Weds 21st February 2001

This will be HASSRALE's third foray into this area (the previous two visits were in the Octobers of 1987 and 1993) and covered quite disparate parts of Hampstead. Anyway nowhere stands still as far as pubs are concerned as our trial team has found to its cost. The first trial for this was last October (eerily 13 years to the day since Hampstead I), but rumours about the closure of the Horse & Groom have proved well-founded. It closes on 21st Feb to become a Chinese restaurant (even if it is still open on our trip, there is little likelihood of beer), so a rethink has produced this revised trip. No more surprises we hope! Make your way to Hampstead tube station (Northern Line, Edgware branch) then head left down the High Street and turn left into Flask Walk to find the first pub along on the right. Approximate leaving times are shown in [ ].

1. The Flask - 14 Flask Walk NW6 [18.30]
Youngs Bitter, Special, Winter Warmer.

Large three bar pub in quiet lane full of quaint shops. Saloon bar with carpets divided into a front and back bar plus a dining area right at the back. Public bar has a separate entrance and is very much smaller now that the rear area which opens out onto the garden has been re-allocated to the saloon. .Beer in good condition. Seems to be very much a "locals" pub (not a reference to the League of Gentlemen) . In the past there used to be running feud between drinkers who wanted to stand outside in the evenings and the residents who kept calling the police to stop them. Should this still occur, hopefully we will be long gone by the time such activities take place. On leaving, turn right then left up to the junction with Heath St. Turn right then right down New End, where down on the left is ...

2. The Duke of Hamilton - 23 New End [19.15]
Fuller's ESB, London Pride and guest beer.

Single bar pub with raised dais outside with extra seating. Opposite is a compound guarded by electronic gates where residents are protected from the unwashed masses. Despite the perceived link to Fullers, this is a genuinely free-house although it has a loan-tie to the brewery. Just past the New End theatre it is a one-bar pub with a central counter and is split into three drinking areas. Heavily wood panelled including the ceiling. The only CAMRA GBG entry for Hampstead according to the convivial landlord. Can be very popular in the summer, hopefully less busy on a HASSRALE visit. Continue down New End where at the junction with Well Walk is ...

3. White Bear (Ye Olde) - Well Road [20.00]
Greene King Abbot, Pedigree, Youngs Bitter, Adnams Bitter.

Just down the hill on a corner, this epitomises the so-called Hampstead local, with a varied clientele including families and Bohemian types often with dogs (quadrupeds) languishing around the roaring open log-fuelled fire to the left of the main bar. The bar is long and three-sided with a second area to the right. Food is served in the convivial environment of what is "possibly the site of the oldest pub in Hampstead village ... 1704" according to the blurb on the menu. Quite comfortable, certainly a little dingy (underlit) with TVs that are on for sporting events. There are plenty of seats outside too in the unlikely event of the weather being favourable. Now retrace your steps back up New End. to Heath St. Turn right, cross over and a little farther up is ...

4. The Coach & Horses - 99 Heath Street [20.45]
Courage Directors and Best.

A "basic Victorian style pub" is how the North London guide describes it. Seems to have undergone some minor refurbishment resulting in a U-shaped main bar at the front with limited banquette seating along one side (otherwise perch at the bar). At the back is a games room that may double as a family area and a patio garden. The pub can be accessed via the garden which opens onto the narrow back street behind. On leaving, turn right and walk back down Heath St. On the right almost opposite where the Horse & Groom used to be are the steps of Holly Bush Walk leading up our next port of call on the right ... ...

5. The Hollybush - 22 Holly Mount [21.30]
Adnams Broadside, Southwold Bitter, London Pride, Benskins Best

Well hidden pub full of intimate corners and secret confabulations. A large three bar hostelry with the main one directly opposite the entrance and housing the bar counter. The supplementary area to the left has no direct servery and hence can be termed a family room while the back bar is comfortable with a number of scrubbed wooden tables, a fairly young clientele but a quiet pub for all that. Lots of tables and benches, patchy lighting (there used to be gaslights but no longer) and open fires in all areas. Food again very noticeable. Salted nuts are sold from individual tins, but staff retain the containers and empty the contents into glass bowls instead. Depending on timing we may continue on to the Wetherspoon's pub, but ultimately the route back is likely to be from the tube station which is to be found back down the steps, right along Heath St to the traffic lights then directly opposite.

Trial details: Edmund & James Featherstone, John Wright on Weds 20th Oct 2000 & additionally including Paul Tiffany on Weds 7th February 2001..