Pub #4: North Pole, Canary Wharf, Dec 9, 2010

The North Pole took a little extra effort to locate.  But that’s what makes this local Docklands pub special.  It is barely a 10 minute walk from the busy Canary Wharf tube station (and ever closer to the DLR), but unless one knows a pub is located there, one isn’t going to find it.

It is tucked away in a corner and the narrow door blends in with the rest of the of the exterior decor, especially when the sun’s gone down.  The proprietor was very friendly and broke off a conversation he was having as soon as Reva and I entered to greet us a smile and ask what we’d like.  Oh, this is also the first of the 100 pubs that I visited with Reva.

The inside of the pub is nothing special, with a simple (and some would consider tacky) country themed decor that would seem well suited for any English country-side pub.  A log-fire was crackling in one corner of the room, giving the inside a very warm and homely atmosphere.  We went to the pub around 7:00 PM on a Thursday evening, and there was a good mix of locals and a few suits from the nearby banks/law firms.

I didn’t notice a food menu, but that doesn’t detract from the overall likability of the place.  In fact, if they did have a menu, I’d probably avoid trying anything.  The beer selection wasn’t anything special either, with the usual selection of European imports and a few English ales.  I had the Landlord, one of my usual favourites, for £3.25.  Overall, a very nice local pub and one to keep keep in mind if one is trying to avoid the usual chain pubs and their crowds in the wharf.

 

Pub #3: Cittie of Yorke, Holborn, Nov 27, 2010

Having read about the Cittie of Yorke in several places, including on Tasty Fever, I decided I must visit it.  As pubs go, it has one the best interiors I have seen.  The back bar has high sloped ceilings with wooden rafters, stained glass windows, a long wooden bar, huge beer barrels balanced above it, bulbous lights hanging from the ceiling and cozy looking booths skirted by wood arches. All this makes the pub exactly what I image an 1800’s London drinking houses looking like (save the electric lights, of course).  Awkwardly though, there was a Deal-or-No-Deal video game machine in one corner that looks very out of place amongst the magnificent interior.

From the outside, you would be forgiving for not thinking it is a pub worth visiting.  A long corridor as you enter makes you wonder what you’re in for.  The only brew served is Sam Smith, and I found their stout very enjoyable.  The pricing of pints are strange though – the Extra Stout was £2.41 and the Mountain Larger £2.87.  I will have to find other Sam Smith breweries soon to try the others.  I didn’t visit the front bar or the cellar kitchen, which is another excuse for me to go back.

I stopped in around 3:00 PM on a Friday afternoon and the place was very quiet, with just one large group of what seemed like students, at the back.  By 5:00 PM though, it was packed with the office crowd, which is to be expected.

According to the interwebs, a public house of some form has stood at this site since 1430. This history makes visiting London’s drinking houses all the more enjoyable.  At a place like this, a little imagination is all it takes to conjure up a roaring fireplace inside, horses tied up outside while their masters bartered stories while drinking ale from a big, wooden mug.

Pub #2: The Blackfriar, Blackfriars Bridge, Nov 10, 2010

The second stop on my quest to visit a 100 London pubs and write about them was The Blackfriar.  This historic pub (over a 100 years old) stands on the site of a former Dominican Friary.  One end of the building is has a triangular edge, which makes it impossible to miss.

The pub was recommended by Ben, who promised me I’d love the place.  I wasn’t disappointed.  We met there at 8:00 PM on a Wednesday night and there weren’t too many other patrons, which was nice.  The interior is beautiful, with intricately carved wood and marble depicting friars and much more.

Ben and I tried the 4 ales that were available on tap and I particularly enjoyed the Lord Marple.  The other three were London Pride, Landlord, and Hookey Gold.  Since we were there at dinner time, I also tried a “famous British pie”.  The only vegetarian option was the Lentil and Cashew nut tart, which was also really good.

Unfortunately I only had my Nexus One with me so the pictures I have aren’t great.  Next time, I will have to remember to carry the dSLR.

Pub #1: The Castle, Islington (Angel), Nov 1, 2010

The first stop on my legen — wait for it…dary (!) pub crawl mission was The Castle.  I picked a place I could walk to from home, but not close enough to make it seem like I was being lazy.  The Castle is on Pentonville road, a few minutes walk from the Angel Tube station.  I had walked past it the previous week and it had a certain appeal from the outside.  It was missing the polish of a chain pub (which often means they lack character) and also wasn’t as run down as some of the independents I’ve seen around Highbury & Islington.

I got there mid-afternoon on Monday, Nov 1 and paused outside making sure this was where I wanted to start my project.  It seemed light and airy inside, with only a handful of people so I popped my head in.

I walked to the bar and was immediately greeted with a smile (which rarely happens in London).  One of the beers on tap caught my attention, mainly because of the name.   It was called TEA, but I soon realised this stood for Traditional English Ale.  I inquired about it and was offered a taste.  I always accept a taste.  I liked it and ordered a pint.

Being a Monday afternoon, the pub was mostly empty and I had my choice of tables.  I usually prefer to sit at the bar, but British pubs generally don’t have too many stools. This allows people easier access to the bar, which I like.

The beer was a lovely honey/amber coloured best bitter.  Funnily, I found out later that TEA was voted “best bitter” in 2000.  Not a very hoppy ale, I found the beer very drinkable but somewhat characterless.  A fruity finish capped a very enjoyable £3.25 beer.

The staff at The Castle were very friendly, and as one Yelper puts it, the pub has an ambiance of being cool without knowing it.  The atmosphere is very laid back, and the few tables up front are complemented by some cushioned couches in the rear.  The lunch menu seemed very interesting, if a little pricey.  There are stairs at the rear leading to a roof deck but since it was a little nippy, I didn’t check it out.  I imagine the place is quite bustling on a balmy summer evening.

The Castle is definitely a place I’ll want to check out again when I have a little more time and money, and I’m eager to try one of the delicious looking items on the menu.

Starting my own 100 pubs mission

Inspired by @abandonedlondon‘s 100 Pubs Project, I decided to start a similar mission of my own.  What better way to get to know London than through its pubs? It also helps that I love beer.  I would walk a 100 miles to to try a new beer, and walk a 100 more to drink a pint with a friend.   Hyperbole aside, my fondness for beer goes back to the first drink I had after turning 21 (yes, I was 21!) during my Ann Arbor summer.  Living in Philadelphia for so many years was a treat for a beer-aficionado with plenty of specialist brew pubs and micro-breweries in the area.  I once brewed my own beer, that I like to say looked like a nicely poured Guinness but tasted like a Bud Light.

I like to experiment with beers and will go out of a my way to try a new one, so now living in Europe (and specifically London) is a dream come true for a beer lover.  I’ve already been to several pubs and tried many ales, but only now decided that documenting my visits on my blog will be a worthwhile exercise and experience. Plus it gives me something to look forward to during my unemployment.

For the purposes of this “mission” (I will be calling it a mission so as to not directly copy Doreen’s title) I will attempt to visit 100 pubs over the next few months and drink at least a pint of beer/ale/bitter/brew.  If I’m feeling spendy, I might get some food too (altho British food…not so much).  I will also write about my visit and hopefully have a picture or three to remember the visit by.  So without further ado, up next is a post about pub # 1.