ALE Spring 2003 No. 309

You're Never Too Youngs

A tour of Southwest London

We had debated a tour of our old drinking grounds in Southwest London and opted for Friday 31 January. That was the day that it snowed, if you remember. Common sense might have led us to postpone the trip, but we were not going to be deterred from our quest by a bit of snow, so we set off from Cambridge station, beset by delays and cancellations. With time to wait for a train, we headed for refreshments. Simon's request for black coffee was met with the question "would you like milk with that?" Despite a negative answer, milk was added.

However, rather than the usual stare-straight-ahead and look-at-no-one atmosphere on the train, our longer than expected journey was made pleasurable by actually talking to the other passengers! After a two-hour journey and a change to a faster train at Stevenage, we arrived at Kings Cross, and took the Tube to Waterloo, where we caught a train to Richmond.

Our first port of call was Young's White Cross Hotel on the riverside, at the bottom of Water Lane, with beautiful views of Richmond Bridge. Hungry by now, we both had pork in cider (adequate), washed down with pints of Winter Warmer and Young's Bitter, both on fine form. It was the tail end of lunchtime by now, but still reasonably busy. The pub is very popular in the summer, where people spill out from the beer garden to the river's edge.

Next port of call was a short bus journey along Upper Richmond Road to Roehampton, where Dave went to college. Our first stop was The Maltese Cat, named after a polo pony in a story by Kipling. A 1960s estate pub off Roehampton Lane, it was the same Stradivarius ("vile inn") that Dave remembered, with a Hobson's choice of Young's Bitter, not at its best.

From there we went to a sad victim of the dark powers of keg and nitrokeg, The King's Head on the corner of Roehampton Lane and the High Street. Finding that it no longer served any real ale, we moved swiftly on to The Angel, Roehampton High Street, which offered Young's Bitter and Special.

Back on the buses, we went downhill to Putney, which evoked many memories. First stop was The Fox and Hounds, Upper Richmond Road, offering Hook Norton Old Hookey, among others.

Next was The Railway, formerly Drummond's Wine Bar, but now a Weatherspoon's offering a good range at good prices. We tried their Summer Lightning. Was Dave feeling the effects, or was there a model railway running above our heads?

Next was the long-awaited Olde Spotted Horse. We both remembered it as being as incongruous as a penguin in the jungle. Run down for many years, it stuck out when much of Putney High Street was being rebuilt as the shopping centre or refurbished during the smartening-up of the area. The street is now full of bistros and theme bars. Eventually Young's had followed and refurbished The Olde Spotted Horse. The central island bar had gone to be replaced by a shiny new one along one side, making the pub seem more open, but it still had the 1850s time warp feel of many of Young's pubs. We tried the Winter Warmer.

Carrying on up the High Street, we came to the Whistle & Flute, which had at one time been a NatWest bank that had been developed by Fuller's in the mid 1990s as an Irish theme pub. The theme was gone, as was the central bar, and it was a bit characterless. We had a couple of halves of ESB, as dangerously drinkable as ever. Next stop would have been the pub formerly known as The White Lion, then Slug and Lettuce, but having looked through the window, we decided that we'd give it a miss.

Instead we crossed the famous Putney Bridge to The Golden Lion, Fulham High Street, a Charington pub with a good local feel, where we met Simon's uncle. A couple of pints of Fuller's London Pride later, we embarked on the journey back to Cambridge. We decided to give the coffee a miss when we came back to the station.

Written by Dave, the busker and pub entertainer at The Live and Let Live, Cambridge,
and Simon, chef at The Kingston Arms, Cambridge

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