Sunday 8 December 2013

Then and now - Farringdon and Covent Garden pubs

It's always fun revisiting a pub I haven't been to in a while because most pubs go through plenty of changes in their lifetime and at some places the experience can change every few months. This past Friday I had the pleasure of revisiting some pubs in London on a mini pub crawl with some good friends of mine. As I hadn't been to these pubs in a while I thought it would be fun to revisit my original thoughts and see if much has changed.

Craft Beer Co Leather Lane

Then: A well known mecca for ale lovers with a absolutely ridiculous price for pork pies.

Now: Every time I walk past the Craft on a Friday evening it's just so ridiculously busy. This is not just a mecca for ale lovers, it now appears to be a mecca for every office worker in the Farringdon area. This small pub gets uncomfortably busy as the large bar and bench seating down the side take up a fair amount of space, leaving not much room for customers. There is an upstairs but tables up there can be reserved so it's pretty much impossible to get a seat. Walking in the crowd were three or four deep waiting at the bar. It felt very claustrophobic.

But with such a fine selection of ales on offer I'll put up with the small space and risk of having a panic attack. Ales from stalwarts Dark Star, Thornbridge and Marble were on offer, and plenty other breweries were represented on cask and keg. A Thornbridge Christmas Ale was a solid take on the rather hoary Christmas Ale formula, a tasty red ale with a subtle spicy undertone. Marble Lagonda was a excellent example of a pale ale. The Marble guys know how to create a good brew. The pork pies remain stupidly expensive.

Verdict: Still awesome but visit during the week and eat food beforehand.

Ye Olde Mitre

Then: A charming little pub although the pint I had tasted a bit like coal. 

Now: I have been to this pub a couple of times since that blog post and I can't really say it's charming any more. Mainly because how much of a sausage fest this place is. Sure you get the occasional confused lady who has been dragged along by their beer loving partner, or the nervous looking secretary who has been forced to visit with their sweaty "hands on" boss, but mainly this place is filled with blokes. The beer was in good condition, my pint of Dark Star Original being a comforting, if workmanlike brown bitter. However with the pub over run with braying men the atmosphere is a little bland. We didn't stay long before moving on.

Verdict: Lovely beer but atmosphere is a bit sweaty

Holborn Whippet

Then: Beers are served from a wall that bleeds ale and a sterile atmosphere where I couldn't get comfortable.

Now: I wasn't too impressed by the Whippet last time but a revisit made me warm to the place. I still find the wall in the middle that bleeds beer a bit odd. I opted for a half of Arbor Oyster Stout which was in excellent form. My friends went for a Lagunitas IPA which sadly wasn't in the best of form and seemed to be end of the barrel. Maybe that's why it was a fiver a pint which is actually pretty cheap for a pint of this trendy American IPA. Like the Craft Beer Co the Whippet seems to be incredibly busy every time I walk past it and this Friday night was no exception. The staff were friendly and on the ball, and the atmosphere was jovial. A pleasant place for a drink and I'd be happy to go back.

Verdict: Liked it a whole lot more this time.

The Cross Keys

Then: Likeable, slightly sleazy pub with plenty of tat hanging from the ceiling. Boisterous atmosphere.

Now: This Brodies pub continues to amuse me. It just seems so jarringly out of place in trendy Covent Garden. It feels like a locals pub from the 80's with the copper pans and other assorted antique tat hanging from the ceiling and the deep red lighting. It's shabby and doesn't even pretend to be modern or relevant. The beer was good and I enjoyed a pint of Brodie's malty, comforting Mild. This place continues to attract a "boisterous" (e.g. pissed) crowd, and we eventually left after a group of gents clad in lederhosen got a bit too loud for their own good.

Verdict: Great beer, nice room, dodgy customers

The Harp

Then: "An ale oasis in a area filled with expensive, soulless bars packed to the rafters with confused tourists and twats"

The Harp remains a text book example of how to run an excellent boozer in Central London. Its location next to the very busy Charing Cross station means this pub is always packed but the superb staff make sure you get served as quickly as possible. I've got served here quicker when it's rammed than at other sleepy pubs where the staff are so dozy you end up waiting 10 minutes for a drink when there's only two patrons at the bar, and one of them is the pub dog.

This visit to The Harp didn't disappoint and I was supping a Dark Star American Pale Ale within seconds of arriving. The beer was a top notch hoppy treat. The Harp was a fine place to end this very pleasurable pub crawl.

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