After over four years and 319 pubs later, I’ve decided it’s time to end my blog. Right now I feel like a break is in order from dashing around London visiting pubs in far flung places. So I’m not visiting any more rail stations for the blog, it’s the end of the line.
That’s not to say I’m done with pub exploring. A rest is definitely in order and then perhaps returning with a fresh idea. Doing all the rail stations after all the tube stations was a bit ‘more of the same’ and didn’t offer anything new. I was starting to find it a struggle to make what I was writing interesting and that’s why I knew it was time to call it quits. Plus it’s tiring, very tiring!
Thank you to everyone who has read this from the start and maybe even picked up a couple of recommendations along the way. It was incredibly enjoyable to do, taking me from pubs in the heart of the city to village inns out in leafy Zone 9. Even the trips to Heathrow were fun in their own way, as was visiting a bar in a bowling alley because there simply wasn’t anything else in Park Royal. Special thanks also go to all my long suffering friends who have been dragged to these remote locations.
I still can’t believe I ended up on ITV London News and BBC Radio to talk about it all. TimeOut were great, as were Londonist even if they did include a reference to my blog at the end of an article on best pubs for first dates under the header ‘for a quick getaway’. No comment…
I hope this has inspired some of you to venture out and explore the huge variety of pubs in London. We are very lucky to have so many great ones and I was very lucky to visit so many of them. Now I’ve got more time to go back and revisit some old favourites. All that’s left to say is thanks again for reading and keep your eyes open for whatever I end up writing about next.
P.S: If anyone wants to turn my tube adventures into a book, I’m still all ears.
West Croydon station has a long and varied history. It was the first of the Croydon stations to open, way back in 1839. It was originally simply called Croydon but was renamed in 1851, after East Croydon had arrived on the scene in the 1840s. The station ticket office building dates from the 1930s and is incorporated into a parade of shops with a Portland Stone type exterior.
West Croydon now serves as a suburban transport hub. As well as Southern services running to both Victoria and London Bridge, it is also the southern terminus of the London Overground network, with trains going all the way up to Highbury and Islington. On top of that, the Croydon Tramlink also calls here, replacing a little used rail service which ran from this station over to Wimbledon.
The Old Fox and Hounds, 1 London Road, CR0 2RE
Croydon has picked up a bit of a negative reputation over the year, being associated with lots of grey, concrete buildings and ’60s office blocks. Of course like so many stereotypes, there is usually much more to a place than meets the eye. Truth be told, the pub here is right opposite the station so I didn’t do much exploring. Just make sure you head out of the main exit onto London Road and you’ll see the Old Fox and Hounds.
While its outside could do with a lick of paint, its interior is in decent condition. The walls are decorated with old sporting memorabilia, including photos of footballers from yesteryear wearing very long shorts and old tennis rackets. They also have some historic gaming machines on the wall, one of which I think is an Allwin, based on a similar device I encountered at Ye Olde Mitre up in High Barnet. It’s a pretty spacious place as it spans back a fair way. It also has a back garden too.
It’s a Greene King pub so the only ales on tap were their IPA and Abbott Ale. I don’t like either so I was on the lager. It’s only really the choice of ales that gives the game away its a Greene King venue. It has survived getting one of the generic makeovers which make so many of their Central London pubs such dull tourist traps. They don’t do any food so crisps are your lot here.
On our Wednesday evening visit, The Old Fox and Hounds had a steady crowd, with quite a few people popping over straight after work for a quick pint. A variety of entertainment was being offered up on the pub’s TVs, you could choose from At the Races, Sky Sports or BBC1. The sound was off as they had the radio on. It must have been Magic or Heart as it was belting out 80s classics like Papa Don’t Preach and Abracadabra. Inspiration surely for the Karaoke nights they hold on Fridays.
I liked The Old Fox and Hounds as a decent old school pub and ideally situated for the station. If you find yourself in need of a pint in West Croydon, it’s a solid option.
When thinking of Selhurst, the first thing that springs to mind for many is Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace’s football ground. Don’t be fooled by the name though, both Thornton Heath and Norwood Junction stations are closer.
Selhurst first opened on 1 May 1865. Architecturally, the station building is in the same style as the last few stations I’ve visited. It has retained its wooden decorative canopy shelters mind you, unlike Thornton Heath.
Selhurst is a very important location for the railway south of the river – just opposite the station there is a massive depot which is home to many of the trains that serve this part of the world. The majority of the services here into the city go to Victoria but it also has a couple of trains an hour going into London Bridge.
Two Brewers, 221 Gloucester Road, CR0 2DW
The area right by the station is mainly residential with the rail depot opposite. The pub is just over five minutes walk south, located just off Selhurst Road on Gloucester Road.
The Two Brewers looks inviting enough from the outside with its decorative hanging baskets. Inside, it’s very much a traditional old school pub with leather backed seating and cut glass windows. It even has a fish tank towards the back, something you really don’t see often in pubs anymore.
It’s a Shepherd Neame pub and had three of their ales on tap, Master Brew, Spitfire and Whitstable Bay. They don’t do food although a plate full of sandwiches did arrive for the group of locals playing poker. Arriving here on a quiet Tuesday evening, it did feel a bit like we were drinking in somebody else’s front room. The TV was on in the background with the snooker on, but it was very much in the background. They have BT and Sky Sports too. They have a dart board too if you fancy a bit of bully.
There was plenty of Crystal Palace memorabilia on the walls and no doubt the place is totally different on matchdays where I’m sure its rammed with Palace fans.That said, as a Brighton fan I doubt I’d be too welcome in those circumstances so maybe slipping in undercover on a sleepy weeknight was better all round…
The Two Brewers is a no frills, traditional boozer. While it’s not a bad pub, it’s not really interesting enough to be worth a visit. Plus now Allardyce has left Palace, you don’t even have the chance of catching him here celebrating with a pint of wine.
Thornton Heath first opened on 1 December 1862. According to Wikipedia, it may have originally been called Colliers Water Lane but no documentary evidence has been found to prove that.
The station is very similar to the last few I’ve visited, having four platforms but only two of which are in regular use. The ticket office building is also in keeping with the designs seen at Norbury and Streatham Common. While the original ornate support pillars for the platform canopies remain, the canopies themselves now have a dull, corrugated iron look, the original decorative wooden structure having been long since removed. There has been a modern addition in the shape of a footbridge linking the platforms and also lifts for step-free access.
The Railway Telegraph, 19 Brigstock Road, CR7 7JJ
We’re getting further out here so there wasn’t a massive selection of pubs to choose from. Luckily there is one pretty much right opposite the station, the appropriately named ‘Railway Telegraph.’
Inside it’s a traditional, no-frills boozer with wood paneling throughout and some frosted glass. The walls are painted white and decorated with various black and white photos of Thornton Heath in days gone by. I spotted one piece of Crystal Palace memorabilia too, not surprising given Selhurst Park isn’t far. They also have a dartboard too. There is a main area of seating around the bar with a quieter area towards the back of the pub. We sat in the latter area, partly due to the comfy sofas. However the table by the sofa was curious, it looked like a desk you’d have seen in schools years and years ago. The Railway Telegraph also has a nice little back garden.
It’s part of the Ram Pub Company, the smaller offshoot group from Youngs. The only ale available here was Youngs bitter on our Thursday evening visit.I was hoping to get some food here as the website says they serve till 8 on weeknights. However at the pub I was told they only do food at weekends. If you can get any grub here, they say that their curry is ‘special’ and that on match days at Selhurst Park, they do a Jerk Chicken BBQ.
They had snooker on TV here which was showing in Eurosport. The pub also has a Sky/BT Sports licence and must have had trouble in the past with people coming to watch the game and not buying anything, a sign on the wall warns that there is a £5 minimum spend for anyone wanting to watch the football! The pub wasn’t rammed while we were here but had a decent mixed clientele.
In an area not blessed with pubs, The Railway Telegraph is a decent option although I wouldn’t say it’s anything special. It would certainly do a job if you’re in the area.
Norbury first opened in 1878 on an existing section of railway which had been in operation since 1862. The station was rebuilt in 1903. The station building here is very similar to the one at Streatham Common, and the platform canopies have retained their original decorative roof.
Only two platforms are in regular service here, the other two are effectively abandoned. The one furthest from the main station building is looking quite green and rural. A platform shelter by the café on the island platforms has some nice photos of Norbury station in the early parts of the 20th Century.
The Moon Under Water, 1237 London Road, SW16 4AU
Norbury isn’t particularly blessed with pubs, so there wasn’t much to choose from here. Our only option was to walk 10 minutes down London Road, the main road running through here, to reach The Moon Under Water.
The eagle-eyed will have already guessed, but The Moon Under Water is a Wetherspoons. It is my first one on the Overground leg of my blog – not bad going after 47 stops so far! As a result, it has all their usual features, the standard ‘spoons decor and carpet. There are some old pictures of Norbury on the walls and a small back garden. It also has a picture of George Orwell on the wall. Orwell wrote an essay called ‘The Moon Under Water’ in 1946, describing what would be his ideal pub. Many ‘spoons have made a play on this name. I don’t know how many of his 10 points it fufills though…
As a spoons, it has their usual range of discount food. On the ale front, we were in luck as they were holding one of the regular Wetherspoons beer festivals that take place in their pubs. Supplementing usual offerings like Doombar and Ruddles Best included some more interesting ales like the excellently titled ‘Mild the Gap’, complete with a roundel on its pump art, and the Continential IPA. We gave the IPA a go – it was 6.5% so packed quite a punch.
I also had one of my cheapest rounds in London here ever. The prices were already low thanks to being an outer London ‘spoons where prices tend to be at least 50p cheaper, if not more, than central London venues. I also had some CAMRA vouchers which are sent out to all members(I finally got around to joining this year) which got me another 50p off. As a result, we got a round here for an incredibly £3.78. If only everywhere was that cheap…
The Moon Under Water is a fairly generic ‘spoons. That said, there is precious little else round here, so it’s really your only option for a drink. However that said, I will always have a little soft spot for this place, if only for my incredibly cheap drinks here!
There are three railway stations in Streatham, Streatham Common being the first part of my trilogy of visits to this part of South East London. It first opened on 1 December 1862, and was then called Greyhound Lane, a far more interesting name but was quickly given its current title. A year after opening, it was the the site of an early rail crash when a train derailed just outside the station, killing four passengers.
Architecturally, Streatham Common features an attractive, red-brick Edwardian station building. In one of those strange quirks which can make transport in London so confusing, it isn’t actually the closest station to Streatham Common. It’s a 10 minute walk from here, whereas the journey from Streatham station only takes five minutes. It’s now probably too late in the day to rename them too as this would only cause yet more confusion.
The Bull, 498 Streatham High Road, SW16 3QB
The pub is a 10 minute walk from the station, located on Streatham High Road, right near the Common itself. Painted in a vivid shade of blue, you won’t miss The Bull! Its a spacious pub with two rooms either side of the bar and a dining room at the back of the venue.While it had the stripped back brickwork and other aspects of a modern gastropub, some traditional features have been preserved too including some cut-glass by the bar. There is also some nice stained glass on the roof directly above the bar.
It’s a Youngs pub so had two of their regular ales available, the bitter and the special. Also on tap was Hummingbird, a seasonal offering and Coaster Light Ale from Sharps. I had a special which lived up to its name as it was free! Youngs have recently launched their ‘on tap’ app, and after downloading it, you get a free drink at one of their pubs of your choice. Just call me Moneysavingexpert… The food is the usual selection you’d expect at Youngs pub, with mains around the £12 mark, which as have said before is a bit pricey for me. They also have their ‘burger shack’ in the back garden offering a ‘year round BBQ experience’, according to their website.
The Bull has a very expansive garden, covered with astroturf and with several sheltered booths also offering protection from the elements. The area at the back also is partially covered by a canopy, decorated with fibre-optic lighting. As it was such a sunny day on our visit, we based ourselves in the garden and made the most of the pleasant weather.
The Bull is a good, bustling pub. With such a large outdoor space, it is also a really good option for these warmer months. If you’re after a decent beer garden in these parts, then the Bull will be right up your street.
A rail station at Balham first opened on 1 December 1856, at the time called Balham Hill. It was renamed to its present name and moved slightly in 1863 as part of works taking place to upgrade the line. It briefly changed its name again in 1927, becoming Balham and Upper Tooting, but this name lasted barely over two years before it reverted to simply ‘Balham’ in October 1929.
As one of the few rail stations offering interchange with tube south of the river, Balham is very busy with over 10million passengers using it in 2015/16. Architecturally, it’s nothing special. The main entrance building is pleasant enough but the platform shelters are fairly basic. Overall, its easily overshadowed by the classic Charles Holden tube station.
The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, SW12 9HD
Last time around in Balham, I headed West from the station to The Regent. This time around, I headed East, a quick three minute walk down Balham Station Road and then across to The Bedford, on the junction of Bedford Hill and Fernlea Road.
Inside, on first impressions, The Bedford seems a spacious pub but its far more than that. The Bedford is a thriving live venue, hosting all manner of events under their roof. London and beyond. Downstairs they have their ‘Globe Theatre’, home to their ‘Banana Caberet’ comedy events. The pub has hosted plenty of comedians before they were famous, including Omid Djalil, The Mighty Boosh and Michael McIntyre. They also have plenty of other events here too including everything from salsa dancing to live music and plays from ‘Theatre N16.’ The pub also has a strong live music heritage too, The Clash played here in the ’70s. Ed Sheeran recorded a live album here back in 2011 too…
Its pub credentials are pretty solid too. There were three ales available on tap on our visit, Dizzy Blonde and two offerings from the nearby Wimbledon brewery, the Common Pale Ale and their Copper Leaf Ale. Food wise, I’d summarise it as pub classics with a few risottos thrown in too. I went for a ‘Bedford Burger’, the price is towards the higher end of the spectrum at £12.50 and I can testify it was a hearty portion size. Good chips too!
The downstairs area feels pretty roomy, something amplified on our visit as it was such as sunny day. They also have sofas and comfy chairs. As you’ll see from my photos, the interior looks very sun-kissed. It was quite quiet as we were here on a Saturday afternoon, but speaking from experience it gets very busy here during the evening.
If you want a change of pace from the live events here, The Bedford also has a selection of books and plenty of boardgames if you’d prefer that as entertainment. Games available include Scrabble, Pictionary and a selection of TV tie ins – I can see how a ‘Play Your Cards Right’ board game would work, but admit to be totally lost on how ‘Gogglebox’ would go.
The Bedford is an excellent pub, there is so much going on here. At a time where some pubs are finding their live music being stripped back in favour of packing more people in for food, like the Half Moon in Herne Hill, it’s great to see somewhere with live events still going strong. Well worth a visit!
Wandsworth Common first opened on 1 November 1869. It replaced a nearby station called New Wandsworth which closed at the same time and was located slightly to the north of the present station.
It has very pleasant Victorian station buildings on all platforms. The station is served by 10 trains an hour in both directions and plenty more speed through non stop on the fast lines.
Those following the blog chronologically will have noticed that I have gone straight from Battersea Park to Wandsworth Common. This was because I visited Clapham Junction on the SWT portion of the blog, as that mammoth station is served by both companies.
The Hope, 1 Bellevue Road, SW17 7EG
The station is appropriately named, as it’s located right by the southern tip of Wandsworth Common. The pub is opposite the Common, a few minutes walk from the station – just follow the signs to the common. It’s located on a parade of cafes and restaurants, reflecting the well-heeled nature of the local area.
Inside, it’s an open plan gastropub. The bar is located at the back of the room, in a small raised section of the pub. It’s decorated in a pretty minimalist way, there isn’t much on the walls – to me this deprived it of a bit of character. It also has some outside seating with a nice view of the common – this is where we based ourselves.
They had three ales on tap on our visit, Doombar, Landlord and Mad Goose from UBU, all solid ales. It has a decent food menu too. It’s clear you’re in upper gastropub territory with dishes like guinea fowl. To their credit, the food isn’t as expensive as I’ve seen in pubs recently, with a burger for just under £12. Their chalkboard also advertised ‘chips,cheese and gravy’ for £4.75 for a less high end snack.
We visited on a Saturday afternoon and The Hope was really busy. It’s location right by the Common meant it had a fair few people who had come straight from their morning activities there, whether they were dog walkers, footballers or parents with their children. In terms of regular activities here, they hold a quiz every Monday night.
The Hope is an alright pub in a decent location. That said, there wasn’t anything about the place that left a lasting impression, so I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way for this one.
Battersea Park station opened on 1 May 1867 under the name York Road(Battersea), was subsequently renamed Battersea Park and York Road at the start of 1877 and gained its present name on 1 June 1885.
The station has a grade II listed Victorian ticket office building with a particularly impressive interior. There are five platforms here but only platforms 3 and 4 are in regular use. Platform 1, a rare example of an entirely wooden platform, has been closed since December 2012. It was used by services between Victoria and London Bridge on the inner South London line which ended with the introduction of the London Overground service to Clapham Junction from Surrey Quays. The tracks by this platform have also been removed.
Talking of the Overground, Battersea Park is served by two London Overground trains a day, which terminate here. They are the only services that use platform 2 which was previously in regular use for the South London Line service.
The station sits in the shadow of Battersea Power Station and the hoards of new luxury flats which are surrounding that fine building. The new tube stop at Battersea will also be very close by, and it will be interesting to see the impact it has in terms of usage of the rail station.
The Magic Garden, 231 Battersea Park Road, SW11 4LG
The pub is only a few minutes from the station, heading west along Battersea Park Road. The colourful signage on the outside of The Magic Garden serves as a good preview of what you’ll encounter when you get inside. I know the place fairly well as I don’t live too far from it.
It’s a spacious pub, albeit one that has alcoves and cosy little side sections which make it feel a bit more intimate. At the back of the main room there is a stage. The Magic Garden has music on most evenings across a variety of genres. On previous visits I’ve seen a 50’s style rock and roll band(complete with double bass!), a jazz/funk outfit and even some celtic folk music. It’s free during the week but gigs on Fridays and Saturdays are usually ticked. On these evenings it also has a late licence and the fun can go on till 2am.
Decor wise, it’s pretty eclectic. There is a large picture of Jimi Hendrix on the wall as well a disco ball hanging from the ceiling. By way of a contrast, they also have a dart board too. The furniture is also a curious mix of styles, with some old chairs and sofas dotted around the place. Another thing in The Magic Garden’s favour was its pet black and white cat. It was sleeping on a chair near the bar. Ahead of a band coming on, the chair was moved towards one of the quieter parts of the pub. The cat continued sleeping, untroubled by this, a bit like it was being transported on its own Sedan Chair!
On the beer front, they had three ales on tap – Doombar, another offering from Sharps ‘Coaster’ and Wandle, brewed down the road from here by Sambrooks. They have a small food menu which seemed pitched more towards the gourmet end of things – you can get a Wagyu Burger for £15 or a Halibut Steak for £17. This was a little bit too pricey for me. There is a back room just before the garden which acts as the dining room, as well as an area towards the front of the pub.
Finally, I couldn’t finish a review of the pub without checking out The Magic Garden’s garden. It’s another quirky space, with sofas and impressive fibre-optic lights adding to the psychedelic vibes you get inside. The weather was fairly miserable on our Monday evening visit here, so it was fairly quiet.
Overall, The Magic Garden is a quirky and fun pub. With its unique interior, regular live music sessions and resident cat, it’s most definitely worth a visit. It’s far more interesting than a bland gastropub.
London Victoria has always been very familiar to me – it was the start of the journey home to Brighton from trips to London when I was growing up. It marks the start of the second part of my National Rail trail, kicking off my journey to all the Southern rail stops in Greater London. With over 81million passenger journeys here in 2015/16, Victoria is the second busiest station in the entire country, topped only by Waterloo.
It began life as two separate stations, operated by different companies. The Sussex side, platforms 9 to 19, opened first in 1860, with the Kent side, platforms 1-8, following two years later. There was no way to pass between the two sides internally until the 1920s. The wall between the two sides was only fully removed in the 1980s.
The two sides of the station still feel distinct. The Kent side has retained an impressive Victorian trainshed over its platforms. The end of the roof over the Sussex side was demolished in the ’80s to allow for the construction of the Victoria Place shopping arcade and offices over the platforms. This great photo from 1980 shows how different this part of the station used to look. The area by platforms 15-19, at the very western edge of the station, feels very cramped. On a lighter note, this is where the International Cheese Centre is located…
The Cask and Glass, 39-41 Palace Street, SW1 5HN
There are only three certainties in life, death, taxes and building works by Victoria Station. Visiting the tube station here in April 2013, I commented it had been a building site for as long as I could remember -four years later, little has changed. The tube station upgrade is due to be completed next year, but I’m sure there will be another project around the corner.
There are lots of mediocre tourist trap pubs on Victoria Street, so we took a side street to visit the Cask and Glass. It’s a few minutes walk from the station, just behind the Cardinal Place complex on the junction of Palace Street and Wilfred Street.Inside, it’s a cosy little one room pub, with a few tables outside at the front too. It was pretty quiet on our Monday evening visit so we were able to get a seat, but I’ve walked past on occasion and its looked rammed.
It’s a Shepherd Neame pub, so commuters back to Kent can enjoy some of their local beers before making the journey home. It had four of their ales on tap – Spitfire, Hog Island, Master Brew and Whitstable Bay. They only do food at lunchtimes between 12-3, offering a selection of toasties for around £4 a pop. With its primary trade coming from office workers, The Cask and Glass is shut on Sundays and closes at 8pm on Saturday.
With its carpet, curtains and leather backed seats, it has the vibe of a village pub a stones throw away from the chaos of Victoria Street. Given its proximity to both Buckingham Palace and Westminster, it’s also no surprise to see pictures of Queen Victoria on the walls as well as the odd political caricature. There is one of Barry Porter, an MP from 1979-1996 and who I’d never heard of before. I have no idea how he gained the accolade of being displayed on the wall here. His Wikipedia entry is pretty sparse and the cartoon in this pub listed in the ‘legacy’ section!
I enjoyed visiting to The Cask and Glass. It’s nice to find a homely spot in an area that is otherwise represented by uninspired tourist fare. If you’re looking for a good spot for a drink near Victoria Station, this is definitely worth checking out.