ALE Summer 2003 No. 311

Political Westminster

A pub tour of Westminster, mainly concentrating on the area around the Houses of Parliament.

The Red Lion
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The starting point was near Westminster Tube station (Whitehall East exit), at the junction of Parliament Street and Derby Gate, just south of Whitehall, where the Red Lion stocked Adnams Bitter (1.20/half), Tetley and Bass. Although there's plenty of traditional wood & glass decor, Sky Sports and piped music mean this is likely to appeal more to a younger clientele.

Using the subway to cross Parliament Street to the west side, I walked westwards alongside the Treasury Building to the corner of Great George Street and Horse Guards. (Just around to the right are the fascinating Cabinet War Rooms.)


 

The Westminster Arms
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I crossed southwards to Storeys Gate and about half way along (opposite the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre) is the Westminster Arms. Downstairs is a bustling wine bar (Storeys, serving food) but the ground floor is a classic boozer with no tables, just stools at the bar and at drinking ledges around the room. Beers on included Tetleys, Adnams, Greene King Abbot and Burtonwood's "Brakespear's Bitter". The landlord has been awarded Cask Marque. Tourist groups kept coming in and looking bemused till the barman explained they probably wanted the wine bar. The decor is largely unspoilt, still with a Victorian feel. Sport TV was on but with the volume low.

Carrying on to the south, I then turned westwards into Tothill Street.


 

The Sanctuary
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About 200 yards along is The Sanctuary, now a Fullers Ale & Pie pub but previously a base for MI5. Fullers Honeydew was on at 1.20/half. Loud piped pop music didn't seem to go with the etched glass and chandelier decor.


 

Finnegan's Wake
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A slight diversion down Broadway, past Scotland Yard, led to Strutton Ground. By a process of elimination the pub there now called Finnegan's Wake seems to be what was previously the Grafton Arms, legendary in the annals of the Goon Show as a hang-out for the principals. (Pub not visited.)


 

The Feathers Returning to Broadway, past The Feathers (not visited) and past the Art Deco HQ of London Underground, over St James's Park station.


 

The Old Star The Old Star (also not visited) is a Hawkins & Co. pub advertising 'Belgian beers'.


 

The Buckingham Arms
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Broadway then becomes Petty France. Opposite the Scots Guards barracks is the Buckingham Arms, a classic pub with wood and etched glass fittings. It's one of the select few pubs which has been in every edition of the Good Pub Guide (another one is featured at the end). As a Young's pub, Special was on at 1.20/half.


 

The Adam & Eve I passed the Adam & Eve and crossed Buckingham Gate, down Castle Lane to Palace Street.


 

The Cask & Glass
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Just to the right is the Cask & Glass, a tiny, delightful pub on the corner with Wilkin Street, operated by Shepherd Neame. Four Sheps beers were on, including Spitfire and Master Bitter at 1.15/half. There's also an impressive wine selection. The walls are decorated with old pictures and political cartoons. The stools by a drinking shelf are screwed to the floor. (Something to do with political earthquakes?) It's a quiet, intimate place.


 

The Phoenix A little further westwards is the Phoenix, not visited on this occasion but it has the look of a locals' boozer.


 

The Speaker Before carrying on to the last pub of the trip, here are some more pubs not visited on this trip but noted in passing.

The Speaker is south of Westminster Abbey at the corner of Great Peter Street and Perkin's Rents; it was previously known as the Elephant and Castle prior to tarting up.

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The Royal Oak at the top of Regency Street and the Jugged Hare in Vauxhall Bridge Road are both GBG-listed.

One of the better JD Wetherspoon pubs is Lord Moon of the Mall, near the top end of Whitehall, about 100-150 yards down from Trafalgar Square, next door to the Whitehall Theatre. There's a good-sized no-smoking area and it's one of the few decent pubs thereabouts which is open on Sunday evenings.


The final stage of this trip is a bit of a cheat, being 15-20 minutes' walk further on into Belgravia, but well worth it!

North end of the Mews Carrying on to the far end of Palace Street, I walked around the Royal Mews into Hobart Place, turned right into Upper Belgrave Street and then left into Belgrave Square. The mews along the west side, Belgrave Mews West, is entered to the north or south through archways. The southern archway is surrounded by the German Embassy.


 

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Almost at the northern end of the mews is the Star Tavern, another pub which has been in every Good Beer Guide. It hosted the launch of the 2003 Guide. Fullers beers are served in this quiet and friendly place, which is Grade II Listed.


 

Ian Kitching

Pubs were chosen largely guided by the Good Beer Guide (2002 & 2003 editions).


Late Flash

The Ship & Shovell (Hall & Woodhouse) is opening on Sundays for Summer 2003, providing much-needed relief to Tanglefoot fans! It's on the other side of Northumberand Avenue from the Lord Moon, in a passage off Craven Street. See the article in ALE 300.


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