Postal London - February 1999

This is the second instalment of my attempt to drink a pint in every one of London's 119 postal districts in 1999. I managed 11 in January which were featured in my article March's London Drinker. As I give up alcohol for Lent I have until Shrove Tuesday (Feb 16) for this months pubs.

On the first Sunday of February I went to Woodford in the afternoon to visit a friend. When I leave him after tea I walk down to South Woodford (E18). This is a small, suburban district of mainly thirties housing. Some of you may remember staying there at the Queen Mary College Halls of Residence when they were used as accommodation for GBBF staff. There are only four pubs in E18 but all of them sell real ale. A new Hogshead pub in George Lane is also being developed and will be open some time this year.

The one I visit is the George which is a large one-bar Bass pub next to the Odeon cinema, where I have a pint of Fullers London Pride. Two of the other pubs (the White Hart and the Napier Arms) are also Bass, and the other one (the Railway Bell next to the Tube station) sells Courage beers. None of the four pubs are particularly interesting and the pubs in Woodford itself, just north of E18, provide a better choice. One of these, the Cricketers (McMullen), is just a few feet outside of E18.

After leaving the George I walk down into the next district E11. The northern most part of E11 is known as is Wanstead and feels more like a village due to the fact it is cut off from the rest of the district, which is known as Leytonstone, by a roundabout. Wanstead has six pubs although Leytonstone itself has about twenty. The pub I choose is the Nightingale which is in front of a green and has the feel of a village local. The Nightingale has five beers on, all from the Courage beer range, and I have a pint of Charles Wells Bombardier.

The Duke of Edinburgh, which was the ELAC branch's darts venue, is in the same road and there is a Wetherspoon pub, also called the George, by Wanstead station. I was going to pop in the George but a 101 bus comes along and I get on it to go to East Ham (E6). Opposite the Town Hall is the Millers Well, a Wetherspoon pub. This is smaller than average for a Wetherspoon pub and has a more pub-like character than some of their larger conversions. The usual range is on sale and I have a pint of Shepherd Neame Spitfire. It is pleasing to note that the pub is quite full for a Sunday night.

Later in the week I have to go to Forest Gate (E7) for an interview. I have already done E7 so I walk to Stratford (E15) Town Centre where I try the Swan. This used to be a keg disco pub but is now under new management. It has been refurbished in a super-pub style with the emphasis on drink, food and conversation and no games or music. There are three beers on and I have a pint of Wadworths 6X. The days newspapers are also available. While the Swan is now aimed at the town centre trade and lacks the character of a true local it is a welcome addition to the Stratford drinking scene.

For the Saturday before Lent I get the bus to Canning Town. This is part of E16 which is a former docklands area but without the redevelopment that the Isle of Dogs has had. According to the ELAC guide there are forty-two pubs in E16 of which eleven sell real ale. However twelve of these pubs are closed down and of the eleven listed as real ale outlets five no longer sell real ale.

Of the ten pubs I try four are closed down, two are shut and the other four have no real ale. The only good point is that one of the four, the Ram, has two handpumps with Youngs clips although I was told the beer will not be on until mid-April. The Ram is attached to a Carlsberg-Tetley distribution plant and has been refurbished, apparently with a view to attracting trade from new housing estates nearby.

Perhaps further redevelopment, including a new university campus, will bring new pubs and bring back real ale to some of the others. Until then the best bet seems to be going to London City Airport and getting a plane to Belgium or Germany.

As there was a tube strike on the Monday I use some of the obscure railway lines for a crawl round North London. Firstly I use the Barking-Gospel Oak to go to Gospel Oak and then walk down to Kentish Town (NW5). Here I try the district's GBG pub, the Pineapple, a small back street free house where most of the customers are watching the charms of Carol Voderman on Countdown. Two beers are on and I have a pint of Marstons Pedigree. After this I go back to Kentish Town station and get a train to Cricklewood (NW2).

Right out of the station and left into Cricklewood Broadway brings me to another GBG pub the Beaten Docket which is a large Wetherspoon pub with their usual range. As there is a special promotion with Shepherd Neame Spitfire at 99p choice of beer is rather easy. This pub was (and maybe still is) John Crynes local. Another attraction here is a curry night every Thursday.

Leaving the Docket I head south to Kilburn (NW6) as I know there is a Youngs pub, the Queens Arms, in the High Street. Unfortunately it is at the far end of the High Street which means an extra twenty minutes walk and when I get there it is in the throes of renovation. One bar is closed and the other has no decoration, games or music. This makes the whole effect flat and uninteresting but fortunately this criticism does not apply to the beer. I have a pint of Youngs Ordinary which is perfectly acceptable. Perhaps the pub will be worth a visit when the renovations are finished.

Afterwards it is back to Kilburn High Road station for a train to Willesden Junction and then the North London (Richmond to North Woolwich) line back east. I alight at Canonbury station but the pub I had selected for N5 had the pumpclip turned back on the handpump so I head east into the northern edge of N1. Here in Mildmay Grove South is a Fullers pub, the Earl of Radnor. This is a small plush locals pub with classical music playing in the background. I have an excellent pint of London Pride which fully justifies the pub's GBG listing. Somewhat reluctantly I leave and head further east into Hackney (E8).

Here in Forest Road is the Prince Arthur, a free house which was known as the Lady Diana for most of the last twenty years. This is a GBG regular with three beers on and I have a pint of Adnams bitter. Normally I find that Adnams in London is of lower quality than in Suffolk but I am pleasantly surprised here. When I get to Hackney Central station I find I have twenty minutes to wait for the next train home which allows me to have a pint of Charles Wells Bombardier in the Earl Amhurst by the station.

For Shrove Tuesday, the last day before Lent, I am meeting some friends in the Woodins Shades which is in EC2 between Liverpool Street Station and Spitalfields Market. This is a one-bar pub which while having a site-clothes restriction is not as full of suits as most city pubs. For a Tuesday night the pub has a very lively atmosphere helped by the football on Sky Sports. The two beers on are Bass and London Pride and I have a pint of Bass. I was going to go after one or two to do a few more pubs but it transpires that my friends have been invited to a party in the upstairs bar so I end up staying for most of the evening and a few more pints of Pride. If you have a train to catch (or miss) at Liverpool Street the Shades seems an ideal place to wait.

I get back home about 10.30 in time for a couple more pints in the local and a curry before six and a half weeks of abstinence before I can start again on Easter Sunday.

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