Much as I’d like to have just travelled between North-West and South-West in rotation, reality dictates that at some point I have to revisit that London to visit the capital’s 39 new Beer Guide entries, murky warm beer or not. Since retirement I’ve not missed the fortnightly hell that is Waterbeach to Kings Cross (at least in peak), but I do miss the sense of energy you get every visit.
This year there’s less new pubs in the GBG than in previous years, with the Craft and Draft pubsalready established, and the micro pubs opening south of the river still to come. Still, there’s a handful to visit in the old City, and a cluster in W1, which always makes for a good walk. For all it’s faults, London is one of the great cities to aimlessly explore, just behind Genoa, Nuremberg and of course Manchester in my book.
While not quite in the Stonch league, my 12 mile walk from Kings Cross to Victoria to Tower Bridge and back is a good leg stretcher, and takes me down plenty of undiscovered streets, particularly around Marylebone and Bermondsey. Things that occur me at random include the number of Asian eateries (good), how much warmer London is than Cambridge, and how slow people walk these days.
Before the pubs, I will recommend the breakfasts at the Wellcome Foundation café – healthy and cheapish. Great museum as well (closed Mondays though).
A drab Monday in October, with a strong £ against the euro, might not be the best time to gauge the state of tourist London pubs, but I found them all pleasantly busy. My first call was the particularly stately Gunmakers, just north of the wonderful Wallace Collection, and itself full of Churchillian memorabilia (and a pub cat too fast for my camera).
The zigzag down into Soho gave the most interesting sights, and the Lyric was my favourite pub, a real drinkers bar to contrast with the nearby Dog and Duck.
I feel a bit out of place in jeans heading into Mayfair, but the Clarence (Nicholsons) is a down-to-earth pub serving burgers to tourists, although not enough cask to justify the pumps unfortunately.
The problem with London is knowing when to stop, rather than where to start. After a trip to Victoria (details to follow) I called time at the attractive and quirky Draft House at Tower Bridge (did this use to be an Adnams pub?). £2.75 a decent pint of a very traditional Bermondsey beer. I had to walk past another Draft House and the Williams Ale House on my way back to the station but stood firm.
Overall, I thought the beer today was good enough for the Guide (NBSS 3) but not exceptional, though no murky to complain about. Prices were under £4 a pint for the weakest bitter; a couple of Dutch visitors were a bit surprised at £10.40 for 2 lagers (Camden or not). There’s certainly a growing amount of “craft keg” on the bar (and not just Camden), but never mind Doom Bar, Peroni or Amstel seem to be winning the battle for the tourist pound at the moment.