The FT Top 25 Pubs Of The 00’s

Nov 09

The FreakyTrigger 25 Best (London) Pubs of the 00’s : Intro

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Lists, lists, lists. Its what we do around here, and the end of a decade gives us ample opportunity to look back with fondness over a decade. Music, films, television were all thrown in the mix, and may pop up. But most important to us is the social. From a site that is run by avowed Geezaesthetics, the pub is a sacred space, a space of learning and entertainment. And this colours the list too. And for me, my first blog was the Pumpkin Publog, which was rolled into FT five years ago. It is nice to get back to the pubs sometimes.

So firstly, before we go to far. These are not the 25 best pubs in London if you are a tourist. They are probably not the best if you live and work in London. Hell, some of these pubs no longer exist. But these are the pubs that the core of FreakyTrigger, and lots and lots of friends visited the most, and had the best times in.

Nov 09

THE FT TOP 25 PUBS OF THE 00s No 25: The Kings Arms, Borough

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The Kings Arms, BoroughThere are loads of good pubs in Borough, right? Well, sort of. The Lord Clyde and Royal Oak are both a bit fiddly to find to non-regulars and don’t start me on The George. Would you Trust the National Trust to run a pub? So why The Kings Arms? On a small side street just off of Borough High Street, it is not open weekends or holidays and is pretty poky. And yet in 2008 it felt like I spent half the year in there. And it was a lovely half a year.

Basically The Kings Arms was the nearest decent pub to the Resonance FM studios when we were making the second series of Freaky Trigger and The Lollards Of Pop. So every Tuesday night we would meet for swift pre-show pint, desperately try to plan the show and then reconvene an hour later. Occasionally a few extra members of the team might just wait in the pub for the team to come back. Because The Kings Arms is that classic of a type, a dependable, solid boozer which always had OK ale on, always had pork scratchings and seemed to bring out the best in us.

Nov 09

THE FT TOP 25 PUBS OF THE 00s No 24: The John Snow, Soho

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I will say not one bad word about Sam Smith’s in this review. Someone else wants to talk around that issue, but safe to say that as someone with a large social group of varying incomes, Sam Smith’s pubs being cheap has always been a factor. The John Snow in Soho is one of those pubs we rarely go to these days (in the area the Shaston Arms or Star And Garter get more visits) but hasn’t really changed, and holds a firm and fond place in our memories. I probably pop in there a couple of times a year and have whiled away a fair few hours with a pint of Hefeweisse reading about the good Dr Snow upstairs.

So things to note. The John Snow is named after John Snow the health campaigner, not the newsreader, which is amusing in itself as John Snow was a confirmed teetotaller*. The pub is near the pump that Snow brought fresh water into Soho thus sorting out the cholera epidemic. This marks it out in Soho already, for an area with a pretty full history an awful lot of the pubs are highly anonymous.

Nov 09

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 23: The Shipwrights Arms

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shipwrights pic Unpacking my crate on the first day in a new office I glanced out of the window. The first thing I noticed was a pie with Hitler’s face.* The second thing I noticed was this unassuming, but tempting, little boozer.

“Excellent,” I said to my colleague, “There’s a pub opposite.”

“It looks a bit rough.”

This was nonsense. It didn’t – and doesn’t – look at all rough, it just looked like a pub. Alright, there was something unvarnished about it in comparison to Tooley Street’s other drinkeries – it was clearly not after the same clientele as Skinkers Wine Bar, or the anonymous booze barn that serves Hays Galleria.

Nov 09

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 22: The Lord Clyde

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Walking past Disney Place through twirling snowflakes that melt on your nose and eyelashes, there’s a childlike magic in the air – it’s the last day of school! Er, I mean, work.

The last Friday before Christmas is of course Demob Day. Even if you have to nominally work for a few days the following week, you know it’s going to be in a half-empty office, and your most pressing concern will be improving your Souvlaki Tetris high score. Demob Day means you can finally relax. It means all the usual suspects will be in the same pub for once. It means arriving already half-cut thanks to extended lunchtime drinks with your colleagues. It means leaving work early anyway despite said lengthy lunch and bagging a good table.

Nov 09

THE FT TOP 25 PUBS OF THE 00s No 21: The Newton Arms

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newton armsHaving worked around Covent Garden from the middle of 2002 I’d walked past the Newton Arms loads of times (not least on the way to Parker Place where the original Club FreakyTrigger was held) , but always thought it looked a bit, y’know, Local. It looks like an Estate Pub without being attached to an Estate (although there are a surprisingly large number of people who live round there) and the cheap beer deals and garish posters in the window put me off.

The thing that finally got me through the door was horse-racing.

Dec 09

THE FT TOP 25 PUBS OF THE 00’s No 20: The Chandos

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Sometimes I feel that I am the only one who likes the Chandos – a large Sam Smiths pub near Charing Cross station where the downstairs always feels kind of old and stuck in time, and the upstairs like a velvet throne of luxury and depraved decadence in comparison! Upstairs, I have witnessed sights that should not be seen, downstairs I am pretty much always sure that I will find sawdust on the floor. WHY this pub makes me think of a Globe-era London (are those bear baiters by the fruit machine?), I don’t really know. The stained glass makes everything shine reds and oranges (see below the jump), making yr prettier companions prettier and your beer more lustrous… (as if such a thing could ever happen to the strange unnatural beauty of a pint of lady sovereign ahem).

Perhaps it is THE MAN with THE KEG who safeguards the pub who makes it so great – (if you squint in the above picture you can see him but pub correspondants will be out with their cameras to capture his full glory soon) – plenty vicarious fun can be had in merrily eyeing the door for a minute or so. The man with the keg stands above the door, bearing the keg.
Given kegs are not very light…oOne day that keg is going fall and rain a rain of BEER on the righteous/unrighteous.

THE FT TOP 25 PUBS OF THE 00’s No 19: The Blue Posts, Newman St.

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I’m not very good at writing about pubs – my excuse is that I tend to care a hundred times more about the company than the place. Nonetheless, this was a regular haunt of mine for many years before I even moved to London. For no particular reason that I know about, it became the standard gathering place for my old friends, and still is. As it happens, when I moved here I ended up working five minutes’ walk away, so it’s still my most regular pub.

Dec 09

THE FT TOP 25 PUBS OF THE 00’s No 18: The Exmouth Arms, Euston

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We have only ever been to the Exmouth Arms once. Which must lead you to the conclusion that it was a pretty awesome night out and on so incredible that perhaps a touch of fear has set in, that to revisit it would clearly spoil the experience in retrospect. It is a bit like having a relatively obscure horror movie starring Matthew McConaughey and directed by Bill Paxton as one of your favourite movies of all time, and then actively avoiding seeing it again in case you are really wrong*. But no that is not the case. The Exmouth Arms is a nice enough pub which was very hospitable to us the one night we were in there. Look at it, a stout, sturdy even yeomanlike pub, perhaps a touch out of place just off of Drummond Street. But on top of its bonhomie it represents something bigger than itself.

The Exmouth Arms was the pub we were in. And often that is good enough. This list of twenty five pubs was whittled down from a list of about fifty. And they are a small subsection of about two hundred pubs that we may have drank in as a FreakyTrigger group in the last ten year.

Dec 09

THE FT TOP 25 PUBS OF THE 00’s No 17: The Spanish Bar, Downstairs, Hanway St

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In my notes for the night we made this list (in the Exmouth Arms) it says the following: “THE SPANISH BAR IS THE KID A”. What on earth can this cryptic comparison mean?

The Spanish Bar is not a pub. I cannot imagine a time when you would possibly go there for a sociable drink if the opportunity of a pub had been offered. The entire Spanish Bar experience relies on one salient factor. It is open late. And nowhere, absolutely nowhere, else in the area was open late and free to get in. So we would traverse Soho, nip down Hanway Street and walk down the unpleasant corridor to get access to £3 bottles of San Miguel and, at weekends, a Hieronymus Boschian subterranean hell of squashed standing up drinking and all the motorway signs led to ruin.