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?!