ALE Summer 2002 No. 307

Central London - Holborn Ramble

Holborn is the next area over from Covent Garden, to the north-east. Saturday lunchtime and afternoon seems to be the ideal time for visiting pubs in this area. Some pubs are closed on Sunday, which partly explains why the ones which do open are busier than on Saturday. [In this tour there's some overlap with the review in ALE 300.]

Starting in the Strand outside the Royal Courts of Justice, if you turn up Bell Yard, along the north-eastern edge of the Courts complex, you arrive in Carey Street.

To the right, at the junction with Chancery Lane, is the GBG-listed Knights Templar. It's a typical J.D. Wetherspoon, given to displaying pump clips for unavailable beer. Worth a stop if you're passing. Unusually for the area, it's open at weekends.

[Seven Stars frontage]

However to the left is the Seven Stars Free House, featuring Adnams and Harveys - the Sussex Best Bitter is highly recommended. This was reviewed in What's Brewing October 2001, where we were introduced to the landlady Roxy Beaujolais and her fine food. This tiny pub has just celebrated its 400th anniversary. It's closed on Sundays but open 11-11 otherwise.

Carry on westwards a little way along Carey Street and take the first turn north up towards Lincoln's Inn Fields.

[A slight detour to Sir John Soane's Museum on the north side of the Lincoln's Inn Fields square is highly recommended.]

[Penderel's Oak frontage]

Carrying on northwards along the eastern side of the square leads you to an alley through to High Holborn. At that corner is the Penderel's Oak, another GBG-listed pub which is one of the best J.D. Wetherspoon's. Its big "plus" is that the crowds of young drinkers go to its large basement bar (which has TV sport), leaving the ground floor area generally calm and peaceful outside peak hours. There's a reasonably-sized no-smoking area at the rear.

[Pump in Bedford Row] Cross High Holborn and go to the right (eastwards), go past the left turn into Hand Court and take the next left turn up Brownlow Street. At the top, in Bedford Row, is a lovely old pump.

[Three Cups frontage]

Turn left (west) along Sandland Street and you come to Youngs' Three Cups, another GBG pub but which is under threat of closure in late 2002 as part of a redevelopment. It's closed at weekends.

Carry on westwards (the street becomes Eagle Street) and at the corner with Dane Street you come to Overdraughts: it doesn't look much from the outside but has a good selection of beers for a locals' boozer, hence its GBG listing. Also closed at weekends.

Turn north(ish) into Red Lion Square and leave the square by the alley leading diagonally from its north-east corner. This takes you to the Dolphin Tavern on Red Lion Street, another locals' boozer that's worth a trip, with the likes of Adnams on offer. It was rebuilt in 1915 after a Zeppelin raid.

From here one could go north up Lamb's Conduit Street to the excellent Lamb there (see the review in ALE 300).

[Cittie of York] However instead, returning south towards Holborn Station and High Holborn, other pubs along there include the Melton Mowbray, a GBG-listed Fullers Ale & Pie place. (A more interesting specimen of these is the Old Bank of England on the north side of Fleet Street, near the bottom of Chancery Lane.) Another one closed at weekends.

Carrying on eastwards along High Holborn, there's the Cittie of York, which some people rave about due to its age but which just has Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter. [At a very reasonable price, though! Ed.] Its historic interior is on CAMRA's National Inventory. Continuing eastwards past Chancery Lane Tube station takes you to Holborn Circus.

[Ye Olde Mitre - front] Far superior is Ye Olde Mitre in Ely Court, which is a little tricky to find but well worth the effort.

At Holborn Circus, start at the eastern pavement of Hatton Gardens. About 20-30 yards up the street (northwards) there's an alley off to the right, indicated by a kerbside plaque on a lamppost. Its selection of beer includes the now-rare Burton Pale Ale. The place was originally built in 1547 for the Bishop of Ely's servants.
[Ye Olde Mitre - passage towards the back]
[Ye Olde Mitre - lamp & sign] There's a small front bar and a larger rear one and it's also in CAMRA's National Inventory. Sadly the pub is closed at weekends. [It featured in Snatch (2000) as a hang-out of Doug "The Head" Denovitz (played by Mike Reid).]

Ian Kitching

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