Sunday, 28 August 2016

Pub Crawl along Fleet Street

Pub crawl along Fleet Street - Thursday 25th August 2016

First things first. I would like to welcome Ken Reilly as my first follower. Thank you Ken for joining and I hope you get a little something from reading what I write here. As mentioned previously, it is more of a diary for myself, but I hope to include little snippets of information that may be of interest to beer drinkers and pub visitors if they are looking for a night out somewhere and would like an idea of what is on offer at a particular establishment. Any comments are most welcome, and if there is anythng you would like me to add to the entries, I will see what I can do for you.

I have worked on or around Fleet Street in the City of London for most of my career and find the place fascinating. There is so much history here and there used to be so many pubs. When I popped out with MB for a drink last week, we had a chat about where we would like to go for a drink this week and my old haunts in Fleet Street came top of the list. So, first up is a little history lesson (courtesy of Wikipedia)...


"Fleet Street is a major street in the City of London. It runs west to east from Temple Bar at the boundary with the City of Westminster to Ludgate Circus at the site of the London Wall and the River Fleet from which the street was named.

Having been an important through route since Roman times, businesses were established along the road during the Middle Ages. Senior clergy lived in Fleet Street during this period where there are several churches including Temple Church and St Bride's.

Fleet Street became known for printing and publishing at the start of the 16th century and it became the dominant trade so that by the 20th century most British national newspapers operated from here. Much of the industry moved out in the 1980s after News International set up cheaper manufacturing premises in Wapping, but some former newspaper buildings are listed and have been preserved. The term Fleet Street remains a metonym for the British national press, and pubs on the street once frequented by journalists remain popular.

Fleet Street has a significant number of monuments and statues along its length, including the dragon at Temple Bar and memorials to a number of figures from the British press, such as Samuel Pepys and Lord Northcliffe. The street is mentioned in several works by Charles Dickens and is where the legendary fictitious murderous barber Sweeney Todd lived."

The Black Friar

To begin with, we met up at The Black Friar at the bottom of Queen Victoria Street, right opposite Blackfriars station. It is very easy to get to (MB was coming by train and tube, but I had only a hsort walk) and is always packed outside; what with the great British Summer we are having, today was no different.
174 Queen Victoria St, London EC4V 4EG

We managed to find a table inside the pub as a reservation seemed to get cancelled just as we arrived. There were several beers on offer but as I went through the menu I was informed that at least three were finished (there must have been a lot of thirsty people out there tonight). This is definitely a beer-drinkers pub as the beer menu is extensive even though it is a tied Nicholsons pub.

MB and I decided to grab a bite to eat here as I was hungry after work and he had a long, hot journey on the train to get to the pub. In addition, as we knew we would be going on a bit of a pub-crawl we decided it wise to line our stomachs first. The menu was not extensive but there was more than enough variety to make the choice difficult. We both decided to grab the wild boar and chorizo burger accompanied with triple-fried skin-on chips - it was delicious.

The bar staff in here were very friendly and got involved with the banter with whoever approached the bar. The atmosphere both inside and out was also very friendly despite lots of beer being drunk.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) Holy Grail (4.0%) - Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, North Yorkshire - a citrusy golden ale
2) Pure UBU (4.5%) - Purity Brewery, Great Alne, Warwickshire - a very smooth, sweet, full-flavoured amber ale
 

Number of visits : 1st / a few previous

After a couple of beers in the Black Friar, we decided to head onto Fleet Street itself - only a two minute walk away. I used to drink around here after work quite a bit back in the 1980s. All of the following pubs I have been in on several occasions, some much more than others.

The Crown and Sugar Loaf

The Crown was only frequented on occasion; after our visit here this evening I am wondering why we did not visit it more often as the air-conditioning, good choice of Samuel Smith's beer and off-road situation led to a great drinking experience.

26 Bride Lane, London EC4Y 8DT
This pub is situated in a small L-shaped road that links Fleet Street to Blackfriars. There are a couple of other bars and wine bars down this short road, but the purpose of this crawl was to hit the pubs, so in we popped.

It was reasonably busy outside, but quite quiet inside so we were able to grab a table. We opted for a single beer this time so that we could fit more pubs in. The decor is very olde worlde; wooden floors, stained-glass windows and a wide, open bar. The air-con made for a great environment to sup our beer on a very hot and humid evening.

Beers drunk on this visit :
 1) Organic Wheat Beer (5.0%) - Samuel Smith's Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire - a thirst quenching, fruity wheat beer

Number of visits : 1st /  few previous

The Old Bell

This pub, along with Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (see later) were the two pubs I most frequented back in the day. This was because the office I worked in was pretty much next door to this pub and almost directly opposite the other.

95 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH

This is another Nicholson's pub, so the food on offer was the same as The Black Friar, but the beers were slightly different. We decided to just go for a quick beer in here as time was moving along now.

Again, this pub was quite quiet, but people were constantly coming and going throughout the short time we were in here. The bar staff were friendly and chatty though which made for a small buzz. The pub has not really changed since I last went in here decades ago, but it did seem to be cleaner - the wooden flooring has obviously been swept and cleaned since the old spit-and-sawdust, sticky floor of yesteryear.

MB and I had a chat over just a single beer in here again before we moved on up the road.

Beers drunk on this visit :
1) Pure Gold (3.8%) - Purity Brewery, Great Alne, Warwickshire - a refreshing dry but bitter golden ale
Number of visits : 1st / dozens previously

The Tipperary

This is a great little Irish pub, apparently the first pub outside of Ireland to sell Guinness. It has undergone several renames and refits over the years but still seems to retain that quaint Irish pub feeling.
66 Fleet St, London EC4Y 1HT

This pub offers a great variety of Irish whiskeys (notice the extra 'e' in the name?) as well as several drinks from the Guinness brewery. We had to go for a pint of the original black stuff due to the surroundings. There is also a famously extensive food menu which offers great Irish fare as well as more traditional British dishes.

Beers drunk on this visit :

1) Guinness (4.2%) - Guinness Brewery (Diageo), Dublin, Ireland - that most famous stout


Number of visits : 1st / several previous

Our final pub came upon us rather quickly as our time on Fleet Street rapidly drew to a close. We hadn't even covered a quarter of the length of the road, but the majority of pubs actually on the street are along this section. There are several others on side-roads just off the main thoroughafre but there are still maybe three or four which MB and I can sample next time we head up town.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

145 Fleet St, London EC4A 2BU

Supposedly frequented by many of our greatest scholars and authors (Dickens, Dr. Johnson (probably), Sir Arthur Cnan Doyle, Tennyson and Mark twain to name but a few of the more well-known), this pub was one of many rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666 (in 1667 according to the sign outside.

The internal decor seems like it is original, and some of it maybe, but according to Wikipedia it is not all so. That said, it does not detract from the eerie feeling of the pub you get from the moment you walk through the door. It certainly seems quite authentic judging by the wooden flooring, wooden benches that line the walls and the dim an dmoody lighting within.

The pub is another Samuel Smiths house, so the beer on offer is well-known and well-tried. MB and I decided to go for a standard Old Brewery Bitter to round off our evening's drinking.

Beers drunk on this visit :

1) Old Brewery Bitter (4.0%) - Samuel Smith's Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire -a malty, creamy bitter
Number of visits : 1st / dozens previous

So endeth our quick jaunt up Fleet Street. We decided we will have to re-visit to catch the rest of the pubs, and then perhaps run it further along The Strand down to Charing Cross station and its environs. We also discussed the possibility of heading up to Holborn for a similar crawl and during our conversation we also agreed upon a visit to the two new micro-pubs opened and just about to open in Sidcup. lots more lovely pubs and beers to look forward to.

Following on from a statement made in the previous post, I have also decided to try to use my own photos for this blog from now on a sfar as I possibly can (and memory allows). All of the pub photos were taken by me except for the one for Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. I will try to make it a 100% hit rate next time I go out. As for the beers, I don't think the breweries will mind me advertising their wonderful beers and ales by using pictures taken from their websites.

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