Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Pubs near railway stations (Part 1 of an occasional series)

I have been spending a lot of timing to-ing and fro-ing between London and Birmingham recently, visiting colleagues (Friends? Associates? Collaborators?) but these trips are always rushed, and often involve charging across the concourse, pannier in hand, to, and then back from, the ticket collection machines. If I collided with you on my way to platform for at 0818 in the morning, I can only apologise. I only had 90 seconds left, you see.

So, nothing from Birmingham. However I can recommend, at Euston, The Doric Arch, which is part of the overall station complex, accessed from ‘plaza’ outside the station, towards the south-eastern corner of this public space. While, to my mind, a less splendid pub than it was when it was called “The Head of Steam” and had a bar billiards table, it still has an excellent range of beers. The Euston Tap (confusingly built inside the remainders of the actual Doric arch) is small but brilliant for craft beer. There is a Cider Tap opposite. Not sure what that sells.

Returning to the theme of bar billiards, 17 or so years ago, Exeter St David’s had four pubs close by, each with their own charms (The Red Cow offered real cider, the Artful Dodger was like travelling back to a time when woodchip wall paper was the must have internal finish and The Jolly Porter had bar billiards). Today only the 'Loco Bar' in The Great Western Hotel remains. The Great Western is one of my all-time favourite drinking establishments, offering, as it does, a wide range of beers, a number of semi-drunk Post Office workers, rugby on TV and stilton garlic bread! It was shabby back then, and (judging by reviews) is even shabbier now. So probably close to the pinnacle of shabb.

The pub which inspired this posting is The Vat and Fiddle close to Nottingham. Not quite visible from the main station entrance, one must trust in Google maps (other software available). But it’s only 160 yards, and by the time you cross the road one can see not only the pub but also (and rather more clearly) The Castle Rock Brewery, which sits directly behind the pub and provides most (but not all) of the excellent range of beers available. Possibly the nearest brewery tap to a UK mainline railway station.

London Bridge is in Borough, and therefore has a vast range of brilliant pubs close to it. I recommend The Market Porter and The Rake, both of which are buried in the bowels of Borough Market. The Royal Oak is excellent but not quite close enough to the station to be mentioned, so I won’t.

I’ve never been to TheNorfolk ("Surprisngly good [sic]") but The Bricklayers Arms on Bergholt Road is owned by Adnams and is close enough to Colchester station to stagger to/from. Given that Colchester is my home town I thought it worthy of note.

I’ve never had particular cause to drink close to Oxford station but I recall The Kite being (a) close and (b) nice enough. It’s been a long while, mind you. I think it was owned by Morrells when I was last there. Morrells Heritage was favourite beer at the time. Sadly those times are long past.

On the nostalgia front, I have no idea if the terrible public space/death-trap outside the front of Leeds station has been rebuilt into something more pedestrian-friendly but whether or not it has, it should be possible to locate (perhaps with some difficulty if much needed redevelopment has not actually happened) The Scarborough Hotel (which is not, as I recall, an actual hotel) which had one of the most remarkable, and rapidly changing, ranges of beers of any pub I can recall. It can be quite … characterful after Rugby League matches at Headingley.

The Three Guineas within Reading station used to allow immediate access to Platform 4. I’m not sure this is still the case but it’s still worth a visit if you have 15 minutes and a thirst. Now part of the ever expanding Fuller's Empire. Someday all your base will belong to Fuller's. It could be worse.

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