Postal London - July 1999
Welcome to the July edition of Postal Drinker, my attempt to drink a pint of real ale in every London postal district in 1999. As I am now in temporary employment and July is a very busy period, including working most weekends, all these pubs are done on an individual basis rather than as part of a crawl and most of them are done in the early evening on the way home from work. Working in Central London does mean I get a travelcard and so have no extra travelling costs.
The first pub of the month is O'Hanlon's in Clerkenwall (EC1) which is a small Irish owned free house with its own brewery in South London. Four of their real ales are available and a couple dispensed by other methods. I have a pint of Firefly, a light refreshing beer ideal for summer drinking.
The landlord is a rugby union enthusiast and a large number of programmes from internationals and other big games are displayed throughout the pub along with some excellent reviews of the pub and its food. O'Hanlon's is in the residential part of EC1 and is open all permitted hours.
Walking back to Farringdon station I notice Young's, Fullers, Greene King and Shepherd Neame pubs and various free houses so it strikes me that Clerkenwall would be an excellent area to have a crawl. EC1 is a very mixed area stretching from the northern edge of the City into Islington with a wide variety of pubs. There are about a hundred most of which are real.
On the first Friday I am meeting friends for a drink in the Golden Fleece in EC4. This is a medium sized Greene King pub near Bank station. As well as the usual beers the bicentenery 1799 ale is available, this is a dark fruity beer which is an interesting contrast to the rest of the brewery's range.
The Golden Fleece is typical of pubs in the area and although I did not enquire I would imagine it is closed at weekends. I did enquire about the pub's name as there is also a Golden Fleece in Manor Park but the manageress did not know how the name originated. According to the ELAC guide EC4 has about sixty pubs most of which are real.
During the next week I try the Swan in EC3 which is a small Fullers pub just off Gracechurch Street with the usual city opening hours and clothing restrictions. The full Fullers range is available including the Summer Ale which is another light refreshing beer. There are also several Young's pubs in EC3 and a Wetherspoon pub in Gracechurch Street which I believe is open at weekends. Most of the forty odd EC3 pubs sell real ale and tend to be of the traditional variety.
For the next Friday I try the most southern pub in the London postal area. This is the Joiners Arms in South Norwood (SE25) which is just over half a mile south of Norwood Junction station or two miles if, like me, you take a wrong turning and walk to Croydon and have to walk back again. The South East London guide gives the pub a good write up describing it as "A delightful pub with very much a country atmosphere" and also mentioning the garden which is well equipped for children.
Unfortunately the warm weather has taken its toll on the beer and my first choice Old Speckled Hen was undrinkable. It was changed fro a pint of Fullers London Pride which while being drinkable was not at its best. Next to the Joiners is the Beehive which looks a nice pub but the beer (London Pride) is not at its best. Perhaps I was just unlucky as both pubs would be well worth visiting if the beer was in good condition.
On the Saturday I visit St Johns Wood (NW8) which is an up-marked residential area that has lost a few good pubs in recent years. However the Clifton, in Clifton Hill is still there. This a small Nicholsons pub with five expensive real ales available and I have a pint of Badgers Tanglefoot. The pub has some tables outside at the front and a garden at the back and the days newspapers are available which I find a nice touch. I have vague memories of the Clifton having a very successful quiz team in days gone by.
During the next week I try a couple of pubs near work. For WC2 I try an old favourite the Marquis of Anglsea in Bow Street. This is a Young's pub which has been refurbished in a wine bar style with lots of light brown wood and is clearly aimed at the tourist and theatre going crowd. However the Young's Bitter is in good condition. For WC1 I visit the Rugby Tavern which is now a Shepherd Neame pub, having previously been run by Nicholsons and Fullers. This is a small pub with an upstairs room which is sometimes used by North London Camra for meetings. the current Sheps seasonal beer, Goldings is available. This is another light refreshing summer beer.
For the next Saturday I pop up to Hampstead (NW3) to visit the Flask in the town centre. This is a Young's pub which has a saloon bar divided into two separate areas, a public bar, a conservatory and some seats outside making five separate drinking areas in total. I have an excellent pint of Young's bitter and watch the Open golf on the television in the public bar. As well as the usual Young s beers Duval a strong Belgian bottle-conditioned beer is also available.
For the last three pubs of July I decide to finish off North London. Firstly I do Canonbury (N5) which is a small inner London district with few pubs. I get off the Picadilly line at Arsenal station and wander round passing the famous football ground and end up at the unusually named Bank of Friendship. This is a small friendly Courage pub with a garden at the back and I have a very nice pint of Courage Best. Despite its proximity to the Arsenal ground the Bank makes nothing of the fact and has no memorabilia displayed apart from a couple of pictures of the Republic of Ireland football team and a drawing of Pat Jennings the former Arsenal, Spurs and Northern Ireland goalkeeper. However I would still imagine that it is best avoided on match days due to the large crowds in the area. Further down the road is the Highbury Barn, a free house with two beers on.
For North Finchley (N12), I try the Tally Ho which is now a Wetherspoon pub and I have a pint of Hop Back Summer Lightning, a most enjoyable beer. The Tally Ho is on a road junction and is a long standing local landmark although the current building dates from the twenties. The name dates back to the time when Finchley was a country area and fox hunting took place. As well as the large ground floor there is a separate non-smoking bar upstairs which is used as a dining room. On the night of my visit many of the diners are partaking of the Curry Club special.
The last pub of the month is the Queens Head in Finchley (N3) near Finchley Central station which is a large locals pub with pool, darts and football on the television. There are four beers on from the Courage range and I have a pint of Theakstons XB, a beer I rarely see these days. It is a most pleasant surprise being in excellent condition, far superior to Theakstons Best. Food is available all day and although it is about 8 on a Saturday night one customer is having a big fry-up breakfast.