Some friends and work colleagues got together last night for a City pub crawl. The City of London has a lot of pubs – some very old, some bank refits, etc. Unfortunately Andy and I don’t get to visit them often because most are closed at the weekend and that is the only time we go to the City usually.
We met up at The Phoenix just up from Bank tube station at about 5:30. I had a half of Abbot Ale and Andy plumped for an Old Speckled Hen. Both perfectly respectable proper british ales. In fact the serving of real ale, as opposed to mass-produced lager <spit>, was the only non-negotiable criterion for having a pub on the list. The pub was crowded with banker types and quite loud but Simon managed to snag a sofa so we had a relaxing start to the crawl.
Next was the Cock and Woolpack and we were banned from sniggering about the name. Of course we did anyway. This was a smallish Shepherd Neame pub and we all had Spitfire. Very nice beer with a bit of a caramel taste to it. Very malty. Quite crowded in the pub – apparantly bankers aren’t feeling the credit crunch THAT much or perhaps they are just drowning their sorrows.
The Counting House was next on our plan. This place was first built as a bank in 1890′s and after a succession of banking owners was taken over by Fullers in 1997. They won awards for the refurbishment & redevelopment done on the building and one can see why. Three of our lot went for pints of Chiswick and two of us went for halves of Discovery. The latter was just a tad water-y to count as a proper ale. There is a small WW1 memorial plaque on the wall to the right of the entrance. It was put up by whichever bank was in situ at the time. Fairly unremarkable but apparantly the only such memorial in an English pub.
Then we went off plan. Dave took us to a couple of Nicholson pubs – The Red Lion and The Ship. Both were quite old, unique in character and tucked away in little courts and alleys that you’d would be unlikely to stumble upon by accident. Can’t remember what we had at the Red Lion. It had a younger crowd then the other pubs we visited and there was a band setting up for live music downstairs. At the Ship we all had Doom Bar – a cornish ale. Pretty obviously a naval themed pub with a brass plaque on the floor depicting a ship and the compass points. There were loads more people outside then in as it is tucked into a long courtyard alleyway between a very narrow church and a strange white building with funny architectural details like waves on it. We surmised that perhaps the building was built for a maritime insurance firm. It isn’t very far from Lloyds.
Back on plan we went to the Crosse Keys. This place too is an ex-bank and cavernous. Thankfully they’ve carpetted it or the noise would be deafening.
They had a massive selection of real ales, but sadly 8:15 is late for a City pub on a Thursday <shrug> so quite a few of them were finished. I think I ended up with a pint of Golden Fox. Andy ended up with a very nice pint but since it was his fourth choice I can’t recall what it was! Looked like a nice pub but don’t go on a Thursday. It was curry night and the place reeked of not particularly nice smelling curry.
Anyway the crowd had thinned considerably so we got a couple of sofas and some packets of crisps to relax at our final destination. I think the people who went for pints most of the night were a bit bloated. I couldn’t manage that pace without somebody pushing me around in a wheelbarrow so had stuck to halves all night apart from the last pub. A nice group of people and a fun night out.
On the way back to the tube Andy was caught short and headed into an alley. I thought he was going to have a pee(!) but really it was just an excuse to go to another pub, The Jamaica Wine House aka the Jam Pot. Using the facilities we felt obliged to have a swift half each. Very olde worlde pub, well worth a proper visit.