Westminster

Westminster Station opened as Westminster Bridge on 24th December 1868, on the Metropolitan District Railway.  It gained its current name in 1907.    The station changed beyond recognition in 1999 when the Jubilee Line arrived and the entire building was rebuilt to accommodate the deep level line.

The Parliamentary office block, Portcullis House, was also built during the construction period. Both buildings were designed by Michael Hopkins and Partners.

It’s when you head down to the Jubilee Line platforms you really appreciate the stark, metallic feel of the new station.  Like all those on the Jubilee Line extension, the scale and scope of the station is breathtaking.   It will be a long time before I come across the other new builds on the line past Waterloo mind you!

Given the proximity to the Houses of Parliament and with Buckingham Palace and the London Eye not far off either,  Westminster station is one of the biggest tourist traps on the Underground.

The Pub: The Red Lion, 48 Parliament Street, SW1A 2NH

Drinking around Westminster never really appeals to me, mainly due to working in the area. When I finish for the day, I like to get away from the immediate area – part of the reason behind this blog!

For those who aren’t at Westminster saturation point,  there is the The Red Lion. It perfectly sums up the mix of people you get in Westminster. I’d say its 50% tourists, 50% political staffers/hangers-on.   It boasts quite a history, with a pub on the site reportedly since 1434.    The ‘Division Bell’ indicating a vote, also sounds in this pub,  allowing MPs and Peers to rush back to the Chamber and vote.  Given the well publicised on-site drinking establishments within the Palace of Westminster, I don’t think too many MPs venture here. The TVs show BBC Parliament when the House is sitting, so confused tourists can catch the days proceedings.

It’s a Fullers pub so it has their usual range of ales.   Whenever I’ve been in, it’s always quite busy so not the easiest place to get a seat.   It also has an upstairs dining room area, although I’ve never eaten here.   A book I’ve got on London Pubs suggests that some of the strategy for ‘New Labour’ was devised up there.  I can’t see it myself personally but it’s a bit before time.

If you want a drink around the Westminster bubble,  The Red Lion is a solid enough bet.

Visit their website

Advertisements

St James’s Park

St James’s Park is in many ways one of the jewel’s in the London Underground crown.  The station opened on 24th December 1868 on the Metropolitan District Railway.  It really came into its own in the 1920s when the headquarters of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, precursor to the the London Underground, opened its new headquarters at 55 Broadway.

The building itself was designed by Charles Holden and is a striking, art deco design.   I think anything I write here can’t do it justice so please do drop by and take it in yourselves.  The attention to detail, the statues, the reliefs, are all stunning.  It’s one of my favourite London buildings and is unsurprisingly Grade 1 listed.  Holden was in many ways an in-house architect for the tube during the ’20s and ’30s, designing many impressive outer London stations during the period of expansion leading up to World War II.

St James’s Park serves an area populated by office blocks and government buildings, with the Ministry of Justice and Department for Work and Pensions nearby.   St James’s Park itself is also a short distance away with its pelicans and other delights.

The Pub: Buckingham Arms, 62 Petty France, SW1H 9EU

The Buckingham is on Petty France, a short walk south from the station.  It’s a Youngs pub so has the usual solid selection of ales from them.  It is very well maintained and feels like it must have had a refurb in recent years.  It’s light, airy and fairly spacious.  The walls have various London related quotes, including the famous Dr Johnson quote about when you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.   The pub also has a number of comfy seats and armchairs.

Given its proximity to Buckingham Palace, it’s perhaps not surprising there is a photo of the late Queen Mother pulling a pint on the wall.  I initially thought this was unique to the pub but have since seen it in many other Youngs pubs.  But as an added bonus, the Buckingham also has a photo of Prince Charles doing the honours too.  He looked a bit awkward to me but judge for yourself.

As a Youngs fan, I was always going to have a soft spot for this pub.  After taking in the delights of 55 Broadway, have a pint here afterwards.

Visit their website Follow them on Twitter

Victoria

Anyone who has used Victoria Underground Station will not be surprised it is the second busiest on the network.  It is not uncommon on rush hour mornings to hear a rather ominous alarm sound and the shutters go down because it is too congested.

It first opened on 24th December 1868 on the Metropolitan District Railway.  It gained the line to which it lends its name(and much of its overcrowding!) in 1969 for which it served as a brief terminus until the extension to Brixton opened in   It is connected to Victoria Railway Station, the second busiest in the UK and destination for thousands of commuters from the Kent and Sussex Coasts every morning.  As a native Brightonian,  arriving at Victoria Station always feels like the start of a journey home.

In light of the major overcrowding problems,  the Underground station is undergoing major upgrade works to build a much needed additional ticket hall.    As a result there is significant disruption at street level and various pedestrian diversions if you’re trying to reach the rail station, one of which involves navigating past the hoards of people waiting to see ‘Wicked’ nearby.

The Pub: The Colonies, 25 Wilfred Street, SW1E 6PR

Like many business/commuter districts, I’d say the area round Victoria isn’t blessed with brilliant pubs.   Dodging the building works and musicals(Billy Elliott) is also nearby, we visited The Colonies on Wilfred Street which is off Palace Street if you’re heading north on Victoria Street towards Westminster.

The pub itself is a fairly standard central London chain offering.  It’s fairly spacious with a front room and back seating area.  It also boasts a ‘garden’ although it seemed more like a yard to me.   But if the sun’s out, it’s still an outdoor area to enjoy a pint.

To give the pub its dues, they had a selection of ales I hadn’t tried before – I went for the ‘Star’ ale that went down very smoothly.   There was also a quiz machine, which is always a big plus point for me.

I’ve popped into The Colonies before, often to have an ill-advised ‘one for the road’ before heading home.  It’s a perfectly pleasant pub but I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it.

Visit their website 

Sloane Square

Sloane Square station opened in 1868, as part of the Christmas Eve extension of the Metropolitan District Railway from South Kensington to Westminster. It is now served by the District and Circle Lines.

Back in the day,  I wouldn’t have had far to go for a pint here. Up until 1985(according to Andrew Martin’s excellent book – Underground, Overground), there was actually a bar on the platform at Sloane Square.  This is now a ‘Treats’ sweet shop, but as you can see from the gallery,  it would have been a very small bar.

Also of note is the fact a river, The Westbourne, travels over the platforms at the station. It is carried in a large grey pipe – as seen here.  Sadly these curiosities by the platforms is not matched by the station building at street level.  I found the station building to be dull and greying.

The Pub: The Antelope,  22 Eaton Terrace, SW1W 8EZ

Again, like  South Kensington before it,  Sloane Square is not an area known for pubs.  But we scoped one out, The Antelope,  a short distance down Eaton Terrace, off Eaton Gate.  The photo of the pub’s exterior tells the story of the local area, a porsche parked right outside,

As it was a sunny Friday night, it was hardly surprising the pub was rammed. We just about found ourselves a place to perch our drinks.  The place itself is decked out in a pleasing, traditional interior.  The glasswork and the curtains, which to me seemed quite Theatre-esque, both contributed well to the overall atmosphere. As a Fullers pub, it has their standard selection of ales.

The only downside was that you couldn’t take your drink outside, I assume due to residents objections.  As a result the place was rammed and very warm!   There is also an upstairs dining room but given how busy the place was, I didn’t venture up for fear of losing my bit of wall space.   A good pub find for sure, but you’d have to be a braver man than I to head there on a Friday evening.

Visit their website

South Kensington

South Kensington station is museum central, with the V&A, Science and Natural History Museums all right beside the station. The station itself opened on 24th December 1868 – you can’t imagine any transport projects opening on Christmas eve these days but the line promoters wanted to cash in on the pre-Christmas rush.

Talking of cashing in, when the rather long foot tunnel that takes you to all the museums from the station first opened in 1885, there was a 1p toll.  I’m not sure what that would be uprated to 2013 prices, but it seems pretty steep to me.

Like Gloucester Road, the deep level tube arrived here in 1906 on what became the Piccadilly Line.

The station building itself is very attractive, with a pleasant small shopping arcade before you exit to the street.   This alongside other features of the station are Grade 2 listed.

The Pub: The Anglesea Arms, 15 Selwood Terrace, SW7 3QG

Not surprisingly given all the museums, South Ken rightly has a reputation for being tourist central. That usually means a dearth of good pubs in the immediate vicinity of the station. Further exacerbating the situation is the genteel nature of the surrounding area.   In days gone by, the rich residents of the area wouldn’t have been seen dead in pubs, preferring to drink in their impressive townhouses.

What pubs did exist were therefore confined to side streets and mews, for the servants that worked in the area.   It’s precisely down such a  side street that we found the Anglesea Arms.   If you head West along Old Brompton Road, then turn onto Onslow Gardens until you reach Selwood Terrace and the pub. It has a very traditional interior, with plenty of wooden features on display.  The seats are comfy and the whole place has a warm and cosy atmosphere. I particularly like the strong red walls and mellow lighting.

On the beer front, they had Harveys on tap when we visited(always a plus point) as well as Doombar and other good options.  There is also a dining room downstairs but that was closing up by the time we arrived.

This pub is a breath of fresh air in an area better known for tourist traps with all the soul of a motorway service station.  After you’ve enjoyed a cultural feast at the museums, come here afterwards to take in a fine example of how a British pub should be.

Visit their website Follow them on Twitter

Latimer Road

Latimer Road is the first station on the trail where I’ve had no idea what to expect when I got off.  This station opened on 16th December 1868. In addition to the Hammersmith and City/Circle line services, there was until 1940 a link from here to Kensington Olympia – at that time called Addison Road.  This is shown in this tube map from 1938.

At platform level, the station resembles the structures already seen at Westbourne Park. Sadly no sight of Boris Gardiner here…

Admittedly we arrived at night but there didn’t seem to be too much of note immediately by the station.  There were some rather weathered looking (probably ex-) local authority housing.

The station’s Wikipedia page makes it all sound much more exciting, with supposed discoveries during the recent refurbishment of the station of a bath, gun parts and a vat of acid! Sadly this has no citation so unless I hear otherwise, I’ll assume it isn’t true..

The Pub: The Garden Bar and Grill, 41 Bramley Road, W10 6SZ

The immediate pub fare by the station wasn’t inspiring. In one of the said weathered buildings was the ‘Pig and Whistle’,  that didn’t look very welcoming.  The Garden is right opposite the station. In fact the same Wikipedia article previously referred to, there was apparently a staircase from here to the westbound platform also discovered during the refurbishment works.

The Garden clearly sees itself as an upmarket venue, on its website it lists itself as being in ‘Notting Hill’, as opposed to Latimer Road.  It certainly has the most curious interior of any of the pubs I’ve visited so far.  We all agreed they had gone for the garden feeling indoors,  complete with potted plants and garden statues.   It all felt a bit 2000, which may have been why it reminded us of the club from Eastenders at that time, especially with the lounge muzak echoing around the place.

On the plus side, it has decent ales in the shape of Sambrook’s Junction and the ever-reliable Wandle.   It also has a rather large garden, unsurprisingly given the name. To be fair, that is probably it’s main selling point and that’s what the positive reviews on their website focus on.    It technically calls itself the ‘Garden Bar and Grill’, and it was certainly going for that (outdoor!) grill vibe.

Certainly an interesting find, don’t get me wrong.   Whether I’ll ever come back is another matter..

Visit their website

 

Gloucester Road

Gloucester Road began life on 1st October 1868 as Brompton(Gloucester Road), at that point it was the terminus of the Metropolitan Railway. The deep level tube arrived in 1906 with the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway – thankfully these days simply known as the Piccadilly Line!

The station is currently served by the District, Circle and Piccadilly Lines, with two separate station buildings for the sub surface and deep level lines – the sub surface line building is featured in the gallery.

One of the most eye catching features of Gloucester Road is the artwork on an abandoned circle line platform.  This is regularly rotated by TfL.  The current design, as seen in the gallery, is by Sarah Morris,  more details on her concept here.   My favourite was ‘Life is a Laugh’, by Brian Griffiths from 2007 –  an uplifting message for us all you’ll agree!

Pub: The Hereford Arms, 127 Gloucester Road, SW7 4TE

The Hereford Arms is just a few minutes walk down Gloucester Road, another street teeming with tourists and international visitors.  Like many of my West London visits so far, the area around the station is fairly well-heeled and we passed some nice little mews and squares en route to the pub.

The pub itself is a solid Fullers pub.  Inside you do get an element of the country pub ambience, with exposed brickwork, low ceiling and a traditional bar.  While being fairly spacious, the pub was rammed with the Friday night crowd but seats were available for the eagle eyed, which included us! I would imagine you would be far more likely to get a seat during the week.

For a Fullers pub, you have the usual standard ales – London Pride, Seafarers, etc.  The pub also had a decent menu. I was only after a snack so went for Cheesy Chips, but on that front they didn’t disappoint either. One of our travelling party went for a ‘black pudding scotch egg’ , as someone who can’t stand black pudding it didn’t appeal to me but he certainly enjoyed his.

I enjoyed our visit to The Hereford Arms. In an area more associated with generic tourist pubs, it had the right mix of traditional authentic pub vibe combined with a lively atmosphere.  Definitely worth returning to for a pint in future.

Visit their website