THE SHAKESPEARE: Victoria Street, W1

Big mainline stations tend to operate under some secret local government bylaw which states that all pubs within 5 minutes walk of them must be awful. Even when a station-proximate pub approaches a state of relative grace, like (arguably) the Head Of Steam at Euston, the management go and do something ludicrous like securing the downstairs toilets with a combination lock. Can The Shakespeare, which squats outside the main exit to Victoria, buck this trend?

Judging by two recent visits, not entirely, but it makes a decent stab at it. It’s amply furnished, averagely priced, busy without being as cattle-truck packed as the nearby (and irredemable) Victoria; it has a jukebox and some nondescript machines, and has a standard Becks-Kronenborg lager line-up. There’s nothing particularly special about it, but like the dog that barked, the mere fact that it’s the first pub you see outside one of London’s biggest stations and yet is still reasonable is worth a quiet toast.

It’s a good pub to end up in just before closing time, too, as it’s station location means it empties out earlier than most – you can grab seats even on a Friday or Saturday past ten o’clock. On Saturday night, fresh from Blavod-induced raucousness on a train, we foolishly ordered a cider armadillo, a drink which Tim Hopkins had sworn was drunk regularly by Exeter FC fans, though doubts are beginning to surface. You get a pint of cider, you get a glass of sherry. You drink some cider, you add the sherry to the rest. Mmmmmmmmm.

The Shakespeare’s other notable feature is its grotto downstairs, four or five cave-like (and somewhat cramped) berths and a downstairs bar. The novelty wears off in a round or two, but it’s still got more character than most downstairs drinkers (particularly those overseen by shortarse Australian slaphead killjoys), and also has magical powers as any cave should, i.e. once you’re in you can’t get out until the clock strikes eleven and you’ve been well and truly turned into a pumpkin.