Queensway

Queensway Station first opened as Queen’s Road in 1900, gaining its present name 1946.   It has a rather intriguing interior, with more classical civilisation inspired pillars mixed in amongst much more modern looking air vents and and the like.

The station building itself is a Harry Bell Measures(what a great name!) original. Mr Measures did all of the original Central London Railway stations, designing with a flat roof to enable commercial development above. This duly came and is now a Hilton Hotel, a clear indicator of the touristy nature of the area around Queensway, and plenty of other hotels are dotted around nearby.

It is also very close to Bayswater Station, which you can practically see if you look north up Queensway when leaving the station.

The Pub: The Leinster Arms,  17 Leinster Terrace. W2 3EU

The Leinster Arms is a short walk from Queensway Station,  heading East along Bayswater Road until you reach Leinster Gardens, which feels like a quiet side-street compared to the heavy traffic on the main road.  Its exterior is enhanced by a Victorian style lamp above the main entrance, which compliments the area well.

The interior is also suitably traditional, with chandeliers and theatre-esque curtains as well as plenty of photos and illustrations of bygone London on the walls.  There was a fine ale selection on our visit, with Tribute and London Pride available, as well as an offering from the Hackney based London Fields Brewery.  Also available was ‘Our Ken’, a beer brewed in Somerset so I doubt it is any reference to former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.  I think he may have been more of a wine man anyway…

While we didn’t eat here on our visit, the pub has an diverse menu,  varying from traditional pub staples such as Beef and Guinness to their Curry of the week. I was particularly taken with the prospect of the Sausage and Mash here,  as it is supplied by H.G Walter Butchers, who were voted ‘Best Butcher in Britain’ in 2012.

On the Saturday afternoon we visited, the pub was fairly peaceful but there were still a fair few people popping in during the time we were there.  I usually shy away from drinking in the more built up touristy areas as you get ‘London by numbers’ pubs that proclaim to be authentic but serve bad beer,  over priced beer and are about as genuine as Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent in Mary Poppins.  The Leinster Arms is thankfully nothing like that at all.  It’s a great pub tucked away from the main tourist thoroughfare and well worth seeking out!

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Holland Park

Holland Park Station first opened on 30th July 1900 on the Central London Railway.  It’s not the largest station on the network by any means,  so there aren’t too many distinguishing features to report on. Down at platform level, the tiling and signage clearly predates the modern house style now seen across much of the network  The ticket hall is also rather small and retains a rather old fashioned character with its Romanesque supporting pillars and traditional style lamps on the wall.

Holland Park is one of those areas of London that look lovely but you can’t imagine how anyone affords to live in those large Victorian houses. It is also home to the park that gives the area its name.  I’ve never visited but it looks in keeping with the area and even has peacocks. The bird, not the recently threatened high-street clothing store…

The Pub: The Castle, 100 Holland Park Avenue,  W11 4UA

Exiting the tube station, The Castle is just a couple of minutes walk down the road.  I’d been there a couple of times before and it seemed like a perfect pick for Holland Park.

It has a traditional tiled exterior, which you see less and less with pubs these days.  There are also plenty of hanging baskets which seemed in good health on our visit, despite the grim winter we have had so far. The interior, which feels light and spacious thanks to the pub’s large windows, is divided into two rooms.  It feels like it captures a good mix between the openness and comfy chairs and sofas of a gastropub which are complimented by the more historic features such as the nice old wooden bar.

On the ale front, there was a very strong selection of four fine ales: Doombar, Knight of the Garter, Adnams Explorer and Frosty Jack.   When we dropped in, the pub was running an offer: 2 main meals and 2 drinks for £20.  It felt rather rude to say no and I went for the Fish and Chips, which was very tasty and a nice hearty size too.  My friend’s Burger also looked rather impressive too.

On the Saturday afternoon we visited, The Castle had a welcoming, laid back vibe.   I’ve always had a soft spot for this pub.  If the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street has got too much for you,   The Castle can be your well earned tranquil retreat just a few stops down the Central Line!

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Shepherd’s Bush

Shepherd’s Bush Station opened on 30th July 1900 as the western terminus of the new Central London Railway, London’s second deep level tube line, which opened that day between here and Bank.  The line was renamed the Central London Line in 1933, which in turn became known as the Central Line in 1937.

The station was comprehensively rebuilt in 2007/2008 in order to cope with all the extra passengers generated by the opening of the £1.6billion Westfield London,   one of the largest shopping centres in Europe,  which is right by the station. The new ticket hall does somewhat have the feel of a scaled down airport terminal building. It’s clean, functional and airy, but does feel somewhat impersonal. It certainly looks a world apart from the pre-Westfield station.

It was also at this time they took the opportunity to clear up the longstanding confusion by renaming the other Shepherd’s Bush station to Shepherds Bush Market.

The Pub: The Bull, Unit 1033, Westfield Shopping Centre,  W12 7SL

Given the close proximity of the two stations here finding a pub closer to here, rather than Shepherd’s Bush Market which I have already visited, was tricky. In the end we ended up going to one located within the Westfield Complex itself, The Bull.

The pub is effectively in one of the ‘retail units’ of the complex. Like the mall itself, it has only been open since 2008 and obviously feels very modern as a result.  The pub is set over a number of floors with the main bar being downstairs.  There were a couple of TVs dotted around, showing the BBC’s Final Score show.  At 5pm on a Saturday afternoon, the place seemed to be filling up with plenty of people enjoying a drink after a hard day’s consumerism.  On the ale front,  The Bull serves up the ever reliable Youngs Bitter.

The upstairs floor feels more dedicated to those here for something to eat.  Just adjacent to that is an area advertised as a ‘games room’.  It had me surprised, I didn’t expect this to be somewhere with a dart board or pool table.  Turns out they primarily mean games as in board games as there is a healthy stock of these on the bookshelf on the first floor.  To be fair, at the very back of the room, there is a pool table.  The pub also has a balcony terrace, which looms out over the shopping centre below.

I’ll have to admit, as someone who isn’t a massive fan of traditional shopping centres at the best of times,  I’m not likely to be voyaging to the Westfield very often.  That said,  if you do find yourself in the mall and the retail hedonism is getting too much for you, you could do far worse than seek out the safe haven of The Bull and have a quiet pint of ale.   It’s much better than the murky White Horse I visited for Shepherd’s Bush Market. Plus, they even have Cluedo..

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Clapham Common

Clapham Common Station first opened in June 1900 as the southern terminus of the City and South London Railway.  Like Clapham North, it possesses the other only remaining ‘island’ platform, serving both north and southbound services.  The station building at street level dates from its original opening, the domed roof being similar to the one we saw earlier on the trail at Kennington.

The Common itself is 220acres worth of grassland with sport pitches, childrens playgrounds, ponds and the like.  It is also synonymous with the first resignation from Tony Blair’s government back in 1998,  when then Welsh Secretary Ron Davies had his ‘moment of madness’ there.  In the immediate aftermath, he devised a bizarre cover story that didn’t add up and was subsequently taken apart by the media.  That wouldn’t have happened these days,  he could have just used Tinder…

The Pub: The Alexandra, 14 Clapham Common South Side,  SW4 7AA

You are certainly not short of a few places to drink when you emerge from the tube station here, and given I used to live just down the road from here,  I’ve tried most of them.  Clapham High Street itself is perhaps best known for the bar Infernos, but like Fez in Putney,  I think visiting there is for a different kind of blog..

The Alexandra is right opposite the tube station in a rather imposing building.  It’s a large, spacious pub.  The interior is decorated with all manner of objects hanging from the ceiling, as well as plenty of old London Underground and transport signs, which felt suitably apt.  It’s quite a sporty pub, with Sky Sports, Eurosport and Irish sport channels on the various screens dotted around the pub.  It also caters well for the rugby crowd, which you need to do in an area like Clapham, which always seems rammed around Six Nations time.

They also do decent food.  Plenty of our group went for the burger, which looked very impressive.  I went for the fish finger sandwich which while perfectly nice,  may have been a little on the small side for my liking!  On the ale front, they have Doombar as well as a regularly rotated guest ale.  For those after something stronger, there is also a large collection of spirits and shots available.

The Alexandra manages to get the balance right.  It is big enough to accommodate a large group without being soulless and you can enjoy watching the sport without feeling overwhelmed by the screens.  Definitely one of the best pubs around Clapham Common and well worth a visit!

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Clapham North

Clapham North tube station first opened on 3rd June 1900 as Clapham Road as the City and South London Railway was extended from Stockwell down to Clapham Common. It was renamed Clapham Common in 1926 when the extension of the line to Modern was completed.

The station building itself was also replaced during this process – sadly though these days it looks fairly non-descript and weathered, as this shot shows. Below ground, it’s more interesting as Clapham North retains an island platform, meaning customers for both northbound and southbound services have to tussle for space in the same place.  It’s not particularly wide either, so gets congested very easily. I would imagine it isn’t a pleasant experience at rush hour!

On our visit to the station, the staff had clearly tried to brighten the ticket hall up with some plants, which go very nicely with the classical music played over the speaker system to deter anti social behaviour!

The Pub: The Landor,  70 Landor Road, SW9 9PH

Again, like London Bridge before it, there are no shortage of places to drink around Clapham North. It marks the northern boundary of Clapham High Street.  I’ve always thought the High Street isn’t all its cracked up to be for drinking, there are some nice pubs but there are plenty of grim bars too. For this trip, I was recommended The Landor, which is a couple of minutes walk from the station, on the residential road with the same name.

The exterior of the pub is a mix of old and new,  with the modern painted frontage complimented by the traditional signs for Trumans Brewery.  The interior also keeps to this pattern, with the open plan aesthetics of a contemporary gastropub mixed alongside the traditional and ornate bar. There is also a good selection of ales, with Old Speckled Hen as well as ‘Golden Sheep’, the blonde relative of the more widely known Black Sheep.

The pub also has a pool table, which seems like an endangered species in most gastropubs that seem to prefer extra seats to get the diners in. Another nice touch is the lighting right near the Pool Table, a welcome relief during the dark winter months.

On top of all that,  there is also a theatre connected to the pub upstairs, if you fancy a bit of culture to go alongside your Golden Sheep.   Given we seem to be in monsoon season at present, visiting the garden didn’t seem appropriate but I don’t doubt it would be another feather in the cap for The Landor during the spring and summer.

The Landor is a top pub.  If you’ve got plans to drink in Clapham,  definitely drop in here!

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London Bridge

London Bridge brings my trail into the 20th century. The station first opened in 25th February 1900 on the City and South London Railway.  The Jubilee Line arrived in October 1999, which saw the station comprehensively modernised. The ticket halls are now in the style you’d expect from the new stations further east on the extension.

Sadly nothing remains of the original station building.  It was preserved for many years as a derelict building down a side street en route to the rail station, and can be viewed here.  It was only demolished in 2012 and I must admit passing it several times without having any idea of its former function.

The tube station serves one of the busiest rail stations in the country, itself in the process of being completely revamped. It is also right underneath The Shard, the UK’s tallest building.

The Pub: The Southwark Tavern, 22 Southwark Street, SE1 1TU

There are no shortage of pubs around London Bridge, in fact you are spoilt for choice.    For that reason I’ve always enjoyed drinking round here.  In the end we chose to go to The Southwark Tavern, one of my favourites in the area. It is very conveniently located right by the tube exit as well as the ever popular Borough Market.

The pub itself is set on two floors. The ground floor is one large room with the main bar in the centre.  The ale selection is solid, with Doombar, Brakespear Oxford Gold amongst others on offer.  For the fans of Belgian bottled beers, there is also a good selection here too.   There is also a good gastropub food menu on offer here too.

The basement is divided into two areas –  an open plan area mainly set aside for people dining at the pub, and several small booths that span the perimeter of this.  In a homage to the prisons that used to populate this area of London back in the day, the booths have been labelled as ‘cells.’  Indeed ‘The Clink’,  a notorious prison that gave its name to the slang term for jail,  was located a short distance away and is still to this day commemorated by The Clink Prison Museum. The exposed brickwork, atmospheric wall lamps and bars between the ‘cells’ all helps to further build on that historic link. The booths themselves are decorated with various adverts for old beers across the world.

The Southwark Tavern is a very popular pub, both with the countless workers from the nearby offices, as well as people like me who enjoy drinking in this area!  As I said before, London Bridge is an area with plenty of good pubs – I’d strongly recommend starting here and then exploring the others in and around Borough Market and Borough High Street.  But if you only have time for one,  this is probably the best place to go in my opinion. It is a very tough call mind you!

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