Sunday 24 November 2013

Cittie of Yorke, London

The Cittie of Yorke is a grand old Sam Smiths pub in Holborn on the outskirts of the City of London, the financial heart of the capital. It's also Google Chrome's spellcheck worst nightmare: it knows the words in the pubs name are spelt incorrectly and by gum it wants to correct them! The pubs location means two things, firstly it's full of braying chaps in suits and secondly Sam Smiths have cottoned on that Londoners and confused tourists will pay anything for a beer and have jacked up the prices accordingly. Living in London has brainwashed me so much it's come to the point where I say "£3.40 for a pint of Old Brewery Bitter, that's not bad" rather than going "You're having a laugh mate!" and immediately leaving the pub for the nearest Tesco's and stocking up on the cheapest booze I can find.

The main hall of the Cittie of Yorke is a dramatic place for a drink, featuring a high vaulted ceiling, barrels above drinkers lining the sides of the walls and cosy little booths down one side of the hall. There's a plainer room at the front of the pub and a cosy cellar as well. Despite the place looking really old and impressing every American who visits, the main hall was apparently rebuilt in 1924, although a pub has supposedly stood on the spot since the fifteenth Century. But it seems just about every building in London claims to have had a similar business on its spot since the fifteenth Century, except perhaps PC World and Ryman the Stationer, so I don't know how much truth there is to the claim.

Being a Sam Smith's pub the Cittie of Yorke only serves the Sam Smiths range, even down to the soft drinks and crisps. I like to think that Sam Smiths is the original "craft" brewery, doing their own takes on many different beer styles and the niggling feeling that they think all the big brewer's stuff is crap and theirs is much better. Basically they're BrewDog but Sam Smiths have been doing it since 1758. Beer wise I started off with a pint of the Sovereign Bitter. This was on keg and I was worried that by drinking this my CAMRA card would spontaneously burst into flames in my wallet and ruin my trousers. The beer tasted fine, but being keg it did have a little artificial, chemical flavour. Overall though it was drinkable. The Old Brewery Bitter was on cask and was in good nick, and although this reliable bitter is never going to set taste buds alight it was comforting on this chilly winters eve.

I've been through Sam Smiths draught range many times, especially in my student days back when the London outlets were cheap and the prices perfectly suited my budget. As I am now grown up and employed I thought I would treat myself to some of their bottled beers. I ordered a Winter Welcome Ale and a bag of pork scratchings. The cold but efficient barmaid asked for an amount around the £7.50 mark. "How much was the beer?!" I asked in befuddlement. "£6." I came over a little faint but somehow managed to remain standing upright. But soon the enormity sank in. SIX POUNDS FOR A BEER IN A SAM SMITHS PUB. Why didn't I ask for the price before ordering?! The beer had better be bloody good and luckily it wasn't to bad. Slightly sweet with caramel notes this went down well. But not six pounds well.

Somehow I didn't learn my lesson and I went for another bottled beer, this time the Nut Brown Ale. There's not more to stay except this was exactly as what was described on the label and it reminded me of this Brass Eye skit:

I finally finished with a Pale Ale which was pretty good, light and hoppy and a pleasure to drink. Both these bottles were £5.50 so all in all I spent £17 on three beers in a Sam Smiths pub. And this is why the world is now a horrible place to be in. I don't often get political but Mr Cameron if you're reading this, forget about minimum alcohol pricing and all that malarkey. Instead please embark on a campaign to make Sam Smiths in London cheap again. Thanks. And also stop reading this blog you've got more important things to do.


  1. £1.80 for a pint of Old Brewery Bitter in the Vine at Dunham Woodhouses in Cheshire this lunchtime :-)

  2. I spent stupid money on the bottles too, and while the Imperial Stout and Oatmeal Stouts were good to great, they were not worth the £6 price tag.