Knocked Em' In The Old Kent Road
This is how it all began. The Manx Minx was away on a Manx Norton restoration workshop: leaving Eddie, the eager legal beagle to put his freshly pressed tweed underpants on and head for the bright lights of London. Now I would have preferred a weekend of culture and art (apparently there is some in London) but Eddie, like most of the legal profession, is a total social degenerate. Left to his own devices, he would no doubt spend his time carousing round seedy taverns and fleshpots. For his own good, I reluctantly agreed to accompany him.
What a funny place London is. I never visit at weekends if I can help it and it’s no wonder. Two tube lines closed and two more restricted put unnecessary obstacles in the path of two thirsty travellers. And its claim to be an international city of repute is risible considering most of the pubs shut at 11pm at weekends. On that basis alone, it’s not even the best city in the UK. Still, British pluck and ingenuity won through in the end.
(Yet) another failure of London is that a lot of good pubs don't even open at weekends. My local-the Edgar Wallace, being one of them. Luckily, there were enough pubs, both old and new, to keep us busy. I shall try and summarise the day the best as I can recall.
Our first stop should have been the Charles Dickens but despite advertising noon opening, it actually opens at 2pm. So it was onwards to an old friend-the Royal Oak. This is a great Harveys pub and the Olympian proved very refreshing. There was a poster up advertising “Knocked Em’ In The Old Kent Road”, a musical hall song favourite of Eddie’s. It was popularised by Shirley Temple but the definitive version has to be this
I believe Tandleman does a mean rendition as well.
Then it was time to treat Eddie. He’d wanted to visit a pie and mash shop and so we made for Manzes. This is reputedly London’s oldest such establishment and offers a very basic menu of pie, mash and er, liquor. This appears to be very watered down parsley sauce. Oh, and jellied eels, which Eddie tucked into with great gusto. Hmmm. I begin to see why fish and chip shops became popular.
Eddie wasn’t finished yet, though. He procured some oysters at Borough market before we popped into the Market Porter. Here we tried the lageresque Solar Power by the Isle of Purbeck brewery. Nice enough, although it could have done with being served through a sparkler-as we know all beer should be. And that’s another thing. The anti-sparkler fascists are always banging on about how it’s taking over and they always have to ask for it to be removed. Yet, we never even had a sniff of one all weekend. I fear their propaganda is starting to take effect.
Our next stop was the rather swanky Brewery Wharf. I quite like this place, with its exposed brick and glass and metallic look. It’s got a seriously large sports screen and a good outdoor drinking area. Unfortunately, it’s now letting its shiny brew kit go to waste and from what we were told, although they haven’t officially ceased brewing, in reality they have. Their cask was in good nick though and we ended up trying both the Acorn Woodstock and the Coulsons EPA.
A short walk took us to the Wheatsheaf: a pleasant cellar bar with a good selection of beers. Again we ended up trying not one, but two of the possible candidates-Darkstar Hophead and Youngs Kew Gold. Then it was time to drop our bags off at the hotel, before continuing our beer quest. The hotel was nice and clean and deserves full marks for having a proper shower door. They weren’t kidding about it being a “small” single room, though. I thought it was only the hotels of Her Majesty’s pleasure where you could touch the walls without stretching.
It was a bit of a trek to our next watering hole. Zeitgeist advertises itself as London’s only German pub and judging by the attention given to the Bundesliga match playing, it deserves that rep. Naturally there’s a good selection of beers from the Vaterland and we enjoyed a couple of different pils from the Rothaus stable. Cask in Pimlico was new to both of us and definitely worth the visit. Smart and contemporary, it has a relaxed vibe and serves up good beer as well. Darkstar beers are complemented by guest ales, but we couldn’t resist the Darkstar American Pale which was excellent and our favourite beer of the weekend.
It was getting late now but we still had time to squeeze a few more in. Sadly, the Packenham Arms was one of only two real disappointments over the weekend. Beer choice was a bit pedestrian, quality was average and the place was completely lacking in atmosphere. No problems at the Seven Stars on Carey Street who are to be applauded for (1) being open on Saturday night and (2) delivering up a treat of Hophead American Pale.
The Betjeman Arms at St Pancras station also made a very favourable mark. Structurally it was very impressive. To be candid, I think Eddie was drunk by now, as all I can remember drinks-wise was that the barman was French. We just made the curfew at the Ship & Shovel, enjoying the zingy Lemony Cricket more than the ordinary Badger beer. Somehow we made the last tube and feasted on some rather posh late-night grub before embracing the arms of Morpheus.