Worth persevering?

Pub no. 200 - The Perseverance, 22nd June 2013.

The Perseverance is trying so hard to cool and trendy, but thankfully it doesn't quite manage it so it's still quite a nice boozer. The Bloomsbury was very nice, and I got chatting to a lad who'd just arrived in London from Toronto that very afternoon. It was his first time in London so after a few predictable touristy recommendations I told him to avoid the lager and stick to the ales - his Bloomsbury (on my suggestion - he nearly went for lager having asked the barmaid which was the most popular beer) was going down well - for which the barmaid chastised me somewhat, pointing out that there was nothing wrong with their lagers. I suspect she was a bit cool and trendy to get my drift.

Norfolk 'n' chance.

Pub no. 199, The Norfolk Arms. 22nd June 2013.

On the outside it looks like a rather nice old fashioned pub. On the inside it looks like a run-down old fashioned pub. But it is in fact a very gastroey gastro-pub, and it's proud to be so. The "no service here" sign right in front of the beer pumps speaks volumes.

Go here if you're middle aged and posh for fancy 'English style tapas'. But for a quiet drink at the bar you'll feel like you're in the way, although the Theakston's Lightfoot was very nice. And so is the ceiling.

Lambs can-do-it.

Pub no. 198, The Lamb. 22nd June 2013.

Sadly little - or nothing - is made of why the Lamb is called the Lamb, well nothing I could see anyways. It's nothing to do with the tasty little bleater, but all to do with this chap.  Check out his old pump just round the corner.

Anyways, it's a lovely little old Young's pub. Cosy round the bar, there's a room down the back and a little snug round the other side. In the snug there's two tantalising beer engines on the punter side of the door! Self-service perhaps? Sadly not, they're just for show - possibly advertising the pub's wares.

Rather wonderfully there's a working Victorian polyphon in the corner which for a small contribution to the worthy cause de jour they'll wind it and let it play for you! Better than any jukebox!
And it's lovely, although drowned out by a pub full of chatty people - but was still loud enough to really annoy too unwashed tree-hugging new age traveller types sat right in front it! Sorry, it doesn't have any Levellers or Dead Kennedys on it... oh you've gone! Sorry. Would be nice if everyone has quietened down a bit though... watch here.


Pub no. 197, McGlynn's. 22nd June 2013.

Proper old back-street boozer. Carpets, small tables, good beer, (Flying Scotsman was nice), gypsy memorabilia, nice barmaid, telly with sound down, Boney M on the jukebox - well if you're going to have a jukebox you might as well have something good on there. Basic food & separate dining room. And a snoozing cat by the door.

Cosy and nice! Too bad all the photos were blurry - one of the better pubs round here, if you can find it! But to be honest the jukebox might wear a litte thin after a while.

Oxford Blues

Pub 196. The Oxford.

I have friends who work near here, so I have to go this place fairly often, well a lot more often that I'd like.Why? Well, I don't like it. Why? Well... 

It calls itself The Oxford, rather than the Oxford Tavern. Annoying but not a capital crime I admit. But on its website it calls itself  "a pub & dining." Yup, it's a noun and a verb. Such intentional inane mangling of Queen's English should be capital offence.

It's expensive, but the beer's generally ok. The bar-staff are oh-so-cool. Oh-so-cool. It gets crowded inside and in the summer it gets crowded outside too. Even on the dirty business pavement.

The furniture inside is of  the bare-wood shabby chic type, that looks trendy if you think it should, but is otherwise uncomfortable and wobbly. Big dining tables don't work in pubs! Ahhh but this is a gastro pub, and so proud of said gastroeyness is it that it has the open kitchen behind the bar, resulting in the whole pub stinking of fish & chips. Not an unpleasant smell in a chippy, but pretty rank in a pub.

I don't like The Oxford, but it loves itself more than enough to make up for that.

Seven out of seven.

Pub no. 195. The Seven Stars.

The first time I went in the Seven Stars I had the place to myself, save for the barmaid and the landlady. And the famous be-ruffled cat. The landlady was sat at a table on the phone discussing something or other making good progress with a bottle of wine. The barmaid was texting or something much modern on her phone. After I'd finished the landlady saw my empty glass - "Would you like another?" she enquired. "Yes please" I returned.

"Bar-wench!!" she cried towards the barmaid, "see to the gentleman!!". 

And from then I've really liked this pub. It's a cracker, right down to its treacherous stairs to the toilets. It does get rather busy come office going home time with all the local legal eagles. And it's on the tourist trail, so it's not unusual to see confused / delighted foreigners in there, and people doing that all-too-common thing nowadays that seems to become the done-thing for clueless idiots intent on drinking real ale. And that is to carefully and thoughtfully taste samples of each brew, while huge queues of thirsty folk behind them spill outside and snake round the corner. They almost always just settle for the one that doesn't taste of anything.

Here we are a good way into a pub crawl of ancient pubs. What a fine day that was, and what a fine pub this is.

Grand poobah?

Pub 194. Night & Day, 8th June 2013.

This isn't just a pub, and it isn't just a bar. It's pub-bar, hopefully a nod to the Archbishop of Titipu in the Mikado, but I doubt it.
Last time I tried to come here there was a sign in the window saying "Closed until 5pm for redecoration". As it was 4.45pm I really couldn't be bothered to wait. And I was right to. This is the plainest pub in Camden. I can't imagine what they'd spent all day redecorating. And to add to the effect the air stunk of cheap air-freshener and the behind-the-bar music consisted of awful 90s indie rock rubbish.

And to make matters worse, the beer - a Sussex Pride - was cloudy and horrible. I forced most of it down, and left. The barmaid who was nice enough seemed surprised I was leaving. She should extremely surprised if she ever sees me in there again.

Flipper flop

Pub 192. The Dolphin, 6th June 2013.

A good old-fashioned pub with two distinct and separate bars. A public bar, and an oddly named restaurant bar. Which was more like a lounge bar - although people were eating in there. Well, two people.
I had an GK IPA, which was £2 for a half! None of the profits seemed to have stretched to a cheery barman though. I strolled through to the public bar, where a chap was looking for Kriss Kristofferson on the jukebox by searching under 'Chris'. The music eventually came on, so I went back to the lounge bar - and shock horror the juke box was piped through to there too! Is there no escape from such aural torturous tedium??

Mind you, even without the jukebox interference the air would have been heavy with the very loud conversation of an extremely boorish Guinness-drinking couple of gentlemen - father & son perhaps - who were very confidently discussing their ideas for solving the banking crisis or global warming or the Aids epidemic or some such drivel. If it weren't for these two and the jukebox it would be a pretty decent place.

A skinner-full

Pub no. 191. The Skinner's Arms, 6th June 2013.

 A pub with a carpet and curtains and nicely upholstered banquettes and stools. And pleasant fittings and a splendid bar. Good beer to boot - can't remember at the moment what I had... it wasn't the Greene King IPA. I wrote it down somewhere.

All good stuff. More pubs should be like this. Although I'm sure I saw that worrying sign "Pub available for hire at weekends." So be warned if you're heading this way of a Saturday!

Not Great, not Northern.

Pub 193. The GNH Bar, 6th June 2013.

I should have known I wasn't going to like it here. But being a fan of ye olde Victorian Railway stuff I just had to take a look. It's awful. And the punters are awful. And barstaff are... well, ok. Most of them.

As I walked through the pretentious little roped-off area by the door, I wondered if the doorman / bouncer would let me in. Sadly he did. At first sight it looks like all they served here were mojitos - lots of self-aware cocktail shaking going on behind the bar, but I asked anyways if they had any beer - "pilsner lager or pale ale" came the reply. Jolly good - "a pale ale please!" I asked. What came was Sierra Nevada pale ale, not what I was naively expecting. But I'm not unaccustomed to this Yankee-brew so it could be worse. A had a fiver ready as the girl poured it for me, and wasn't expecting much change. "£6.75 please" she asked. All I could do was chuckle to myself as I dug out another two quid.
As the beer fizzed and bubbled in its tall glass I noticed a lot of bits floating around, which I thought unusual for a bottled beer. A barman so me looking puzzled - "everything ok?" he asked, and I pointed out the bits. With a barely concealed contempt he said "That's the hops!". Yup. Hops. And you could almost see him saying to himself a big "DURRRR!!!!". Sigh.
After a few mouthfuls I went to the loo, and left my beer & newspaper on the bar. When I returned both had gone. Another lad, in a suit and presumably in a position of responsibility, saw me looking for my chattals. "Anything the matter?" he asked, so I told him. He clicked his fingers at another barman - "Sierra Nevada please!". The barman plonked said beer down and asked for £6.75. "He's getting it" I said. "Is he?" he said. "Yup" I said. The suited-fellow came back with my paper and apologies.

The irony is that I didn't want any more beer. I drank probably as much as I'd had left pre-loo and left.

But yeah, yeah I know, it's not a pub, it's a cocktail bar... Cocktails and nightmares!

Oh nearly.

Pub 190. O'Neill's, 6th June 2013.

Big pub, nice beers, lots of cheap food, kinda like a Wetherspoons but a bit nicer, on the Euston Road, offering the chance to sit the busiest pavement as traffic trundles by. You have to walk all the way to the Euston Flyer to find another pub like this!

I quite enjoyed asking for the Hoptimus Prime from Cheshire boys the Robinsons, but resisted any jokes about what it might transform me into. I sat outside to catch the last of the sun and enjoy the find view of Midland Hotel. A Belgian lady asked if she share my table, I said of course. She had freshly arrived on the Eurostar, and was disappointed that her hotel room was no bigger than a cupboard - there wasn't even room for a cupboard! We chatted, I finished my Hoptimus and bid her - and O'Neill's farewell.

Fly away

Pub 189, The Euston Flyer. 6th June 2013.

Big pub, nice beers, lots of cheap food, kinda like a Wetherspoons but a bit nicer, on the Euston Road, offering the chance to sit the busiest pavement as traffic trundles by. You have to walk all the way to O'Neill's to find another pub like this!

The Discovery was nice. A tourist was disappointedly picking at his tradition/famous fish & chips - a sight which is not uncommon and amuses me muchly. Some folk were distracted by the whatever was flickering away on the big screens, in this case some cricket match not involving anyone from these shores.
The big front doors open were wide open, letting the sunlight flood in - and also the smokers' smoke. Making the pub smell like how a pub should smell. More pubs need big front doors! (Not in the cold though.)

In cider dealings

Pub 188, The Cider Tap. 6th June 2013.

Yikes! A pub that doesn't sell beer, only cider! Where are we, bloody Devon?! And what if it's horrible inside like The Euston Tap? But no fear, inside is much, much nicer than its sister. And they also do a lager for those of us who don't like cider. But feeling adventurous I risk a Lillie's Star Gazer. And blow me - it's very nice! I could get used to this.

Although it's very pleasant inside, I choose to drink my cool cider outside, leaning against a giant jousting pole - watching the traffic go by on the Euston Road. One of only two pubs in Camden you can do this, if that is the kind of thing you like to do. The other is the 'beery place' just across the road, but this one is much nicer.

Yes, I could get used to this.

Tap chancer

Pub 187, The Euston Tap, 6th June 2013.

What do you do when you've got a tiny space to squeeze a pub into? Fill most of it with a huge bar! Then what do you do when you've got a huge bar, and a rabbly-queue of people spilling out of the door? Just have one person behind it! Yay. Fair enough though, they were having a beer delivery - but perhaps a sunny tea-time isn't the best time?
It took me an age to get served, some people in front of me gave up & left, a cheeky Scotsman suggested going behind the bar to serve himself. The cheeky Scotsman then turned in to a very rude Scotsman and forgetting his place at the bar demanded to be served before me. Also, the long list of beers on blackboards can be a bit confusing, with people wandering in and staring up in uncertain bewilderment as if looking at the nearby station's departures board. But when it came my Ilkey Wit Marie was very nice, although it was a wheat beer - no mention of which was made on their blackboard.

I was quite intrigued by how the cask ales were served - no handpulls, the pumps are just operated by turning a tap but they're certainly just not drawn by gravity so I assume some electricity was involved - but you wouldn't know to drink it. The place is an attraction for beer hunters, people getting trains and for some reason trendy young things who presumably don't want to go to a 'normal' pub. The gaggle of loud squawking Americans right behind while I was waiting to be served was grating. Also, downstairs smelled of stale beer quite strongly. Upstairs is like a dingy cellar bar. The last time I went upstairs here I was told to carry my pint in a carrying thing like a milkman might use.

I'm sure fewer beers, and a smaller bar would make for a nicer & more spacious interior. I can't see anyone complaining if they only have 15 beers available rather than 30.

Basically, the beer is nice. The place isn't so. The people who were taking their beer across the road to drink it in the Cider Tap seemed to have sussed this already.

Blue For You.

Pub no. 186, The Blue Lion. 5th June 2013.

Copied and pasted from the pub's own website, to save me the bother "There has been a Blue Lion on Gray's Inn Road since 1627, although its original location was across the road, next to St Andrew's burial ground. The pub moved to its current location in 1824 and was completely rebuilt in 1936.
 An article from The St Pancras Chronicle in March 1972 describes how the current building was nearly demolished to make way for a new office complex, but clearly fate stepped in and we are still standing here proudly today." So they you have it, although it doesn't mention it owes its fine 1930 style to AE Owen of Truman, Hanbury and Buxton.

A very nice it is too. Not cheap though - the Crop Circle was £3.80 a pint, but was very quaffable. Lovely barmaid, lots of bare wood and a spartan but not plain nor boring interior with a unspoilt feel. Stained glass windows look out to the drinking street out the back. All very cool, calm and relaxing on a warm evening - but I'm sure it can get loud when it's busy.

Water twats

Pub no. 185. Water Rats, 5th June 2013.

I'm sure when it was the Pindar of Wakefield entertaining the good people of the City who'd come up to take the pleasurable chalybeaten waters of the Fleet in the nearby gardens, and indeed up until 1992, you could go in here just for a drink. When it was run as a proper pub.

But not now. Inexplicably when they have bands on the 'door', ie. the pay-to-get-in-door rather than just the plain old front door, is at the front door rather than at the door to the venue at the back. This makes no sense to me at all, as they're just losing custom. I can understand where the bands are playing in the main room of the pub like at the Purple Turtle, but why here? I did think that whether this precluded it from being a normal pub, but I don't think you can argue that it isn't a pub really. And it was and hopefully it will be again.

But what really got my goat were the two unreasonably people on the 'door'. The young girl demanding to see my stamp, even when I explained I just wanted a drink, was stood in front with the attitude - and charm - of a grump bouncer, and the young man who was grinning inanely like the hateful character at the end of the Chelsea Building Society advert a few years ago. They were both very rude, and incredulous that would I be so stupid that I'd expect to be able to come into a pub and expect a drink, as if I was attempting to steal from them. An honest smile and a brief understanding apology was all that was needed. These two are the twats I refer to.

Georgian folly

Pub no. 184. The George, 2nd June 2013.

As mentioned elsewhere, we've wondered if a pub can ever survive after being a wine-bar, but now we wonder if a pub can ever survive after being a Rat & Parrot. The answer is yes, but not unscarred - although the one on Parkway is now a la-di-da curry restaurants for tourists. At least the George is still open, in fact re-open after a refurb from its post RP days.

I'm not a fan of refurbs, and this one seems to have been done by a recent interior-design graduate with big ideas for their-first-pub, with the brief to attract more women. It's a right mish-mash, part lounge, part dining hall, part vague-Southern style juke joint, part bric-a-brac shop, part... well, part something that inexplicably has luggage racks - part-railway carriage?? I suppose the designer had been in the Parcel Yard and thought "I fancy a bit of that!". Most peculiar. 
But it all ends up feeling like being in a Edwardian dolls-house. It seemed to have worked though - I didn't count, but I'm sure there were more women and children than men. Not a bad thing one probably has to say in these enlightened modern times, but I don't think that the law of the life-boat or coffee morning makes for a very good proper-pubby-pub. It is very gastroey though having said that.

As with most refurbs they made sure to refurbish the price list too, with a pint of Clarence & Fredericks Golden Ale leaving 10p change from 3 quid. It was very nice though, and that a barman was waiting patiently behind the barmaid as she finished serving me to ask me if was being served made me feel popular.
In the small & mainly covered smoking yard they have reintroduced the old 'call for service buttons'. If their card-payment readers work out you need never leave your weather-proof seat, unless nature demands it. Although... they are weather proof....!

I won't be rushing back, but it's work noting for the stuck-in-the-past anoraks that I believe that this pub has more incandescent light bulbs in it than any other on the manor. I counted at least 40 - if you count more in a boozer please write in!