The FT Top 25 Pubs Of The 00’s

16
Dec 09

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 16: The Hole In The Wall, Mepham Street SE1

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The Hole In The Wall

The Hole In The Wall

The Hole in the Wall is not a hole in a wall so much as a space under a railway arch by Waterloo. That is to say, it has a smallish carpeted front bar with a handful of tables for cushioned lounging in an L-shape facing the bar; a biggish uncarpeted box of a back bar with probably ten tables and plenty of standing room, and a laughable tiny concrete “beer garden” smokesies area out the back. Clientele a mix of commuters, hard drinkers, randoms and (on matchdays) football and rugby watchers. That’s it, really. But.

In the middle of the 1980s, before I was old enough to drink legally and before I’d even thought about living in London, I’d visit my student older brother here. I’d arrive and depart from Waterloo, off the one-track chuggy line up from Honiton.

My brother would meet his friends at the Hole In The Wall – they, undergraduates in not-unnecessarily-fashionable rags, would impress and awe me with tales of the kinds of activities I could only read about in the NME. I was a country boy in love at a distance with a specific brand of indie (let’s say continuity mod-pop with a non-rigorous and unsustainable kind of oppositional rhetoric) and the downwardly-aspirational, boozy, fading folk-punk scene (I loved the Boothill Foot-Tappers as much as I loved those early Pogues records). All the good stuff seemed to happen in the pub, up London. This place seemed like the sort of pub where it just might.

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24
Dec 09

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 15: The Blue Posts, Rupert Street

Pumpkin Publog3 comments • 2,252 views

You can fall in love with a pub. Sometimes there are pubs which you are suited to, fit with your personality and your needs perfectly. These may be locals, ones which make you feel at home, or they could be pubs which just do everything in the way you want them to. And in the full flood of young love they may just be the pubs that were available.

The Blue Posts, Rupert Street, was my first London love. Sure I had dallied with a few pubs in Oxford, and there were a few old boilers in my suburb that I had affection for, but the BPRS was the first pub I “discovered” and made mine. And we fit together perfectly. It was a small, unpretentious pub in the heart of the West End, set on a tiny alley which is a perfect rat run between China Town (China Street more like) and the Trocedero.

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26
Dec 09

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 14: The Hope

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Anyone who paid attention in GCSE Geography will be aware of the concentric circle model of a town, with the CBD in the centre and the ‘commuter zone’ around the outskirts. Each zone has its own advantages and disadvantages for why people might want to live or work there.

The same model can be tenuously applied to the proximity of pubs to my workplace (situated bang in the middle of pub-saturated Fitzrovia).

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29
Dec 09

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 13: Cask

FT + Pumpkin Publog4 comments • 1,128 views

Most of the pubs on this top 25 list have offered years’ worth of fond memories, but even so there’s always the chance for new discoveries. You have to sneak them in though sometimes, when your contingent of drinkers has visited the Doric just once too often in recent weeks and the area in question isn’t too difficult to escape from if necessary. Mentioning that you’ve just read about the place on a beer geek’s blog is probably not going to be much help in the matter. And quite apart from straying outside the comfort and convenience of London’s West End, you’re not usually going to be able to entice people to visit an estate pub.

Estate pubs, of course, occupy a special place in pub fandom. Being integrated into the fabric of a residential (often Council-built) estate makes them peculiarly close to the lives of the residents, and often makes for a more cosy and welcoming environment, if always with the danger of a hostile reception for outsiders. You never can quite be sure.

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6
Jan 10

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 12: The Bricklayers Arms, W1

Pumpkin Publog6 comments • 1,658 views

There are loads of good pubs called The Bricklayers Arms. And this one, may not be the canonical best of the bunch. Yet again its a Sam Smiths, yet again its in Fitzrovia and yet again we have spent too much time in there to be in anyway objective about it. But let me remind you that this list is not for the best beer, or the comfiest pub. It is a coincidence of the right night in the right place with the right company. So perhaps I should also be reviewing the best drinking partners too.

The thing about the Brickies is that it has , like the good Sam Smiths of the turn of the millennium, two very distinct areas for drinking. Downstairs, it is bright, breezy, small and – well – bricky. A nice central bar which splits the downstairs into the poky one table back room and the only slightly bigger four table front area. Downstairs is a place for plotting, for a quick pint after a film, or a night spiralling out of control (the Brickies is of course fantastically close to the Spanish Bar).

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15
Jan 10

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 11: Trinity Arms, Brixton

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/kake_pugh/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Trinity is the only pub outside Zone 1* on this list. That’s not to say that we are a bunch of central London fanatics, but it is where we pretty much all work and, therefore, where we’ve spent most evenings in the pub. I’d left the Exmouth by the time this stage in proceedings had been reached so I’m a little short on the main thrust of the arguments that got the Trinity this far up the list, but I can tell you about what I like about it:

It’s the nicest pub in Brixton

And when you’re faced with a three hour gap between the end of work and halfway through the second support at the Academy that’s all you can ask for really. Because it is the location of the Trinity, only a ten minute walk from the Brixton Academy that led it to being visited, never mind nominated. The only time I’ve been here and not gone on to a gig was when The Specials cancelled at half 5. But this is damning with faint praise, they do a cracking pint of Ordinary, the service is good, they serve big portions of decent food and have a nice beer garden out the back if you are some sort of beast of the field. Much like the Pineapple in Kentish Town it does seem to have become the haunt of A Certain Type Of Gig Goer, but then that’s maybe because I’m only going to Certain Types Of Gigs (and I freely admit to fitting the profile of the Certain Type)…

There was one night, just after the smoking ban came in (I’m thinking the night of the Carter gig?), when I arrived quite early (what? I was EXCITED!) to find that they’d replaced the carpet right through the pub and all you could smell was NEW CARPET, it was the weirdest thing, like drinking in Allied…

FancyAPint
Beer In The Evening
Randomness Guide to London

*sorry non-Londoners, but this includes you too. Although apart from the Three Goats Heads and the Turf in Oxford, the Windmill in Stansted Airport and the Brothers Bar at Glastonbury I can’t think of many non-London bouzers where a gang of FT contributors have been there at the same time. Oh, I suppose DBA in New York and the Small Bar in Chicago should get honourable mentions…

21
Jan 10

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 10: The Pakenham Arms, Mount Pleasant

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There are two words that according to modern usage I pronounce wrong. I will hold my hand up to “Colander” – which I pronounce “cullander” to rhyme with Wallander* as a throwback to believing it etymology being tied to the cauliflower I often saw being drained in one. The other word I annoy everyone with pronounce differently (correctly) is the name of this pub. I give it the long A – to me it is the PAY KEN HAM. Everyone else says PACK EN HAM. But PACK EN HAM sounds a bit too harsh to me, a bit too much like Pack It IN! Which is part of the point of the Pakenham, it doesn’t ask you to pack it in at all. Indeed it is quite happy to let you drink well past midnight.

The Pakenham is a posties pub, backing on to the wasteland at the back of Mount Pleasant Sorting Office, and fifty percent of the drinkers there are usually postal workers. As such you would not be surprised to find big projected sports screens, a dartboard and plenty of rushed pint vertical drinking space. But its horseshoe bar also keeps its beers very well (I think of it as the spiritual home of Doom Bar in London), and the excellent bar staff know how to work their crowd.

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31
Jan 10

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 9: The Champion, Wells Street WC1

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For a long, long time my Default London Pub was the Blue Posts on Newman Street. I’m a big fan of the Sam Smiths brand, and the BPNS had it all: cheap, cosy, usually full of people I knew and – most importantly – just around the corner from my office at 76 Oxford Street. When someone suggested going to the Champion one day, just to make a change, I was flabberghasted. Not ONLY would I have to walk a whole hundred yards further to my pub destination,  but… well, it wouldn’t be the SAME, would it? I’d found somewhere I liked, and now it seemed that I would be untimely ripp’d from its warm, comforting embrace. I approached the Champion with a fair measure of resentment.

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10
Feb 10

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 8: The Ship & Shovell, Craven Passage WC2N

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This was a favourite after-work pub for years, being within easy walking distance of the office but seemingly off the radar of anyone else working there. Despite being in a busy tourist area, it maintains its hidden gem status by sitting, tucked away, in an alley under Charing Cross station.

A large sign outside declares the pub’s USP: “The Only London Pub in Two Halves,” the place being housed in two buildings either side of the alleyway.

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12
Feb 10

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

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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.