Charing Cross branch pub crawl


Charing Cross branch

Charing Cross branch: The one on the right

FOR MANY the Northern line is a commute, a means to go out or a few minutes to wonder just who ever goes Colindale.

For an intrepid band of boozers who coined the 38 bus route pub crawl and the River Thames boat trip pub crawl, it’s an opportunity for a day exploring the capital’s drinkers.

Taking on the whole network during licensed hours would be optimistic and unnecessary, so on Saturday 2 November 2013 just after 1pm tipplers gathered at Kennington underground station to visit a pub for each stop of the Charing Cross branch.

The route offers excellent highlights of London’s famous landmarks and includes a river crossing. As always, this review is provided to advise and entertain the prospective pub crawler, walker or tourist. Here’s the itinerary:

  1. Kennington – The Prince of Wales
  2. Waterloo – The Kings Arms
  3. Embankment – The Princess of Wales
  4. Charing Cross – The Harp
  5. Leicester Square – The Porcupine
  6. Tottenham Court Road – Bradleys Spanish Bar
  7. Goodge Street – The Rising Sun
  8. Warren Street – The Prince of Wales Feathers
  9. Euston – The Crown and Anchor
  10. Mornington Crescent – The Lyttleton Arms
  11. Camden Town – The Worlds End

Each heading below links through to the pub profile page on the excellent Beerintheevening.com.

1. The Prince of Wales, Kennington

The Prince of Wales, Kennington

The Prince of Wales: The pub carpet and an awful shirt offered military enthusiast Sutcliffe a chance to demonstrate urban camouflage

A gem anyone would be happy to call their local. The Prince of Wales is set in the corner of a quiet square with a couple of tables and chairs outside, and a cosy snug.

Sutcliffe, Binksy and the Kenna League chairman became the only three crawlers to continue their unblemished attendance record. They were joined by the Young Boys of Vauxhall manager, the Still Don’t Know Yet manager, Lady Norman and sundry others.

One pint down, the short walk to Kennington station was taken for the route’s only tube journey. Unlike the two previous crawls, the sun was out.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: What can I say? Nice choice of carpet (matched my shirt). Quiet backstreet boozer. I think we shocked the locals.

Dazza: Nice area. Standard pub. Impressive carpet design like Sutcliffe’s shirt, although I think the shirt had more stains. People outside seemed confused why we were taking a photo.

2. The Kings Arms, Waterloo

The Kings Arms, Waterloo

The Kings Arms: “Dis is de autobahn.”

There are many other pubs closer to Waterloo station but they cannot compete with this firm favourite, let down only by the lack of apostrophe in the signage.

The public bar and saloon bar are served by a central counter with a singular recruitment policy. The curious conservatory area out the back was closed and pieces of a fireplace blocked a door onto the Victorian splendour of Roupell Street.

An open fire roared in the public bar where Rounders and Simon were found Kenting it up. The former Wandsworth Window Lickers manager arrived and within minutes was telling his Nurburgring story to the first person who listened.

Drinks finished, the crowd walked back past Waterloo station, alongside the Royal Festival Hall and over the River Thames, where Simon’s story of investigating Kent dogging spots as a local reporter prompted Binksy to enlighten everyone with the phrase ‘seagulling‘. Car windscreens will never look the same again.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: The ‘back’ was closed due to building work which meant we had to squeeze into the tiny public bar. Nice place with staff who are very understanding when you’re drunk (from experience). Unfortunately it’s usually full of rich local bankers and lawyers who wish they were working class (a la Jamie Oliver) complete with plummy mockney accents and flat caps from Harrods. Some of the team fitted right in here.

Dazza: Small and pokey. Quite dark and bloody hot in there.

The Wandsworth Window Lickers manager: A lovely pub, as always serving up some delicious beer. Shame about having a chimney by the front door.

3. The Princess of Wales, Embankment

The Princess of Wales, Embankment

The Princess of Wales: Champion beer, average pub

The traverse of Hungerford Bridge, as it so often does, sparked conversation of the 1986 massacre in the town of that name.  The good news was Sutcliffe’s encyclopedic knowledge of military hardware was present to confirm one of the semi-automatic weapons used by Michael Ryan was an American M1 carbine. The bad news was the Judean Peoples’ Front manager – a renowned lookalike of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik – was mysteriously absent and could not offer his opinion on the matter.

Overshadowed by Charing Cross station, the Princess of Wales is a fairly generic central London pub with not much going for it except some interesting ales. The 50p game began.

Sadly, the future Princess of Wales wasn’t there. Only the incumbent Dulwich Red Sox manager and Vicki the bus spotter.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: I don’t really remember much about this one which is probably as good a description as it needs.

Dazza: Bit more trendy, very sporty. Expensive drinks. Steep stairway to the toilets, or maybe I was starting to feel drunk at that point, not sure. Michael Buble (not in person I hasten to add, that would be awesome) playing in the toilets which was nice to whistle to while taking a piss.

The Wandsworth manager: I believe that this was the introduction of the first 50p. Well done the chairman for seeing it off. Average pub, nothing to report.

4. The Harp, Charing Cross

The Harp, Charing Cross

The Harp: Matted

Crossing the Strand, crawlers were treated to one of the West End’s more compelling pubs.

The Harp has a great range of beers, although patrons are made to enjoy them in a narrow, crowded atmosphere. Unusually for an Irish pub, singing is not allowed. The sour member of staff who ordered crawlers to stop made one wonder if, for a place named after a stringed musical instrument, the barmaids should not appear more regularly plucked.

Having claimed the chairman in the Princess, the 50p game struck the Still Don’t Know Yet manager, who was still complaining of a night shift and three hours’ sleep.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Cosy, little place (small and over-crowded) with an impressive collection of beer pump clips.

Dazza: Impressive collection of beer mats. Narrow pub with beer-goggle looking staff behind the bar. Lots of portraits on the wall, can’t remember who they were of though.

The Wandsworth manager: Interesting boozer with a seven per cent beer called Black Jesus, not for the faint-hearted, no-one manned up. I was given serious grief for drinking from a bottle. In hindsight I wish I had stuck to these.

5. The Porcupine, Leicester Square

The Porcupine, Leicester Square

The Porcupine: Plenty of pricks on the outside

The Porcupine sits halfway up Charing Cross Road in a swirl of tourism. Refraining from any jokes about the place being a bit pokey or full of pricks, more crawlers found themselves necking pints of ice cold, gassy lager because of the 50p coin dropped into the bottom.

50p Porcupine

Her Maj: The cause of much necking

Being part of the Nicholson’s chain, the décor goes for the ‘Olde London like Jack the Ripper used to take a drink there guv’nor’ that few of that pub franchise manage to pull off. The Porcupine is no exception.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Dull, touristy, but a reliable watering hole

Dazza: I think the Still Don’t Know Yet manager 50p’d me in there. I managed to pass it on to Martin’s mate. Sutcliffe has a photo of him holding the 50p. Sutcliffe got rather excited as it was really in focus!

The Wandsworth manager: Another 50p in play, goosed! Here starts the slippery slope, besides that not a bad boozer.

6. Bradleys Spanish Bar, Tottenham Court Road

Bradleys Spanish Bar, Tottenham Court Road

Bradleys Spanish Bar: No room inside, mild bedlam outside

This bar’s website has a whole section dedicated to their ‘pride and joy and centrepiece’ – a jukebox that plays vinyl. As they crammed into the tiny bar area of Bradleys five pints down, many crawlers were rebuked by staff for knocking into the music box and causing it to skip.

Retreating outside to the quiet street just behind Tottenham Court Road station, a pint of Cruzcampo became the first casualty of the day when it smashed into the pavement.

This is a great bar, if you’re one of the five people in it.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Nice Spanish back street bar. I imagine it has character but I was getting too pissed to remember at this stage. I remember Dazza getting shouted at for repeatedly bumping into the vinyl jukebox. Someone dropped their pint. I think we disgraced ourselves.

Dazza: Wasn’t this one the Spanish bar? Really small. I fell against the jukebox and skipped the track which the locals didn’t like. Someone dropped a glass outside so I’m sure the regulars loved us frequenting their dark pit of a bar.

The Wandsworth manager: Classic “don’t touch the f*cking jukbox” I believe was heard as someone again made the record jump. First breakage of the night and 50ps flying round all over the place.

7. The Rising Sun, Goodge Street

The Rising Sun, Goodge Street

The Rising Sun: Costume cobwebs were the day’s consistent eyesore

Calls throughout the day to watch the football were briefly met when crawlers filed into a packed Rising Sun. Several large screens high up on the walls of this airy pub transmitted events from Ashburton Grove to a sea of upturned faces.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Don’t remember this one. I think Dazza didn’t come in due to mounting drunkeness.

Dazza: Really crowded. Much bigger bar. Lots of sport on TV. Took me ages to find the toilets (which were right by the front door). Getting seriously pissed. Eyesight starting to blur.

The Wandsworth manager: Aresnal were on, the beer was a flowing and it was starting to get a little bit messy. Very windy outside.

8. The Prince of Wales Feathers, Warren Street

The Prince of Wales Feathers, Warren Street

The Prince of Wales Feathers: Alcoholism, unmasked

The third and final pub of the day named after Welsh royalty, the Prince of Wales Feathers is an expansive place. It was still early in the evening and the party largely had the floor to themselves. Finding themselves ahead of schedule, everyone had a second drink.

It was there that the Young Boys manager paid for an ill-advised wager on Australia to beat England at rugby that afternoon. As an Englishman, there are few better sights than a Welshman having to down a glass of pink gin because your country won a match they shouldn’t have due to a controversial refereeing decision that infuriates Australians.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Posh and polished but I don’t remember any character. I do remember Dazza having to sit this one out and walk up and down the street outside to try and avoid throwing up. I was talking to him with the aid of a doorway’s support when I was subtly informed by the owner of the flat above to stop ringing his doorbell with my shoulder. Someone wussed out (Martin?) and bought themselves a cup of tea instead of beer. £3.75 for a cup of tea, £4 for a pint of Peroni.

Dazza: Can’t remember much about this one. Really drunk. Had to take a breather outside.

The Wandsworth manager: My usual piss stop on the way home, so good to have a pint in it for a change (the pub not the…). I believe that Barry White made an appearance here. It would have been a good idea to get some food in at this point.

9. The Crown and Anchor, Euston

The Crown and Anchor, Euston

The Crown and Anchor: What a shower

On the other side of Euston Road, the Crown and Anchor offers a pleasant bar area. Apparently the place does good food, but if in Drummond Street it’s better to try one of its amazing traditional Indian restaurants.

The Hairy Fadjeetas manager, Spartak Mogadishu manager, PSV Mornington manager and the Headless Chickens manager – whose team currently sits on top of the Kenna – swelled the crowd.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: No idea.

Dazza: I wandered off somewhere when we got to this pub. Managed to find my way back before everyone left. The Pirate joined us here I think, looking like Marty McFly with his life preserver.

The Wandsworth manager: Well, I remember walking up from Warren Street, even looking at street view things aren’t that clear. Did we pick up the Pirate at this point?

10. The Lyttelton Arms, Mornington Crescent

The Lyttelton Arms, Mornington Crescent

The Lyttelton Arms: “Whoa! Take it easy on the jig there, Dazza”

A key lesson learned from the number 38 bus route pub crawl was that minimal time between pubs leads to shaky decision making later in the evening. By walking between each boozer, crawlers are given adequate opportunity to take some air and regulate their intake. The tactic was paying dividends at this point in the night. Except that no one remembers what happened in the Lyttelton.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: …

Dazza: Sobered up a bit here. Didn’t take much notice of the pub. Crap report. Hit the lemonades!

The Wandsworth manager: Erm…not sure if I made this one, no memories….hhmmmmm.

11. The Worlds End, Camden Town

Massive. Absolutely massive pub in the epicentre of Camden. Heavy metal blared as crawlers entered the final drinker. Memories are dim, but there really was all sorts in this place. And it smelled.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Can’t remember this one at all but it must have been dull because I didn’t even take a photo.

Dazza: Gothic overload. Couldn’t tell who was dressed in their usual night gear and who was dressed for Halloween.

The Wandsworth manager: Was this the rock bar? 

Bonus pub: The Abbey, Kentish Town

The crawl had finished way ahead of schedule and presented the central committee with dilemma. Follow the Edgware line to the superb Enterprise in Chalk Farm or the High Barnet line to The Abbey in Kentish Town where Sutcliffe’s mates were having a party? The bearded wonder successfully pushed for the latter and the crowd traipsed up Kentish Town Road for shooters and dancing.

Crawler comments

Sutcliffe: Bonus extra pub to join my friend’s birthday party. After the initial setback of Lady Norman farting (which cleared the room) and then blaming it on me, I warmed to this place. I vaguely remember someone losing a jacket and some very over the top Halloween costumes but I was quite far gone now. The chicken kebab in New Cross Gate made the long slog home worth it.

Dazza: Was this the bonus pub? Lady Norman lost her coat and Tim farted, which caused the back room to clear and many disgruntled people.

The Wandsworth manager: Vague recollections of dancing with the Pirate and attempting to chat to anything with boobs, skirt and a pulse.

Conclusion

Having organised three London transport-themed pub crawls in 12 months, the central committee patted themselves on the back at how simple and entertaining the Charing Cross branch event had been. Everyone was in good spirits, the crawl had finished way head of time and even the weather held out.

But there was something missing, and it wasn’t until the hangover had finally subsided a couple of days later that it became apparent. Blunder, or the lack of it, hadn’t visited itself on anyone. Nothing went wrong. No one truly disgraced themselves. No peculiar locals sharpened their pitchforks. The whole crawl was as functional and unobtrusive as most of the taverns visited. Even Sutcliffe lost interest in taking photos by the end.

Plans are afoot for a crawl of the Croydon tramlink in spring. The central committee can only hope the locale throws a few curved balls. Perhaps dropping into the New Addington pub where an infamous regular once turned up with a machete would be a start.

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3 Comments on “Charing Cross branch pub crawl”

  1. Denney says:

    I had no idea I made it as far as the 8th pub to be honest, all I remember was the “pink” gin looking rather similar to a glass of piss, it wasn’t warm though…

  2. Denney says:

    I was hugging a toilet bowl by about 9pm!


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