London 2013: The Pubs of London

If you ever visit London be sure to drop by a pub or two. Or maybe three. You will definitely meet interesting people. You will probably find light, pleasant and inexpensive food. And you will just have to imbibe some real ale from casks. You will then be on the right track for finding out what London is all about.

The Black Friar at the foot of Blackfriar's Bridge.

The Black Friar at the foot of Blackfriar’s Bridge.

There are hundreds of pubs in London. Some are independent but most seem to be members of huge chains. I hear that the quality and variety of the food served in the chains differ greatly from pub to pub but the drinks are the same.  All Nicholson pubs, for example, will serve Nicholson’s beer and ale. Most pubs have their specialty ales but will also offer a guest ale or two.

Here are some of the pubs we passed during our Westminster walk and subsequent sightseeing tour on the Big Bus:

Lord Moon of the Mall on Whitehall -- right across the street from where we hopped on the Big Bus.

Lord Moon of the Mall on Whitehall — right across the street from where we hopped on the Big Bus.

Ye Olde Bank of England. Some of the pubs around town are rather dilapidated and some are quite classy.

Ye Olde Bank of England. Some of the pubs around town are rather dilapidated and some are quite classy.

Prince Henry's Room on Fleet Street. Samuel Pepys frequented this place in the 17th century when it was called The Fountain Tavern.

Prince Henry’s Room on Fleet Street. Samuel Pepys frequented this place in the 17th century when it was called The Fountain Tavern.

Charles Dickens is reputed to have imbibed at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street.

Charles Dickens is reputed to have imbibed at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street.

Punch Tavern on Fleet Street. The founders of Punch Magazine used to meet here. There are more than 100 pubs in the Punch chain that is now called Taylor-Walker.

Punch Tavern on Fleet Street. The founders of Punch Magazine used to meet here. There are more than 100 pubs in the Punch chain that is now called Taylor-Walker.

The Shipwrights Arms near City Hall, south of Tower Bridge.

The Shipwrights Arms near City Hall, south of Tower Bridge.

We walked by these pubs while on our Sunday West End walk:

The Dog and Duck on Bateman near Soho Square. A Nicholson's pub. John Constable, Dante Rosetti and George Orwell stopped by here often.

The Dog and Duck on Bateman near Soho Square. A Nicholson’s pub. John Constable, Dante Rosetti and George Orwell stopped by here often.

Shakespeare's Head on the corner of Foubert's Place and Great Marlborough Street.  A Wetherspoon pub.

Shakespeare’s Head on the corner of Foubert’s Place and Great Marlborough Street. A Wetherspoon pub.

The Clachan (Nicholson's) on Kingly Street near Regent.

The Clachan (Nicholson’s) on Kingly Street near Regent.

St James Tavern near Piccadilly Circus.

St James Tavern near Piccadilly Circus.

We stopped for lunch one day at Henry’s Cafe Bar on Piccadilly across from Green Park and I ordered an ale. The waiter recommended Rev James, a Welsh ale from the Brains Brewery in Cardiff. Then we stopped by the St James Tavern near Piccadilly Circus at the end of our Sunday West End walk and I asked the bartender what was the best ale and he said Rev James. So I had another. But that was the last time I saw Rev James on the menu. So in the other pubs we visited during the rest of our vacation I tried other real ales such as Harvey’s, Sharp’s Doom Bar and Timothy Taylor Landmark.

I had a Meantime pilsner at the Spitalfields Market one day and it went down fine.  A few days later at a restaurant near the Tate Modern I ordered a Meantime ale but it was served chilled and tasted like a million American microbrews. British pubs serve their cask ales cool but not cold. I guess on hot days the ale may be warm but when we visited England it was probably the best weather for drinking ale!

The people we encountered in our pub adventures were very friendly. After shopping at Harrod’s one day we stopped for lunch at The Bunch of Grapes a block away. That’s where I had the Timothy Taylor. During our lunch we had a nice conversation with a charming couple in their sixties who were down from Derby for a couple of days visiting their daughter, a London barrister. We could easily tell how proud they were of their daughter. They lent us their map when we told them we were planning to walk from the pub to Buckingham Palace and on to Trafalgar Square.

We spent an entire day in Greenwich during our second week in London and passed these two popular pubs near the Cutty Sark clipper ship:

The Spanish Galleon is a popular pub in Greenwich.

The Spanish Galleon is a popular pub in Greenwich.

The Gipsy Moth to the right of the Cutty Sark. Remember Sir Francis Chichester and his solo sail around the world in 1966? He called his little boat The Gipsy Moth.

The Gipsy Moth to the right of the Cutty Sark. Remember Sir Francis Chichester and his solo sail around the world in 1966? He called his little boat The Gipsy Moth.

After visiting the National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory we stopped for lunch at The Plume of Feathers, the oldest pub in Greenwich, where we had a friendly conversation with the Irish manager. The food was just so-so. I ordered a chicken club sandwich which came with slices of hard-boiled egg. The sandwich was difficult to hold and I dropped a slice of tomato on the floor. Oh well, the ale was delicious, though! I think I had a Harvey’s there. Or maybe it was a Fuller’s London Pride.

The Plume of Feathers was established in 1691.

The Plume of Feathers was established in 1691.

From the Plume of Feathers on Park Lane we walked down to Park Row and then all the way to the river and the Trafalgar Tavern where Charles Dickens reputedly visited quite frequently. The place was packed, mostly with young men dressed in black. I guess we were witnessing a funeral reception. All the windows and doors were open and the place was cold and damp. No place to sit either. So we ordered one round of drinks and left as soon as we could. On our way back to the Cutty Sark and the DLR station we passed through the naval college and the Old Brewery and pub that produces Meantime. Of course Meantime has to be brewed in Greenwich!

The Trafalgar Tavern, another pub frequented by Charles Dickens.

The Trafalgar Tavern, another pub frequented by Charles Dickens.

I stopped by our local Safeway the other day and decided to peruse the beer selection. Lo and behold, I discovered a four-pack of Boddington’s Pub Ale! The pints contained widgets that allow you to simulate the pouring of a draught ale from a cask and produce a creamy head. I opened a can that night to drink with dinner. It was almost like being back in a London pub again!  Almost.

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About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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One Response to London 2013: The Pubs of London

  1. mvschulze says:

    I think I might imbibe a bit with supper. Thanks for the incentive!

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