Beer Warrior goes to historical London.

This was a well blended mix of little and well known sites of the City of London and some of the old pubs in the area. We started off from Kings Cross and went to St Pauls. This magnificent Anglican Cathedral on Ludgate Hill is 365 ft high and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren to replace the former St Pauls that had been destroyed by the fire of 1666. It is a world famous landmark and is the final resting place of both Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington. Also in this area is the recently restored and relocated Temple Bar and the monument to the Great Fire.

Moving on towards the river and the Millenium bridge we passed by the site of the former palace of Baynards Castle where Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen for nine days before events led to her being taken to the Tower and subsequent beheading. As we headed towards our first pub we passed the London School est 1442, the College of Arms and St Benets where Inigo Jones is buried and Grinling Gibbons did a lot of the carving; it was also the Welsh speaking Church in London.

The Centre Page: Knightrider Hill. No we didn’t see the Hoff, but instead got our first beer of the tour. A pleasant pub with lots of booths; downstairs had some lovely wooden panelling. I opted for a pint of the Fullers London Porter and it was in cracking form.

Thence to the Cock Pit. St Andrews Hill. The current building dates back to 1787 though there has been premises here since the C15th and is reputed to be on the site of Shakespeares London residence (its handy for the Globe, especially with the new bridge). The cellars were connected to a labyrinth of sorts as Catholics held services here and had an escape route in case of being rumbled. Cock fighting took place here and it was a major place for gambling on the fights until the sport(?) was outlawed in1849 when the name was changed to the Three Castles. Luckily it has been sympathetically refurbished with the old name and gallery reinstated. I drank Courage Best.

We sauntered into Fleet St and walked passed St Brides, the spire of which is said to have inspired the style of the traditional wedding cake. There also seemed to be an unusual number of pie shops in the vicinity; some of these were licensed but unfortunately were closed weekends. We passed and had pointed out to us the site of Mr Todd’s actual barbers shop; or is it all myth and legend?

Time for lunch and yes for some it was liquid. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was the favoured watering hole and what a find it was. A Samuel Smith Old Brewery inn that has survived through 15 reigns dating from 1667. Within the dark wooden interior is a warren of narrow corridors and staircases; the vaults were part of the original guest houses chapel. Notable patrons include Dr Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, James Boswell, Voltaire and Thackeray. A stuffed mynah bird is also on display.

After lunch a quick trot from Fleet Street to Carey St at the back of the Royal Courts of Justice and The Seven Stars with its imposing landlady Roxy Beaujolais. This pub dates back to1602 and Roxy, nee Jenny Marguerite Hoffman, was the former front of house manager at Ronnie Scott’s place, as well as being a celebrity chef featured along side Anthony Worrall-Thompson, Heston Blumenthal and Phil Vickery in CAMRA chefs that take on/have a working interest in a village/local pub and want to keep the beer real as well as the food. She likes what a hand pump signifies: real live product. Adnams Broadside and Timmy Taylors were on offer.

Next was a real treat. A whistle-stop tour around the Huntarian Museum at The Royal College of Surgeons of England. I think that this must have been the most awesome visit of the day. John Hunter and his brother William built up an extensive knowledge of anatomy and surgery and began a collection of comparative anatomy and pathology. The sections and preparations of animal and human anatomy are all preserved and on display. One bit that I found particularly interesting was the step by step following of a tumour: At another I was totally amazed by the blood system of an embryo whose body had disappeared.

Obviously it was now time to re hydrate so the Coal Hole it was, occupying a corner of the Savoy building at the junction of Strand and Carting Gate. The other half and I hadn’t had lunch so went over to Pret a Manger and got tremendous baguettes for little more than 1.50 for the two and came back to enjoy a pint of Harveys and a St Austells Tribune. Now to the serious part of the evening.Passing St Clement Danes Church, the central church of the RAF, and the statues of Arthur Bomber Harris and Hugh Dowding and continuing past the Old Curiosity shop, we made our way to Covent Garden. I’ve never been before. Wow, the little booths, shops etc, certainly somewhere to go when sober!

The Cockpit

Anyway, the Lamb and Flag on Rose St was the next port of call. This is a small wooden fronted pub and at over 300 years old it is the oldest pub in Covent Garden. The alleyway leading up to the pub was where the poet John Dryden in 1679 had the misfortune to be beaten up by hired thugs; they now have bouncers on the entrance. It used to be known as The Bucket of Blood after the prize fighting that took place there. Then it was time for something completely different, The Porter House.

This was a ginormous place over five floors with a wide selection of bottled beers from around the world, enough copper piping to resemble the internal working of a steam engine and very few hand pumps. I had Turners Sticklebract at 3.7%. That was one to put down to experience! Then onward to our last pub in London, The Sherlock Holmes on Northumberland St in Westminster.

In 1957 Whitbread purchased an entire exhibition of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia that had been put together for the Festival of Britain and Whitbread wanted to open a themed pub in the centre of the city to attract enthusiasts from around the world. The inn, formerly the Northumberland Arms, became The Sherlock Holmes. The exhibition items have not changed since they were installed in the replica of Holmes and Watsons living room and study and are complemented by a collection of TV and film stills of actors who’ve played the roles. Greene Kings Sherlock Holmes Ale (rebadged IPA, we were told) was all that was on offer.

Many thanks go to Tony (Trash) Pollard who put together a fascinating day and on occasion had more ears listening in than the proper group. He has certainly inspired me to go on more rambles around the lesser known capital.

Beer Warrior in London was Dom

November ’07