Angel

It always feels appropriate when I visit a tube station named after a pub. In this case, Angel(and the wider area) was named after the Angel Inn, which according to Wikipedia dated back to 1638. The station first opened on 17th November 1901 as part of an extension of the City and South London Railway from Moorgate.

The station itself was completely rebuilt at the end of the 1980s – before that time it had the cramped island platforms that are still in situ at Clapham North and Clapham Common, as well as lift access to the platform. These access issues meant the station was plagued by congestion issues, necessitating the rebuild which was completed in 1992. You may have noticed the southbound platform at Angel feels nice and spacious -this is because it previously served as the island platform for both lines before the redevelopment!

The escalators at Angel installed in place of the lifts are notorious for their length and are the third longest in Western Europe –  you do certainly feel as if you are ascending to the heavens on them! Angel also always reminds me of Monopoly, as Angel, Islington was one of the more memorable properties on the board to me.

The Pub: The Old Red Lion, 418 St John Street, EC1v 4NJ

Angel is another of those stops where there are no shortages of places to drink. I used to come to the area a lot when I lived on nearby Caledonian Road. It was great because I could stay out past midnight and not have to figure out navigating the night bus network.

We decided to go to the Old Red Lion,just south of the station. I was immediately drawn to it thanks to its rather impressive neon-sign.  It’s another pub with a popular theatre upstairs, and there are pictures of various thesps on the walls. Before you enter the main bar area, you pass some nice ornate glass.

The tail end of the Six Nations was playing on our visit, which was being beamed onto a large projector on the back wall.The pub was very busy with Rugby fans so we hovered by the quiz machine, never a bad thing in my book! They also show the football here as well. According to their website, there are regular live music events including a group of Irish musicians who drop by twice a month. In terms of atmosphere, it’s a good solid traditional pub. The red walls help to create a warm, homely feel. It’s got a decent range of ales too, with Broadside, Landlord and Wherry from Woodfordes.

The Old Red Lion is another fine pub and well worth a visit. If you feel like earning that first pint, climb the escalators at Angel…

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Bond Street

Bond Street arrived a little late to the Central London Railway opening party so to speak. The station first opened its doors on 24th September 1900, a couple of months after the rest of the initial Shepherds Bush to Liverpool Street section had first begun operating.

The Jubilee Line arrived here in 1979 as the Stanmore branch of the Bakerloo line was extended down from Baker Street to Charing Cross. It’s another station which doesn’t really have too much going for it architecturally. It is now pretty much subsumed into quite a 90s shopping centre – the ‘West One’.  Like Tottenham Court Road, Bond Street is also going to be the location of a Crossrail station and work is gathering pace here.

The Pub: The Lamb and Flag, 24 James Street, W1U 1EL

Again, you’re right in the middle of Oxford Street when you get off at Bond Street station, so its shops all round with Selfridges very close by. The Lamb and Flag is just down James Street which is just north of the station.

Given its location, this is another heavily tourist pub. It is run by Taylor Walker, who have a lot of premises within Central London. The downstairs bar was absolutely rammed on our visit, a number of people were watching the Rugby which was still going on at that time. The upstairs bar, or dining room as I think it is designated,  had a fair bit of room so we went up there.

On the ale front,  it is well served by both Adnams Broadside and Old Speckled Hen. Less welcome was the rather loud music they were blaring out – I’m not sure whether 22 by Taylor Swift goes that well with a pint, it’s more of a tune for Vodka Revolution surely?

Sadly, to me, the Lamb and Flag feels like one of those generic tourist trap pubs that pop up around Zone 1 with inevitable regularity. The interior lacks the unique touches that made places like The Argyll Arms or The Viaduct Tavern so welcoming. There may be pictures of ‘Old London’ on the wall but it doesn’t really add to the character of the place. The upstairs room we were drinking in could easily pass as someones front room!

I may be being a little harsh, The Lamb and Flag isn’t a terrible pub and the beer was fine. But if you’re after a bit of history and atmosphere with your pint, I would go elsewhere!

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St. Paul’s

When it first opened in July 1900 on Central London Railway, St Paul’s Station was named ‘Post Office’,  as the headquarters of the then General Post Office were a short distance away.  It was also thought naming it St. Paul’s would cause confusion with the nearby rail station, which is now called Blackfriars. The tube station was renamed St. Paul’s in 1937, as by that time the mainline station had dropped that name.

Sadly it also another rather non-descript ’60s tube station building sadly. One of the few things I did like however is the old style ‘To Street’ sign as you start to ascend the escalators.  That said,  you easily forget about the drab station when you see the majestic St. Pauls Cathedral rising behind it.

To me, St. Paul’s is perhaps London’s most iconic building. The fact it is survived the blitz when much else around it was flattened only adds to it symbolism of the enduring spirit of London. Now, despite all the new skyscrapers going up around it, planning regulations still protect the view of the Cathedral from key points across the city.

The Pub: The Viaduct Tavern, 126 Newgate Street, EC1A 7AA

The pub is a short walk from the station along Newgate Street, heading North.  It is located on the corner of the junction with Giltspur Street. It is also just before you reach Holborn Viaduct, hence the name. A few years back, a friend was helping me move flats and as we were driving over the Viaduct, his sat nav, voiced by John Cleese, authoritatively instructed us to turn off it which would have had us plunging onto the street below. Thankfully we didn’t and I am still here today…

The Viaduct Tavern is a pub with real history. The cellars used to be cells for the infamous Newgate prison, which was located opposite. Perhaps therefore unsurprisingly, it is said to be haunted by a ghost called Fred who lives in one of the cells. Providing Fred hasn’t spooked you, the interior of the pub is packed full of memorable features to look out for.  On one wall, there are three paintings of women representing ‘Agriculture’, ‘Banking’ and ‘Arts’. Behind the bar there is an ornate wood and glass booth where back in Victorian times, the landlady would sell gin tokens to customers. The pub’s own website said this system was put in place because her own staff couldn’t always be trusted!  The ceiling is painted in a traditional dark red which combines well with the chandelier lighting to further add to the historical atmosphere.

As a Fullers pub, you know where you are on the ale front with London Pride and other staples available. It was pretty rammed on our visit and we were very fortunate to grab a table shortly after arriving. This pub has a particularly unique interior which really needs to be seen first hand. Add that to a good atmosphere and decent beers on tap, it’s another central London pub I highly recommend! But get down there during the week, as it’s closed at weekends!

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Chancery Lane

Chancery Lane Station doesn’t have an ‘above ground’ presence  – the ticket hall is located underneath the road and you will only spot the station from the roundels above the subway entrances.  When the station first opened on 30th July 1900,  its ticket office and entrance was based in 31-33 High Holborn.  The building still exists, as can be seen here,  but was taken out of the use when the station was rebuilt in the early 1930s to introduce escalators in place of the lifts.

As a result, the current station is pretty non-descript as all it amounts to is a underground ticket hall – not much to see here! This is very much legal territory, with countless solicitors offices based in the vicinity as well as the main HQ for The Law Society itself.

The Pub: Cittie of Yorke, 22 High Holborn, WC1V 6BN

It’s very easy to find the Cittie of York from the tube station, it’s just a couple of minutes walk West along High Holborn The exterior has a somewhat medieval theme to it. This is in someways appropriate as it was built on the site of a public house dating back to 1430. I rather like the grand old clock that is just above the pub sign. It’s also a Grade II listed building.

The Cittie of York is part of the Sam Smiths, a Yorkshire Brewery, chain of pubs in London. They are perhaps best known for running central London pubs and charging way below London average for their beer. I remember as recently as 2010, it was still around £2 for their ale – even now I think it is still below £3! The only beers on tap are their ales, lagers and stouts but they are perfectly fine. They also do a solid range of typical pub food such as steak and ale pie and fish and chips.

The pub is divided into a number of areas including a front room and a downstairs area.  The most impressive part however is the large back room which has a church-like atmosphere to it, with its timber-beamed roof. There are also wooden boothed areas as well as a number of beer barrels above the bar.  The white Yorkshire Rose is featured in the decorations throughout the pub.

While it is a spacious pub, it fills up pretty quickly on a Friday night as people swarm in from the nearby offices. It is also one of the last pubs you will find open on a Saturday night before you head eastwards into the city. Bear in mind, it is shut on Sundays though. It’s a pub with real character, and you can’t argue with the prices. Definitely one that’s worth a visit!

(the pub has no website)

Tottenham Court Road

Going to Tottenham Court Road, it’s the future, rather than the past, which seems most apparent. It’s one of the most visible Crossrail sites in the capital –  there is a massive great hole in the road where the new station and tunnelling is taking shape. The tube station is also being redeveloped to cope with both increased demands on existing lines as well as to incorporate an interchange with the new Crossrail station and the additional passengers that will generate

The station first opened on 30th July 1900 on the Central London Railway.  When the precursor to the Charing Cross branch of the Northern Line arrived, the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway arrived in 1907, its platforms were called ‘Oxford Street’ until a link between the two lines opened in 1908 and they were both unified under the Tottenham Court Road name.

The development of Centre Point in the 1960s put paid to the original Northern Line station building. The Central Line one has all but been demolished in the Crossrail works. What I am really glad has been preserved are the impressive and colourful mosaics by Italian architect Eduardo Paolozzi,  put up in the station platforms and corridors during the 1980s.

The Pub: The Intrepid Fox,  15 St Giles High Street, WC2H 8LQ

Sadly the pub I visited here,  The Intrepid Fox,  is not long of this world. It is due to close on 1st April before a redevelopment of the Centre Point area into new housing. However given I’ve enjoyed many a trip here, I thought it only right for it to feature on the crawl!  It is located just south of Centre Point on St. Giles High Street

The exterior of the Fox is hardly an oil painting by anyones standards thanks to being based in one of the grim buildings that flank Centre Point. You get a feel for the vibe of the place by the dark tinted windows and red goblin type creature above the front door. The interior is pretty unique and makes it clear you are in a rock/goth rock pub.  Decorations on the wall include skull and crossbones, a ball and chain and ghostly cobwebs behind the bar.  There isn’t any ale on tap here but to be fair, it’s not really the sort of place you come for a pint of Old Speckled Hen.

What I’ve always liked about the Fox is it attracts a diverse mix of people, from metalheads who fit right in to more suited types from nearby offices. I certainly don’t fall into the first category but have always felt welcome here. They do sometimes play 80s/early 90s rock which does help! There are often metal gigs upstairs too. In addition to a quiz machine, there is also a suitably named Pinball Table called ‘Scared Stiff.’

The Intrepid Fox does also remain the only pub in London I’ve ever been thrown out of. It was due to a legitimate grievance a friend of mine had with someone causing trouble and we were all ejected by default. There were no hard feelings on my part and we have been back countless times since – it was often a stop when taking round friends of mine visiting London.

I was really sad when the redevelopment of the site was confirmed last summer. The Fox has moved before though, it was based in Soho until the end of 2006. I certainly hope it relocates nearby. In the meantime get down here before its doors here for the last time!

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Oxford Circus

Before reviewing Oxford Circus, a quick word from me  –  this weekend has marked the first anniversary of me starting the blog. For the most part, I’ve been lucky to stumble on countless good pubs and even when I haven’t, it’s still been good fun! Thank you to everyone who has enjoyed reading the journey so far and here’s to the next year!

As tourist hotspots in London go, you don’t get much hotter than Oxford Circus, the link between the two key shopping streets of Oxford Street and Regent Street. The station first opened in July 1900 on the Central London Railway,  the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway(snappy names back then..) arrived in 1906 and the Victoria Line in 1969.  It is the fourth busiest station on the network and the busiest that doesn’t serve a mainline rail station.

In terms of station buildings,  two fine examples of classic station architecture remain. The CLR building,  one of the Harry Bell Measures efforts, and the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway’s Leslie Green ox-blood red design. Green was prolific on the stations front in the early 1900s, so I have a feeling I will seeing a lot of his efforts in the coming months! Both buildings are now paying their way to the tube network – Aberdeen Steak House is resident in Greens,  while there is ‘Wok to Work’ at Harry Bell’s place.

The Pub: The Argyll Arms, 18 Argyll Street, W1F 7TP

I think The Argyll Arms could be the closest pub to a tube station I’ve visited so far. It is the next building down from the Leslie Green station building. Like the two station buildings, it is Grade II listed. Inside it retains a traditional Victorian interior, complete with various booths, intended to shield the class-conscious Victorians from the drinkers in the other booths. In the excellent ‘London’s Best Pubs’ by Peter Haydon, it is described as having one of the best preserved pub interiors around.

Unlike some of the other pubs I’ve just visited, this very much is on the tourist trail – after all, how could you miss it?! It’s part of the Nicholsons chain, who run a fair number of pubs across Zone 1 area. On the ale front on our visit, we went for the Nicholson’s Pale Ale, which is very nice.  There was the Welsh favourite Brains SA alongside good old London Pride.

The back room is equally impressive, complete with hanging chandeliers and more of the fine etched glass from the booths in the front room. To me, it is the star of the attraction. I tried to get a good shot looking down on it from the upstairs area to do justice to it.

As I have said before, I usually go in rather warily to Zone 1 pubs so close to tourist sites for obvious reasons.  The Argyll Arms is however a fine pub. Give the shops a miss and pop in for yourself!

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Marble Arch

I really do feel I am traipsing the tourist trail at the moment, and Marble Arch is no exception.  The station itself first opened on 30th July 1900.  At platform level, there is some rather garish yet endearing 1980s artwork by Annabel Grey  It reminds me a bit of Embankment’s coloured lines,also from the decade that taste forgot.  The station itself doesn’t really have a street level building as the original was demolished in the 1930s as part of upgrading the station from lifts to escalators.   That said, it hasn’t done at all bad for itself as it benefits from having its exit underneath the rather grand art deco building.

Marble Arch itself is a key transport hub in London. As well as being a key bus interchange, it is also served by a number of longer distance coaches bound for nearby airports as well as Oxford and other cities. The iconic Arch itself is teeming with visitors heading to Oxford Street, Hyde Park or countless nearby hotels.

The Pub: The Carpenters Arms, 12 Seymour Place, W1H 7NE

The Carpenters Arms is another central side street job, so to speak.  To reach it from the station,  head up Great Cumberland Place, turning onto Seymour Street and heading west until you reach the quiet Seymour Place, where the pub is located. It’s got a suitably classic ‘corner pub’ exterior, complete with numerous hanging baskets to lift the spirits.

The Carpenters lives up to its name, with plenty of tools you would associate with that trade being dotted around the wall.  Interior wise, it’s very much in the Victorian vibe with its wood panelling and classic wall lamps. It also served up plenty of favourites on the ale front, given its home to the London branch of CAMRA, it doesn’t really come as any surprise. As well as my home county favourite Harveys Sussex Best, there was also Trumans Runner, Tipster and topical Rugby inspired(I would assume!) ‘Try Time’ from Wales.  On the food front, it specialises in pork pies, a classic pub snack that is sometimes forgotten in this gastro era.

I was very impressed with The Carpenters Arms. Once again it was so reassuring to find such a solid pub in a tourist area I had previously assumed would be barren on that front. In a number of respects, it reminds me of the Leinster Arms in Queensway.  And again, like that pub, it is definitely worth a visit.

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