Pubs in London

While I kill time waiting for it to be a reasonable time to call Kate and the kids back in the US, a list of most of the pubs I’ve visited during this trip to London. Because why not?

In more or less chronological order:

The Victoria in Lancaster Gate. Or maybe Paddington, going from the URL. The naming of London neighborhoods is an enduring mystery to me. Anyway: given the name and location (two blocks from Hyde Park), I expected to be hip-deep in American tourists, but it was mostly a local crowd. Lots of Queen Victoria pictures, which mostly made me think of Eddie Izzard calling her “One of our frumpier Queens…” Good pie.

The Grapes in Limehouse. Tiny little pub with a microscopic back deck overlooking the Thames. Apparently mentioned in a Dickens novel. Co-owned by Sir Ian McKellan, but the only indicator of this is a Gandalf staff bolted to the wall next to the till. Ducked out of Worldcon for a bit to go down here with another guy, and we were cheerfully abused by the barmaid, he for ordering a half pint (“I want to try several beers.” “You try them in pints!”), me for having an American credit card that required a signature (“No, this doesn’t look like the same signature. I’m going to need to see your passport…”). (This is why I didn’t take a photo of the Gandalf staff, for the record…) Pub-wise, probably the highlight of the trip.

The Cheshire Cheese, in the Blackfriars sort of area. There’s some sort of construction going on outside, which is probably why I was one of three people in the entire place on a Saturday at lunchtime. The special of the day was lasagna, which in an only-the-British sort of touch came with a side of chips. I kept picturing Tony Shaloub’s character in Big Night asking if his crass American customers would like a side of mashed potatoes to go with the spaghetti they demanded with their risotto. Very pleasant, nice time chatting with the other patrons (who were on some sort of pub crawl vacation from the north of England).

The Mitre in Lancaster Gate. Three-level pub with each floor its own thing– downstairs is a cocktail bar, upstairs a fancy dining room. The pie here was an actual pie with crust all the way around, not a bowl of stew with a croissant on top, so they get full marks for that.

The Wells in Hampstead. Spent a bunch of time tromping around Hampstead Heath, because I didn’t feel like dealing with crowds and queues. Thought about going to the Spaniards, but that was a wee bit pricey, so I went here instead. Which was also pricey, being a “gastro-pub,” which means serving pub chow with fancier ingredients. Had the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, because it seemed like a Sunday afternoon thing to do. Excellent food.

The Minories needed to touch base with Kate back in the US about a souvenir purchase at the Tower of London, so grabbed a pint in here while waiting on her reply. Surprisingly large place, probably because it’s located under a railroad bridge and nobody else wanted to be there. Watched a bit of an uninspiring soccer game between, um, Stoke City and Hull? Something like that.

The Monkey Puzzle. Features a wide range of mustelid-themed beers; thought about ordering a “Fursty Ferret” just to see what that could possibly be, but decided that one more might’ve made the walk back to the hotel a challenge, let alone packing for Stockholm. Relatively modern, so not a huge amount of atmosphere, but good beers and good food.

If that sounds like I’ve been drinking a lot of beer the last few days, well, I have. But then, my next stop is in Sweden, where I’ve been warned I might need to take out a bank loan to buy booze, so I figured I ought to take advantage of the plentiful pubs in London while I still have a credit rating…

(We also hit the Porterhouse Central in Dublin, which is more of a modern brewpub sort of thing, and a fairly undistinguished place near Christ Church whose name escapes me. Pubs aren’t really Kate’s kind of thing, though, what with the whole not drinking beer thing…)

Comments

  1. #1 Ewan
    August 24, 2014

    Fursty Ferret is good stuff, fyi. And yes, Hull played Stoke earlier today.

  2. #2 Eric Lund
    August 25, 2014

    “I want to try several beers.” “You try them in pints!”

    Sounds a bit like a Bavarian biergarten, where the standard serving size is one liter.

    “No, this doesn’t look like the same signature. I’m going to need to see your passport…”

    There is a reason the rest of the world has gone to the chip-and-PIN system for credit cards: signatures can be faked. I’m not sure why US banks have insisted on lagging behind on this matter.

    Were SteelyKid and the Pip with you, or did you leave them with the grandparents back in the States? I notice that you didn’t mention anything about the “last call for alcohol” ritual that comes shortly before closing time. My officemate, who got his Ph.D. in the UK, is quite familiar with that ritual.

  3. #3 Johan
    August 26, 2014

    In Continental Europe, most typical English Ale is considered dishwater. At least, my mother called it that :)

  4. #4 Tom
    August 26, 2014

    Were any of the beers you had “Real Ales”?

  5. #5 tcmJOE
    August 27, 2014

    @Johan: Depends, though honestly if there’s a beer culture that underwhelms, it’s Germany.

    http://www.europeanbeerguide.net/gersbeer.htm

  6. #6 Johan
    August 27, 2014

    @tcmJOE I’m not very fond of German beer either. I’m from beer country Belgium http://www.economist.com/node/21541708

    And BTW, my mother loved Guinness, but I’m told that’s Irish :)

  7. #7 tcmJOE
    August 27, 2014

    @Johan: Source of all the best beer. Especially gueze.

  8. #8 Hamish
    August 28, 2014

    Although it’s usually of very high quality, I find German beer rather boring (I blame the Purity Law, which stifles innovation). English real ales, North American craft beers and Belgian speciality beers are all much more interesting.

    The Swedish beer that I have tasted is awful, I wouldn’t bother!

  9. #9 Eric Lund
    August 28, 2014

    The Swedish beer that I have tasted is awful, I wouldn’t bother!

    Beer in Sweden comes in three grades: light, medium, and strong. The grades refer both to the alcohol content and to the impact on your wallet if you order a serving. A Swede told me that the analogy to making love in a canoe is appropriate for light beer in Sweden. Incidentally, the Swedish word for beer, öl, is cognate to the English oil.

  10. #10 Hamish
    August 28, 2014

    “Starkol”, which you see on multilingual labels, must mean “strong beer”. They used to sell bottles of Swedish beer at our local Ikea, that’s the only time I have ever seen it outside of Sweden. Swedish cider, on the other hand, seems to be very popular with the young-uns in the UK.

  11. #11 cd
    August 29, 2014

    Hamish: What’s sold as “Swedish cider” outside of Sweden is usually sweet alcoholic [whatever alleged fruit or other plant thing] cordial. There’s some good Swedish ciders, though tbh I prefer Breton or dry English ones.

    And the craft beer movement has begun establishing serious inroads in Sweden over the last decade or so.