Category Archives: Pub reviews

The Westbury, Turnpike Lane

Westbury I hadn't been drinking in Turnpike Lane for over 20 years and the odd time I went there at the end of the 80s I'd have had so much beer that any attempt at memory retrieval would have been pointless. But an old friend of mine is about to leave town and although we normally meet in The Sailsbury, now and then we like to sup beer in far flung places. Like Turnpike Lane.

We'd arranged to meet up somewhere to catch the 2nd half of the Europa Cup final between Fulham and Atletico Madrid. Things didn't look good when I arrived to find various outsized flags of St George on the outside of the building. Usually this a clear sign of a dodgy boozer. But the Westbury had a strangely mild atmosphere, more like the kind of place you'd find in a provincial market town. A mild disappointment was the lack of cask ales but the Guinness turned out to be rather good. Another let down was the last minute goal scored in extra time by Madrid. Now the Westbury was officially an unlucky pub.

By now my full-naval-issue Stoke Newington Dad beard was starting to annoy me – more of the Guinness was ending up caught in the bristles around my mouth and I vowed to shave soon. My mate then told me about the lovely suburban house he and his family would soon be moving to and I silently mourned the upcoming loss of yet another drinking partner. We supped up sadly and jumped on a southbound 141.

The Auld Shillelagh

Stoke Newington Church Street, N16

This used to be my favourite pub in North London but I haven't been in for a while. I must be getting old because the ruralesque walk around Clissold Park at night doesn't seem as appealing as it once did.

I was there with old friends from the Real Psychic Genius Football Prediction Society. The Shillelagh is really our spiritual home but we now tend to wander a bit down the road to the Rose & Crown, where the music isn't loud and there's lots of space for assorted fortysomethings to shuffle around slowly. Leeds v Spurs was on the telly. I picked a famously unlucky seat – where I had watched England lose to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup and from where countless times I'd seen Ireland throw away the lead in the last minute in qualifiers. It didn't disappoint. Leeds lost. But the Guinness was as good as ever and there's still a good mix of old and young drinking away. One big change is last orders which is now an orthodox 11-ish rather than four in the morning. But I suppose that's progress. As my wife said when I rolled in, last orders was invented for people like me who need authority figures such as barmaids to tell them what to do.

The Tufnell Park Tavern, Tufnell Park Road, London N19

I’ve had some good nights in the Tufnell Park Tavern over the years. And a few really crap ones as well. However, this review is really to register my displeasure at the name change. The pub is now called Tufnell’s and it’s up there in bright shiny metallic clubbiness. What kind of brand manager modern celeb-fixated small brained philistine was let loose on this pub? It’s in Tufnell Park. It’s called the Tufnell Park Tavern. It should be so simple. Is it because Phil Tufnell is now a minor celebrity? Ha ha, nice one.
Ha ha ha ha ha.
I didn’t actually go into the pub on this occasion. I was on the top deck of the No. 4 bus with my two young sons.
“Why are you growling Daddy?” asked my 5 year old. Then I started to moan.
What hope is there for us as a society, as a civilisation, as a species,when people make crazy decisions like this? How can we claim the idea of constant human progress when we change the names of pubs from something old and good to something modern and useless. Another culprit is the Arsenal Tavern, now called the @ Club (reviewed here last year).
When is the Government going to sort out a proper Pub Czar* to get all these pubs to change their names back to the originals?

* Though the whole concept of Czar might need looking at. I mean, the Czars didnt exactly cover themselves in glory did they and ended up as a sad pile of bones in a piece of rough ground. Maybe there should be a Czar Czar to rebrand the whole concept.

The Lincoln Lounge, York Way, Kings Cross

If the definition of a good pub is a solid pint, battered old seats, some books lying about, a view out the window of a 19th Century gas holder and a hard working yet bewitching Irish barmaid then the Lincoln Lounge is most certainly a good pub. Situated in the shifting atmosphere of the greater Kings Cross urban zone, The Lincoln Lounge is a late Victorian old men’s pub done up for the new old men of the early 21st Century. And if it’s not too busy then your not-too-cold Guinness will be brought to you on a tray by the resident high booted Irish goth barvixen. Nice 30s style mural on the back wall too.

The Arsenal Tavern

Mountgrove Road/Blackstock Road N4

An idiosyncratically rambling old men’s playpen or dark and fist-fight-friendly cavern? Depends on your attitude. It is a shambles, though, with a few wine-bar style high tables tacked on at some point in the mid 80s. I like it. Best place to watch Irish sports if you don’t want to walk all the way into Finsbury Park. Regular gigs include mulleted ‘Man from Mullingar’. Name allegedly changed in the 30s by Arsenal boss Herbert Chapman when he did for Gillespie Road tube.
(original review in The Smoke November 1999)

Now had all the detritus – pots, pans, signs, boots, bikes, pictures, brasses, landlady with arms like hams – cleared out, along with any kind of structural connection to a Victorian pub. Unfortunately they also chucked the spirit of the pub into the skip as well. Now it’s a huge antiseptic lager swill barn kitted out for match days . It’s possibly been renamed The @ Bar (though that’s so terrible I’m thinking it’s probably a young person hipster injoke designed to annoy the over 40s).

The Robinson Crusoe

Estate pub located at the south west corner of Clissold Park, in the infamous Stoke Newington/Highbury border country. Comfy decor – wallpaper is William Morris on LSD, carpet a distracting jumble of unrelated motifs and patterns. Guinness is good and not too expensive. Local dads sit glancing at the fotoball on the big screen and keeping an eye on their kids, who are allowed to dance and sing and chat up the barmaids. Old photos of the Arsenal on the walls, including what looks like a detailed monochrome study of Cliff Bastin’s false teeth.

The Salisbury, Green Lanes, Harringay

A big beautiful late 19th Century hotel that endured a slow decline into draughty old man’s pub, The Salisbury has been done up in the last couple of years and this has been carried out sensitively and stylishly, unlike a lot of the crude pub makeovers of the last half decade. Many of the old features remain – lovely glasswork, big centrepiece bar, high ornate ceiling and balding 40-something blokes lounging around and talking about football. Not the greatest Guinness in the world but there are usually some nice, though expensive, ales like ESB and Honeydew.

Harringay comes from the Old English ‘Hoering’s woodland enclosure’. A nice article about the difference betwen Harringay and Haringey here.

Edit – It’s been pointed out to me that there is further info for ‘Harringay origins’ enthusiasts at Harringay Online.

The Coronet, Holloway Road

Former grand cinema now yet another rambling Wetherspoons pub, good ale, no music, parties of OAPs getting hammered on the cheap beer. Good place for daytime drinking, if that’s your thing (and it can be beautiful) escaping from the fumes and nutters of Holloway Road. Close your eyes and let the Spitfire take hold of your brain then imagine Margaret Lockwood in The Wicked Lady, showing for the fifth time that day, people smoking Woodbines in the row behind you – “Blimey, Guv’nor, India’s gorn and won independence.”

The Crown, Clerkenwell Green

Recently done up and sprinkled with fairy wine bar dust to appeal to the slick crowd that hangs out around Clerkenwell these days. Historic grime has been scraped off everything inside and it no longer has a selection of proper beers, but push button lagers and ciders possibly piped in from some super modern underground storage facility. Guinness is good, though, and it’s warmish rather than that chest constricting extra cold stuff that lager drinkers seem to love.

The Alma, nr. Brick Lane, E1

Victoriana on walls, interesting real ales at the bar (Snowdrop and Pigswill), a Landlord who likes his own products and a peaceful haven away from the curried-artsy bustle of late 90s Brick Lane. For proper dinkers, lost tourists and Ripper fans.

‘Where are you from?’, asked Landlord.

‘Lincolnshire’, I said.

‘My second wife was from Lincoln. Lovely lady.’