Postal London - October 1999

Welcome to the ninth instalment of Postal Drinker, my attempt to drink a pint of real ale in every one of the hundred and nineteen postal districts in London. So far I am keeping up with the schedule of eleven pubs a month, allowing for giving up for Lent and have completed eighty seven so far. This leaves me with thirty two districts to be completed. As previously mentioned all my articles are available on the internet at the Hassrale website

I have been getting some feedback about my articles, most of it complementary, although someone did ask why I picked so many crap North London pubs. As I explained in my first article I do not know North London very well so pub selection there was mainly pot luck. One pub I was not impressed with was the Occasional Half in Palmers Green (N13). The latest Good Beer Guide lists two other pubs in N13, the Whole Hog and the Inn on the Green. Another North London pub in the Good Beer Guide is the Chequers in NW4 which was closed when I visited the district.

In a previous article I was slightly critical of Enfield and Barnet branch for making the Orange Tree N20 their Pub of the Year. I have since been advised it is the Orange Tree in N21 that is Pub of the Year. My apologies to the branch for any confusion or embarrassment caused.

As I am still temping in Central London when October comes round I start the month with the now traditional crawl after work on the first Saturday. From Victoria I get the train to Gypsy Hill (SE19)

and walk up the hill to the Railway Bell, a Youngs pub which was 1981 Evening Standard pub of the year. I have a pint of Youngs Ordinary which is in fine condition. The Railway Bell is a small pub with a garden and most of the customers are watching the Rugby on the TV. Despite its name there are two pubs nearer to the station.

Leaving the Bell I head down Anerley Hill to Penge (SE20). The South East London guide describes SE20 as being worthy of a dedicated drinkers attention. Things appear to have declined a great deal since then and there is little of interest. Eventually I try the Bridge House, as it is close to Penge West station. This is a large pub in need of renovation with one bar appearing to be permanently shut. Only one real ale is available, Hancocks HB, so I have a pint of that. One point of interest is that the pub has an acoustic jam session every Monday night so it may be of more interest to music lovers than beer lovers. Since my visit I have discovered that Wetherspoons have opened the Moon and Stars in the High Street so that would probably be a better bet.

Unfortunately there are no trains from Penge West so I walk round to Penge East and get a train to West Dulwich (SE21). This is an up-market area with only four pubs, one of which is the Crown and Greyhound. This is a large pub built in 1900 to replace two smaller pubs on opposite sides of the road. It is well furbished with several rooms and a large garden. There is also a separate function room which appears to be hosting a wedding reception and the pub is filling up quickly. There are three regular beers from the Allied range and a guest beer. I have a pint of the guest beer which for October is Youngs First Gold. This is a very hoppy refreshing beer and I would recommend you try a pint of it if you see it.

Leaving the Crown I head north and reach North Dulwich station. As a train to Central London is coming I decide to take it. After six stations I reach South Bermondsey station in SE16 so I get off here and walk round to Surrey Quays tube station. Near the station is the Surrey Docks Tavern, a Wetherspoon pub. This is a little on the small side for a Wetherspoon pub and being Saturday night is quite full. I have a pint of Smiles Wurz Ale which is a darkish sweet beer with a strength of 4% ABV. After I have bought my pint I notice that both Theakstons and Directors are available for £1 per pint.

On Sunday evening I have to pop up Central London so afterwards I get the tube to Earls Court (SW5). I used to work round here in the early eighties but I can’t remember anywhere worth drinking round here. The transitory nature of the cosmopolitan population did not appear to encourage real ale pubs. However since then Fullers have opened the Blackbird, an Ale and Pie house in Earls Court Road near the station. I have always thought that these pubs were a bit up-market but was pleasantly surprised to find the Blackbird is more like a local and quite crowded for a Sunday night. Some of the customers are celebrating the afternoons football results. The full range of Fullers beers are available including the autumn seasonal beer, Red Fox, so I try I pint of that. It is a most unusual distinctive beer, with a sweet almost sickly flavour. The only beer I can think of that is anything like it is O’Hanlons Red Ale.

Later that week I start picking off pubs on the way home from work. I start by getting the tube to South Kensington (SW7) and walking down to the Anglesea Arms, in a side turning off Fulham Road. This is a small expensive free house in an up-market area that was one of only eight real ale free houses in London during the mid seventies. Two Fullers and two Brakspears beers are on as well as my choice Adnams Broadside. The days newspapers are available and several up-market magazines as well.

I walk back to the station along Fulham Road which forms the boundary between South Kensington (SW7) and Chelsea (SW3) and notice the Crown in Dovehouse Street on the SW3 side of the road. This is a small free house and I notice Black Sheep bitter is one of the two beers on handpump so I try a pint of it. This is a hoppy bitter brewed in Masham by Paul Theakston of the famous brewing family.

Like the Anglesea the days newspapers and several magazines are available. Both pubs do a small range of expensive food.

My next trip is to Denmark Hill station in Camberwell (SE 5) where I try the Fox on the Hill, a Wetherspoon pub at the top of Denmark Hill. This is quite a large pub but is broken up into smaller areas giving it a cosier, more intimate feel. There are seven beers and a real cider on and I have a pint of Brains SA which is in good condition. The South East London guide mentions that the pub has a commanding view of Central London but this appears to be blocked by a lot of trees and blocks of flats. Perhaps the view will be better in winter when the leaves have fallen. Despite this minor criticism the pub is well worth a visit, the view over the bar is excellent.

On the next Sunday I have to visit a relative in Bart’s hospital so afterwards I go to Victoria station and get a train to Battersea (SW11) and then walk to the Duke of Cambridge. This is a Youngs pub and is another former Evening Standard pub of the year. It is furbished in a modern wine-bar style with seats outside. There are several family groups inside and outside and the afternoons Rugby Union World Cup match (South Africa v Spain) is on the large screen TV. I have a pint of Ordinary which is in good condition. Like the Thatched House in W6 the Duke has been changed from a basic two-bar pub into something more up-market but this only reflects changes in the area it is located.

For the penultimate pub I visit New Cross (SE14). Close to New Cross Gate tube station is a new Hobgoblin pub. It was formerly a Courage pub, the Rose, but was taken over and refurbished earlier this year by Wychwood. The pub has a large garden at the back and does a wide range of inexpensive food. It is clearly targeted at the younger end of the market and there is a student discount from 3pm to 8pm aimed at the nearby Goldsmiths College. Two Wychwood beers and Courage Directors are available and I have a pint of Rugby Special which is a darkish, malty beer brewed for the Rugby Union World Cup. New Cross is not a noted area for real ale and the Hobgoblin is a welcome addition. My only complaint is that the music is a bit loud.

The last pub of the month is the Half Moon in Herne Hill (SE24). This is a large late Victorian pub

which is furbished in the ornate style typical of the late nineteenth century. There are two separate bars at the front of the pub with quite a lively atmosphere. At the back is a separate music room at the back with frequent live blues and rock music. There is also a boxing and self-defence gym upstairs so behave yourself if you pay a visit. Both Courage beers are available and I have a pint of Best. Also worth a visit is the Commercial opposite the station.