Saturday, 2 March 2013

Regent Street

Want to start this one off with another grammar clarification? Really? Not had enough of them yet? Well ok then, just for you I’ll do it, but this one is really pretty boring (the others weren’t yeah?) – OK, so today’s square was Regent Street. Not Regent’s Street, not Regents’ Street and certainly not Regents’s Street. Plain and simple, Regent Street. Which is interesting (oh, yes it bloody well is) because on the other hand, the place that this road ultimately leads to is Regent’s Park. And if you want to know which Regent it was named after, well it was George IV – and that’s the one who was Regent whilst his dad was chewing the carpets and talking to trees. A bit like they still do today.

Coming so quickly behind the legendary night that was Go toJail, I had small hope that this square would reach those sorts of heights. Also we were going out on a Thursday night which meant that all the female tourists cried off citing excuses of “school night drinking” and other pathetic reasons. In fact there were even rumours of going to the gym in preferences of going drinking with the BGC. I mean……gym? Really?

Also when I checked the Cask Marque map for Regent Street, although there are many accredited pubs along and near its length, they’d either already been covered or should be saved for other squares. In the end I was rather “forced” to focus in on the northern end of the street and stray into the area around Great Portland Street which is known as Fitzrovia.
The Maccers wasn't there in George IV's day

Mind you for every cloud there should be a silver lining and for this outing the silver linings were welcome returns to the tour of Munchkin Steve (down from the t’north and getting used to wearing shoes again) Sybil and Big-J. Aussie Pete and Spikey Haired Ed were the ever faithfuls and I’d sooner have Aussie Pete sipping halves than the no-show from Charlie, Buddy Rob & New Guy Micky – honestly gents! You might as well join the ladies in the gym!
So finally getting off much later than I wanted to – I mean, talk about chewing the carpets I think that must be something me and George theIII had in common - the tube was thankfully much quicker than Ed’s call logging, so it was just coming up to 6 o clock when we eventually reached the OldExplorer located in Castle Street, just off Regent Street.
Why does Steve look absolutely mental in every photo?
Now as I usually trace the route beforehand on Google Street View and I have to say that this pub doesn’t look all that nice from street level. It has all the charm of an inner city Weatherspoons, a look I can only presume the owners, Greene King aren’t looking for. But upon entering the pub I’m pleased to report that the inside is much nicer. Although it was crowded as you would expect it to be for its location and the time of the evening, the first sight that greeted us was a mini-stillage of several barrels of ale. Not being quite sure what the score with the mini-festival was, we approached the bar and I got the round of Heinekens for Sybil and Munchkin Steve (you can lead the horse to water……..) and 3 and ½ pints of Mordue’s Bunny Hop for us others – yes that’s right blog fans, Spikey Haired Ed was on the ale!
The beer came in those very nice Greene King handled mugs (last seen at the Lucas Arms during Kings Cross) but the pub committed that cardinal sin of taking them straight from the dish washer and using them without letting them cool. No point in keeping your beer at ideal temperature if you’re going to do that!
Every night should include a free T-Shirt
Anyway, all complaints aside we got the scan from the certificate just hung by the bar and retired to the only free space which just happened to be by the barrels. I noticed that the festival organisers, who turned out to be from the brewery itself, were running a quiz with the top notch prize of a t-shirt. Now as any reader of the blog will know, I’m always on board for a free t-shirt, so quick as a flash I’d completed my paper and was being photographed by the brewery, complete with t-shirt for their own publicity. So returning the favour the friendly chap had his photo taken for the blog. It turned out as I spoke further with the chap from the brewery, that they had a special 20% discount for CAMRA members so it might have been worth our while staying in the pub longer but alas we had work to do so once Aussie Pete had claimed his free t-shirt it was back across Regent Street and down to Great Portland Street.
The next stop was the George, another Greene King pub but this time one that does look quite attractive from the outside. It’s also one that appears in a couple of my London pub guide books for its interior and the etched mirrors and ornate back bar certainly deserves a mention. The drinks were obtained (I think Sybil and Steve switched to Becks) whilst the ale drinkers (yep even Ed as well) went with Honey Pot from Coach House Brewery. I’m always a bit suspicious of honey beers and they always seem to disappoint, tasting neither strongly enough of honey or having a hop bite to fall back on. This one though was very nice indeed having a good sharp honey smack but not too sickly sweet cloying.
The George - The inside is nicer than the very nice outside

Asking the barmaid about the certificate we were directed around the corner to where it was hanging and were delighted to see that it actually was due to expire that day, meaning we got in a scan that had we gone out on our normal Friday would have missed. I was rather slow getting to the certificate, probably still sorting out the kitty for the rest of them, but Pete later said how there were a couple of blokes stood by the certificate which he asked if they could move out the way. Asking what the certificate was all about Pete told them only to have one of the men say to his friend, “Come on, let’s find a pub that just serves lager.”
See proof this blog isn't just made up!

We moved off to find a pub that didn’t just serve lager and found the next stop, the Crown and Sceptre in Foley Street.
Now we need a quick word about the next two pubs, the Crown and Sceptre and our next planned stop, the Green Man in nearby Riding House Street, are both M&B pubs but very much with a leaning towards the craft beer scene (rather than their Brew XI scene which had coloured my midlands childhood). When I’d tweeted the plans for this week’s tour both pubs had replied to the tweet including pictures of the ales they currently had on at this time. Very impressive!
Crown and Sceptre

The other thing I’d noticed about the Crown and Sceptre was the entrance to the Victorian public toilets just outside the pub. This was easily spotted as we approached the pub, but so were the crowds of drinkers spilling outside the place. Inside it was worse, we’ve come to expect crowded pubs and even though the Crown and Sceptre is quite a big place, the hoards of people were a bit overwhelming, especially for someone like me who considers anything over a bloke with a dog as a crush. The other thing was that these weren’t just normal people, this was very much a gathering of a young and beautiful with everyone seemingly dressed in some sort of designer type cool (but the sort of artistic type cool – you know, the  ooo look at me, I’ve got a Che Guevara t-shirt on, but it’s done in Andy’s style type thing, which passed me by even when I was younger.
The part of the bar which we struggled to get to didn’t have any ale pumps near it so rather than ask the young pretty trendy barmaid what was on, I made up the order from what I could see. Sybil and Steve I put back onto Heineken, Big-J had moved onto Coke anyway so it was just 2 ½ pints of Blue Moon, which Ed has previously had on the tour but isn’t a brew I’ve tried.
Now I’m a fan of wheat beer but I’ve got to say this just didn’t float my boat. I’m also confused why it’s a slice of orange that the powers that be have decided should be plunked into this beer. If the fruit of choice was lemon or even grapefruit (actually I’m going to copywrite that thought) then you could at least understand the reasoning, in that the sharp acidity of the citrus fruit would slice through the floral nature of the wheat. But although orange is a citrus fruit it hardly a sharp one and when plunked into the beer becomes something for show rather than taste. I’d like someone to prove me wrong but you might as well put a glacé cherry on a cocktail stick in it for what it’s worth to me.
The loos are now a snack bar thingy
Anyway we squeezed our way past the young and trendy t-shirt wearing crowd to a place right by the gates of the Victorian loos and generally made jokes about Steve’s height (he’s got very soft curly hair…..)and had a Rolf Harris nostalgia moment. Ed looked confused and probably wished he was with the young and trendies……….
BGC really looks like he's just come out of the closet.

Before we left we remembered that the scan hadn’t been taken but I didn’t rate our chances of either finding the certificate amongst the crowd or asking someone who knew. But amazingly from our position outside the pub we spotted it, right on top of the bar. Squeezing our way back inside, past all the young, trendy and beautiful again we collared a likely looking barman and asked if we could get a scan. The chap couldn’t have been more helpful and retrieved the certificate to our scanning delight.
As I previously mentioned the sister pub to the Crown and Sceptre, the Green Man is just around the corner so it was but a short stagger to the next watering hole, which, as one might have guessed, was just as busy as the Crown and Sceptre. That said, just like the C&S the service was quick and friendly but again I found myself nowhere near the pumps. Again plumping for something a bit blindly I selected pints of Camden Town lager, thinking this would go down just as well with Steve and Sybil as it would with Ed and Pete (Big-J still coking it) – alas it didn’t. I thought it was alright, certainly more flavoursome than your standard lagers but the rest seemed to be struggling to drink it. As Steve and Sybil were ordered to come the right side of the drinking barrier outside Steve bravely mentioned to the Eastern European prison guard of a barmaid that “eeee, this Camden lager’s not very nice….” to which she curtly responded, “No, it’s nice beer!” and stomped off.
To be honest I think she had a point.

The Green Man

Amongst the round I’d also sneaked in a pint of Verdett ExtraWhite, which I shared around the group, much in the same way Ed’s penguin biscuits were also shared around, but I’ve got to say that this beer relies a little too much on it’s cool and groovy marketing than it’s taste. But hey, that’s just an opinion.
The certificate was easily findable, being pinned up on the wall although I had to hold up a candle to get enough light to scan it. It was only then that I glanced back at the bar and saw the huge list of ciders on offer and then I remember reading that the Green Man is a premier cider establishment. So we rather did it an injustice by not drinking the fruit of the apple whilst there. I’ve got both pubs marked down for revisit, one to drink cider and two, to do it on a quiet Tuesday afternoon or something – just sometime when I don’t feel like everyone is pointing to the hunch on my back and my ugly face.
So that should have been it for the evening. There was one other Cask Marque accredited pub in the area, the King’s Arms at the end of Great Titchfield Street, but again on the Google Street View tour, I’d dismissed this place as it looked very down at heel. But by now the drinking feeling was tingling so a “swift one for the road” was agreed upon and we entered the establishment, still looking rather ragged (the pub I mean, but probably we were also by this point), for a final beer.
Old fashioned till at the Kings Arms - The numbers spun round and everything! Just to the left you can see one final pack of Monster Munch.

Inside the change couldn’t have been more different from the Crown & Sceptre. Here we had glorious swirling patterned carpets, velour bar stools and book laden book shelves. This was a real old man’s pub and I loved it. The chap behind the bar was dressed for the occasion, white vest with half zipped tracksuit top, pints of Doombar (followed by pints of Purity Mad Goose) were ordered and then Big-J spotted the catch of the evening – Monster Munch! We bought up ever pack the pub had (ok, they only had 6 packs) but we bought them all and had another nostalgic moment but this time flavoured with pickled onion and roast beef.
And then just to top things off, we found the certificate again making this one of those very rare nights out where we captured a scan in each and every pub. And just to double top it off, the King’s Arm’s certificate was also due to expire that very night too.
So who suggested this would be a let down after “Go to Jail”? Every night on the tour is a top night!
Number of Cask Marque Pubs visited  = 161
Paleo Fail! = Aussie Pete! I saw you! You had a Maccers!
Paleo Fail! = Yeah alright, shut up. I had BK at Paddington – and hey we both had Colonel the next day as well………
Next Stop = Oxford Street


  1. For a man who has written 22 entries of a blog based around beer drinking, you'd think you'd know how to spell lager... :) Perhaps it was some auto-correct and I'll let you off...

  2. Oh to be perfect, with your perfect hair and perfect cricket ball biceps and perfect life...............thank you Mr Editor for pointing out my failings!