ALE Winter 2002/2003 No. 308

Central London - Bloomsbury Ramble

(This follows on from the Holborn Ramble in ALE 307)

[Princess Louise frontage]
Starting from Holborn Station, go west along the south side of High Holborn about 200-300 yards to the Princess Louise.

It's an unspoilt Victorian pub, with lots of mirrors, woodwork, lovely old blue & cream tiles and a roaring fire on chilly days. CAMRA's National Inventory records such classic examples of pub interiors needing preservation.

There's the usual disappointment of a Sam Smiths pub in London: just Old Brewery Bitter on (though at the heartwarming 1.64) even though there are plenty of handpumps. It's well-kept but they could surely have, say, a choice of three beers without compromising quality?

Cross to the north side of High Holborn and turn into Southampton Place.

[This is a historic street, being one of the first to be built as the Bedford estate began to develop Bloomsbury. For instance, the fanlights above the doors are all different, allowing visitors to distinguish the houses in the days before streetlighting. Many developments then copied the ideas here.]

[Museum Tavern frontage]


Turn left along Bloomsbury Way and then right into Museum Street. At the top corner is The Museum Tavern, right opposite the British Museum.

It's another lovely old pub, with lots of wood and glass. The booklet A History of the Museum Tavern in Bloomsbury on sale behind the bar for 1 is worth buying. The pub features on the Sherlock Holmes tourist trail as Homes & Watson visit it in The Case of the Blue Carbuncle (in the guise of "The Alpha Inn").

On the day visited, it had Brakspear's Old Ale on as guest (2.48) along with Theakstons, Youngs Special, London Pride and Courage Directors.

The pub food here seems popular - it was already busy by 12:30 on a Saturday.

[The Swan frontage]
From the Tavern, turn right along Great Russell Street and Bloomsbury Place to the junction with Southampton Row and turn left (north-ish). Cross as soon as you can to the eastern side and go along Cosmo Place to The Swan.

This T&J Bernard (i.e. Scottish & Newcastle, at least for a while longer) pub is a bit smaller than the Cambridge one, the Fountain, but with a similar range of Scottish Courage and guest beers: Courage Directors, Youngs Bitter, Ridleys IPA and Theakston.

It's not as obviously "historic" as the first two but at least it's not been horribly modernised.

[Queen's Larder frontage]
A few doors further along, at the corner with Queen Square, is the historic Queen's Larder.
[During the illnesses of King George III, Queen Charlotte rented space here and made a home-from-home for the King when he had to be near his doctors - the area is still strongly medical.]

It's another pub with lots of wood and glass fittings. Pedigree, Bass, Boddingtons and London Pride were on during this visit.

[Rugby Tavern frontage]
Carrying on in the same direction leads you along Great Ormond Street. At the junction with Lamb's Conduit Street, turn right (south) and then left (east) into Rugby Street. At the far end is the Rugby Tavern.

This Shepherd Neame pub is another traditional one, in this case with food featuring strongly. The Late Red seasonal beer was on, in addition to Master Brew and Spitfire.

[Kings Arms frontage]
Carrying on eastwards(ish) leads into Northington Street and the Kings Arms, with the likes of Greene King IPA and Bass in its range. This popular little pub was also reviewed back in the original ramble hereabouts in ALE 300.

Ian Kitching

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