Holloway Road

Holloway Road Station first opened in December 1906 and was the site of a real innovation in the escalator world.A spiral escalator was built here as a experiment when the station was under construction.  As you can see from the image of what was built of the structure, it wouldn’t have been the safest of rides and was never put into passenger use. I think it would have taken more than Bumper Harris to convince people to use it!

As well as its unique tiling pattern at platform level, Holloway Road also retains the traditional ticket booth windows in its booking hall.  The signage on the Leslie Green station building still reads ‘GNP and B.RY’ – standing for the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway as it then was.

The station is located very close to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. However the station is exit only on matchdays due to it not being deemed to cope with the crowds that would use it if it were open. This is due to the fact the platforms are reached by lifts, rather than escalators. Perhaps those spiral ones would help?

The Pub: The Coronet, 338-346 Holloway Road, N7 6NJ

The Coronet is very easy to find, being located a few minutes north up Holloway Road from the station. You shouldn’t have any problem spotting it, given the large neon sign on the outside of the building!

The Coronet, as the name suggests, used to be a cinema. It originally opened in 1940, closing in the early ’80s before being converted into a pub by Wetherspoons in 1996.  It still feels very much like a cinema on the inside.  The bar is at the front of the building where the ceiling is quite low, this is due to the old balcony being above this section!

In contrast, the main area of pub has a very high ceiling and feels vast, this must have been the main section of the auditorium. Looking back towards the old balcony, there are black and white photos of old filmstars to hark back to its cinema days. The interior retains many old art-deco features – I particularly liked the lamps which have been decorated with blue fairy lights.  The floor in this section remains sloping, as it would have been to accomodate the rows of cinema seats,  so if you notice this – don’t worry it isn’t the booze!

As a Wetherspoons, there is the usual decent selection of ales on tap including Doombar and their standard food menu. I know it is a sign of the times but we all found it a little alarming that it now contains a calorie count too! It was fairly busy on our Friday night visit. Given the size of the place, it strikes me that it could be a little depressing to drink in when its too quiet!

Wetherspoons come in for a lot of criticism but I think The Coronet shows them in their best light. This old derelict cinema could have easily been demolished and turned into some soulless ’90s/’00s housing development with a Tesco expresss underneath. Instead it has been preserved with many original features remaining and for that they deserve praise.  It’s a fun experience drinking in what used to be a cinema,  and for that reason I recommend you check it out!

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Caledonian Road

Caledonian Road continues my journey of opening day stations on the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway. Architecturally it is a well preserved example of a typical station of the time, with both the Leslie Green station building at street level and the tile patterns at the platform level still intact.

It is also another station with lifts, rather than escalators. In surely an accidental piece of future-proofing, these lifts go straight down to the platforms as opposed to a mezzaine level as is the case in other stations. Without knowing it, the Edwardians had brought step free access to Caledonian Road!

I used to live off Caledonian Road while I was at University, so used this station a fair bit. For those not familiar with Cally Road itself, it’s a rather lively mix of shops and takeaways.  The road was featured on the BBC documentary ‘The Secret History of Our Streets’ back in 2012, which is worth a watch if you catch it being repeated.

The Pub: The Hemingford Arms, 158 Hemingford Road, N1 1DF

It’s a slightly longer walk than usual for this pub, but it is certainly worth it. If you head out of the station onto Caledonian Road heading South, take the turning off down Roman Way.  Walk down this road for several minutes until you reach Offord Road where you will find the Hemmingford Arms. The outside of the pub is covered in hanging baskets and flowers, so you can’t miss it!

It’s hard to know where to start when describing the interior of this pub. It’s a veritable treasure trove of old trinkets and posters, not to mention some items of taxidemery lurking around the place. There is a definite musical theme with trumpets, guitars and even an accordion hanging from the ceiling. The walls have a mixture of old film and theatre posters, interspersed with street signs from days gone by.

The wooden ceiling and old lamps help to give the Hemingford a very cosy feel. On the ale front, Doombar, Greene King IPA and UBU were all on tap on our visit. The food menu is solid traditional fare, with the pub particularly proud of their homemade steak and guinness pie.  I didn’t eat here so I can’t verify that personally! There are also a number of tables outside the pub beneath the sea of green.

The Hemingford is a top quality pub and well worth a visit. Finding these hidden gems off the beaten track is precisely the reason I started this blog. Trust me, think of a reason to head over to Caledonian Road and check it out!

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Russell Square

Russell Square station first opened its doors on 15th December 1906 on the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway.  At platform level, it retains its original tiling. When the GNPBR opened, each station was given its own unique tile colour and patterning.

Unlike the major Central London Piccadilly Line stations, Russell Square has not seen its lifts replaced by escalators. On our visit to the station, one of these lifts was being repaired and so there were queues for the two operational lifts. There is a staircase to street level but the TfL posters warn passengers that it is the equivalent to a 15-storey building and to only use them in an emergency!

At street level, the station offers a fine example of the typical Leslie Green design. Old style Underground signage can also be found beneath two of the arches, as well as traditional street lamps. Russell Square Station is also associated with the tragedy of the 7/7 bombings, with 26 people killed on a train travelling between Kings Cross and the station. There is a memorial to the victims within the ticket hall area.

The Pub: The Lamb, 94 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1

To reach The Lamb, head along Bernard Street, turning down onto Grenville Street to reach Guildford Street. From there, head west until you reach Guildford Place which leads you to Lamb’s Conduit Street where you will find the pub.

The Lamb marks a welcome return to a Youngs pub for me on the crawl, its been too long!  It is a grade II listed building which first opened in 1729. The green tiled exterior gives you a hint of the historic nature of the pub, with the frosted glass with the lamb in the centre another nice touch. I particularly liked the old style street light that is hanging adjacent to the pub’s sign.

The interior is also suitably traditional with the old wooden bar in the centre of the main room. Some ‘Snob screens’ still remain at the bar, which would have allowed the class conscious Victorians to shield themselves from the bar staff. The walls are decorated old pictures of the local area alongside photographs of music hall stars who performed at the nearby and long since demolished Holborn Empire.  The green leather backed seats and old style lamps help to create a warm, cosy atmosphere. Another item of interest in the pub comes in the shape of a Polyphon, the gramophones predecessor. For a small donation to charity, you can hear it in action!

As a Youngs pub, the Lamb obviously has a solid selection of ales, with Adnams Southwolds, Directors Bitter and London Fields Brewery alongside the obvious Youngs Best and Special. The menu is proper pub grub with bangers and mash, gammon steak, ‘the Lamb Burger’ and steak and ale pie all jumping out at me.

As an added bonus, there is a small but perfectly formed patio garden at the back of the pub – a rarity in Central London. The Lamb is a charming pub in the heart of Bloomsbury and is most definitely worth a visit!

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Holborn is the closest station to the British Museum, so perhaps it is only right it has a lively history of its own.  The station opened on the same day as the Great Northern, Brompton and Piccadilly Railway. On 30th November the following year,  the line’s branch to Aldwych opened. When Holborn first opened, the Central London Railway(as it was then called) passed extremely close by with its British Museum Station, but no interchange was available.

Like other Zone 1 Piccadilly Line stops, the station was modernised in the early 1930s to replace the lifts with escalators.  This was also the period at which the Central Line platforms were added,  opening on 25th September 1933, the day after the British Museum Station had closed. The station was also renamed to Holborn(Kingsway) but this didn’t stand the test of time. The last tube map I can find with that name on dates from 1960.

The Aldwych branch, stuck out on a limb from the tube network, struggled for passengers for many years. After many service reductions, finally shut in October 1994 after the cost of buying a replacement lift was declared prohibilitvely expensive. The now disused third platform at Holborn is often utilised for the purposes of TV/Movie filming.

Another slice of transport history adjacent to the station comes in the entrance to the disused Kingsway Tramway Tunnel. There are plenty of good articles about it online, including two from the excellent blog London Reconnections, one from 2009 and another from 2012.  I was lucky enough to go inside the tunnel when it was being used for an art exhibition in late 2009. While the art wasn’t really my scene, the tunnel itself was fascinating.

At street level, there are station buildings both from the original opening in 1906(Leslie Green’s), as well as those enhanced in the Charles Holden style during the 1930s modernisation. The platforms and areas around the escalators are decorated with images of Egyptian Mummies and other artifacts likely to be found at the British Museum. I’ve always found them rather quaint, but they are no doubt helpful in reassuring tourists they’ve got the right station!

The Pub: Holborn Whippet, 25-29 Sicilian Avenue, WC1A 2QH

The pub, Holborn Whippet is found just north of the station, based on the charmingly named ‘Sicilian Avenue’, which branches off from the western side of Southampton Row.

The Whippet has a stripped down vibe to it with white walls, plain wooden seating and tables. To me it feels a bit like a bar you might find somewhere on the continent.  I really like how you can find a ledge to perch your drink on and look out onto the world outside, futher adding to the continental vibe.

The beer selection here is very impressive, with up to 17 different beers available on tap at any one time which are in turn rotated on a regular basis.  On on our visit, ales available included Sutra IPA from the Instant Karma Brewery and the equally wonderfully named Scarlet Macaw. I went for the Macaw, which turned out to be a very pleasant amber ale with a mildly fruity twist.  On the food front, they seem to tap into the perfect foods to go with beer(well in my opinion anyway) including burgers, pizzas and currywurst. What more could you want?!  There are a range of sandwiches and salads for those who prefer lighter bites.

Whenever I’ve passed it or dropped in,  The Whippet has always been really busy with larges crowds both within the pub and also in its outside terrace area within the corinthian columns of Sicilian Avenue.  The Holborn Whippet is unquestionably a great pub, it’s always such a pleasure to find somewhere so unique and vibrant in Zone 1. Definitely check it out!

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Leicester Square

Leicester Square is another tube tourist hot-spot, given the status the square itself has with film premieres and the like, as well as being pretty close to Trafalgar Square. It first opened on 15th December 1906 on the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway.  The Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway followed soon after on 22nd June 1907.

As a result of growing passenger numbers and the need to replace lifts with escalators,  the station’s underground ticket hall was comprehensively rebuilt in the 1930s. However unlike others on the Piccadilly Line, the original street-level buildings remain, with a Leslie Green station building on the east side of Charing Cross Road.  Above a section of this building that is now occupied by ‘Wok to Work’, there is picture of some cricket stumps. The offices above the station used to house the publishers of Wisdens Cricketers Almanack(‘the bible of all cricket’, to those who aren’t inititated).

The platforms on both the Piccadilly and Northern lines are decorated with film sprockets. This dates back to the ’80s scheme to jazz tired Underground platforms up a bit.

The Pub: The Salisbury, 90 St Martins Court, WC2N 4AP

Given Leicester Square is a tourist hotspot, I again feared it would be hard to find a pub in this vicinity with any character. Fortunately I was proved wrong.  The Salisbury is about 2 minutes walk from the station. Walk down Charing Cross Road in the direction of Trafalgar Square, turn onto St Martins Court and head along here till you reach the pub on the junction with St Martins Lane.

To be honest, you get a hint The Salisbury might be a little different from its striking exterior, with gold-painted cherubs above the main door. The interior is no less understated, with the striking cut-glass that adorn the walls. Directly beside them are ornate gold lamps, above the alcoves of red-leather backed seating. The pub in its current form dates back to 1898. Given its impressive interior, it has featured in a number of films including Victim starring Dirk Bogarde.

There is also a good range of ales on offer here, with Youngs Best, Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, Bombardier and Hophead from the Sussex Brewery Dark Star. On the food front, it’s pretty standard fare with ‘Great British Sunday Roasts’ and ‘Fish and Chips’ being advertised – well you’ve got to have something for the tourists!

A further tick for the Salisbury for me came with their music selection. Now this was no doubt due to the inspired choices of a staff member, but while we were there they played Prince, Rick James, Morris Day and The Time AND Jermaine Jackson. I’m not sure how many other fans of ale, traditional pubs and 80s funk/soul there are out there, but I found it a great combination!

The Salisbury really impressed me. I went in with low expectations given the manic, touristy nature of the surrounding area but very impressed by what is a very lavish and well preserved pub. Definitely worth stopping in for a pint!

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Green Park

Green Park first opened on 15th December 1906 on the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway. The station, like others on this stretch of the Piccadilly Line, was rebuilt in the 1930s to allow the replacement of lifts with escalators. The main entrance to the station is based at the bottom of a rather grand building on the North side of Piccadilly.

The Victoria Line began calling here in 1969, followed by the Jubilee Line in 1979. I wouldn’t recommend changing onto the Piccadilly Line from either the Victoria or Jubilee, it’s quite a fair old walk underground between the two.

The station was modernised a few years back ahead of the 2012 Olympics to allow the introduction of lifts and step-free access.  These are accessed on the south side of Piccadilly, where there is also a new station canopy designed by John Maine called Sea Strata.

The Pub: Ye Grapes, 16 Shepherd Market, W1J 7QQ

Ye Grapes is located around 5 minutes walk from the station.  You need to head west along Piccadilly itself until you reach White Horse Street. Head up that street until you reach Shepherd Market where the pub is located. Incidentally, Shepherd Market itself, with its village community feel in the heart of central London(as put on their website!), is also well worth an explore.

Based on the corner of the market area, Ye Grapes is perfectly situated in terms of providing an outside space for drinkers. The pub, which proudly proclaims its Victorian heritage dating back to 1882, has a cosy traditional interior with a painted red ceiling and chandeliers. There is a raised seating area towards the door, with the area around the bar more designed for standing.

On the ale front, there were decent staples such as London Pride and Doombar available when we dropped in. The food offering is slightly more interesting. As well as traditional options such as burgers and hot dogs, both of which were on special offer throughout the World Cup, Ye Grapes also has a full Thai kitchen operating in the upstairs of the pub. I couldn’t resist a burger for a fiver and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Although the pub was heavily decorated with World Cup flags, I could still make out some other interesting items on the wall, including a Moose’s head on the back wall! It was pretty busy on our visit, with plenty of people like us watching the moment where Spain were rather meekly eliminated from the World Cup by Chile.

I was very impressed with Ye Grapes. I am always a bit wary of pubs in the heart of Central London, especially around the West London, but this is a really solid place. It’s definitely worth visiting!

(The pub has no website)

Hyde Park Corner

Hyde Park Corner first opened on 15th December 1906 on the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway. Following modernisation work in the 1930s to remove the lifts and replace them with escalators, there are now no station buildings above ground.  The station can be spotted by the Underground roundels hovering on the edges of a busy roundabout.

The original Leslie Green station building still exists, but is now occupied by a swanky hotel. I managed to get a photo of the exterior without a top hatted doorman tutting at me…

Given the staton exits out onto a subway, it’s one of those confusing ones where one wrong turn results in you being on completely the wrong side of the road to where you want to be! There is some interesting art in the subway tunnels, which I assume is depicting historical scenes in the park.

The Pub: The Rose and Crown, 2 Old Park Lane, W1K 1QN

The Rose and Crown is located to the east of the Hyde Park Corner roundabout. It is off Piccadilly on Old Park Lane. It is just past the Hard Rock Cafe, so if you pass that, you’re heading in the right directon!

The downstairs of the pub is fairly generic with a white ceiling, green walls and nothing much in the way of interest inbetween! Given the amount of space that has been left seating free and therefore standing space, I assume it must get quite busy at weekends. The crowd on our weekday evening visit was a mixture of suits and tourists.

There were a decent couple of ales available in Black Sheep and Bombardier.  The food looked like standard pub fare with fish and chips and the like. The staff in The Rose and Crown all seemed friendly. I particulary liked the bar manager on duty who told me there wasn’t a charge for card payments because she didn’t think it was fair. More people like that please!

While the downstairs is a bit plain and generic, the upstairs dining room does have more going for it. The deep red walls combine well with the chandeliers helps to give the room a bit of character. I can imagine it being pretty cosy in the winter.

In short, The Rose and Crown is far from a bad pub, it is just not a particularly memorable one. I’m sure you’d have a pleasant time visiting here but there are better and more interesting venues elsewhere, especially in Central London!

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