ALE Winter 2000 No. 300

Central London Pubs - part 3

The City of London

(plus a few pubs in adjacent areas)

A couple of warnings: many City pubs are closed all weekend and some have dress codes (suits only or no jeans/trainers). However a few places have now opened with a no-suits rule.

As you'd expect, big bars from big chains dominate. One in particular is worth a mention: the Crosse Keys in Gracechurch Street. This is trying an important experiment, advertised in What's Brewing for instance. Instead of the usual bland, widely-available beers so typical of JD Wetherspoon, this one is buying interesting brews from smaller breweries. If the experiment works, they say they'll do that nationally.

On a recent visit there was indeed a fine selection on: Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild, Exmoor Gold, Hop Back Summer Lightning, Ridley Rumpus, London Pride and Batemans XXXB. However they were let down by inadequate and poorly-trained staff. The good news was that Exmoor Gold cost only 1.89 and was the first pint this reviewer has had in any JDW (out of about a dozen visits) which was full-measure. It may close early on Sunday evenings.

[Cittie of York] The Cittie of York in High Holborn seems to be typical of Sam Smiths pubs hereabouts: the only real ale on is the bland Old Brewery Bitter. It's a fine old building, rather wasted in real ale terms! Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street is physically an amazing place: lots and lots of small and medium rooms. Sadly it's Sam Smiths so only seems to have that one beer.

Out towards the legal quarter, in Chancery Lane, is another giant Wetherspoons, the Knights Templar. Inside it sports a Woolwich ATM point, looking superficially like a gaming machine. Verdict: impressive decor but unimpressive beers. Another typical JDW feature is the small upstairs no-smoking area.

[Jerusalem Tavern frontage] In the other direction, north of the City proper, near Farringdon Station, is the Jerusalem Tavern (Britton Street, St Peter's Brewery). The building dates from the 1720s and is about as quaint as you can get. They stock six or so St Peters draught beers plus their famous range of bottled beers.

A little further northwards is O'Hanlons (Tysoe Street, off Rosebery Avenue) - another quaint, tiny, old pub. The O'Hanlons brewery is due to move out of London around Christmas 2000, the pub having been sold to finance expansion. We had their fine Port Stout at the 1999 Winter Ale Festival.


(again, stretching the area definition slightly)

This being a student area, the variety of pubs is greater, though Young's seem to predominate.

Westwards from O'Hanlons into Bloomsbury is the Pakenham Arms (on Calthorpe Street), a Free House featuring a wide range of beers such as Fullers Chiswick and Charles Wells Eagle IPA. It's the "local" for the Mount Pleasant Sorting Office and is apparently licensed from 09:00 to 01:30!

The Head of Steam near Euston Station is tricky to find but worth it: it's on the first floor, entered via a low-profile door in the south-east corner of the courtyard outside the station. It's not particularly large but cosy and welcoming. They try to have a variety of less common brews - for instance Shepherd Neame Master Brew Bitter.

The Metropolitan Bar (JDW again) above Baker Street station is visually stunning but disappointing for beer.

Much more rewarding is the excellent Lamb at the top of Lamb's Conduit Street. This has a range of six or so Young's beers (and more recently Smile's) and looks after them well. The bar still feels Victorian, with snob screens (very rare now), and there's a good selection of pub grub. Also worth a mention is the Calthorpe Arms in Gray's Inn Road - also Young's. In the same area is the King's Arms (Northington Street), a friendly & lively Bass house with a reasonable selection from national brands and Greene King.

Central London Pubs

This article was researched during trips to London during 2000 with a lot of guidance from the Good Beer Guide 2000 and 2001.

It's surprisingly hard to find genuinely interesting beer but there are signs of improvement. The Spring 2001 Update in ALE 301 has some more recent information.

Ian Kitching

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