A wise man once said that trying to herd CAMRA members was like trying to herd cats. However, that was the mission as we attempted to navigate the sometimes-sunny streets of London. First stop had to be the Euston Tap where Mallinsons (sparkler by request) was enjoyed al fresco. A quick romp took us up to the Parcel Yard at Kings Cross station. This modern behemoth is a warren of drinking spaces and offers the full range of Fullers beers. Although, on this occasion, it was Oakham JHB that tickled the fancy.
Just round the corner from our hotel was our base of operation for the weekend: the Queens Head on Acton Street. This late Georgian side-street boozer has a single bar with benches outside. It’s a cracking London boozer with a relaxed vibe. And the beer isn’t bad, either. Usually local (ish), there is also real cider and a good bottled beer range. Further good news lies in the presence of a bus stop just across the street. The bus from here quickly took us to our next destination: Craft.
Now Craft doesn’t, or shouldn’t, need any introduction. This Leather Lane hostelry has been at the forefront of the craft beer movement since its conversion from its pedestrian predecessor, the Clock House. And with 16 handpumps, the real ale certainly isn’t neglected and it is one of the few places in London that you can always guarantee finding something for all palates.
The only black mark against them is their continued hostility to the sparkler. This is presumably based on the back to basics approach to craft beer. However, there is some irony in the über cool craft hipsters sharing a viewpoint held by CAMRA dinosaurs who, for eons, have been fighting to preserve the tradition of warm, flat beer.
But, back to the beer. Being no numpty and obeying rule 51 (when you see it, have it) I dived straight for Magic Rock Curious. Some less curious (geddit) minded amateurs were dazzled by the allure of Crouch Vale Apollo and were rewarded with a diacetyl bomb of a dumper. Obviously one beer here is never enough, so there was plenty of time to make amends. Although, strangely, no one was tempted by the kegged Pizza Port Skid Mark Brown; and they say real ale has silly names.
The Gunmakers is another must stop on the Clerkenwell circuit and with the addition of two extra pumps, now has seven cask beers on offer. And whilst the place itself is great, it’s commitment to LocAle (always a risky move) meant that, on this occasion, the bar was lacking in variety and heavily leaning towards the plain brown side. The Portobello Star was found particularly guilty of this offence.
No such problem at the Fox & Anchor. This is a beautifully restored Smithfield pub that oozes quality. The only problem here is that the bar staff struggle to pour a pint. And they have the increasingly common dimpled mug as the default option. However, when the Caveman Citra arrived, it was worth the wait. It’s only a short walk to the Old Red Cow round the corner which was that busy we had to stand outside for most of the time.
This is another great market pub and there were several comings and goings here. Stopwatch Sid called time on himself and Tandleman was joined by his infinitely better, but don’t make her cross, other half, Mrs T. Despite being fresh and surrounded by drunks-I hate that-she gamely accompanied us to the Lamb at Leadenhall before whisking Mr T home for his slippers and hot chocolate. The Lamb is a fantastic historical boozer, but the beer, it has to be said, is somewhat lacklustre.
With only the likes of the Don, Eddie the, eager, legal beagle, the Manx Minx and their entourage and, of course, Jack & Jill still left, we made a beeline for the curry house. Chettinad came highly recommended and didn’t disappoint. Forget your dumbed down Masala dishes etc. This is the real deal: authentic south Indian cuisine and was a fitting end to our first day in London.