Pub 87. The Cock Tavern, 25th August 2012.

The only time I've been here before was on the occasion of the Somers Town Festival or something, when after drinking beer outside all day we decided to go inside and drink more, and go to the loo. I can't remember being overly enamoured with the pub then but do remember that when I went to the loo on finding it a bit busy decided to pop into a cubicle for a wee, as you do. On entering what I thought was the cubicle,  and being multi-tasker I was already extracting John Thomas ready, I was somewhat surprised to find myself in the pool room. Rather than a poo room. I quickly zipped back up and spun on my heels, chuckling to myself. I wonder what fun will be had this time.

Well, none in a word. What an awful pub. Just seemed to be full of people shouting at each other. Irish people shouting in an excited gossipy benign way, and English people shouting at each other in a foul-mouth moronic way. But as they had live footie on a 4x3 CRT telly I pulled up a barstool and got a pint of John Blog's kegflow tinny-taste bitter. Which looked cloudy.

The football coverage was marred by the ill-considered opinions of particulary vociferous cretin, who can only be described at best as rather unpleasant and more accurately as very ugly. How anyone can swear so loudly and with so much vitriol over a corner-kick, within 3 feet of the landlady and not get a ticking off I don't know. He would probably blame the lager and blacks.
The pool room round the back was now a dingy 'big-screen' room, and wasn't very nice at all.
The only moment of levity was when a very old chap in tweed asked for a port & brandy to be told that they've been told he wasn't allowed. He was obviously aware and was chancing it on a different barmaid. He chuckled / sighed, "worth a try!" I said, and he nodded in agreement.
But that aside, what an awful pub.

East nor west

Pub 86. The Eastnor Castle, 25th August 2012.

What is one to do when caught out in a heavy thunderstom sans-brolly while out and about on a non-pub related photo-assignment? Dash into the nearest pub of course! And the nearest pub on this occasion was the Eastnor Castle in Somers Town - uh no! It's always looked a bit rough on the outside, but as we've seen that can and does often mean nothing.

Inside it's quite cosey and comfy. Just the one room but it's nicely arranged. No surprises in that there's no ales on - despite the painted gable end stating otherwise - so a cold, fizzy lager was ordered, and cold and fizzy it was. 
It was quite busy, with most people sticking round the bar. Three of four other lonesomes were dotted around at tables here & there, and so I did likewise, cagely taking photos hoping not to be spotted. To be honest I don't know if anyone would give a hoot, but I'd rather not find out.
One of the other loners was a woman who'd seemed to have just popped in for a pint and a quiet moment to herself. Nice to see proof that women can do that.

There isn't much else to say really. It's a locals' boozer for its locals. They all seemed to know each and the atmosphere was rather pleasant. If they had ales on I could easily spend more time here. Watching the football scores on the new-fangled digital text reminded me of being a student and doing the same thing via Ceefax. Happy days.
The rain carried on outside and got heavier and heavier. A huge clap of thunder caused everyone, including myself, to look towards the door as if they'd be something to see. The chap with the beard joked about it being a great excuse not to go home, and needing a boat if it carried on. Always nice to have a little bit of pub banter about the weather! Anyways, by now my crossword was done so off I went, sadly no boat was available.

Gold sovereign

Pub 85. The Sovereign. 7th August 2012.

Don't judge a book by its cover they say. And rightly so. But what about judging a pub by its cover? Can the inside of a boozer be determined by its outside? Probably not, but you still do though. "Looks a bit posh...", "What a dump!" etc.
The Sovereign is stuck on the end of a rather run-down looking parade of shops (can you judge parades of shops by their covers??) in the huge council estate mini-town that sits just west of Euston station, so it certainly doesn't look posh. The numerous black cabs parked up outside suggest that it may well be no dive either. And hanging baskets are always a good sign right?

It's much bigger than I thought and, well, much nicer. A proper basic pub interior, which sadly these days has taken as a good thing. I scanned up & down the lengthy bar and asked the friendly avuncular landlord if the hand-pumps did anything No, they didn't. So I went for a pint of Guinness - then the landlord pointed out the range of bottled ales he had, and a bottle of Greene King IPA was popped. Which is worth noting tastes much better out of a bottle than out of a cask!
The landlord disappeared off to one end of the bar to quietly read the paper and mind his own business, and down at the other were 4 or 5 boozers postulating loudly and enthusiastically on matters of the day and local gossip. The conversation was a good-natured mix of laughter, incredulity and the phrase "faaakkkin' ewl!". Presumably they were the cabbies - not drinking too much I hope! I took a few snaps as discretely as I could.

After about half a pint a chap came in and settled at the bar next to me. After a brief chat with the landlord he said hello to me and introduced himself. Eamon. Hello Eamon! Eamon was annoyed because he'd just had an argument in the Exmouth Arms over the amount of change given. Then he asked me to pop into the Costcutter to buy him some fags! He even said I could spend the change on an ice-cream. Bless. When I came back in I mentioned that's the only time I'd done that someone who wasn't a tracksuited yoof! A few moments later I was sat down the end of the bar with the "cabbies" and had been introduced. Dave, Bernie, Gary... I think. Not too sure now. And the very nice landlord Denny (I think) - the best guv'nor in Camden by all accounts and I saw no reason to disagree.
After a little while a few of the chaps had to go, and it was just me Eamon and Bernie (?? I think). So pleasant was it all that I asked Denny to get me another bottle. Offers to pay for it were offered, and I offered to buy them one as one does, I can't remember now but as pub etiquette demands it doesn't really matter who pays for what, as long it balances out. More chat & life stories followed. We tucked into the aftermath of a buffet for a funeral wake that had taken place in the pub that afternoon. Beer and sausages!
Eamon showed me some of the items hanging up around the place, one being a letter about the Denny's dad being executed or shot by the Brits in the 20s for IRA activitites. Like so many good honest boozers the Sovereign is very Irish. Of the four tellies each showing a different sports channel, two of them were Irish.
After more chat, including other pubs in the Borough amongst other things - these are people that like pubs, it turned out that all the taxi drivers were in the cafe next door, the Sovereign Grill I think it's called. Indeed each time the (land/?)lady came through the connecting door by the racks of bettings slips to get something or other it sounded very lively in there.

As I left I was implored to come back. And I will. I think it's another one that's under the threat of closure. Fingers crossed the threat fails. Everyone knows each other, and strangers like myself are made to feel very welcome too.
Eamon says the Sov is the best pub in Camden, and real ale aside I don't think I'll find better. If you like a proper pub how a pub should be for people who like pubs, then you'll no doubt agree.

Head sup

Pub 84. The Camden Head, 13th April 2012

Oops! I popped in the Camden Head ages ago but clean forgot to write it up. Such is my dedication and commitment! Or perhaps it was all the excitement of the Grand National that day distracting me - spending my winnings may have addled my memory perhaps... thank goodness for 5th place payouts!

The Camden Head - thankfully no longer Liberties - is one of the oldest pubs in Camden Town. Although having said that it's no older than any of the buildings around it which by other parts of Camden isn't really that old. But we all love a good old Victorian boozer (well, building). And it would have probably remained missing from my record forever if it wasn't for a nice chap called Jack who was wondering why I'd not popped in it. Jack does have an interest, but for a gratefully received reminder Jack receives a link to that interest: his Camden Head page - the pub's own website. Prepare for the traffic Jack!

The pub itself is fine. Adnams this and Adnams that. Took a while to get served but it was very busy on a sunny Saturday afternoon. They do food, comedy and music - I haven't tried any of them.
Perfectly good, pleasant, uncontrived, no-frills but decent hectic high street boozer and on this particular stretch of Camden's lariest high street that's worth a lot.

Pineapple chunks

Pub 83. The Pineapple, 2nd August 2012.

Remember the hoo-har a few years back when they wanted to close the Pineapple down? Famously, a public revolt that Wat Tyler would have been proud kept the pub open for the good people of Kentish Town, and served as a wake-up call for other imminent pub closures - with mixed success.

So roll on 5 or 6 years or so and what we have we got? Pub of the year on a few occasions and I'm sure people will tell you it's some kind of hidden back street treasure. And it is, although not hidden enough on gig nights at the nearby Forum. Local reports are that the beer has gone downhill, but on this visit the Bombadier was fine. Annoyingly though Gemma Gibbons' fantastic silver in the judo came just 2 minutes too late for me to enjoy paying £2.12 for it. (All pints were £2.12 for an hour after Great Britain won a medal - nice touch!)

The bar-behind is lovely, and the pub is fine. The front room can be a bit cramped and the bar is always surrounded by a hardcore gang of locals who seem to want to protect it from the advances from anyone else not in their clique. Not even a surly nod from these lot, and you should have seen their faces when I made a pretend-approach to their cheese & biscuits that they had laid out on a table, on open view to everyone but seemingly just for them. The barman was very nice, but the locals have always appeared to be the least welcoming of any 'proper' pub I've been in.

As well as getting cramped there's a lot of furniture for too small a space. Where I was sat by the door the locals were towering above on their pincer-movement arranged bar-stools. At least on this occasion one of the great pub destroyers of modern times didn't happen - the person on the banquette next to me ordering up a huge plate of sizzling spicey stinky Thai-food.. It has happened here before - most off putting. But everyone seems to like it!
Maybe I should have sat out in the rather nice conservatory.

The beer festivals and Easter bonnet competition are worth a look. Thank God it didn't close.

Can't stand the heat?

Pub 82. The Blues Kitchen. 31st July 2012.

Who is the Blues Kitchen for? Tourists I suppose who want to come to London / Camden and then want to forget about where they are for in here they could be anywhere in the world. The idea is that you're in some Memphis roadhouse but the reality is you're just some big dull insipid gloomy air-conditioned faux-American contrived-pubbery somewhere in the world.

No ale of course, but the very subtely labeled chrome pumps make it very difficult to know what they do have. I had a Guinness. It's so bland and designer-comfy it's impossible not to dislike it but there's not a lot to like really either. Perhaps the recently exposed brickwork on the exterior? The endlessly cheery league-of-nations barstaff?

It does have two things going for it, 1. it's not the Oh! Bar anymore. And 2. there's free live music most week day evenings, which isn't a bad thing.

Solid gold

Pub 81. The Golden Lion. 31st July 2012

Surely one of the most impressive buildings in this part of the borough, now the Golden Lion stands isolated and lonely looking out like a Victorian sentinel over the bland 20th Century light-industrial redevelopment.
Sadly property developers - the same lot that did for The Parr's Head - have their eyes and more worryingly their paws on it, and there's a real chance it could go the way of many other fine old boozers. English Heritage are considering listing, and you can't really see why they'd turn it down so fingers crossed

The pub is large and airy but not barn-like so agoraphobics should still be able to feel cosy. Although long since joined together the public bar room and the saloon bar room are still very much evident. In the public bar end a load of lager drinking Brits were playing pool, down at the saloon end the Irish contingent were busy downing the Guinness. Everyone seem very local and very friendly, including the barmaid and long-standing 'proper' landlady. Too few are these are left nowadays.
The bar itself is a wonderful wooden work of wonder. The two old tills are lovely, and one is more than just an ornament busily ker-chinging away with every sale.

There's no ale on, although they do have some handpumps and one still had a turned-round clip on. I asked whether they ever issue forth but the barmaid said they'd not had ale on for ages. Oh well, fair enough. A pint of Guinness for £3.60 isn't that bad.
A few of the Irish fellas who were engaged in much jolly pub banter amongst themselves and the barmaid & landlady suddenly sat down round a table, got out their banjos, pipes and the like and started twiddle-diddley-deeing away - and very very nice it was too. They were playing for a good 20 mins or so, and it seemed very impromptu. Take a look & listen on YouTube here. Super stuff. Every pub should have one!

The Golden Lion is a really super pub, and where else can boast an array of bakelite light switches like this? Pray to whomever you pray to that it stays open. The sad but not-unexpected news this week that it looks likely the Crown & Goose is going might hopefully be a Euston Arch-style last straw for pub redevelopment.

Signing up to the Facebook campaign can't hurt.

**Update** - plans have gone in to redevelop the Golden Lion into flats. A familiar but sorry tale.
The plans are here - read all about it, and tell Camden Council your views.

***Another updated*** Despite Camden chucking out the last application, the developers have appealed.
The details for it here - and you can leave a comment. So please do!

Cold as ice

Pub 80. The Ice Wharf. 31st July 2012

What are the best things about a cavernous barn-like Wetherspoons house? The range of ales, the peaceful air of no telly or jukebox, and no interminable flashing and flickering of fruit machines. But take these away and what are you left with? Answer - a Lloyds bar!

That's what the Ice Wharf is. Camden's newest-built pub, at least it's got a sensible name with a good hefty nod to the local history - which 'Spoons is of course good for. After a long walk to the bar - it's a big place - all the bar staff were much more interested in watching the Olympic gymnastics on the telly, and trying to mimic the moves to much evident amusement among themselves. Eventually I caught an eye, and opted for the Butcombe Gold instead of Old Hooky. There would have been Abbot Ale too but it had just gone off. As this was a rare occasion that I could use my Camra 50p-off-in-Wetherspoons vouchers, it came to £1.95 for a pint. Not bad at all, even if it was served up in a plastic glass. Any pub that gives me a plastic glass by default makes me think I'm definitely likely to get glassed and doesn't make me want to stay.

The bar staff were all very nice though from what I could see. But they did do that annoying thing - twice... "Hello... hello? Hello mate? Excuse me? Hello?" I heard as I was engrossed in typing a text. I looked round. "Being served?" - I had my glass of beer in front of me. And then again when I was watching the gymnastics myself. Touche! I know they're just being eager, but it does get on my thre'pennies.

The funny thing is that it's always busy. I went in on the weekday about 5pm and there were plenty in. Mainly tourists, a few old blokes and odd scary rough sort with whom eye contact looks inadvisable. On a weekend people are queuing up to get in, which involves running the gauntlet of some very moody looking bouncers.
There's a canal-side beer garden which just looks dirty. I guess it's all cheap and cheerful-ish, but it's not a Wetherspoons and yet it's not not a Wetherspoons. I don't get the attraction.

Neptune has sunk?

Pub 79. The Neptune, 31st July 2012.

Oh dear, it looks like another Borough boozer has gone down Luxury Flat Boulevard. Typically though as this was just a bit of a rough-arse unfashionable back-street estate boozer there was no big Camden New Journal hoo-hah like there currently is for the Devonshire Arms and the Golden Lion. Same way that there wasn't for the Parr's Head either.
Last time I walked past it wasn't open, but it didn't actually look closed for good. The curtains were drawn and there was a light on. I just figured it was because it was a bit early in the day.
The Daily News claims to have gone there as recently as March of this year, I'm sure I've not seen it open since before then but there again I don't go past and who am I to argue? So as it seems to have closed since August 2011, and my intention to patronise it was wholesome, it must get a mention.

I can't find the pic I took when I last passed by pre-scaffolding, so here's a pic off the internet when it was still a pub.

Let her sun never set

Pub 78. The Victoria, 30th July 2012

Hoorah - we manage to find the Victoria open! Seems it's only an evening-only pub, which is a bit annoying. Or maybe I've just been unlucky. Or maybe I''ve been lucky...? Or maybe it just looks shut. When we went in it was very quiet. A couple of urban scruffy-chic dudes at the bar, and a woman and a couple of kids at a table eating the tasty looking pizza they do, playing with a very cute pub dog. But it was past 9pm - why were there kids in the place? At least they were quiet.

Not much of a selection, I went for the Pride, and it was very nice. My friend saw the Crabbies Ginger Beer and fancied it but the barman was adamant they didn't have any. He was eventually guided to it, and we settled down on the comfy plush banquette at odd looking copper table that looked like a small ironing board. Actually it's perfectly designed to be big enough for pints & elbows but not take up more room than need be.

I guess this is a place for sophisticated cool folks, who want to think they're going to a real pub. It's all very nice, although the music was a bit intrusive and the small lamps on the bar were unpleasantly dazzling once one's eyes had adjusted to pleasant-gloomy lighting within.
The pavement outside is a right nice afternoon sun-trap but come 5pm it seems that everyone from the nearby Greater London House (that of the black cats) come here for post-office tie-loosened drinks. Bottle lagers and Magners on ice all round please!
But all in all, it's a perfectly good, quiet, tarted-up, back-street boozer, but I'm not overly amused by it.