london pubs

Bar well and truly raised

Ten years ago, with the range of beers they offer today, the Red Lion in Leytonstone or the Bull in Highgate would have been among the best pubs in London. Now, while certainly way better than run-of-the-mill, they merely count as friendly neighbourhood craft beer bars.

That’s right: every neighbourhood in London now seems to have a craft beer bar and many (like the Bull) are also brewing. Everywhere you look, there are enamel signs advertising Orval and glowing neon Brooklyn Brewery logos. These days, you’re never more than a bus ride from a pint of Dark Star or a Camden Helles.

These kinds of places seem (thank God) to be replacing the kind of ‘style bars’ or ersatz ‘gastropubs’ which were everywhere until recently and which had snobbery without the saving grace of exciting beer. They were the kinds of places where you would be charged a fiver for a pint of stale Erdinger wheat beer or four quid for a pint of UK-brewed San Miguel; now, for that money, you get beers that are (arguably) worth the asking price.

There’s more detail on each of these pubs to follow in subsequent posts. Suffice to say we liked them all the more for their localness: drinking in them didn’t feel like a trip to Beerworld, Britain’s newest theme park.

london pubs

Quite a change

“It’s quite a change”, commented a bewildered local outside the newly refurbished Jolly Butchers in Stoke Newington, North London, as we were on our way in.

Following Pete’s enthusiastic review, we scooted across to Stokey to check it out. We were excited to hear about this new arrival because we’ve long thought that Stoke Newington is exactly the sort of place you’d expect to find a good pub with decent food. As previous scouting trips have shown, however, to date, there have been lots of places masquerading as good boozers but actually displaying the worst tendencies of the pretentious would-be gastropub: crap beer and overpriced food.

It was pretty busy, which bodes well, but we managed to nab a table. As reported by Pete, the beer range is pretty cool – Dark Star, Thornbridge, and Schlenkerla rauchbier on tap. Nice to see an emphasis on the local, too, with brews from Brodie’s (Leyton, further east) and Tottenham, further north. The food really was quite satisfying — posh pub grub and convincing (that is, very processed) bratwurst for those who yearn for the beer gardens of Germany.

The beer condition was a little disappointing. We found the ales slightly warm and served with zero head (thanks again for that ‘take it to the top’ campaign, CAMRA) but it is only their first week and that will hopefully improve.

All in all, if we lived in the area, we’d be seriously chuffed, and its immediate success, and that of CASK in Pimlico, suggests that London can support a few more really decent pubs yet.

london pubs

Pump creep

The owners of Cask, our current favourite London pub, have obviously decided to pull out all the stops on the beer front. They’ve just expanded from five cask ale pumps to eight, including two from Dark Star and three from Thornbridge.  Moravka Lager has also appeared.

The keg beer has got better too — out go Guinness and Fosters to be replaced by Keesman Herren Pils, Brugse Zot (blonde and brown), Rothaus Pils and Weizen, Mort Subite Kriek, and Kuepper’s Koelsch. The range of bottles from small german breweries continues to impress with some real obscurities sitting in the fridges.

A great pub just got even better.

We’re also delighted to see that our local has added an extra pump for cask ale.

beer and food london

Tasty treats at the Charles Lamb


The Charles Lamb in Islington is one of our favourites because you can get beautifully-kept pints of Dark Star Hophead and Butcombe Bitter.  (As regular readers will know, Bailey is partial to a pint of foaming Butcombe. Hur hur.)

We were delighted to find that they also have the legendary Jaipur on at the moment.  Do I need to rave about how lovely this beer is?  It stood up very well the American ‘extreme’ beers I was drinking on Friday, not just in terms of hoppiness, but its wonderful viscous body.

The Charles Lamb has also recently replaced Amstel with Meantime Helles (great idea) and are now featuring “limited edition” specials from said London brewery.  This month’s offering was the Elderflower Maibock, which was rather odd.  We wanted to like it, but it was a little too sweet, and tasted a bit like a rubbish dunkles from a north German brewpub.

For more about the Charles Lamb, see their website.  As well as full meals, they do a great range of bar snacks, like potted prawns and toast.


Photo from Andyrob at Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons. Thanks, Andy!

london pubs

The Edgar Wallace

It’s always great to stumble upon a nice pub in London selling more than the usual Adnam’s, Pride and Deuchars*.

A work outing of all things brought me to the Edgar Wallace, on Essex Street (opposite the Royal Courts of Justice) which had seven or eight handpumps featuring interesting brews from around the country.  It was a school night, so I stuck to a couple of corking sub-4%-ers. They were Dark Star Mild for May, and Phoenix Hopsack, a pleasantly bitter pale ale.  If you want more info on the range available, their website is regularly updated with what’s on tap and what’s in the cellar.

The pub also does decent, reasonably priced food.

Beer in the evening review here.


*Not that I have anything against Adnam’s, or Pride, but they seem to be on offer everywhere in central London.