Hassrale Trips: Upper St, Islington

Date: Tuesday 24th June 2003

We have done Upper St a few times in the past but this area changes so rapidly that it seemed to be worth doing it again plus its a nice walk in the summer evening. We start at Highbury and Islington tube station and then walk down the west side of Upper St till we get to the Angel tube station. A slow walker would take about twenty minutes but this being Hassrale we take rather longer. It has to be said that time has not improved this area, a number of pubs have changed into cafe bars, restaurants or just stopped serving real ale. What pubs remain are often from the major chains but such is life. You can ignore the first pub as you leave the station as it has no real ale, your first point of call is a short walk down the road.

1. White Swan 251-256 Upper St N1 [18:30]
Beers: Oyster Stout, Spitfire, Courage Directors etc.

This is a large Wetherspoons pub, I have been vague about the beers because they tend to change quickly and its only certain beers that are constantly on, eg London Pride. However this pub did appear to have a good range and what is better there seemed to be quite a few people drinking them. The interior stretched back a fair way and was filled with tables and chairs, there were also a number of alcoves dotted along the wall. The far back area was no smoking and even had a family area but luckily no children on our visit. There was an upstairs balcony area with extra seating in the middle of the pub. It leads one to wonder just what this was converted from.

For the next pub just keep on walking down Upper St and you will soon see on your right the next pub, in fact thi goes for every pub on this trip apart from the last one as it isn't technically on Upper St.

2. Hope and Anchor 207 Upper St [19:15]
Beers: Greene King IPA and Abbot

At first sight this didn't look promising but it did have real ale and though busy wasn't too crowded we found a part of the bar to lean on. James checked out the toilets upstairs and informs me that there was a pool table up there. There also appeared to be a basement and I subsequently find that this is a live music venue and that the clientele in the pub often reflect the nature of the music downstairs.

3. The Garden 179 Upper St N1 [20:00]
Beers: Fullers London Pride, Adnams Bitter

When we last did a trip in this area this used to be a Wetherspoons but them must have decided that they had two many pubs in the area because it now seems to be part of the Baracuda group. At first sight it doesn't seem the sort of place that you might get real ale but they did in fact have two handpumps (in use). There is a fairly large seating area at the front of the pub (hence I suppose garden) which is paved over and contains plenty of wooden benches and tables. Just before the pub itself is a raised area with more tables protected by large umbrellas (which is where we sat). The interior was long and dark with a large screen TV at the end plus extra TV's dotted around if you really wanted to watch the football. Mostly full of young people but they did have some very interesting bar snacks, we enjoyed the beef biltong but I doubt that you could eat a whole packet yourself. The packet described their range of biltongs including kudu, impala, springbok and ostrich but unfortunately they only had the beef.

4. The Kings Head 115 Upper St N1 [20:45]
Wadworths 6X, Adnams Bitter

This is a well known theatre pub, the theatre bit is at the back of the pub. I understand that there is live music after 10 PM but hopefully we won't be around when this happens. The cuisine is South Indian if you are hungry. The interior was fairly woody with lots of theatrical type photos on the walls. There is an interesting bar till which seems somewhat over elaborate for its function. This pub can get busy and we were unable to sit down but we found somewhere to lean which is almost as good.

The last pub on our trip is just past the junction of Liverpool Rd and Upper St where you will have to use the crossing so be careful.

5. Angel 3-5 Islington High St N1 [21:45]
Beers: Standard Wetherspoons plus guests

Another typical Wetherspoons pub but smaller than the White Swan and much smaller beer range. We had the amusing sequence of asking for beers which turned out not to be on (why aren't the clips turned round?). I can't remember what beer they finally did have on. On previous visits here they have had a larger range so I suppose that we were just unlucky on the night of the trial. There is a small no smoking area and plenty of people eating, while busy we managed to get seats without too much trouble. The front of the pub opens up on warm evenings which is quite pleasant. I think that there were some games machines near the front of the pub but thankfully no TV.

Leaving here a short walk will take you to the traffic lights just before Pentonville Rd, cross here and back track slightly to Angel tube station which I have to say has a most impressive escalator.

Trial Run: Tuesday 3rd June 2003
Present: John Wright, James & Edmund Featherstone

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