Yesterday I took Mrs RM for a leisurely 15 mile walk around the City of London. I think I may have told her 5 miles; sure she’ll start talking to me again soon. I think she’ll insist on the Bermondsey mile next time.
Mrs RM is the ideal company when you’re trying to visit several pubs without overdoing it yourself, and I had just the five left to complete this year’s East London entries in the Beer Guide. 10 years ago, these pubs might well have been shut all weekend, but the rediscovery of the original City by tourists and Londoners has revitalised the area around Bank and Tower Hill, with only Farringdon now looking a little forlorn on the Saturday – it would have been good to revisit the Old Mitre or Jerusalem Tavern.
The ziz-zag walk from King’s Cross takes us through Exmouth Market and Spitalfields, stopping at the wonderfully cluttered and colourful Museum of London, looking busier than I’ve ever seen it. Unconvincing recreation of a Watney’s pub though.
Our first pub is the Draft House in Seething Lane, across the river from a very different looking pub from the “chain” on Tower Bridge Road. We like it a lot, and the Tiny Rebel Boom Azacalaka (NBSS 4) is our beer of the day, as often the case with their beers. We ignore the undeniably attractive Pilsner Urquell tanks, which makes Draft House feel a bit like Greene King’s Grain Store in Cambridge, a favourite of ours. We leave before the pub fills ahead of the West Ham-Chelsea match.
The next stretch takes us into unexplored territory – St Katharine Docks has fantastic views from it’s Marina, before the urban reality of Wapping kicks in. Turner’s Old Star (top) is a startling contrast to the Wapping riverside pubs I’ve been for, providing lager for the locals and a very decent Pride (NBSS 3) for us. The Elgoods house beer isn’t great, but the pub itself is wonderful.
As we headed north past the Tobacco Dock and the new Royal London Hospital, we looked in vain for signage for the London home of the foremost Northern Beer Blogger (perhaps it’s at the Marina), getting to the White Hart on Mile End just as rain descended. The White Hart was attracting the sort of customer normally seen around Columbia Road pubs on Sundays. The food and home-brew beers were excellent (NBSS 3.5), though the place seemed completely out of place as you returned to Whitechapel. I was struck by the wonderful thing that is the Private Finance Initiative, delivering beautiful building like the Royal to the nation that would otherwise not be built simply because they’re unaffordable.
After a quick, expensive half of Redemption (NBSS 2.5) at the Crown & Shuttle on Shoreditch High Street (good music, uncomfortable), it was a slog up Kingsland Road, which continues to evolve at startling pace. Street art and craft beer in disused garages almost distract attention from the Vietnamese cafes.
The Fox at Haggerston isn’t quite worth the walk though, a good Burning Sky Aurora (NBSS 3.5) hard to enjoy in cramped conditions set for rugby.
The walk back to Kings Cross along the Regent Canal is great, and almost rural. Apart from the Wenlock, there’s not many really good pubs in this part of N1 though, cafes like Foodilic are the stars.
Final reflections – Fantastic new architecture, a real variety of pubs, no murky beer but not all great, £4+ a pint, pubs around Shoreditch pretty much the reserve of the 25-35 age group, not the mix of ages I see elsewhere.