Knightsbridge

Knightsbridge first opened on 15th December 1906 on the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway. The station buildings date from the 1930s, when extensive reconstruction work took place both to deal with congestion and allow the replacement of lifts with escalators.

Additional exits were also installed at this time to allow easy access to the nearby retail emporiums of Harrods and Harvey Nichols. The station remains very popular to this day with tourists for that very reason.  The station was refurbished fairly recently, as you can tell from the gleaming white tiles in the ticket hall.

The Pub: The Wilton Arms, 71 Kinnerton Street, SW1X 8ED

Given the area around Knightsbridge Station is best known for high-end shops, I didn’t have high hopes for finding a good pub in the area. Fortunately I was proved very wrong on this occasion!

The Wilton Arms is about a five minute walk from the station.  Head East along Knightsbridge in the direction of Hyde Park, turning down Wilton Place until you reach Kinnerton Street where you will find the pub. From the outside, it looks like a classic mews pub, complete with hanging baskets in full-bloom.

The interior is also pretty traditional, with a red painted ceiling and one of those old-school pub carpets. Seating wise, there are a couple of wooden booths in the main bar as well as a conservatory that acts as the function room. There are various nik-naks and trinkets on the walls, as well as several paintings of ducks.

The pub is run by the Kent-brewery Shepherd Neame, so ales on tap include Whitstable Bay and Spitfire. The food menu is very much solid pub grub with pies, burgers and the like. There are a couple of TVs here, one was showing Channel 4 Racing and the other a World Cup game. The Wilton also has a Sky Sports licence for when the football season starts again.

The Wilton Arms has all the hallmarks of a solid old-school boozer. But what makes it even better in my eyes is its location. Given all the flashy consumerism of the shops on nearby Knightsbridge, not to mention the high-end hotels,  the last thing you’d expect to find just down the road is a traditional pub with frosted windows showing horse racing on the telly.  But that’s exactly what you get at the Wilton Arms, long may it continue!

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Eastcote

Eastcote Station first opened on 26th May 1906 on the Metropolitan Railway, the same day as neighbouring Rayners Lane.  Like that station, it too gained District Line services in 1910 that were in turn transferred to the Piccadilly Line in 1933.

It’s also very similar design wise to Rayners Lane, being another Charles Holden 1930s rebuild with a tall brick ticket hall. The outside frontage of the building here was festooned with lights on my trip to the station. It was still very sunny at the time so sadly I didn’t get to see what it looks like in operation, or even what colour the lights are.

Eastcote also has a garden at platform level, dominated by an impressively sized Yukka plant. I hope station staff are keeping it well nourished in this hot weather!

The Pub: The Ascott, 144 Field End Road, HA5 1RF

The Ascott is a few minutes north of the station on Field End Road.It is based in a large building, complete with mock Tudor-frontage.  It has a spacious interior that has been sub-divided into a number of areas. One of the sections, set slightly further back from the main interior, was mainly made up of people eating and had some bookshelves in the alcove to give it a more homely feel.

The pub is part of the ‘Flaming Grill’ chain, who also operate The Woodman which I visited in Wimbledon Park last year. It therefore has the same menu, with an emphasis on burgers, steaks and other grilled foods(unsurprisingly!) available at reasonable prices – a burger and a drink combined was £6.99 on our visit. The Ascott has a decent front garden, with some pot plants scattered around the place for added greenery.

On the ale front, there were some solid beers on tap including Tribute and Old Speckled Hen. It was an interesting mix of clientele on our early Saturday evening visit, with a few kids still running around the place nearly bumping into the older, gravel-voiced gents there to watch the World Cup. The pub was also ramping up the dance music, with people arriving looking well dressed for a night out. There is also a fully functioning quiz machine which I even managed to win £3 on!

Like other outer London pubs I’ve visited, I think The Ascott is going for the ‘Saturday Night’ venue in its own right vibe, to appeal to those who don’t want to trek into town. All in all, it’s another amenable enough place for a drink in suburbia.

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Rayners Lane

Rayners Lane first opened as Rayners Lane Halt on 26th May 1906 on the Metropolitan Railway’s branch to Uxbridge. The station name derives from a local farmer, called Daniel Rayner, who owned a farm on nearby land.

In 1910, the District Line services started calling at the station, via a junction connecting the station with South Harrow and allowing services on that line to operate up to Uxbridge.  This route was transferred over to the Piccadilly Line in 1933.

Like others in this area, the station was rebuilt in the early 1930s to the designs of Charles Holden, complete with art-deco shelters at platform level and European style ticket hall with cloistral style windows.

On one of the platforms there is a small station garden, complete with flower bed and a number of hanging baskets. It serves as a nice contrast to the harsh metallic fencing and grey retaining wall behind the platform.

The Pub: The Village Inn,402-408 Rayners Lane, HA5 5DY

Rayners Lane is another typical slice of suburbia – the area around the station is made up of what looks like a 1930s shopping parade with low-rise housing based above them. The Village Inn is based on this precinct, a couple of minutes down from the station. It’s a Wetherspoons but with options limited, we didn’t really have much choice.

It’s pretty spacious, as most Wetherspoons are. There are two main areas, one based around the bar and an additional seating areas down a small flight of stairs, divided up into booths. There is also an ample garden/patio area at the back of the pub.

The Village Inn, like many other ‘spoons pubs, has a decent selection of ales with Doombar, Knights of the Garter and Bombardier all available on tap. With the World Cup in full swing on our visit, the pub was decorated with many flags, including a couple of large England ones. As well as a couple of TVs, a projector was also on hand to show the games.

There is a nice historical touch with a display on the walls about ‘Metroland’, the name given to the developments that sprung up across North West London following the development of the Metropolitan Railway. Rayners Lane fits into this model neatly, with much of the area being built up in the late 1920s and 1930s.

The Village Inn is a perfectly acceptable place to grab a pint in Rayners Lane. There isn’t anything particularly standout-ish about it but then again, you wouldn’t really expect it from a suburban ‘spoons.

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Lambeth North

Lambeth North tube station first opened on 10th March 1906 as Kennington Road. It only took a couple of months before it was renamed to Westminster Bridge Road, before becoming Lambeth (North) in 1917 and then losing the brackets in 1927.

It’s another standard Leslie Green ‘Oxblood’ coloured station building. It is a relatively quiet station by Zone 1 stations, being located just the other side of the river from Westminster. It is the closest station for the Imperial War Museum, which reopens in a matter of days.

It’s also got a rather fond place in my heart as it was my local tube station for 10 months in 2013.

The Pub: The Ship, 171 Kennington Road,SE11 6SF

I was always going to visit The Ship for Lambeth North. It was here in early 2013 where the idea for the blog first came about while having a drink with two friends. At that stage I had only decided in my mind I wanted to do a blog of pub reviews – little did I know what I was getting myself into!

It’s easily reached from the station.  If you exit the station onto Kennington Road, simply keep on heading down the road to pass the Imperial War Museum. About 5 minutes after passing it, you will come to The Ship.

The Ship is a fairly spacious pub. The interior itself is a mix of the modern, being bright and airy and the traditional, with old lamps above the bar and various nautical photos and paintings(naturally!) dotted around the place. There is also a bar billiards table too.

It also always has a good selection of ales on offer. When I dropped by for the review these included Wandle, Adnams Broadside and Atlantic from Sharps. They often frequently had Harveys available on tap,  further improving their standing in my estimation. On the food front, they have a decent pub menu. I regularly used to drop in for their burgers and these were also excellent. They do a mean chocolate brownie too!

Given its light and open atmosphere, it is popular with families and is definitely a child friendly pub during the day. Seating wise, I always liked the spot towards the back of the pub in the slightly raised section with the comfy chairs.

The Ship also benefits from having a fair sized patio area outside the front of the pub. The greenery that has grown at the edge of this serves as a natural barrier onto the busy Kennington Road. The pub holds regular quiz nights as well as live music and bands at the weekends. On top of all that, there is also 3 accomodation suites available above the pub for families and groups.

As The Ship helped inspire me to start the blog, I am of course going to recommend you visit it! After you’ve popped into the reopened and refurbished Imperial War Museum,  come here for a drink afterwards. It’s well worth the trip.

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Waterloo

Waterloo is the busiest of all stations on the Underground network, with a staggering 88million+ journeys beginning and ending here in the financial year 2012/13.  It first opened on the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway in March 1906.  The Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway began calling here in September 1926 as part of its extension to Kennington.

Despite being based underground, the Waterloo and City was until 1994 considered a part of the British Rail network. Upon privatisation, it was sold to London Underground for the very reasonable sum of £1. The Waterloo and City Line is the only one on the network to run underground for its entire, admittedly short, length. This means that when maintenance work needs to be carried out on the trains, they need to be hoisted from the shafts below ground by the aid of a crane. This happened in 2006. There used to be a lift specially for this purpose but it was demolished during the construction of Waterloo International in the early 1990s.

The Jubilee Line extension arrived here in 1999.  Much of the station itself is subsumed into the overall mainline rail complex, which with its grand glass roof, is pretty striking in its own right. One of the slightly more bizarre features of the tube station is the two model elephants by the escalators in the Waterloo Road ticket hall. This is one of the parts of the station that feels like it was redone during the Jubilee Line extension, so I assume they date from then. If anyone can shed any further light on it, let me know!

The Pub: The King’s Arms, 25 Roupell Street, SE1 8TB

Exiting the station via Waterloo Road is your best bet to reach The King’s Arms. Head north along the road and turn off onto Sandell Street. You then need to go under the railway arches on C0rnwall Road, again heading north until you reach Roupell Street where you will find the pub.

Before getting onto the pub itself, I just want to take a minute to describe Roupell Street itself. It is a narrow street comprised of low-rise terraced Georgian housing. Despite only being a couple of minutes walk,  it feels a world away from the large, modern office developments that flank Waterloo Station. It felt particularly atmospheric once dusk had set in.

The King’s Arms is another fine, traditional pub. The front bar remains divided into a ‘saloon’ and ‘public bar’ area and hasn’t been knocked through. You have to go through a door or out the front to pass between the two. Enlivening the walls are a collection of historic local maps, old photos of the area and classic beer adverts,  such as ‘Guinness as Usual’ which can be seen in the gallery. There is plenty of wood paneling and traditional lamps hanging from the ceiling.  As well as that, the pub also has a sizeable back room which has a barn like feel to it with wooden beams supporting the high ceiling. There is also an open fire in both rooms.

It’s another fine venue for ale lovers. Beers that were available on our visit included Adnams Broadside, Red Brick and the rather triumphant sounding ‘Ale of Kings.’ On the food front, The King’s Arms has a full Thai menu apart from Sundays, when traditional roasts are available.

You don’t expect to find such a well preserved pub like The King’s Arms so close the hustle and bustle of the South Bank and Waterloo Station. The King’s Arms is definitely a must visit, it’s a real gem of a pub!

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Charing Cross

Charing Cross Station has a rather complex history, so please bear with me! The Bakerloo line part of the station first opened on 10th March 1906,  then called Trafalgar Square.  The Northern Line platforms opened the following year, called Charing Cross,  on the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway as it was then known.  The CCHR was extended southwards to meet the District Line at Embankment, which was then also called Charing Cross! After a short spell as Charing Cross(Strand), to distinguish from Charing Cross(Embankment) on the District Line the Northern line platforms became known simply as Strand.

The whole complex was simplified in the 1970s with the coming of the Jubilee Line.  Interchange was introduced between both Trafalgar Square and Strand stations, which were both helpfully renamed Charing Cross.  Thankfully at this point, the District Line station was renamed Embankment, otherwise things would have been really confusing. If my explanation lost you at any point, this map from Wikipedia should help matters!

After all that, the Jubilee Line only called here for 20 years as the much delayed extension to the line ended up being re-routed away from the original proposals to head towards Fleet Street.

The underpasses that lead to the station are rather bleak. With the white and orange wall tiling and strip lighting, it all feels rather dated and in need of a revamp. If I were a tourist getting off here, it wouldn’t give me a great first impression. That said, I’m sure seeing Trafalgar Square soon makes up for that! The green walls in the ticket hall aren’t much better either.

Things do improve down at the platform levels. When the station was reconfigured in 1979 to mark the (brief!) arrival of the Jubilee Line, a mural, by David Gentleman, was commissioned for the Northern Line platforms detailing the construction of the first ‘Charing Cross’,  dedicated to Queen Eleanor at the end of the 13th Century. This added bit of life to the tired Underground network was so well received that the GLC embarked on a programme of further platform art enhancements in the early 1980s.  This included the vivid Eduardo Paolozzi  mosaics at Tottenham Court Road and the incredibly 80s lines at Embankment, both of which also remain in situ today.

The Pub: The Harp, 47 Chandos Place, WC2N 4HS

The Harp is perfectly suitated, just off Trafalgar Square. The pub’s website have made a handy video of how to get there from Charing Cross –  I will defer to their good judgement on this one!

The Harp has a relatively small frontage, but chances all you’ll spot it given all the people likely to be outside enjoying a pint! It’s a pub with real pedigree, winning the 2010/11 National CAMRA pub of the year award, as well as countless Greater London CAMRA awards over the years.

As I am sure will be no surprise, they have a full and varied collection of ales – 10 different ales are always available on tap. On our visit this included Palmers Copper Ale, Blue Bee Nectar Pale and Red Dawn Mild. I am delighted to report one of their regular beers is Harvey’s Sussex Best, one of my favourite pints around. Sussex is further represented by Dark Star beers which are also regularly available.  On the food front, they stick to what they know and only serve up their range of award winning sausages.

Above one end of the bar, there are I would guess at least 100 beermats, advertising various different brews. I would also assume that all have been able at one stage or another at The Harp. The downstairs bar is relatively narrow and cosy, in the way that good old fashioned London pubs tend to be. The front windows are stained glass incorporating a Harp on each of the main panels.The walls are adorned with a mixture old portraits and ornate mirrors. There is also the upstairs room which is said to have a quieter pace. Due to the popularity of the pub, finding a seat can be a real challenge!

The Harp is without question one of the top pubs in Central London. I hope that tourists are able to find it and sample the delights of a proper, traditional London pub!

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Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is undoubtebly one of London’s premier tourist ‘spots’, so to speak, being located at the heart of the West End. It is famous for those bright advertising hoardings which crowds of people always seem drawn to. The station first opened along with the Baker Street and Waterloo Railway on 15th March 1906. It was then added as a stop on the newly opened, and equally concisely named, Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway on 15th December 1906.

Piccadilly Circus may have no buildings at street level, but it sure makes up for it below ground. The circular ticket hall is another Charles Holden art-deco triumph,  dating from a rebuild of the station in the 1920s to cope with ever increasing passenger numbers. It is now Grade II listed with plenty of little items of interest. I think my favourite has to be the large map displaying all of the world time zones. Also harking back to days gone by, one of the side areas was given over to public telephones. The sign remains but the phones have long since gone.

When it first opened, there was a Leslie Green station building at street level. This however closed at the end of the 1920s after the opening of the underground ticket hall. The building itself soldiered on until being demolished in the 1980s to make way for a new development.

The Pub: The Queens Head, 15 Denman Street, W1D 7HN

To reach The Queens Head, make sure you take exit 1 out of the station(there are 8 options!) to head up Sherwood Street. You will find The Queens Head on Denman Street a minute or two up the road.

The pub has a rather charming and and in places lavish interior – this is best evidenced by the chandelier at the back of the main room along with a set of mirrors topped by an old decorative clock. The pub itself dates back to 1736.  The upstairs is given over as a ‘dining room’, with traditional pub dishes on offer and a pre-theatre menu for those looking for nourishment before a show.

As a free house, the Queens Head has a free reign(excuse the pun) on the ales it gets in. On our visit there was a nice mixture, from the old staple London Pride to Lavender Hill from Sambrooks and Hophead from the highly regarded Sussex brewer Dark Star. There was also ‘Trooper’ from Robinsons brewery, a beer inspired by Iron Maiden, as you may gather from the artwork on the beer tap. I went for a pint of Hophead which is a refreshing, summery ale.

As it was pretty busy inside, we stood outside and enjoyed the mid evening sun. The pub is right by the Piccadilly Theatre, so half way through our drinks there was an exodus of people departing a performance of Jersey Boys!

Very shortly after my visit, The Queens Head got a spot of ‘interesting’ publicity when the embattered Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and his ertswhile colleague Vince Cable posed here having a pint, in an attempt to both promote a policy of theirs and dispell rumours of a feud between the two. Sadly party apparatchik’s didn’t let any of the journos in the pub, so it ended up with Vince and Nick looking awkwardly at their pints of ales with the press pack peering through the window.  As someone wrly remarked at the time, it was like scene from Shaun of the Dead where they are taking refuge in the pub from the zombies outside.

Regardless of whether there are Lib Dem cabinet ministers forlornly looking at their pint of Iron-Maiden inspired ale, this is a great place to visit. A rare independent pub in the heart of London with a top range of ales. What’s not to like?!

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