1.The Ring - 72 Blackfriars Road SE1 [18:15]
Beers: Fullers London Pride; Wells & Youngs Courage Best.
The usual starting point and a useful landmark in an ever-changing area. The building work on Union Street opposite The Cut has at last been completed. Famous one-bar pub built on the site of the former boxing venue destroyed during the Blitz. The pub is festooned with photographs of former boxers, but it is not certain whether there is still a training ring in use upstairs. It underwent an internal refurbishment subsequent to its closure prior to the 2002 Maundy Thursday trip. The etched-glass windows were replaced and the overall seating arrangement is the same, however the original drinkers (pensioners from the estate opposite) have all been supplanted by office workers and students. Note the change of beers yet again, including Courage Best now brewed by Wells & Youngs combined facility in Bedford. The cramped layout is retained of an L-shaped bar area jammed with a variety of small tables and stools as well as banquette seating around the edge. On the trial it was remarkably empty before 5pm, but rapidly filled up. One would suspect that it is busy all year round, but there are a number of picnic table seats outside (alas unsheltered and unheated). The background music was rather noticeable and only the increasing number of customers helped to absorb the sound. There is free Wi-Fi access for those who wish to continue working or otherwise just browse the Internet (beats conversation)!
On leaving, cross the road at the traffic lights, then continue on down to the left along The Cut, to find ...
2. The Anchor and Hope – 36 The Cut [19:00]
Beers: Wells & Youngs Bombardier, Youngs Ordinary, Courage Best.
Having been re-introduced on the 2001 trip after being closed for a while it gave the appearance of re-opening as a gastro-pub with one large area instead of the former two bars. It has gained eminence for its cuisine after winning awards and diners now have to book, but are separated by a curtained partition from the drinking side although they share the long bar counter which runs along the top. There are bar snacks on sale, notably plates of olives (and other savouries) favoured by our Chairman. It no longer has an upright piano which has been relinquished to provide room for even more seating. As in The Ring the interior is “compact” and populated by very low tables and stumpy bar-stools. As before the bistro/restaurant area opened only at 6pm, but this did little to alleviate congestion in the pub area. Compare and contrast with the old Anchor & Hope (at least the staff are not so miserable now!).
Now continue along The Cut for a short distance until you encounter ...
3. The Windmill – 86 The Cut [19:30]
Beers: Fullers London Pride; Adnams Broadside.
Very popular due to styling itself as a theatre bar (Young and Old Vic theatres nearby). It was given an extensive and much-needed refurbishment in order to meet the competition of the Anchor & Hope. This retained the original two-bar layout including the archway between the two areas, but the "glasses" rail above the bar was removed giving more of a wine-bar feel and emphasising the ceiling which is covered in posters advertising previous theatrical productions. There are a number of photographs of actors who presumably have appeared in local productions rather than merely propped up the bar (actually it is likely that they fulfilled both roles). Good use has been made of the available space with a number of pine tables allowing seated customers to partake of the comprehensive Thai food menu. The more hardy amongst us can also use the picnic-style benches outside.
Turn right down Windmill Walk, cross Wootton Gardens under the railway viaduct, then over Brad St. On the left at the corner is ....
4. The Kings Arms – 25 Roupell Street [20:15]
Beers: Marston's Pedigree; Fullers London Pride; Adnams Bitter.
Decidedly popular (especially with South Bank TV studio employees) two-bar pub situated in one of the bijou back-streets of Waterloo. 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. This area at the back used to be uncovered and housed a barbecue and bearing in mind the weather, was generally only suitable for occasional summer use. Nowadays being roofed in it is just as busy as the rest of the place since it houses a number of tables at which you may dine and should you wish to partake, the menu favours Thai food..
Continue straight ahead i.e. across Roupell St. then left along Whittlesey St. On the far corner is ...
5. The White Hart – 29 Cornwall Street [20:45]
Beers: Fullers London Pride.
Unfortunately in common with the previous four pubs it was fairly busy although this may have been due to the inclement weather ensuring that only the hardiest customers (nicotine addicts) ventured outside. A small covered area on the pavement at the front afforded scant refuge against the elements and external seating at the side has been removed. On occasion it has justified its reputation for running out of cask beer, but on the trial this was available (albeit a very limited range). It still has two entrances, but really is all one bar now as the central archway has been removed, although the island bar counter has been retained. What was originally the saloon bar has pretensions to being a dining area, but in the evening this is likely to be impractical. In the interests of packing people in the front area no longer has leather sofas and of course the bar football table is a distant memory. The pub has followed the continued trend towards gentrification of this part of Waterloo (including price hikes).
Turn left down Cornwall Rd and immediately right down Sandell Street. At the junction is Waterloo Road. Cross using either the traffic island route or the pedestrian crossing farther down. Directly opposite is Mepham St. Continue up this and on the right-hand side ultimately is ...
6. The Hole in the Wall – 5 Mepham Street SE1 [22:00+]
Beers: Wells & Youngs Ordinary; Adnams Bitter & Broadside; Sharp's Doombar possibly plus others (range varies).
This is a large two-bar pub right under the railway viaduct and near to Waterloo Station's Victory Arch. Visited on the trial run and indeed it featured as the first pub on the Maundy Thursday trip. The only material change since than has been due to the introduction of the ban on smoking indoors. To accommodate this access to an outside courtyard has been provided from the lobby opposite the entrance to the Gents off the far end of the back bar. The range of beers varies, but quality is generally reasonable. 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 bendy-buses. As on previous visits there have been some managerial changes, but this does not seem to affect the pub's ability to retain its entry in the national CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
Well that's all folks. Across the road is Waterloo Station with access to mainline Northern, Bakerloo and Jubilee tubes (N.B. there is also access to the station from the Tennison Way entrance next to the pub, the Jubilee Line entrance is back on Waterloo Bridge Rd and down to the right past the railway bridge). Buses will take you across Waterloo Bridge to The Strand and points north, so have a safe journey home! Oh - and have a very Merry Christmas.
Survey details: Edmund & James Featherstone Duncan Hastings and John Wright on Weds 5th December 2007.
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