East Finchley

East Finchley first opened on the Northern Line on 3rd July 1939.  Mainline rail services originally started here in 1867, operated by the Great Northern Railway. It found itself transferred to London Underground and the Northern Line as part of the ultimately abortive ‘Northern Heights’ plan, which I briefly touched on when visiting Finsbury Park.

It was rebuilt to mark the arrival of the Northern Line by Charles Holden,  the tall station building is another fine example of art-deco design, while at the same time being distinctive from his other stations of the same period.  I particularly liked the Underground roundel at the centre of the three long windows in the ticket office. This looks impressive when the interior of the hall is illuminated!  There is also an ‘Archer’ statue, by Eric Aumonier on the station roof – sadly I couldn’t catch it in my photos but here it is in all its glory!

Pub: The Bald Faced Stag, 69 High Road, N2 8AB

This was my first trip to Finchley – the area around the station is very nice and the buildings reminded me a little of Hampstead. The pub is a couple of minutes up the road, simply head out of the station onto the High Street and head up the hill and you’ll see it.

Inside its a very smart gastropub with very clean, white walls. There are comfy, red-leather backed seats in a mixture of low and high tables.  As well as the main area around the bar, there is a slightly more cosy room towards the back of the pub called the ‘Thomas Grub’ room where there is board games. As you might expect from the name, there are some antlers on the wall! There is also a pleasant dining room at the back of The Stag in a conservatory type building. It also has a sizeable garden with a large tree at the centre of it, illuminating the garden with lights hanging from it.

On the beer front, there were solid ales available on tap including TEA from Hogs Back,  Old Dairy IPA and St. Austell’s Proper Job. The food menu is divided between a pub menu including burgers and fish and chips,  and the ‘Restaurant and Vinery’ menu with more restaurant type dishes such as Wild Duck. I went for the burger and it was excellent, very filling and fully justifying a £12.50 price tag!  They also have an open kitchen, if you like that kind of thing.

It was fairly busy on the Wednesday evening we visited and the pub was showing highlights from an earlier Rugby World Cup game. A pub quiz was also about to start as we were leaving, indeed a woman in the pub seemed slightly affronted when I said we weren’t doing it – I’m not even sure she was the quizmaster so I admired the dedication to the cause!

The Bald Faced Stag is a top pub. Another example of how to do a gastropub well. Its certainly worth staying on the Northern Line for a few stops after Camden to pop up here.

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Elm Park

Elm Park station opened on 13th May 1935, another in-fill station on the District Line that was enabled by the construction of additional electrified tracks by London,  Midland and Scottish Railway. It also marks the end of my travels on the District Line – some 60 stations in total!

Building wise, its a generic grey brick box ticket office. It does have a wider ramp down to the platforms than usual, which you can see in the gallery. This is as far as I could get as the rest of the station was closed due to engineering works.

The Pub: Good Intent, South End Road, RM12 5NU

Sadly Elm Park is another area that has fared badly on the pub front. One of its former boozers by the station, The Elm Park, is now a Sainsburys, which has taken up a proportion of the building, the rest remains empty and rather forlorn. As a result, the only real pub option round here is just under 20minutes walk. To get there, head onto The Broadway, sticking on that road until it becomes Coronation Drive.  Stay on that road until you reach South End Drive, head right down here and you’ll reach The Good Intent after about 5mins.

Aside from having an excellent name,  The Good Intent is a ‘Flaming Grill’ pub. I’ve visited these a few times in the more suburban locations such as Wimbledon Park and East Acton. They pride themselves on their ‘Flaming Guarantee’ – if the food isn’t to your satisfaction, they’ll bring you another one.  Sadly they seemed to be a victim of their own success on our visit as there was an hour wait for food as a large group had just all ordered the steak, so I can’t testify this time whether the guarantee was needed! We made do with crisps and nuts instead. On the ale front, Doombar, Greene King IPA and Ruddles County.

Like their other venues we’ve been too, The Good Intent is a large, spacious pub. There are pictures of old Hornchurch on the wall but aside from that, its a pretty standard interior décor wise. There are various sections including a slightly raised area. A lot of families with children were here having their Sunday dinner. It also has BT/Sky Sports so there were also plenty of people watching the football here.  The pub also has a large back garden backing onto a nearby playing field. My disappointment from not being able to get a flaming burger was lifted somewhat by the quiz machine here. Not only was it in full working order, but we even managed to win a few quid on Pub Quiz!

Elm Park is a real pub desert and if you’re looking for a drink I’d doubt you’d be round these parts! But if for whatever reason you are, The Good Intent is a solid bet.

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Upminster Bridge

Upminster Bridge first opened its doors on 17th December 1934 on the District Line, following construction of additional tracks between Upminster and Barking allowing the opening of additional intermediate stations on this route.

When I visited Upminster Bridge, I fell foul of weekend engineering works and so had to get here on foot via Upminster due to engineering works – it had to happen again sooner or later! In many respects, the brick ticket office is very similar to other East London District Line stops but it is marked out by its hexagonal roof. Even though the station was closed, I was able to get into the ticket office and spotted an old red phonebox located within the hall.

The Pub: The Windmill, 167 Upminster Road, RM14 2RB

The Windmill is a a very short walk from the station, heading East along Upminster Road. In fact you can even make out the pub as you exit the station.

Inside, its a spacious pub with the main area seating around the bar as well as sections towards the back of the pub. Its a Green King ‘Pub and Flame Grill’, so it has their usual range of ales including Abbott and their IPAs and EPAs, in addition to Naked Ladies from the Twickenham Brewery. As the earlier prefix suggested, a lot of their food menu is orientated around meat with a a variety of burgers and steaks to choose from, as well as other ‘pub classics’. The Windmill was previously known as the Bridge House and sounded very unwelcoming from this review on beerintheevening – thankfully its put those days behind it.  There is a quiz AND curry night here on Wednesdays, one up on the usual Wetherspoons offer!

The garden here felt almost as big as the pub itself. There are a couple of tables outside the front of the pub, backing onto the road. In addition, there is a larger area in front of The Windmill’s side entrance, which is where we sat. Finally, there is also a back garden patio which includes seating under gazebos for smokers. In short, its vast!

As I said, we sat in the side garden catching some Autumnal sun. I very rarely document other peoples conversations while doing the blog but two gents opposite us were having a thorough conversation about creationism vs the big bang and when they agreed to disagree on that topic, they then moved onto particles that make up the Sun.  It seemed slightly out of place but maybe a few Abbott Ales on a Sunday brings out the philosopher in all of us?

Although nothing special, The Windmill is a solid enough spot for a pint.

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Queensbury first opened on the Metropolitan Line on 16th December 1934, coming between Canons Park and Kingsbury which had opened two years earlier. Like the rest of the Stanmore Branch, it transferred across to the Bakerloo Line in 1939 and then in turn to the Jubilee Line in 1979.

Building wise, it’s an average station with pretty standard shelters at platform level and a brick ticket hall building which forms part of a small parade of shops.  My favourite thing here was actually outside the station, in the form of a large Underground roundel located on the roundabout opposite the station. A real case of London Underground putting down a marker here!

The Pub: Sugar and Spice Lounge, 12-13 Queensbury Station Parade, HA8 5NR

Getting off at Queensbury, I had initially been stumped. Initial internet searches hadn’t thrown up any options so I was thinking of heading closer to Kingsbury in the hope of finding something there. However after seeing a prominent advert, I stumbled upon the Sugar and Spice Lounge, on the right hand side of the Roundel Roundabout.

Its sign lists it as a ‘Family Restaurant and Sports Bar’, and beer was available on tap, so it counted for my purposes so I went in. Inside, it is laid out as a typical Indian restaurant, complete with golden statues(as you can see from the gallery), as well as an impressive fish tank. There were quite a few people sat at the bar watching Sport on the numerous TVs here – showing both the Premier League and the Rugby World Cup.

On the beer front, Cobra was perhaps unsurprisingly the main option on tap. We got a couple in and sat in their small garden, which itself backs onto the tube line itself. There are a couple of tables outside for alfresco dining and drinking. There was also a TV outside in the section under the smoking shelter. The staff here were fine with us just coming in for drinks, there was no compulsion for us to get in any food. If you get peckish here, the Lounge specialises in both North and South Indian cuisine, as well as Chinese dishes, so you’ve got a wide range of curries and other meals to choose from here.

I quite like the concept of a sports bar-Indian restaurant hybrid, so The Sugar and Spice Lounge gets a thumbs up from me. Mind you, round the station this about the only option there is!

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Northwood Hills

Northwood Hills first opened on 13th November 1933 on the Metropolitan Railway. It is also my last station on the Met line. According to our friends at wikipedia, the station was named via a competition, the lucky winner being a woman from North Harrow. The same source also reveals that despite its name, it is actually at a lower point than its neighbouring stop Northwood, the next stop up on the line.

Its a pretty standard outer Metropolitan Line station architecturally,  with nothing that really catches the eye. There are a number of planters located on the platforms and certificates in the ticket hall show they’ve won a number of awards in station gardens competitions. Just outside the station, there is a very colourful ‘Northwood Hills’ sign which has been painted on a wall just outside the station.

The Pub: William Jolle, 53 The Broadway, Jolle Street, HA6 1NZ

There wasn’t much in the way of drinking options round here – a cursory look at beerintheevening suggested many have closed. As a result, we went for the only real option, The William Jolle. Its on the same side of the road as the station and a brief couple of minutes up the road.

The Jolle is a Wetherspoons so decor wise, there were no real surprises here. Like many within the chain, its pretty spacious inside. The main area of the pub is open plan, with some seating booths at the edge. It also has a dart board, something I haven’t come across in too many ‘spoons I must say. There is a small outside seating area consisting of a few tables and chairs on the pavement to the front of the pub.

In terms of food and drink, its a ‘spoons so you know what you’re getting here. I do think they deserve praise for their ale selection, and the Jolle was no exception. There were at least seven different ales on tap I counted here, from my old favourite Doombar to a couple of offerings from the Twickenham brewery and a new beer on me, ‘Space Hoppy IPA’. The times of the last Metropolitan Line trains has been written up on a chalk board near the main doors, a handy tip for those wondering whether they can fit in one last ale!

Its time within the Wetherspoons family may be numbered though – it was one of the 20 pubs the company put up for sale during the Summer. I hope the Jolle finds itself in good hands in the future.

William Jolle is another pub that ticks the box of a solid suburban ‘spoons. A sanctuary in the pub desert that is Northwood Hills. Lets hope it continues in one form or another.

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Ahh Cockfosters, a station that tends to reduce many American tourists on the Piccadilly line into fits of laughter – can’t think why? It first opened on 31st July 1933 as the north eastern terminus of the Piccadilly Line.

The Charles Holden station has many similarities to his design at Uxbridge, primarily the roof over the platforms which is reminiscent of those at European rail stations.  At this is the end of the line, there are buffers here – interestingly one has been decorated with some garden gnomes.  The buildings at street level are fairly basic and a departure from Holden’s typical striking style – if it wasn’t for the roundels you could easily miss it.

The Pub: The Cock Inn, 14 Chalk Lane, EN4 9HU

It’s a lovely rural walk to The Cock Inn. To reach it, turn down Chalk Lane which is opposite the BP petrol station.  The walk along this quiet street took us past a bowls club, cricket pitch and football club – another one of those moments where it didn’t feel like we were in London at all! It’s based towards the end of the lane.

The pub changed hands earlier this year, undergoing a full refurbishment in the process. It certainly all feels ‘fresh’ inside with that still new sparkle. Its all very smart and contemporary, in some respects reminding me more of a boutique hotel. There are some nice touches, I especially liked the sun mirror above the fireplace. The pub has been divided into two seating areas either side of the bar. Most people here were eating and the seating was laid out to reflect it.  Equally though, it didn’t feel the kind of place where it would be frowned upon if you just came here for a pint – and a good thing too! There is also a dining room at the back of the pub which can be hired out for birthday parties and functions.

The ale selection was strong here with decent variety on tap including London Pride, Broadside, Autumn Red from Caledonian and the marvellously named Silver Stallion.  As you might expect, the food menu is pretty high end with prices towards the upper end of the pub scale, with around £12.50 being standard for a main. Dishes include pub staples like fish and chips alongside restaurant cuisine like Duck Leg confit. There are also a couple of pizzas and I went for the carne(meat) option – it was very tasty.

I was a big fan of the pub overall. As I said, in many respects it feels more like a restaurant but you can still come here and have a fine ale! A fitting venue for the Northern limit of the Piccadilly Line and well worth a visit if you’re based in these parts.

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South Kenton

South Kenton marks another milestone on my blog -its the first full tube line I’ve completed(not counting the two stop Waterloo and City Line!) and its the Bakerloo.

The station first opened on 13th July 1933. Presently, it is served by both the Bakerloo as well as London Overground rail services. Virgin’s West Coast trains also blast past here on the high speed tracks that flank the station. Architecturally there’s not too much going on here – the platform shelter/ticket hall is a nice enough curved structure although it was being done up on our visit so I couldn’t really look around. There are no buildings at street level bar the entrances to the underpass. The narrow width of this route also means this is one of the very few tube stations without ticket barriers, so don’t forget to touch in and out!

South Kenton has long been a memorable station for me. Many years ago, a friend of mine who will remain nameless and was not totally au fait with the Underground was trying to get to South Kensington. Changing in Central London, he saw South Ken on the front of a tube and took his chances. This is where he ended up…

The Pub: The Windermere, Windermere Avenue, HA9 8QT

Look across from the platforms here and you’ll see the tall imposing structure that is the Windermere and its bold declaration to ‘TAKE COURAGE.’  To reach it, just follow the underpass out onto the Windermere Grove exit and you’ll be right beside it.

For reasons unknown to man, we couldn’t seem to get in the front door so had to take the side entrance by the back garden. Inside, its a pretty spacious pub. The back room, was fairly empty and had both a dart board and snooker table. The front room was far busier as it had a big screen showing the Sunday afternoon football. The Windermere has Sky/BT Sports, there was also a couple of smaller TVs in the back room. Decor wise, its fairly traditional in decent condition with a tartan carpet, old seats and wooden tables, while the pub’s wood panelling is listed.

There were two ales available here, one obviously being Courage and the other London Pride. I didn’t see any signs of food here, although one of the chalk boards inside suggested there were barbeques over the summer.  The back garden here is pretty large and facing across to the railway line.  There were also some rather basic children’s play equipment in the garden including a very small slide – I hope they take it in over winter otherwise I think it could be blown away.

I enjoyed visiting The Windermere. It’s reassuring to see a large, traditional pub like this still going strong. If you ever find yourself in South Kenton(intentionally or otherwise), it’s a decent place for a pint.

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