Friday, 8 March 2013

Oxford Street

Sometimes I plan the tours for several days beforehand, sometimes I don’t.

Oxford Street was definitely in the latter category. I’ve already got an outing for the final Community Chest square planned for the weekend so it was imperative that we did get Oxford Street out of the way this week, but when I checked the map there was a cluster of 6 pubs at the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street which was just far too tempting to ignore. So how to squeeze in a 6 pub crawl in the middle of the week without rending the older ones in the group (i.e. everyone but Ed) unfit for work the next day.
The answer as a particular annoying advert might say was simples. Join Aussie Pete on the halves!
But even though it was a mid-week and a last minute organised tour there was still a healthy number of attendees, including a couple of repeat offenders: Back down for another bit of London education was Munchkin Steve and also joining on a repeat appearance was Big-J. We also had the pleasure of New-Guy Micky who hadn’t been on the tour for a couple of weeks. Apart from that it was just the usual suspects of people with nothing better to do than follow me around drinking beer; Aussie Pete, Spiky-Haired Ed & Charlie.
As previously mentioned, we were going to start at the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street and then work our way west by way of the pubs that lie south of Oxford Street, in and around the area of Old Compton Street. Now as any good sex-tourist knows, this area is renowned for being the centre of the Gay & Lesbian scene in London as well as having its fair share of sex clubs and bars.
Micky and Pete enjoying the lamps
But careful not to be deviated too soon, the tour was remaining true to its rules and at least starting on Oxford Street. Just round the corner from Tottenham Court Road was the first pub, the aptly named The Tottenham. This Nicholson’s pub is actually a bit of a gem, with lovely mirrors, lamps and ceilings, there also seemed to be what appeared to be huge tapestries decorating the walls.
The pub was also, quite surprisingly, not very full at all. Space was easily found at the bar; the only downside was that it was right next to the only mad bloke in the pub, who needed both the barman and Big-J’s help to identify his own drink and his change which was spread all over the bar. 4 halves of Andwell’s Spring Magic for Pete, Charlie, Big-J and I and 3 halves of various lagers for the others were ordered and these along with a very easy scan of the Cask Marque certificate (hanging just behind the bar) were obtain and finished in what seemed like an unseemly short amount of time.
The Crown & 2 Chairmen - Ignore the road sign - You can enter
Dodging across the rush hour traffic to the other side of Oxford Street, we ducked down Soho Street to Soho Square and then cut through to Dean Street, the location of the next two pubs. The first was the strangely named Crown and Two Chairman, a funny looking corner pub that been painted in a very unhealthy looking purple colour. The feeling inside was slightly reminiscence of the Crown & Sceptre from last week with a young trendy crowd where coloured hair was very much the flavour of the evening. Again space at the bar was easy to come by and 4 halves of a beer called Equinox (about which since I’ve not been able to find any more information) were ordered for the ale drinkers followed by 3 halves of Veltins pilsner for the lager imbibers. 
Mention here must be given to the barman who was sporting a most magnificent plaited beard and shaved and tattooed head which gave the feeling that you were being served by one of the dwarves from The Hobbit. Rather fearing that any approach for the location of the certificate might result in him reaching for his handy axe, I left this part of the evening to Aussie Pete. But alas even with Pete doing his best Gollum impression (this is a full time job by the way) the poor chap couldn't locate the thing, even after conferring with colleagues and searching everywhere from the stock room to the toilets. 
Stupid light - Outside the Nellie Dean

So unfortunately our good run of scanning was at an end, but it was to soon start again as we made our way back toward Oxford Street and the second pub on Dean Street, the Nellie Dean of Soho. Again another corner pub but this time painted a much more jovial and cheerful bright red. It was a cramped little place so it was rather more of a squeeze to get served but soon the halves of Betty Stoggs were flowing along with the halves of Becks. As previously alluded to, the certificate was freely available as it was framed and stood on a window ledge which meant that we could pick it up and pass it round the scanners amongst us. 

Again though there's not a lot more I can really say, the one effect that drinking halves were definitely having was the attitude towards our stays in the pub. It felt like there wasn't any point in taking off your coat before the drink was gone and it was time to move on. 
The Green Man - I've seen better examples.....

Mooching around the corner we cut through Fareham Street & Hollen Street and eventually found our way to the Green Man, an M&B pub located on Berwick Street. Again this pub was half empty but whereas I'd put the lack of crowds in the others down to slow midweek trade, this time I wonder if the pub was just a bit crap. Firstly when the complete ale selection is a choice between Fuller's London Pride and Greene King's IPA you really need to question the pub's attitude to variety. And the barman completely alienated me by committing that cardinal sin of serving someone else before men out of turn. Once retired with our drinks we found a spot by the wide screen TV which was on for no-one's benefit and at least took an easy scan with the certificate hung by the entrance to the bar.

It was rather a relief to be drinking just halves in this place because it allowed for a swift exit just after Charlie and I noticed two of the mealiest portions of chips being served up ever. So here’s a question for you Mr M&B – How come you’ve so obviously invested in a huge beer range for places like the Crown & Sceptre, the Crown & 2 Chairman (just down the road for goodness sake) and the other Green Man in Fitzrovia but this place is almost a beer desert? 2/10 could do better – see me! 
This is the Coach & Horses - Honest

Again it was a swift trip around a couple of corners into Poland Street which was where the final two pubs were located. Firstly there was the Coach and Horses, a Greene King pub certainly smarter than the Green Man, and whilst they weren't going to win any prizes for their beer range they at least had something out of the ordinary on, Greene King's new beer called Jailbird.  

The certificate was once more highly visible hanging on the wall by the bar so between handfuls of Big-J bought crisps (no Monster Munch unfortunately) the deed was once more done. 

Final stop of the evening was just over the road at the Kings Arms, a mid terrace pub with lovely leaded glass windows at the front and a huge gay pride flag waving proudly above. Now I'm not going to say anything crass about the clientele inside just suffice it to say that there was an abundance of beards and for a pub crowd that was 90% male, not a sniff of a testosterone laden threat in the air. The barman was also the friendliest of the night asking who was on the halves amongst us when I (with agreement from the others I might add) upgraded us all to pints for the final visit of the evening. It was Reverend James by the way.
The King's (definitely not the Queen's) Arms

There was just time for one final scan, once more the certificate being easily findable (2 chairman aside we're doing really well on the self-finding and self-scanning at the moment) before dashing off for a group McDonalds and a rather early train home. 

So we'd easily done the 6 pubs and by sticking to halves I don't think any of us were going to wake up with sore heads but I wasn't the only one to feel slightly uncomfortable drinking half pints. I don't think there's anything macho about drinking pints and I've never bought into the “X number of pints per night” measure that some blokes seem to measure their virility with, but there is a genuine case to be made for the right measure for the right beer. British bitter at the end of the day is a fairly low alcohol content drink and whilst I know the days of it being drunk to replenish and replace lost water for manual workers having just finished a shift down the mine/forge/docks/factory (choose your favourite) is also over it's still a drink you should be able to take a hearty slurp from and still feel you've got plenty more in your glass to go back to. You just don't get that with halves. 

Number of Cask Marque Pubs visited  = 165 

Half Pint? = Short Changed!
Home by ½ 9 = Just in time for Derek – Possible the best comedy in a long time.
Next Stop = Community Chest

No comments:

Post a Comment