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LONDON PUB OF THE YEAR 2014: ROGER’S BLOG


This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of the SPBW. In addition, my thoughts and opinions change from time to time. I consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind. This weblog is intended to provide a semi-permanent point in time snapshot and manifestation of the various memes running around my brain, and as such any thoughts and opinions expressed within out-of-date posts may not the same, nor even similar, to those I may hold today.

DAY 1DAY 2DAY 3DAY 4DAY 5DAY 6DAY 7DECISION



WEDNESDAY 10 July

The Hope

The start of another round of pub judging is overshadowed by the recent sudden death of Mike Hall, NEC Chairman and one of the judging panel. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have often made jocular reference to Mike’s loquaciousness but in truth his presence will be much missed.

This evening we begin judging in the wilds of south London – Surrey, if you want to be precise. On another warm sunny late afternoon I fight my way through the commuting crowds at London Bridge Station to find my train to Carshalton. We arrive on time and I make the short walk to the Hope. This has become a regular LPotY nominee and it’s a genuine free house and community owned.

I seem to be the first of our crowd to arrive and I have to wait a while to get served as there seems to be a small rush and only one barperson. Having finally bought my pint of Downton New Forest for a mere £3.00 I look for somewhere to sit.

There is some commotion as one of the staff has fallen down the cellar steps and is being attended by paramedics for suspected cracked ribs. Having suffered such an injury twice in recent weeks I have considerable sympathy. As the victim is helped out to an ambulance some of the judging panel filter in: Patrick, Bill, John, Hugh and Aidan (Alasdair is unavailable today). We’re briefly joined by local boy Clive Poge, who’s on the tomato juice after a few heavy days.

The Hope mostly consists of one room spread around a large bar area but effectively split into a few drinking areas. There is a bar billiard table in one section and out the back the outdoor area has been much developed. Apparently grass wouldn’t grow in the garden so it was easier to board it over. Quite a few drinkers were outside enjoying the early evening sunshine. Indoors there’s no music, tv or machines to disturb conversation (only the agonised screams of the cellarman).

Back to the beer, I also tried Red Squirrel Conservation bitter from Hertford and Bingham’s Doodle Stout from Berkshire. Windsor & Eton Knight of the Garter, Clarence & Frederick strong mild, a Belgian smoked style beer from Arbor and Siren Half Mast (2.8%) were the other ales I recall. We also had a chat with former NEC man Rodger Molyneux-Roberts who now manages the pub. The Hope has plenty going for it in terms of ‘atmosphere’ and beer choice and quality. Interesting to see that half pints are served in badged glasses with a ‘2/3 pint’ line measure.

The Hope, 48 West Street, Carshalton SM5 2PR
www.hopecarshalton.co.uk



Green dragon Come 8.20 or so we packed our bags and headed south to Pound Street to wait for the 407 bus to Croydon. We got off at Reeves Corner which became famous when the furniture store that stood there for many years was burnt down by some scumbags in the 2011 riots. Sadly this part of town has something of a run-down air. Things are a bit more upbeat in Croydon High Street, not least in our second pub of the evening, the Green Dragon. This is a large street corner pub divided in to a number of areas, one of which has some plush leather sofas to lounge on. There is a pool table and an upstairs bar which tonight was hosting a private party.

The Green Dragon offers up to 6 beers on handpump and sometimes a couple on gravity (not tonight unfortunately). According to the GBG, Dark Star Hophead is a regular but not on this visit; instead we could choose between St Austell Tribute (though none of us did), Strathaven Ginger Jock, Hog’s Back Utopia, Rudgate Berserka Rage, Kelham Island Pale Rider (best beer of the day in my view) and Mind Control (a 6.9% IPA). All were served in prime condition and for under £3 a pint if you flashed a CAMRA membership card.

This is a rather less quiet pub than the Hope: there is piped music (unless it was from upstairs) in the shape of the first Doors album, and numerous tv screens showing highlights of the first day of the England v Australia Test match.  This led to some idle speculation as to any connection between England batsman Joe Root and our own John Rooth; well, apart from age, shape and talent. If you want more solid fare, there is quite a good-looking menu and food seemed to be served until quite late.

So, a good pair of pubs to start with. I left the Green Dragon at about 10.30 to walk up to West Croydon station for the Overground back to Whitechapel and District Line home.

Green Dragon, 58 High Street, Croydon CR0 1NA
www.greendragoncroydon.co.uk

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WEDNESDAY 17 JULY

calthorpe

It’s been a stifling hot day in London, and I’ve been sweltering indoors most of the day. So it’s a sort of relief to get out of the house although a short ride on the District line doesn’t offer much respite. Alighting at Whitechapel I stroll across the City, very grateful that I don’t have to put on a tie and sit in an office all day. Actually, when I did work in an office I didn’t wear a tie as it happens. I arrive at the Calthorpe Arms hot and weary and eagerly anticipating a pint. Bill, Aidan and Patrick are already on parade although John has been and gone for the time being. At the bar the friendly Lithuanian barmaid serves me a pint of Young’s Ordinary which is in its customary excellent condition. Soon after I sit down she comes to our table and puts two sets of knives and forks in front of Bill and we speculate that he’s ordered two dinners (no, one’s for the guy on the next table). There’s also some talk about the consumption of creatures such as squirrels, rats and donkeys. This fails to put Bill off his cottage pie which we can assume contains more conventional meat.
Turning back to the beer, there’s also Young’s Special and Hummingbird (4.2% ‘with a hint of passion fruit’), both very pleasant, and St Austell tribute which seems to be a fairly regular guest here.We were eventually joined by Alasdair who was wearing jacket, tie, shirt and t-shirt. I was still sweating in my t-shirt and shorts. So sylph like is AB that Bill had been obliged to commission a medium size t-shirt for him. Anyway, as far as the Calthorpe Arms is concerned, it’s a superb example of a community pub, its one bar serving local residents and workers plus various groups who use the upstairs function room – including SPBW. The food is excellent value and Adrian is a top class publican. There’s no music to distract from conversation and the tv usually has the sound turned off. A pub I never tire of visiting.

CALTHORPE ARMS, 252 Grays Inn Road, WC1X 8JR



old fountain Our other pub of the evening is in fact one I visit probably more than any other – the Old Fountain. We decide to walk there, not by the quickest route as I missed a vital turning, but at least we worked up a healthy thirst. On arrival we found John and his fellow Derby man Paul already exploring the beer range. Although the OF is an ‘after work’ sort of pub it was still fairly lively around 9 o’clock when we arrived. Many customers were taking advantage of the roof garden which is a fairly new feature of the pub. Otherwise, it’s fairly traditional, split into two rooms on different levels with a bar counter in each. There’s an all too rare darts board, a tropical fish tank and a tv which is used for major sports events. In the last year or so the OF has opened at weekends, when live music is a regular feature. Formerly a Whitbread pub, it’s been owned by the same family since 1964. Nowadays Jim (snr) and Dave (jnr) are in charge and the pub’s increased trade means that there are more regular staff. Food is available lunchtimes and early evening. The one regular beer is London Pride (which funnily enough I’ve never tried here) but there are up to 7 guests (including tonight Vale Brill Gold, Ilkley Joshua Jane, Magic Rock Rapture, Red Squirrel London Porter) from a variety of small brewers, plus a draught cider and a selection of ‘craft keg’ and ‘bottled craft’ beers. I often call in on Tuesday afternoon when the beer ticker group uses the pub as a meeting point. Usually I visit the Wenlock Arms first, which is refurbished and reopened and, who knows, maybe a nomination again in the future. But I like the Old Fountain a lot and recommend it to you all.


TheOLD FOUNTAIN, 3 Baldwin Street, EC1V 9NU


So 4 out of 14 pubs….a bit of a break until 18 August when we resume our slog around London’s best boozers at the multi-award-winning Royal Oak.

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WEDNESDAY 28 AUGUST

calthorpe

And we’re back on the judging trail. Apologies to my regular readers for a long absence, particularly as the third judging session took place a couple of Sundays ago. Unfortunately my filial obligations precluded my participation but most of the judging team made it to the Royal Oak and Blythe Hill Tavern. My last visit to the Royal Oak was about three weeks ago on the occasion of my (gulp!) 60th birthday. 15 or so of us gathered to celebrate my new old fogey status with numerous pints of Harvey’s excellent beers. Advancing years don’t seem to have affected my drinking prowess, though I’m not sure my liver would agree. The management kindly provided generous snacks to help was the beer down (though most of us had already partaken of the excellent pub fare). Anyway, I hope I don’t need to spell out the virtues of this classic pub which should be visited by any pub/beer lover.

Royal Oak, 44 Tabard Street, London SE1 4JU.







Star Tavern Anyway, let’s get up to date. This evening’s pubs are on the west side of town so on a pleasant sunny early evening I get on the District line for a ride across to Victoria. Not first time I miss the correct turning into Belgravia so I end up taking a slightly convoluted route to reach the Star Tavern. Tucked away in a mews this is nevertheless a very well known and popular pub; I first visited in the mid-1970s when it was one of the relatively few Fullers pubs to serve pressure-free beer. It won the LPotY award back in 1984 and it hardly seems to have changed over the years. The bar counter is on the right as you enter the pub and the main room is on the left. There is a nice buzz of conversation unchallenged by electronica. Tonight’s beer menu was the inevitable London Pride and ESB with ‘Gales’ Seafarers; Aspall Cyderkin (a mere 3.8%) was also on offer. Sitting down with John and Patrick I was alarmed to see the nearest mantelpiece bedecked with Christmas decorations. It turned out that this was meant to be an incentive to book your festive lunch now. Personally I find it depressing to be thinking about Christmas on 24 December, let alone late August. Meanwhile John had ordered a meal which arrived within a couple of minutes; ok we know that a lot of pub food is pre-cooked and microwaved but they might have given it a decent interval. Anyway, John found his beef bourguignon tasty if a little short on quantity. Eventually we were joined by Bill, Aidan and Alasdair. Bill gave an entertaining account of his journey home from Mike Hall’s wake the week before. Most of us had stayed in the Harp, Covent Garden, until quite late and Bill fell asleep on the Piccadilly line, rising from his alcoholic slumber at Hatton Cross (last stop before Heathrow). This being too late for a tube back he was obliged to fork out for a cab home. How Mike would have laughed!

Anyway, the Star: good unspoilt traditional pub but none of us were overimpressed with the beers, which were decidedly average to my mind. In fact I enjoyed my half of cider more than the beers. Despite this, if you’ve not been to Star, it’s worth exploring the back doubles of Belgravia for.

Star Tavern, 6 Belgrave Mews West, London SW1X 8HT



Duchess of Cambridge Time to move on and we made our way to Knightsbridge station, passing some of the most upmarket shops you can imagine. Think of the most expensive brand names (Prada, Louis Vuttion etc) and they were all represented; credit cards stayed firmly in wallets! Back on the tube and Piccadilly and District lines took us to Stamford Brook and our second pub was just half a mile north of here. The Duchess of Cambridge is sister pub to the Bree Louise at Euston and has the same policy (if not the same quantity) of ales on handpump and direct from the cask. 50p off if you belong to a beer campaigning group based in St Albans. There were two beers from Coastal brewery in Cornwall (the brewer used to run the Borough Arms in Crewe) as well as brews from Hastings, Harbour and 2 Cocks breweries. All the beers I had were in good nick although Aidan had to return his Cotleigh Osprey; no problem here, the staff were friendly and helpful. When we arrived we were virtually the only customers although the place did fill a bit as the evening progressed. Background music was not too loud and mostly from the Stax/Volt archives, which is fine with me. This is a large open plan establishment with an outdoor patio area. There’s a large function room upstairs which appears to host music, drama and comedy evenings. I think I can safely recommend a visit here; it’s about a mile west of Shepherd’s Bush.

I faced a bladder-crunching 23 stop journey home but, having avoided overimbibing, made it safely. Just a week until our next session, beginning at the nearest decent pub to my home.

Duchess of Cambridge, 320 Goldhawk Road, London W6 0XF;
www.theduchessofcambridgepub.com

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TUESDAY 3 SEPTEMBER

Grape & Grain

This isn’t an official judging session but an opportunity for me to visit two pubs earmarked for Sundays when I won’t be available to join the rest of the crew. After an early lunch I take a District line train to Whitechapel, where I get on the Overground to Crystal Palace. I’ve not been here by rail before and the station seems very grand, presumably a throwback to when the adjoining park was a popular destination. I now have a stiff walk up Anerley Hill and right at the top, across the road, is my destination, the Grape & Grain. This pub first appeared in its current guise just a few years ago and has made its mark in an area not renowned for good pubs. The G & G is a large, open plan pub with two bar counters, one totally bare, the other carrying all the handpumps, keg taps etc. This side of the pub has some comfy armchairs, the other has more traditional pub furniture and is where I rest my temporarily weary bones. There is some nice wood panelling at either end of the pub and outside is a large patio should you care to brave the traffic fumes. There is a good selection of ale on offer, from breweries such as Welton, Sambrook, Downton, Clarence & Frederick (from Croydon) and Ascot. There’s also draught cider. Members of a beer campaigning organisation founded 8 years after SPBW get 50p off a pint here. Having just paid for my discounted beer a gentleman appeared behind me and suggested to the barmaid that she topped my pint up; I assume that this kind gent (clad in natty Hawaiian shirt) was the guvnor.The pub was fairly quiet except for a wedding party who seemed to have ordered enough buffet to feed at least double the numbers in attendance. A lady who I assumed to be the bride invited me to help myself (to the food!) but I was sufficiently nourished from lunch to decline. If I’d wanted to pay for food, it’s available at the G & G all day up until 9pm.

What else? There’s a bar billiards table, a Thursday evening quiz and regular live music. All in all a pretty good pub but I feel I didn’t get a true impression of the place. A return visit, possibly of an evening, might be in order.

Grape & Grain, 2 Anerley Hill, London SE19 2AA
www.thegrapeandgrainse19.co.uk



Blythe Tavern Walking back down to the station is much easier than the uphill leg! I take the train just a couple of stops to Forest Hill and, after a sneaky comfort break in the local Wetherspoon, take the 185 bus towards Catford. The bus stop is conveniently just a few yards from pub number 2, the Blythe Hill Tavern. This is a regular nominee and indeed was runner up in last year’s competition. Arriving at about 3.15, the pub is fairly quiet and I get a typically friendly greeting from the barman. This is the thing about this pub:the landlord and his staff are always very polite and friendly; there’s something refreshingly old-fashioned about it. You get a discount if you belong to a certain beer association…oh bollocks, CAMRA!, which means my pint of Dark Star Hophead costs a bargain £2.90. This is a big seller here but I find my pint, though pleasant enough, is a tad below par. For my second pint I go for the guest ale, Tyne Bank Monument. This is quite mellow compared to the hoppy beers I’ve consumed earlier today, but a good pint.Harvey’s Best and Adnam Broadside complete the ale choice and you can take a chance with two ciders and a perry should you wish. The BHT is very much a community pub with three rooms and a large outdoor area; very much Irish slanted, reflecting the pub’s ownership. There are a few TV screens, showing various sports events (with the volume turned down). Quiz nights and live Irish music feature regularly but this is really the sort of pub to sit and talk to friends, the bar staff or other fellow customers. The BHT comes highly recommended.

Blythe Hill Tavern, 319 Stanstead Road, London SE23 1JB

My day’s not yet done. While in this corner of south east London I visit two more pubs, both owned by the enterprising Antic group: the Catford Bridge Tavern (formerly the Copperfield), very hand for both Catford rail stations, and the Ravensbourne Arms, up towards Lewisham. Both have an interesting beer selection and are worth a visit. My day out ends with a character building 35 minute journey home on the 108 bus which drops me just 50 yards from my front door or, more pertinently, 52 yards from my loo!

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WEDNESDAY 4 SEPTEMBER

Eleanor Arms

So we’re up to the 5th official judging session and it begins at my ‘local’ – that is, the only pub near me that I frequent regularly. It’s another warm and pleasant evening so I take the scenic route, walking the Lea Navigation and Hertford Union canals to arrive at the Eleanor Arms just before 7. John is already here along with fellow SPBW member Dominic. He wasn’t actually the only other fellow member in the pub since mine host Frankie (also a member) has been busily recruiting all his regulars and by the time we left I had 7 more membership forms plus cash! The evening’s new members included a local Rev who was leading a bible study group.

The Eleanor is a Shepherd Neame pub usually selling Kent Best and Master Brew plus usually a fairly obscure beer from the SN portfolio (and occasionally a guest). This evening there was Whitstable Pale Ale and Queen Court, a 4.5% autumn brew; both were quite pleasant I thought. The EA is very much a community pub; apart from the odd stray from the nearby canal and Victoria Park, most of the regulars live locally or, like me, are drawn to a fine pub. It’s hardly one you’ll pass by just by chance, more’s the pity. Most of the drinking action is in the front bar; at the back is a pool table and TV which rarely seems to be on, and there’s an outdoor area beyond that. Frankie hosts a charity quiz on the first Thursday each month and presents live jazz on Sunday evenings. Generally though it’s a pub to sit and chat over a pint or three and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I should perhaps mention that food is here is limited to baguettes with various fillings and John was so impressed he had two. We were eventually joined by the rest of the team apart from Patrick (otherwise engaged) and Bill (flying to Vienna first thing next morning). It was with some effort that everyone was rounded up for the journey to the second pub.

Eleanor Arms, 460 Old Ford Road, Bow, E3 5JP;
www.eleanorarms.co.uk



Fox & Anchor We walked round the corner to the bus stop and a number 8 came along after just a minute or two, taking us through Bethnal Green into the City of London. Just as we were getting close to our stop it suddenly diverted on to a convoluted alternative route before thankfully emerging where we would have alighted anyway, by City Thameslink station. We walked past the Viaduct Tavern and across Smithfield Market to find the Fox & Anchor. Take a look at the grand entrance as you go in (and note that the unisex toilets are down the stairs by the door); ahead is a modest sized narrow bar with some ornate decor, including mirrored panels between the seated areas.

There is also a small room at the far end with three wooden booths although by the time we arrived there was plenty of room for us. A TV showing (silently) the US Open tennis seemed a bit out of character. The bar counter has a pewter top and pints are served in pewter tankards. The beer choice was quite impressive: Dark Star Hophead, Vale Brill Gold, Arbor Tasmanian Devil, West Berkshire Jethro’s Wheat; and two from Tiny Rebel brewery in Newport (‘the only microbrewery in South Wales’). All were in fine condition but costing £4.20 a pint. As we sat down with our beers we noticed that all the tables had a black candle burning. Having left a bible class in Bow were we in for a black mass? Thankfully this seemed not to be the case. Had we wanted to smoke there was a cigar thermidor at hand. Had we wanted to eat we’d probably have done ok as well. I noticed that one of the barmaids was wearing a red top with ‘Foxy Lady’ inscribed on the back. This was presumably partly in reference to the pub’s name but it got me trying to think of any other Jimi Hendrix related slogans that might be relevant. Dear reader, you’ll be glad to know that I failed. The young lady in question was probably born a couple of decades after Jimi left the building for good and I wonder if she knew what her shirt meant. However, I digress. As the evening wore on, Alasdair announced that he was going to move on to the Harp at Covent Garden. As it was now around half ten and it would be a 15 minute journey by cab, let alone the bus, even after he finished dithering about, we wondered if it was worth it. However, he and Dominic did disappear into the night (John, also Vienna bound in the morning, had been first to leave) and I can only hope they made it in time. The rest of us drank up at leisure before wending our ways home.

I enjoyed the F & A; I imagine it must get pretty crammed early evening so try visiting a bit later, as we did. The pub actually opens at 7am (M-F, 8:30am weekends) so presumably you can have a beer and breakfast; it also offers accommodation. There’s a good few other worthy pubs in the area (Jerusalem Tavern, Old Red Cow, Hand & Shears) and Barbican tube station is only a few minutes walk away. A jolly good evening.

Only four pubs left to visit now. I’ve not been able to sort out an order of preference so far and I suspect there may be another tight vote; but that’s for the future.

Fox & Anchor, 115 Charterhouse Street, London EC1 6AA;
www.foxandanchor.com

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SUNDAY 22 SEPTEMBER

Dog and Bell

The official judging session today took in the Dog & Bell in Deptford and the Grape & Grain in Crystal Palace. I wasn’t able to make this but I’ve already visited the G & G and I did visit the D & B the previous Sunday evening. With the Quiz League of London season about to start a few of my team decided we could do with a bit of training and Sunday happens to be quiz night at the Dog & Bell. This was actually my first visit for several months and it was a great pleasure to revisit this excellent pub. Guvnor Charlie was in good form as were the beers on offer. Fullers London Pride and ESB are the permanent offerings here with three ever-changing guests from small breweries. There was quite a turnover this evening with five guests on during the evening, two having run out in the session. To my shame, I wasn’t making notes so I can’t recall the entire range but two that stood out were Westerham’s Summer Perle and Head in a Hat’s Gin – according to the brewery’s website Made with botanicals taken directly from the still, this is a fruity, golden ale where the various gin fruits and spices make a distinct but subtle impression. Head in a Hat is based at the Florence brewpub in Herne Hill, which seems worth checking out. Back in Deptford, the Dog & Bell is a superb community pub and the numerous awards (including 4 from SPBW) adorning the walls are testimony to this. There is a rare bar billiards table to the back of one room and a small outside patio. Food here is tasty and good value and the service is friendly and efficient. The Sunday night quiz is always good fun although my team failed to get in the medal positions (there are small cash prizes). The D & B is not the easiest pub to find, being tucked away in a back road off Evelyn Street, but crank up your satnavs and get there – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Dog & Bell, 116 Prince Street, Deptford, SE8 3JD.

Fox & Anchor, 115 Charterhouse Street, London EC1 6AA;
www.foxandanchor.com

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WEDNESDAY 2 OCTOBER

Willoughby Arms

And so we come to the final official judging session, starting out in the sticks and heading back into the centre to a former LPotY winner. As the afternoon turns fine after a dull morning I decide to take the tube across to Richmond and walk up the river to Kingston, about a 4 mile hike and very pleasant too. Arriving in Kingston I make my way past the rail station, through the back streets to the Willoughby Arms. I arrive to find that Bill and Patrick have just beaten me to it and have settled down with their pints. Not wishing them to drink alone I go the bar and choose from an interesting selection. Welton’s Plough the Fields is my choice and a good one too. Friendly service and a well-filled pint. Bill has already ordered a pizza and, having polished that off, tops up with a pie. We’re soon joined by Alasdair, John and Aidan and say a happy hello to Rick Robinson, who’s been mine host at the Willoughby for donkeys years and is a fine fellow indeed. No sign of the Mike-munching cat although the pub dog does come sniffing around. No chance of any crumbs from Bill’s plate! Other beers on tap included Twickenham Autumn Red (excellent), Purity Mad Goose and Surrey Hills Gilt [sic] Complex. All are in fine condition. Since the handpumps are split between the two bars, Rick has put out small fake pumps so you can see what’s on in the ‘other’ bar.

This is indeed a pub of two halves. One bar is very sport-oriented with screens showing Euro football on our visit. The other is in two sections and is very traditional and homely with frames photos and news cuttings for decoration along with heads of dead animals (watch those pies, Bill!). There’s also a pool table. The Willoughby is also HQ of SPBW Kingston branch, which was meeting that very night. We were able to say hello to Mike Lapworth before Bill, Alasdair and I had to leave – the others preferring to stay on. And why not – the WA is a superb example of a community pub, not easy to find in the back doubles of Kingston, but one that should be sought out if you’re in that part of the world.

Willoughby Arms, 47 Willoughby Road, Kingston, KT2 6LN;
www.thewilloughbyarms.com



The Harp Bar It’s about a 10-15 minute trek back to Kingston station but we don’t have long to wait for our train back to Waterloo. Then onto a Bakerloo tube to Charing Cross and round the corner to our final destination, the Harp. This was the LPotY for 2008 and it seems the pub has barely changed since. Being very handy for Charing Cross station, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and theatreland, the pub is hugely popular though far from huge in area. Inevitably it gets very crowded at times (you can try and take refuge in the upstairs room) but thankfully it’s not over-busy when we arrive around 9.30. One thing you can be sure of here is the best service around, the charming ladies behind the bar doing a splendid job. The beer range is equally splendid with 8 or so beers on tap; Harveys best, Sambrook Wandle and Dark Star Hophead and American Pale Ale are permanent I think and the other ales come from all over the place. We were able to sample 2 beers from Clarkshaws, a very new brewery in Dulwich – Gorgon’s Alive (unfiltered) and Phoenix Rising. Palmer’s Copper Ale and Raw Dark Peak Stout were among the other beers. The huge collection of pump clips on the bar gantry testify to the amazing number of beers customers here have been able to enjoy. There is also a selection of draught ciders. Beware if you have to make room for more – the toilets are accessed by a narrow windy staircase and the gents is not recommended to would-be cat swingers!

The Harp is superbly run by the estimable Binny Walsh and should be visited by all discerning beer drinkers and pub lovers. Try and avoid lunchtimes and early evenings and hopefully it won’t be too packed, but honestly, don’t miss it.

The Harp, 47 Chandos Place, WC2N 4HS;
www.harpcoventgarden.com

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WEDNESDAY 23 OCTOBER

So after three months and seven judging sessions it’s time for the Final Reckoning. The seven judges convene at Ye Olde Mitre in ‘Ye Closet’ - that is the cosy ‘snug’ area off the back bar. As ever the hospitality in YOM is superb and the beer range (and quality) is top notch. Dark Star Hophead, Buntingford Twitchell and Elgood Harry Trotter (sic), the latter a dark (4.5%) mild are the guests mingling with the usual Fullers and Adnams offerings. Scotty and Kathy kindly provided a couple of trays of snacks to help the voting process.

With solid and liquid refreshment inside us it was time for the serious business. Before we started judging we had agreed on the voting system – we all put forward our top three pubs, three points for first choice etc. As Hugh opened the ballot papers, John recorded the votes and gave a running score. The tension was almost unbearable with a few pubs in the running but eventually we could point to a clear winner.

So it’s congratulations to the Eleanor Arms in Bow, LPotY for 2014. I may be a bit biased as it’s sort of my local but it’s a worthy reward for a very well run pub. The Hope in Carshalton and the Willoughby Arms in Kingston completed the medal positions.

More details about the Eleanor Arms and the presentation event will appear elsewhere in this part of the website and PiH. In the meantime thanks to Bill for organising the judging, plus Hugh, John, Aidan, Patrick, Alasdair and – oh yes, me, for doing the hard slog of judging. It was sheer hell but worth it in the end.

It was another very enjoyable evening at the Olde Mitre, which remains highly recommended. By coincidence both Scotty of the Mitre and Frankie of the Eleanor were both once licensees in Hull. There’s a tip for future for future would-be winners!

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