Hassrale Trips: Maundy Thursday 2008

Date: Thursday March 20th 2008

time has come around again (even sooner this year due to Easter being at almost its earliest possible date) and this pre-Easter trip is the first official HASSRALE event of the year, although a visit to the London Drinker Festival (12th March) will be attempted. Once again the committee embarked on a formal trial run visiting some of the pubs on the actual route although not necessarily in the proper running order and information was gathered to add to that gained throughout the year and also from the Christmas trip. Once again we have decided to adopt the Hole in the Wall as the first venue, but no “rival trip” is anticipated. In fact none occurred in 2007 either although the usual caveat with regard to adherance to the itinerary and reliance on timings may be necessary. Anyway in order to keep up with the main HASSRALE group contact via mobile 'phone will be necessary. As always approximate leaving times are shown in [ ]. The first port of call is just to the east of Waterloo station overlooked by the main Victory Arch entrance. Alternatively if arriving by tube exit onto Waterloo Road then turn left up Mepham Street to find the pub on the right (past exit 4 from the mainline station concourse). That's the end of any instructions so those unfamiliar with the location of subsequent pubs will have to resort to an A-Z.

1.The Hole in the Wall - 5 Mepham Street SE1 [14:00]
Beers: Adnams Bitter & Broadside; Hogsback Brewery TEA (Traditional English Ale); Greene King Abbot Ale; Youngs Ordinary; Everard's Tiger; Shepherd Neame Spitfire.

As mentioned above this has been retained on the itinerary to ensure there is at least a starting reference point! Usually this is the last venue on our Christmas trip, but should still be recognisable in daylight. This is a large two-bar pub right under the railway viaduct near to Waterloo Station's Victory Arch. Beers are generally in good condition. The rear bar features solid wooden bench seating along the back and has a juke-box, a large plasma screen (replacing the ancient projection screen TV) and several gaming machines, while the front bar is less noisy (no juke-box) and has upholstered bench seating, but is rather smaller. It has small-paned windows overlooking the road although the main view is likely to be of parked buses. Usually remarkably lacking in customers at lunchtimes although there is a good food counter serving both hot and cold snacks in the back bar which is where we gathered in 2007. The general ban on smoking contributes to it being quiet, although there is a courtyard with tables and benches through the door at the rear. The beer range does vary and the chalkboard advertising this range is invariably inaccurate so it is best to make your own inspection (in both bars since the pumps are not replicated).

2. The Kings Arms - Roupell Street [14:30]
Beers: Adnams Bitter; Brakspears; Marstons Pedigree; Tetley Bitter.

A regular on the trip, but once again this is the preferred second pub since neither the Wellington nor the White Hart merit inclusion, the former is very noisy and the latter often over-crowded. The committee did not visit this on the trial since it was exceptionally busy and unusually it was closed on the Christmas trip for minor refurbishment to the toilet area. The front comprises two compact bars separated by a period (1930's?) screen, with the saloon to the left and a narrow "public" to the right. Both lead, via a short connecting corridor, to the rear covered courtyard which has large tables reminiscent of a school dining hall and is usually just as hectic. Should you wish to partake, the menu favours Thai food. The 1981 Real Beer in London (RBIL) Guide enigmatically mentions piano and spoons on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, sadly no more we assume.

3. The Mulberry Bush - 89 Upperground [15:30]
Beers: Youngs Special, Ordinary and Winter Warmer (5%); Charles Wells Bombardier.

This was omitted on the trial, but has been visited during the year and has proved not to have altered since HASSRALE last went in 2006 apart from the products now being brewed in Bedford following the Wells-Youngs merger. In common with all the others it is now non-smoking of course. It is a very busy modern pub in the Coin Street development with the front open in summer although I doubt that March's weather will merit this. Generally busy due to being populated by employees of the various premises nearby including the South Bank ITV studios. There is a slightly quieter back area, which doubles as a dining room, but has a glass roof that can make it rather warm on a sunny day. Stylish interior and as mentioned food is prominent, but the proper dining area is upstairs with a special balcony table for those who wish to combine a discreet intimate meal with a Nuremberg rally speech.

4. The Rose and Crown - 47 Colombo Street [16:30]
Beers: Shepherd Neame Masterbrew, Spitfire and Kent's Best.

As long ago as 2004 this was promoted to an earlier time slot so that those of us who wish to sit outside could avail ourselves of the weather, but even in 2007 the usual dalliance resulted in very few visiting until 5pm despite many missing out on the Mulberry Bush. At last included on the trial run and rather busy, but it was dark and cold then whereas hopefully we should encounter more hospitable conditions today. It has a ground floor bar dominated by the U-shaped counter that ensures that available inside seating can be limited. In addition there are the tables outside in the garden by the precinct of the church. There is also an upstairs bar, but generally open only for lunchtime diners. One point to note should anyone wish to visit at weekends, it does not open on Saturdays or Sundays.

5. The Stamford Arms - Stamford Street [17:15]
Beers: Harveys Sussex Best; Deuchars IPA + 2 other handpumps (with clips obscured).

Once again as in 2007 this was visited on the trial to confirm that it had kept trading and not changed drastically (as had The Hog's Head nearby). It still hasn't and remains a fairly large corner pub with wooden floorboards and background music. The layout is in the form of an L-shaped area at the front opening out to a rear room with a dartboard replacing the pool table (on the wall, not the floor of course). There may be sport on the TV for a change. There is an upstairs dining area which is now accessed using conventional stairs which replaced the spiral staircase in 2006. Food served until 8pm apparently. Can get busy in the afternoons, but there are picnic-tables outside (no longer just wrought iron chairs etc.) for those who enjoy watching the world (and traffic) go by. Formerly actively described as a "Smoking Pub" the sign has been removed due to the 1st July 2007 change in legislation.

6. The Mad Hatter Hotel - 3~7 Stamford Street SE1 9NT [18:15]
Beers: Fullers ESB, London Pride, Chiswick and Discovery + seasonal Gales Swing Low(3.8%) on the trial.

Large Fuller's pub and hotel in former Midland bank premises on the corner of Stamford St and Blackfriars Rd. It can get very busy, but the seating area extends right through to the back. On the trial this once again proved to be an excellent comfortable venue. The beer as always for Fullers houses was in good condition. Unlike last year there is not a mini-festival in evidence which had also included beers from the Gales range (as Fullers now own the company), with three beers in rotation each for a 3 week duration. Instead there was Swing Low, presumably in celebration of the Six Nations Rugby competition. Gales' flagship HSB was not on offer possibly to avoid a clash with the ESB. Seating in the front bar incorporates a number of booths above each of which is a display case of what appear to be hats for people with rather small heads. This area can be very busy and populated by customers reluctant to return to their offices after lunch. If this is the case then as on previous years it is recommended that you head straight for the tables at the back.

7. The Prince William Henry - 217 Blackfriars Road [19:15]
Beers: Youngs Special, Ordinary and Winter Warmer.

Last year the Mad Hatter proved to be the nemesis for everybody else on the trip, so the descriptions of this and the final pub have been included for completeness. You will note that the Paper Moon does not figure on the itinerary, this is because it is now permanently closed (The Albert just round the corner has real ale, but was not trialled). The PWH does not boast much seating, aside from mainly standing perches at the front. There are a few seats in the raised area to the left, but fortunately nearly everybody will have gone home by now. Alternatively there are bench tables on the forecourt, for the hardy with nocturnal vision, although this year with GMT will still be in operation so good eyesight and a warm coat may be necessary especially if the timetable is adhered to (some hope)!. This pub proved to be the final port of call in 2006, but it is only a short distance (to the left) to the final one, where the return travel instructions connect. For those that persevere, the following description is topical as it is from recent research, but that trial was done for the Christmas event.

8. The Ring - 72 Blackfriars Road [whenever]
Beers: Wells & Youngs Courage Best; Fullers London Pride.

Right opposite Southwark Underground station. Pretty much no change, but note the lava lamp on the bar. The building diagonally opposite has been completed and has a deliberately crooked exterior belying a “normal” interior. Included on many a HASSRALE trip, notably the starting point for the Christmas perambulations (see also the write-up on the HASSRALE website for the 2007 trip). This famous one-bar pub was built to replace the former boxing venue destroyed during the Blitz on the site opposite. The pub is festooned with photographs of former boxers, but it is unlikely that the training ring upstairs remains. It underwent an internal refurbishment subsequent to its closure prior to the 2002 Maundy Thursday trip. You will also notice that above the hubbub of the customers chatter there is distinct background music from the video screen (MTV). Always busy at this time of the day, but there are plenty of seats at the picnic-tables outside. Curiously these are cordoned off from passing pedestrians by a “silk rope” as used outside clubs and film premieres! Despite the paucity of seats and cramped nature of the place, each table displays an extensive Thai-food menu under the brand Bamboo. Hardly the venue for a quiet oriental dining experience! There is free Wi-Fi access too.

At this point we are at the corner of The Cut opposite Southwark tube station (Jubilee Line). However those heading back towards Waterloo Station who have cast-iron internal organs may wish to call in at the Anchor and Hope (still trading as a gastropub) or perhaps the Windmill (also with a Thai menu). Again, see the Xmas 2007 trip itinerary. Hopefully see you all at some stage and have a pleasant Easter.

Survey details: Edmund & James Featherstone, Jeff Allen and John Wright on Weds 27st February 2008.

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