Sunday, 27 February 2011


Kentish Town and its environs are pretty much unknown territory to me, but not so to E who worked there for a bit. Looking at the ads in North London CAMRA's newsletter, revealed a pretty easy looking pub crawl taking in three decent looking boozers, the Southampton Arms, the Pineapple and the Junction. The latter had the advantage of being the local CAMRA Pub of the Year.

The 214 from Finsbury Square drops you at the door of the Southampton Arms - and I mean at the door - literally. Inside there is a long narrow, basic, old fashioned pub, with benches and a few chairs and tables and a long wooden bar. It's the sort of place that reminds me how many pubs used to be and it is none the worse for that. It was bustling with an eclectic mix of locals and a great choice of beer, fantastic pork pies and hot pork rolls; no telly, no intrusive music either and friendly bar staff. A pub for people. What's not to like? We both loved it. The beers were on top form too. I particularly enjoyed the Windsor and Eaton Conqueror Black IPA, while E purred happily over Hophead. All the beers tried were in tip top form, cool and bursting with condition. Someone knows their cellar business here. The staff were great, the landlord, Peter a fine fellow, the pork pie as good as any I've had. Any complaints? Only the barrel glasses, but that's a personal thing. We left with great reluctance. This is a stand out pub.

A short walk takes you to the Junction, a large, imposing ex Courage pub.  This is mainly food oriented, but a wonderful place inside. Large windows, lots of interesting features and a good atmosphere and friendly staff.  The beer was boringly brown though, with three identikit beers on offer - Black Sheep Bitter, Betty Stoggs and the ubiquitous Sambrook Wandle.  The beer was served in excellent condition, but the similarity and ordinariness was not what we were after, so it was a short visit. Still, it was a smashing place and perhaps on another day, we'd have had a more inspiring choice.

Next was the Pineapple which E had visited before when she worked in the area.  I've read that this is cliquey, but it just seemed to me to be a smashing locals pub which had a lot going for it. The beer range was again a bit brown (this is a recurring London theme) but again in very good condition. The locals at the bar made conversation and were proud of their pub. Rightly so. We enjoyed our visit, but frankly, the Southampton Arms had spoiled us, so our top tip would be to do this crawl in reverse order.

Back in Central London, we made for the Harp, but such was the throng inside that it would not have been comfortable.  Maybe not possible in fact, so we retreated to the Chandos to reflect on an interesting day.  The Old Brewery Bitter made a malty change and was in great form. This isn't a bad pub at all and it was nice to get change from a fiver!

The beer in the Pineapple was Camden Bitter which didn't impress I'm afraid. Sorry Jasper.


Birkonian said...

The Southampton Arms was recommeded to me on a recent trip down south. I agree that it is a superb pub and one other plus point is the price of beer. At Xmas, before the recent tax increases it was £2.90 for all beers except for the 9% Moor JJJ IPA. Also, they only sell beers from small breweries.

The Hearty Goodfellow said...

I know it's not really the Tandleman way of things, but the 'W&E Conqueror' comes across very well in bottled form too.

I think they're really onto something down there.

For those who are 'that' way inclined, I gave the shop bought version the old once-over very recently -

Tandleman said...

Birkonian - Glad you agree.

THG - Bottles are all very well, but nothing beats the real thing.

Simon Johnson said...

I had the cask version at the recent Brewing Industry International Awards in Burton; it was flabby after a couple of days on the go.

I had the bottle tonight; good condition, full of flavour.

There's nowt so queer as beer, eh?

Tandleman said...

Simon - Indeed.

"Eddie Rowles" said...

The Southampton Arms has been the stand out London pub for me for the last year or so - a shame about the jugs but it would be sad if it was perfect.

The Junction always leaves me feeling a bit flat - they seem to have a thing for Rebellion beers which have always underwhelmed me...

SteveF said...

Glad you enjoyed the Southampton Arms, it's really superb. I'm a big fan of the Junction and the Pineapple, but since the SA opened in its current incarnation last year, I've don't visit them anywhere near as often. Boring beer in the Junction does seem to have become a more regular feature recently, I'm pretty sure they used to have a better range. But they do decent festivals fairly regularly and the food is good, so I still like it.

In terms of doing the trip in reverse, that's probably a good idea generally. But as I think I tweeted to you, the SA can get very very busy in the evenings, particularly on the weekend. It's the only very minor negative for me and it's really a positive negative as it means that a great pub is doing well!

Pedantry PS, you were really in Kentish Town and Gospel Oak, not Highgate. Highgate's a bit uninteresting on the pub front sadly.

PPS, I hate pedants, so sorry for the PS.

Tandleman said...

Steve - You know you are right. I was so keen on looking where the bus was going and the direction was Highgate, I put that down. I've changed it now.

Glad we concur on things.