Tuesday 3rd July 2001
Despite the title of this trip, it actually starts at Blackfriars, since this is reasonably accessible, then makes its way towards Smithfield via Bart's Hospital. The intention is to conduct a second trip continuing on from this one, to investigate more around the area nearer to Barbican. Inevitably (as one would expect after nearly 22 years of HASSRALE) we shall be revisiting some old haunts, but this crawl incorporates pubs from previous Blackfriars, Ludgate, Holborn and of course Smithfield trips, the latter of which took place in 1994. As indicated we shall start right by Blackfriars mainline and tube stations. If arriving by tube or rail (i.e. anyone other than Paul Tiffany) take Exit 1 from the underpass and immediately on the right is pub number one. Approximate leaving times are denoted by [ ].
1. The Blackfriar -
174 Queen Victoria Street, EC4 [18.30]
Adnams IPA, Green King IPA, Fullers London Pride.
Triangular pub on the corner of Blackfriars Court and New Bridge Rd (despite the address). A well-known hostelry in Art Nouveau style, elaborately decorated. Note the frieze above the bar (complete with effigies of Black Friars) and the leaded glass windows with copper window sills. Single central marble bar-counter with a food section (which doesn't appear to be operational in the evening). Cosy little nooks at the grotto end of the pub with extra seating in the ship's prow. Seating area outside in the shade of some small trees and with an excellent view of traffic flowing over Blackfriars Bridge. The beer is somewhat pricey, but the pub has a reputation for this.. ¶ On leaving, turn right onto New Bridge St and continue on to the junction with Ludgate Hill. Cross then carry on to the right up Ludgate Hill and left into Old Bailey. Go past the Courts up to the traffic light junction with Holborn Viaduct & Newgate St. On the opposite (north-east) corner is ...
Another former Nicholson's Inn (now Bass Leisure?). A marvellous pub architecturally with a listed interior and plenty of fine detail including nice glass and marble features, but sadly now rather shabby and neglected. Not too busy on our visit. There is a central bar-counter and a drinking area with two substantial supports for the very high ceiling. Open frontage with a good view of the chaotically busy traffic junction on High Holborn and also of some soulless buildings that have replaced the characterful original ones. ¶ Now exit and turn right along Giltspur St. Just a little way up on the left is ...
3. The White Hart -
7 Giltspur Street [20.00]
Fullers London Pride; Greene King IPA + one other not available (Adnams Bitter?).
Fairly standard, basic boozer, which was fairly busy, somewhat smoky and had a level of background music which was a little intrusive, but not as bad as the cacophony emanating from some City pubs. Certainly more of a "locals" place with a clientele leaning towards the artisan end of the scale rather than of the "m'learned friends" type. Single bar pub, dim interior, low ceiling. Just opposite the old Bart's hospital which is now just a Minor Injuries Unit as the surgery and A&E departments have been relocated to Whitechapel Hospital. ¶ Now continue left to the end of Giltspur St into West Smithfield Square. At the extreme left of the square at the junction with West Smithfield itself is ....
4. The Bishops
Finger - 9 ~ 10 West Smithfield [20.45]
Shepherd Neame Bishops Finger, Spitfire, Masterbrew and Early Bird
Still promoting its wine bar ambience, but this is now the norm for the area. No TV anymore, but still quite noisy due to the er .. wine-drinkers. Despite this the beers were in good condition. Small cluttered interior with comfy sofas and candle-lit tables at which people were eating from the extensive menu (there is a separate food counter alongside the bar). Quite an art gallery on the walls. Toilets upstairs, but most people seemed to be using the disabled toilet downstairs (on our visit most people were drinking outside). Upstairs there is the more formal restaurant. ¶ From here head straight across the square towards Cloth Fair, but just to the left of the entrance to that you will find ...
5. The Butchers Hook
& Cleaver - 63 West Smithfield [21.45 or whenever]
Fullers Chiswick, London Pride, ESB and Honeydew
Large new pub facing the square, no doubt occupying the premises of a former bank. This is one of the Fullers Ale & Pie chain and it shares much of its ambience and decor with others of that ilk. The beer is kept in good condition and food is available for most of the day. A huge ground floor area curves round to the right and the balcony area at the back is reached by a spiral staircase. Large screen TV showing football on our visit, but not too noisy. According to the barman closing time may be earlier than 11pm according to how quiet trade is. Certainly during the summer months I suspect that trade would be pretty brisk! ¶ Well that's all for now folks. For those wishing to return via Blackfriars there is nothing for it other than to retrace the route back. Alternatively if you walk along to the right back to West Smithfield and turn right up to the junction with Adersgate St then just on the left is Barbican tube station (Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines). Happy travelling!
Trial details: Edmund & James Featherstone, John Wright on Wednesday 9th May 2001.