The term "Midtown" has been used in JDW's literature and was devised by City bankers to describe the area between the City and the West End. Anyway this seems a notional division and we actually start off by the LSE in premises that were not a former bank, but were probably part of the London School of Economics in the first place. Temple is the closest tube station. Walk up Arundel St to the east side of The Aldwych, then head west round to the corner of Houghton Street to find the first pub. Approximate leaving times are shown in [ ].
1. The Columbia Bar - 69 Aldwych WC2 [18.30]
Youngs Winter Warmer, Special and Ordinary.
Another of Young's ventures into the arena of theme-bar pubs. This one is in converted office premises (Columbia House) and is very modern with a marbled floor and much glass and chrome everywhere. The pub is on a corner with huge clear glass windows overlooking the Aldwych traffic and the London School of Economics. The ground floor bar is on two levels and very popular with the various office workers and consultants in the vicinity. There is a Vaults bar, which is more convivial and traditional, but this seems to open at odd times (after 6pm) and is prone to having private parties. Good air-conditioning also freshly squeezed fruit juice for the abstemious.¶ On leaving, turn left along Fleet St, then just before the Old Bank of England (see Kingsway II, 1st July '98) turn left up Bell Yard to Carey St, turn left and cross over to ...
2. The Seven Stars - Carey Street [19.15]
Courage Directors and Best; Greene King IPA.
This does not appear to have changed in the past 20 years (at least). Right by the New Court (DSS, Inland Revenue etc building). Intriguing traditional two bar pub with bare floorboards. Quite compact, but there is plenty of standing room on the pavement outside. It is opposite the rear entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice, from whence at lunchtime venerable members of the legal profession can be seen being helped across the road to the pub (called to the bar?) by the duty policeman. Beware there are no formal toilet facilities (the external gents loo in the adjacent alleyway has been closed/demolished). Fortunately the next port of call (which does have toilets) is close by.¶ Turn left continuing along to Chancery Lane where on the corner is ....
3. The Knights Templar - 95 Chancery Lane [20.00]
Courage Directors; Shepherd Neame Spitfire; Theakstons Best + guest beers.
A Wetherspoons pub, that opened in late summer to complete the triangle of such establishments in the area. The entrance seems to be on Carey St despite the address. It was formerly a NatWest bank and this is shown by the huge interior with its splendidly decorated ceiling. It covers a large area with the main body of accommodation being the original customer space. This is now the "Smoking area" (not compulsory) with tables, benches etc and a lengthy counter down one side. In true JDW style there is also "No Smoking" which here comprises a labyrinth of corridors and rooms presumably former bank offices. These rooms are well furnished and overlook Carey St from the 1st floor level. There is much association with the Knights Templar in the decor, however the knights all seem to resemble Ned Kelly¶ Continue up Chancery Lane where further along on the right is Rolls Passage. Turn right to find on the left ...
4. The Blue Anchor - Rolls Passage [20.45]
Courage Directors and Best.
This hostelry has moved from its original site, which was actually facing onto Chancery Lane itself, rather than down a side alley. It is another of the victims of the tremendous amount of development that has afflicted the area resulting in the loss of the Post Office and The Three Tuns which was the pub opposite the original location of the Blue Anchor, which is now in a new block of buildings which incorporate the pub "established 1749" apparently! It has two bars, the one at ground level, which is a smaller version of the original bare-boarded bar, while the other is a basement bar which is sometimes reserved for private functions. A minimal seating area outside is complemented by the whole pedestrianised alleyway in which to stand. ¶Continue through the alley, turn left down to the junction with Fetter Lane. Left down in the direction of Fleet St, before which on the left is ...
5. The Hogshead - Fetter Lane [21.15]
Fullers London Pride; Wadworth 6X; Caledonian 80/-; Boddingtons (on handpump, but could anybody tell now?)
Not exactly a traditional ale-drinkers haunt, but as most of the buildings in the area have either been demolished or changed extensively suffice to say that this simply did not exist as a pub 18 months ago! This Hogshead has powerful air-conditioning (you can tell the trial run was in the sultry summertime), bare floor-boards and exterior-style piping inside à la All Bar One. Could be regarded as another bar-cum-pub since the customers are equally as likely to be drinking wine as beer, however in winter perhaps beer drinking may prevail. In any case it is almost on Fleet Street and hence handy for the last pub.¶ Turn left to the traffic lights with Fleet St, cross over to Old Mitre Courtr then straight ahead is ...
6. The Clachan - Old Mitre Court [10.00+]
Courage Directors and Best.
Originally a Scottish & Newcastle pub and miraculously still is, despite to the numerous changes in breweries/pub estates. Situated within the precincts of the legal establishment one might imagine that it may have some elite clientèle. Well possibly, but they may have to rely upon HASSRALE to provide this. The interior is fairly compact with the usual bare boards (with the possible exception of parts of the Knights Templar, this may be a non-carpeted trip). Seating comprises the occasional alcove with benches around two sides of the bar area. Should there be a sudden heatwave there may be the opportunity to sit outside.
¶ Another momentous jaunt draws to a close. This time those of you who require buses are favoured (Fleet St), whereas trains and tubes are either back along to Charing Cross to the West, via Ludgate Circus then South for Blackfriars or for Liverpool St then the Number 9 (or is it 11?) bus.may help. Have a safe journey.
Trlal: Edmund and James Featherstone, John Wright on Weds 14th July 1999