers, Strongbow, John Smiths etc as typical prices for the area. At least I know they seem to take care of their beers, allowing them to settle before serving. The staff were friendly and welcoming. An excellent, if secretive pub, well worth checking out.

26 Oct 2005 16:06

The Coal Hole, Strand

Working just round the corner, I have frequently used the Coal Hole to meet both friends, spouse and business people and have had no complaints from anyone I have ever taken there…and there lies the rub. It is a pub that it is difficult to say anything against as it appeals to a wide range of people. Set on the Strand amongst theatres etc it will attract tourists so why do people seem so surprised that this is the case! Reading other reports of how expensive the pub is – rubbish! All Nicholsons pubs appear to have a set price and I have found that it is usually pitched a bit less than the average pub in the surrounding area. The beers I have had in the Coal Hole have been excellent and the food fine. The décor is interesting and unusual and gives the place its own character. I have never had any problem with the staff or the service in my many visits over the past 18 months and usually manage to grab a seat (try the “minstrel gallery” if there are none downstairs) or at worst a bit of ledge to place my pint. The only downside that I have experienced is when there has been a convention or meeting in the adjoining Savoy Hotel and everyone piles in at the same time however this is not common. It should also be noted that there is a downstairs bar (more of a wine bar) that is worth checking out. They used to have a plasma TV but this has now gone (it’s not really a TV sort of pub and it did look a bit out of place anyway).

26 Oct 2005 14:40

Plough, Dartford

Since being completely gutted and refurbished about 10 years ago, the Plough has undergone several overhauls and has had more management changes than Tottenham Hotspur in a bad season. The result of all this instability is a pub that is no more worthwhile visiting than it was before all the money was (‘scuse the pun) ploughed in. The latest gaffer has reintroduced the TV’s (football regularly shown - hurray) but now provides probably the narrowest range of beers I have seen in a pub of this size. 18 months ago there were 3 Real Ales and, if I remember rightly, 2 keg bitters. Now there is IPA and nothing else (even the keg bitters have gone). The abundance of lagers possibly says something about the market they are currently aiming at and the pub (like the town in general) has suffered in the past from some fairly loutish clients. The prices over the past 18 months have also been hiked up considerably – not too long ago a pint of Strongbow was £2.20, now it’s £2.60, almost on par with Central London. For the entertainment minded, there is a somewhat obtrusive Pool table, darts board, various games and quiz machines. The regular Sunday Music Quiz is very popular (especially as you don’t need to win to walk off with the top prize). On other occasions they hold race nights, karaoke and the usual cheap tribute acts (there’s only so many times anyone can put up with a fake Elvis or Blues Brothers!). The Plough basically caters for certain elements of the immediate community and whilst it tries to make itself accommodating to all, it needs to work a lot harder if it is not to turn into just another cheap entertainment centre for lager drinkers.

26 Oct 2005 12:55

The Little Gem, Aylesford

Apart from the somewhat twee pub name, this place is a, er, little gem! Situated in a picturesque and interesting village, the Little Gem claims to be the smallest pub in Kent (probably true). It is certainly one of the oldest buildings that currently houses a pub, supposedly dating from 1106. It was originally either a monk’s shelter or a market house depending on where you get your information. From the outside, the pub looks decidedly unsteady on its foundations and likely to collapse at the slightest gust of wind. The door is so small and wonky that only a dwarf contortionist would even think about entering. For those who do get inside without bruising themselves, the first impressions are almost jaw-dropping. The pub is basically one room although given the position of the windows etc I get the impression that there were originally 2 floors and has been shelled at some time. The walls are wattle and daub and there is not a straight wall, door or window in the whole place. There are fascinating pictures of the village as it was in medieval days (hasn’t changed much – many of the surrounding buildings are still intact today). The bar is squeezed in at the back and whilst small, manages to supply a good range of beers. There is a small low staircase (mind your head) that leads to a small minstrel’s gallery that barely has room for half a dozen people. The main pub area is comfortable if somewhat obviously cramped and you will probably spend the first pint just gazing in awe at the surroundings. I have not been here when it is busy and I guess it could get uncomfortable and smoky if too crowded. This is definitely one of those pubs that once visited, never forgotten, but wear a crash helmet if you are over 5ft 6!

26 Oct 2005 11:36

The Cove, Covent Garden

It should firstly be pointed out that the Cove is situated in Covent Garden, one of London’s premier tourist areas. It should therefore be not be a surprise to note that the bar is a somewhat cynical touristy recreation of a traditional Cornish smugglers inn. The bar itself is accessed through a Cornish Pasty shop at ground level and is easy to miss (I have been walking past it for 18 months without giving it a second glance and only really found out about it from this web site). The Bar itself is made out to look like an old boat (maybe it was, but I doubt it) and leads to a further 2 small drinking. The surroundings may be fake but it is comfortable and they have done a good effort to try and make it feel authentic. Unfortunatley there is nothing that can be done to replace the local opera singers and street entertainers with the sound of the sea crashing over the rocks at Lizard Point so an amount of poetic imagination is required. The walls have a nautical theme with portholes, pictures of washed up ships and old sea captain murals. The seats are a strange combination of comfy chairs, cushioned cubes and sturdy low bar stools. There is an outside veranda overlooking the piazza where there is always a healthy throng of tourists watching the street entertainers. The big plus about this place is the beers. They have 5 Cornish Ales on hand pump (including a wheat beer) and they are reasonably priced considering you are in such a tourist trap. There are 2 or 3 standard lagers and Scrumpy Jack cider for the non Real Ale buffs. One small gripe is the annoying habit of bar staff handing your change over with a receipt on a plate expecting you to leave a tip. They wouldn’t dream of it in Cormwall!

25 Oct 2005 15:20

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street

One of the most famous and historic pubs in London. Owned by Sam Smiths which means cheap prices but acquired tastes in the beers. From the outside, the pub appears nothing special and you could easily walk straight past. The entrance is down a narrow alleyway and the front door opens into a small corridor. The main bar is to the right and is a real treat - like stepping back 200 years, all musty and dimly lit. You almost expect your beer to be served up in a pewter tankard by some busty wench of a barmaid but you will probably get it from a young Aussie on a working holiday! There is a more recently added drinking area towards the back but this does not detract from the pubs atmosphere. The other side of the narrow corridor is the restaurant overlooked by the stuffed remains of the original Polly the parrot, a pub pet so well known that it filled the obitury columns on both sides of the Atlantic when she died (helped by the fact that the pub was in the heart of Fleet Street and would have been frequented by journalists by the dozen). Downstairs is a warren of underground rooms and tunnels that seem to be never ending. It is fair to say that it can be a bit touristy but whenever I visited, there has been a good mix of office workers as well. A definate must for anyone in the area and well worth making a special journey (there are 4 or 5 excellent pubs along Fleet Street/Strand so the "Cheese" makes an excellent addition to a pub crawl if you don't fancy an evening on Sam Smiths beers.

24 Oct 2005 15:27

The Buffet Bar, Stalybridge

Unless you commute from Stalybridge or have a copy of the Good Pub Guide, you would never know this place exists which would be a crying shame. Situated in a Victorian Buffet bar on the platform of Stalybridge Station, this place acts as a pub, cafe, museum and waiting room. Old railway memorobelia adorns the walls but this is not for the weatherbeaten train spotter - it is a real ale buffs paradise. The number of guest beers that pass through their hands is staggering and the food is excellent and cheap. This really is a place for a good session and not just for waiting for a train! I don't give 10 marks easily for pubs but this really is something unique and is hard to fault.

24 Oct 2005 13:16

The Glasshouse Stores, Piccadilly Circus

A Sam Smiths pub - that means low prices and love ‘em or hate ‘em beers. No beers on handpump but I personally find the Sam Smiths keg beers fine. The pub itself is a never ending journey through nooks and crannys. Just when you get to the end, there is another bit further on and even a small nook at the bottom of an apparently redundant stairwell. Very Victorian in style with etched glass and mirrors. Walls plastered with pictures and mirrors. Downstairs cellar bar (didn’t try it). A couple of games machines and the crowning glory right at the back of the pub…a bar billiards table. Well worth a visit.

14 Oct 2005 10:46

The Red Lion, Soho

Walking into the Red Lion is like walking into your living room the first time after the Christmas decorations have been taken down. Everything seems bare and spacious – bare floorboards, bare walls, bare ceiling…you get the picture. It would also be advisable to wears shades as everything seems overpoweringly bright. There is a plasma screen and a few games machines and beer is well priced for the area. Adnams and London Pride on handpump. Attentative staff (wiped table and changed ashtray the moment I sat down). Straight forward pub with no airs or graces but could benefit from toning down the lighting / décor and sticking a few things on the walls to break the monotony. OK for a quick pint but there are far more interesting pubs within shouting distance.

14 Oct 2005 10:26

The Mayflower, Rotherhithe

As one of the most historic and famous pubs in London, any serious pub fanatic should include a visit here at some time. Reputedly the site where the Mayflower set sail for America in 1620, the pub has changed both names and appearances several times over the years, most recently in the 50’s when it was substantially rebuilt after the Luftwaffe had a hand in making some rearrangements the previous decade. Situated right on the banks of the river in a quiet back street opposite the Brunel Engine Museum, the hanging baskets and warm glow from the windows are very enticing. The inside is quite small with the usual array of panelling, beams and a brick fireplace that you would expect of an old pub. Every available space is used as best as possible but table sharing is a probability when busy and with some tables squeezed into impossible angles it’s a good way to get talking to people. There is quite an extensive if somewhat upmarket menu (see the boards dotted around the pub on the walls) but as I have not eaten here, I cannot comment on whether the prices are justified, however the pub web site claims that seafood and particularly shellfish is a speciality so the previous comments about Fish & Chips being a rip off at £15.80 does not necessarily present the full picture. The food certainly smelt delicious as we walked in. There were a couple of beers on hand pump among the usual selection of lagers, ciders and bottles. The staff were helpful enough (we quizzed them on an unrecognised beer visible in the fridge). The small pier at the back offers some good views of the river and is ideal to idle time watching the boats go by. There appeared to be a good mix of people when we were there. Didn’t see any TV or games machines so the emphasis is on conversation. All in all, one of my favourite London pubs. Don't be put off by other comments and ratings. Go and see for yourself!

13 Oct 2005 11:31

The Ship, Rotherhithe

Whilst on a Bermondsey/Rotherhithe pub crawl, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to going to the Ship given the mixed reviews, poor rating and strong local competition from The Angel and The Mayflower but we needed somewhere to watch the England v Poland match and this was as good a place as any. The first impressions were that of a straight forward no nonsense boozer. Very polite and chatty barmaid (we were somewhat soaked from walking to the pub). Decent pint of Youngs (not my favourite brewery but quite drinkable). Locals were fine – switched channels on TV for us, adjusted volume for us even asking if it was loud enough. Although it was dark, there appeared to be a small but quite attractive illuminated garden outside. 2 TV’s for sport etc. Basically an unspectacular but decent honest pub. Just what we were looking for.

13 Oct 2005 10:35

The Angel, Rotherhithe

The first thing to note is that this is a Sam Smiths pub. To some this means heaven (good beer at knockdown prices), to others it means hell (crap beer as knockdown prices)...and don't even mention the Sam Smiths Cola! Personally I have no problem with Sam Smiths beers, the Cider Reserve is excellent and I even like the infamous wheaty tasting “Man In A Box” Ayingerbrau lager. So it’s a good start for the Angel apart from the fact that there are no beers on hand-pump. Having recently reopened after a lengthy refurbishment, everything is gleaming and spotless with several nautical themed pictures adorning the walls. From the central bar 2 or 3 Victorian style screens radiate, separating the pub into several smaller drinking areas. There are a few snugs for those who wish to get intimate over their pint. Upstairs is a quieter non smoking room and it is from here that the pub's greatest asset becomes obvious. The panoramic windows offer the legendary picture postcard views of Tower Bridge – spectacularly illuminated at night-time. The Angel will probably appeal immensely to tourists but for now it seems that just a privileged few are aware that it is once again up and running – well worth going out of the way for and idling some time watchin g the boats go by…if you can stomach the Sam Smiths!

13 Oct 2005 10:27

The Old Justice, Bermondsey

8.3/10 according to the web site at the time. Riverside location, strong local competition - must be good I thought. Wrong! Admittedly we only visited the front bar and having read the previous review, maybe we should have ventured round the back however it was not immediately evident that there was another bar. First impressions were hardly inspiring and the first words spoken to us as we stood at the bar were “you’re not police or bailiffs are you?” – not a good start (I would mention that this was 2 female punters, not the staff!). The bar was shabby and not too much imagination has been put into making it comfortable or welcoming. A couple of signed football shirts (Arsenal and England) have pride of place but apart from that there is nothing in the bar to grab the attention other than its lack of inspiration. OK for Sky Sports on TV and there are a couple of games machines. The only hand pump bitter was off (not sure what it was) and one of the keg bitters was also unavailable leaving just John Smiths for the bitter drinkers. Guiness and Murphys available and the usual run of lagers/cider. Unaware that there was another bar, we left after 1 pint. I will return another day and see “the rest” of the pub and may hopefully give it a better recommendation but for now, I’m afraid I will have to put a dent in the 8.3.

13 Oct 2005 09:37

The Moon and Sixpence, Soho

It's a Wetherspoons. It does what it says on the tin!

7 Oct 2005 14:59

Prince Of Wales, Covent Garden

quite busy at times - good selection of real ales (5 on tap when I was there). Food looked OK

7 Oct 2005 14:37

The Freemasons Arms, Covent Garden

Only been in at lunchtimes - doesn't appear to be very busy. Lots of traditional pub features and one of the few pubs that still has a picture of the Queen! Shepherd Neame beers at a reasonable price for the area. Good service. 2 plasma screens (look a bit out of place alongside Oil Paintings and Queen Betty but so be it). It has no doubt changed a bit since the Football Association was formed here in 1863 but where better to watch a match than the place where the modern game as we know it was effectively born. For a good traditional pub you can't go far wrong.

30 Sep 2005 16:48

The Dog and Bell, Deptford

Situated in an area into that anyone with any sense would not normally venture, the Dog & Bell is hardly a place you would find by accident. It is however well worth making an effort to visit. Winner of many CAMRA Awards, they have 3 well kept guest ales amongst the usual selection of lagers, cider etc. The pub is quite spacious, clean and tidy with a large side room and small beer garden at the back. They also have one of the few remaining bar billiards tables (£1 a go). TV in the main bar but not really geared for sports (I actually watched an England game here and there were barely 20 people in the pub). Friendly and efficient staff. A bit of a gem in an area you would least suspect.

12 Sep 2005 15:42

The Jolly Anglers, Wood Green

As an outsider on his way to a Pixie's gig at Ally Pally, I popped in for a quick pint, armed with previous comments. It must be said, there is not a great choice of pubs in the area and the Anglers is only non-chain pub that looked like a typical tradional pub that I found. No airs and graces here. Firstly, I was served quickly and found the prices very reasonable for a London pub (Strongbow £2.20). The pub is spacious with an inobtrusive pool table and dart board. Several seats outside in the beer garden (or beer patio may be a better description). On the downside, no real ales and as for the decor, if it has been recently done up, it hardly showed - a big roll of ceiling paper was hanging down above my head. There appears to be a lot of entertainment laid on of you like the karaoke / DJ sort of night (I don't) and a couple of TV's for sport.

In a nutshell, a straightforward traditional boozer that has probably seen better days but I have been in far worse pubs than this. Worth a quick pint if in the area but the Mrs will probably prefer the shops!

1 Sep 2005 11:15

The Windmill, Brixton

The first impressions of the Windmill are that it would look a lot better from the driving seat of a bulldozer. In an avenue of elegant Victorian houses, the Windmill is a monstrous, ugly block that has little architectural merit other than to act as a bad example of taste. Armed with reviews from previous visitors I expected a vast improvement inside but to be frank it was little better once through the door. Having read about the “finest ceiling in London” I was somewhat disappointed to find little more than what looked like a failed o-level art class project. The bar was probably knocked up by their colleagues in the woodwork class and the whole place was a design disaster with the bar taking up so much space that the punters are confined to a narrow corridor that leads down the stage area. The beers were the basic keg varieties and there are no real ales despite there being hand pumps available. The prices were very good for a music pub – little more than the average pub price. The toilets are surprisingly clean, spacious and hardly a sign of any vandalism or graffiti aside from the odd band promo sticker.

Of course, the main reason anyone ventures near the place is to see the live bands and there is a good selection of live music almost every night with several notable bands having played here in their embryonic stages. Most gigs are £4 admission and for that you will normally get 3 bands. Actually seeing the bands however, is a nightmare. With the stage little more than 6 inches off the ground and in a blind spot from 75% of the pub you are lucky to get even the briefest glimpse of the action. If there are more than 15 people standing in front of the stage you will not see a thing – I am well over 6ft and saw little more than the tops of the artist’s heads. By way of compensation, the sound quality was very good and the bands I saw were very professional.

In a nutshell, the Windmill as a pub is a dump, but as part of the live music “toilet circuit” it has an important role in the development of up and coming bands and, as a music lover, I applaud it’s efforts and would certainly go back if there is a band I want to see (or at least try to see!).

24 Aug 2005 10:41

The Robin Hood and Little John, Bexleyheath

I have to repeat what has already been said - a hidden gem of a pub for sensible beer drinkers. The certificates displayed show that they take thier beer seriously and a night here is almost like going to a beer festival.

15 Feb 2004 19:28

The Tollgate, Dartford

Part of the Barracuda chain, a new addition to Dartfords town centre, as if there were not enough pubs already. With 2 pubs within 20 yards, the Tollgate has a lot of competition. The Tollgate appears to offer the best mix of all the pubs in the area. Discounted drinks to rival Wetherspoons prices but not agreat selection and the beers do not always appear to be well kept. Reasonal, if unadventurous pub-grub. Good for watching sport with several screens. The inteirior offers an eclected mix of tables and seating that should suit everyones taste and there is a samll patio area to the rear. Mixed customer base. Certainly one of the best pubs of it's kind.

15 Feb 2004 19:16

The Jolly Farmers, Crayford

I thought this was called the Ol' Arm s until closer inspection revealed that the rest of the paint had flaked off the pub sign. The front entrance looked like it was boarded up and I was amazed to find that the door actually opened. Inside was a bit smarter but not particular inviting or interesting. A basic selection of drinks. The only customer sat at the bar and seemed incapable of describing anything that didn't start with an F. The extension, that could so easily be a decent asset to the pub, has cracked windows and overall the pub would only attract passing lorry drivers from the nearby industrial site, resident gypsies or locals who basically have Hobson's choice. With a bit of effort this place could be vastly improved and more welcoming but I get the impression that money spent on refurbishment would be money down the drain.

15 Feb 2004 19:07

The Royal Victoria and Bull, Dartford

The oldest pub in Dartford, this historic coaching inn was one of the main stopovers on the London to Dover route. Queen Victoria stayed here giving the place her seal (bull) hence the name. Legendary Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick lived and died here. What was originally the courtyard is now the bar and the building does manage to keep it's historic character even if the typical regular is probably too young to appreciate it. A standard selection of beers, slightly higher price than other local pubs, and good helpings of unadventurous but certainly edible pub-grub. Unless you are single and under 25, this pub is best enjoyed before 8.00pm when the youngsters take over and the volume goes up.

15 Feb 2004 19:04

The Litten Tree, Dartford

Part of a chain of Litten trees that seem to be sprouting in many medium size towns. Nothing inheritantly wrong with the place but chose your time to visit. By day it is a comfortable airy pub with a reasonable menu of standard pub-grub and the usual selection of beers, sometimes on special offers. By night it does become a magnet for the younger crowd and can be unwelcoming. Good for watching sport but not the place for a quiet chat.

15 Feb 2004 18:56

The Courthouse, Dartford

One of the best pubs in Dartford. Historic old building that has kept it's character. Decent beers and varied programme of entertainment. Doesn't get too crowded or smoky. Never come across any bother despite central location in a town that has it's fair share of plankton brained kid drinkers.

15 Feb 2004 18:47

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