Feb 10

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 7: The Head Of Steam / Doric Arch, Euston

FT + Pumpkin Publog6 comments • 1,662 views

This is the only pub on our list to have changed hands, its name and still retained a degree of quality. We came into the new millennium with this odd station pub being called the Head Of Steam, and left with the much grander name of the Doric Arch. Internally the changes were merely cosmetic, a new brewery had all its ales on all the time, but maintained a rotating batch of guest ales. The Railway tat was toned down a bit, but only a bit. And the code on the toilet, that remained. Head Of Steam? Doric Arch? Just call it the HASDA and its appeal becomes clear. There are some days when it just HASDA be this pub.

Under all the rules of the game, the HASDA is a station pub, though the bounds and catchment area of Euston Station means that there is a far nastier station pub directly inside the frame of Euston (the Britannia – handily twinned with the walk-in Medi+Care Centre). But then Euston is a funny place, a new build carved out of the old, all black and concrete. The old name conjured up athe glorious age of rail travel, steamy engines which had long gone. The new name conjured up the old Euston Station, with its Doric Arches, rather than all new Euston’s Dullish Arses. But even in ten years this has changed; the slightly overgrown concourse of what may well be Euston Square has become slowly inhabited by swish looking portakabined Nandos and the like. It is like the Harlequin centre in Watford had sent its food court on holiday, with Krispy Kreme and Banger Bros missing the return train. Sometimes I look out of the windows in the Doric Arch and remember when it was all distressed concrete and weeds around here.

Actually the HASDA is that even rarer of breeds. A successful, brutalist pub in an office block adjoined to a BUS STATION. A pub which is on the first floor, with its toilets locked away two floors below, locked for fear of vagrants living in them. I once went to a Izikaya on the ninth floor of a tower block in Nigata in Japan, and it had a similar feel of locked in grimness, which vanished as soon as the first beer was drunk. And luckily the beer in the HASDA has always been good. This gives the HASDA its edge, and makes it much more than a quick commuter turnaround pub. It is perfectly set out for a quick drink. But we have had quite slow, long and protracted drinks here too. The Top 100 Films of All Time In 2003 was worked out in the Head Of Steam around a nice big central table, and other short drinks have lasted until closing time. Indeed this very list of pubs was supposed to have been worked out in the Doric – except it was too full.

Which does bring us to the HASDA’s downfall (for this list at least). It is a commuter, station pub and therefore can get unfeasibly rammed at times. There are not that many tables (and you can never get the train carriage table these days), so for a big group it is sometimes suicide in there. Bearing in mind its proximity to a number of other great pubs, losses are often cut and the party moves on. Leaving a bitter taste about this otherwise wonderful pub.

It is also one of the few pubs where the landlord, or chief barman, or whatever his sarcastic but perfect job title is, has stayed the same for a long period of time. I cannot help but think that this is the main reason it still offers so many interesting other beers after Fullers bought the place. Its also why the sport is never too loud, why the beer is kept well and the food is adequate. I know there are others who want to declare a sort of seedy love for the HASDA, so I will leave it to them too. All I have to say is “CX4321” and it all comes flooding back.


  1. 1
    Matt DC on 12 Feb 2010 #

    Thank god this wasn’t #1. I think I’ve only once been to this pub and had a good time, and that was at the end of the 2003 FT pub crawl when we made the Top 100 films list. It’s possible I’ve only been there at bad times, but I’ve always found it overcrowded and uncomfortable. Plus the locked away toilets thing really annoys me.

    Also it is not even the best estate pub in Euston, that honour goes to the magnificent Square Tavern (http://www.fancyapint.com/pubs/pub1304.php) which we really should frequent more often.

  2. 2
    Katie G (but logged out) on 12 Feb 2010 #

    Strangely enough, the last couple of times I visited the HASDA I was able to bag the railway carriage seat no problem! I must have been lucky. Mmm lovely Doric Arch…

  3. 3
    JimD on 12 Feb 2010 #

    I like this pub a lot, but at the start of the decade it had a bar billiards table, and now it doesn’t, and that’s unforgivable.

  4. 4
    Kat but logged out innit on 12 Feb 2010 #

    Ah the Doric. It may be horrendously busy between 5pm and 7pm, but by 8pm it’s always spacious and relaxed (the beer helps with the latter, obv). It is also the scene of my quitting-smoking adventure where I was distractedly chewing a biro a little too hard, got a mouth full of ink and had to run up and down the stairs twice to get the code for the loos, dribbling foul dark blue liquid like some sort of Tory Vampire…

  5. 5
    Pete on 12 Feb 2010 #

    Tory Vampire. Oxymoron? Discuss.

  6. 6
    sarah on 12 Feb 2010 #

    Bring. Back. SEABROOKS!

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