Postal London - April 1999

This is the third month of my years crawl round the London postal districts. Before I detail April's pubs there are some points arising from earlier articles. In my first article I commented on the quality of the quiz team at the Manor Arms in Clapham. Since then I read in the Evening Standard that they had won the Standards all London pub quiz. The same edition of the Standard also had an article about the retirement of Reg Drury, the head brewer at Fullers. May I wish Reg a long and happy retirement.

For early April I decided to make a start on North London. This is not an area I know very well but I was able to borrow a copy of the last North London guide to make a few notes before I started. There does not appear to be a great variety of pubs and the main relief from the main brewers is the Wetherspoon chain. It appears from the guide that the Old Ale Emporium, the pub I visited in N4, used to be the Mortimer Arms, a Wetherspoon pub.

I start in South Tottenham (N15) have taken the Gospel Oak train to South Tottenham station. The two pubs nearest the station, the Dutch House and Molly McGuires, no longer sell real ale, the latter having twelve unused handpumps. Before I can find another pub I arrive at Seven Sisters station so I give up on N15 and get a train to Lower Edmonton (N9). Turning left outside the station into Church Street brings me to the Lamb a medium sized pub opposite the Jolly Farmer.

This is one of the pubs that Wetherspoon have sold to the Ambishus Pub Co although there has been little apparent change. There are about half a dozen beers on and I have a pint of Greene King IPA for £1.35. There are also promotions on Courage Best (99p per pint) and various brands of spirits (£1.50 per double). As I leave the pub appears to be filling up for lunchtime.

I head south to Upper Edmonton (N18) and walk down Fore Street, the main shopping centre. At the bottom end of Fore Street is the Gilpen's Bell which is a large Wetherspoon pub. Here I take advantage of Wetherspoons current promotion and have a pint of Theakstons best for 99p. The Bell appears to be the type of superpub that Wetherspoon are concentrating on. Personally I find them too large and a bit impersonal but it seems quite full with a lunchtime crowd and I have difficulty getting a seat to read the paper.

Leaving the Bell I head south into Tottenham (N17) and down Tottenham High Street which is a more inner-city area. Passing White Hart Lane and an old Whitbread brewery frontage I come to the Elbow Room which is another pub Ambishus have bought from Wetherspoon. It is quite small and crowded for a weekday lunchtime with a lively atmosphere. Like the Lamb it has a good range and I have a pint of Smiles Golden Brew. This is a most pleasant surprise, a very pale sharp hoppy beer reminiscent of the Boddingtons of old.

Heading further south down Tottenham High Street brings me back into N15. I head down West Green Street and the second pub I come to is the Fountain which advertises itself as a Crowndale pub. The deserted bar is cluttered with numerous artifacts and the bar has one handpump. This provides Websters Green Label for 99p. As it has taken four pubs in N15 to get this far I decide to have a pint so I do not have to waste any more time in the district.

This brings me back to Seven Sisters station so to do a couple more pubs for the day I get a Victoria line tube to Finsbury Park and then a Piccadilly line tube to Arnos Grove in New Southgate (N11). The Bankers Draft in Frien Barnet Lane is another medium sized pub that Ambishus have taken over from Wetherspoon. Six real ales are on and I have a pint of Hook Norton Old Hookey. I did ask the manager about the transfer of pubs from Wetherspoon to Ambishus but it turns out he is only a temporary relief as the manager is away on holiday.

To finish off for the day I get the tube another station north to Southgate (N14). As I know nothing about Southgate I try the nearest pub to the station which is the Rising Sun. Both Courage beers are usually sold but tonight only Best is available. The pub has a large food range and presumably gets a lot of passing trade on the way home from the station.

Later in April I have an interview in the Baker Street area so afterwards I take advantage of my Travelcard to try a few more pubs. I start by walking north into Marylebone, the western part of NW1, which is separated from the main part, Camden Town, by Regents Park. The pub I have chosen is the Windsor Castle which is Brakspears only tied house in London. It has been refurbished in a modern wine-bar style with wooden floors and an emphasis on food. There is also an upstairs bar that, somewhat incongruously, has a pool table. Both Brakspears bitters (bitter and special) and their seasonal beer, currently Three Sheets, are available. Despite the special half price offer on Three Sheets I have a pint of the ordinary bitter. Brakspears does not seem to be as widely available in London as it used to be so it is a pleasure to have a pint of an old favourite.

Leaving the Windsor Castle, I head back to Baker Street Station and get the tube to Paddington were I get a train to Hanwell (W7). This is the most westerly postal district in London and its most westerly pub and therefore the most westerly pub in the London postal districts is the Fox in Green Lane. This is a medium sized one bar pub which is by a lock on the Grand Union canal. The pub also has a garden and is opposite some allotments and a city farm which gives a bit of a rural feel to a suburban pub. Although the Fox advertises itself as a free house all the beers appear to come from Courage and the real ales on are Courage Best, Directors and Marstons Pedigree. As I have already had Best and Pedigree in earlier months of the crawl I have a pint of Directors. While the Fox deserves its GBG listing it could be improved by a more imaginative beer selection. Between the Fox and the station there are two other GBG pubs, the Dolphin (free) and the Viaduct (Fullers).

For the next pub I walk east along the mainly publess Uxbridge Road into West Ealing (W13). By West Ealing station is a Fullers pub, the Drayton Court. This is a large three bar pub, including a pool room which also has a conference room and a balcony overlooking a large garden. A sponsored walk organised by Fullers and starting and finishing at the brewery in June is advertised. The full Fullers range is on and I have a pint of Honey Dew, their current seasonal beer. This is vaguely similar to London Pride although the honey appears to give it a softer edge.

By an amazing coincidence I finish my pint just in time to get a train from West Ealing to Ealing Broadway (W5) which spares me a walk. Ealing town centre seems to be full of the usual town centre style superpubs but I head south into St. Marys Road to the Red Lion. This is a small one bar pub with well polished wooden furniture which is opposite the old Ealing Film Studios and is decorated with numerous photos relating to the studios. This is another Fullers pub with the full range on and I have a pint of Chiswick.

The next district into London is Acton (W3) and the pub I choose is the Duke of York in Steyne Road, off the High Street. This is a small, well furbished, ex-Watneys pub which is now a free house with three real ales, Courage Best, London Pride and Brakspears bitter so I have a second pint of Brakspears for the day. The Duke of York is GBG listed and is used as a meeting place by the Acton branch of the Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood. Within sight are two other pubs, the Kings Head (Fullers) and the Red Lion and Pineapple (ex Fullers now Wetherspoon).

This brings me up to eleven pubs for April and thirty two for the whole year so I will finish for April here and do another eleven in May.

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