For want of deciding upon a "new" area our intrepid survey team have elected to take the line of least resistance and start from a point relatively close to DWP's main sweatshop (the Adelphi). In fact the route does embrace a couple of pubs not previously visited by HASSRALE. Some purists might be of the opinion that not all the establishments serve "real ale". We beg to differ, anyway as always feel free to provide us with YOUR preferred trips instead!
The first port of call is on Maiden Lane near the former Peacock where hotly contested darts matches used to occur (but sadly this is now a restaurant). It can be reached from the Strand by walking up Exchange Court. The nearest station is Charing Cross. Approximate leaving times are shown in [ ].
1. The Porterhouse - Maiden Lane WC2 [18.30]
Beers: Oyster Stout (4.8%), Plain Porter (4.3%), Wrasslers 4X Stout (5%), Porterhouse Red (4.4%), + an extensive range of bottled beers AND Courage Directors.
Certainly not the cheapest place in London to have a drink, but sadly the rest of the area is doing its best to catch up! Large Irish-style pub arranged over several floor levels with its own beers brewed in Dublin. The rather subdued lighting can be in severe contrast to outside daylight and makes the various alcoves appear rather dingey. Varnished wooden boarded floors and tables with a recurrent theme of pipework in all the furnishing, stairs, supports etc. There is a menu on each table boasting bottled beers from various parts of the globe, but we can't vouch for their availabilty. Beware this place can get very busy after 6pm so if you don't spot us at first keep looking. Incongruously there is a TV in the wall of the Gents loo showing Sky Sports.
¶ Leave by the front doors (sometimes the doors onto Exchange Ct are open, but head for Maiden Lane). Turn right and on the same side you will encounter Bull Inn Ct. Turn down here and farther down on the right is ...
2. The Nell Gwynne - 1-2 Bull Inn Court [19:15]
Beers: Courage Directors and Best; Theakston's Old Peculier.
Traditional one-bar pub tucked away in a back alley within a few yards of the busy thoroughfare of The Strand. However being off the tourist route (at least at the time of the trial run) it was pleasantly quiet. There is limited seating accommodation, mainly comprising bar-stools arranged along by the front window as well near the bar. There is an upper seating area to the right, all of two steps higher than the main bar. Beware however since these steps seem dangerously close to collapse and are probably held up by the carpet covering them. In the summer (what?) drinkers can avail themselves of the standing room outside in the alleyway. If you are really lucky you might seize one of the two plastic garden seats positioned against the wall opposite. Note that the descent to the Gents toilet involves a certain amount of contortion due to the very limited headroom on the sharply twisting stairs.
¶ Now continue down Bull Inn Ct and emerge onto The Strand. Turn left and walk along until you encounter ...
3. The Lyceum - 354 Strand WC2 [20:00]
Beers: Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter.
Thankfully one of Sam Smith's establishments that has not removed cask beer from its repertoire. Also an opportunity to avail yourself of beer at rather cheaper than usual prices for Central London (OBB is about £1-60 per pint), but don't all fight over buying the survey team a drink (well perhaps someone will!). This hostelry has been visited a number of times previously by HASSRALE, even before Sam Smith's took it over from Hennekey's (when the beer range was more extensive). Comfortable air-conditioned premises extending over two floors. Downstairs is the "public bar" with bar stools arranged around "bird tables" or located in the raised alcoves. Upstairs the accommodation is plusher with settees and comfy chairs where those who are eating congregate. On the trial run it seemed to be a stop-off point for one of the organised city bus tours. (Why?, surely they didn't know we would be there)! .
¶ On leaving, continue along The Strand across Wellington St then round The Aldwych and turn left up Kingsway. Farther up past Kemble St on the left is the next establishment ...
4. Belgo Bierodrome - Kingsway [20:45]
Beers: Large range of Continental Beers on draught and in bottles.
This branch of the Belgo chain opened during the middle of last year as an addition to the three full-blown restaurants that originated with the company's first place in Chalk Farm in the mid-1990s. Whereas the mainstream establishments major on food, this bar places the emphasis on being, well a bar surprisingly. For those that have been to Young's Columbia Bar on the Aldwych, this is remarkably similar i.e. lots of glass and chrome. It is a large high-ceilinged bar covering a considerable ground area. Disarmingly you are greeted at the bar as soon as you approach it by staff who think that you know what you want! I would suggest that a short time perusing the menu will be helpful. Again this is not the place for cheap beer, but there is an excellent range here, and beware the prices reflect the high strength of the products on sale
¶ Now walk up Kingsway, crossing to the right hand side by Great Queen St. Then up past Twyford Place on the right is ....
5. The Shakespeare's Head - 64-78 Kingsway [21.45]
Beers: Courage Directors, Theakstons Best, Fullers London Pride, Hopback Summer Lightning + various guest beers
Traditional Wetherspoon's conversion last visited by HASSRALE in July 1998, this is situated on the ground floor of Africa House. Very long pub which stretches all the way from Kingsway where the main entrance is to LittleTurnstile, you can walk the length of the pub along Twyford Place. Fairly busy on our visit but we still managed to get seats at the back in the no-smoking area. As with all Wetherspoon's, very strong on food. Nice black and white tiling for most of the length of the bar which turns to carpeting at the end section. Toilets on the ground level (for once).
¶ On emerging from here onto Kingsway, Holborn tube station is up on the right and there is a selection of buses heading back towards The Strand/Charing Cross or Waterloo. Alternatively there are various northbound buses.
Trial details: Edmund & James Featherstone, John Wright on Wednesday 7th May 2003.