Recently I had the opportunity to tick off one of the two great pub crawls in London. One, the Circle Line, remains on the shelf. This time it was the turn of the Monopoly Crawl, that is to say visiting every spot on the popular board game's traditional setting of London.
Organised by Jim Cresswell, the day started at 11am in Elephant and Castle. The requirements for joining in were simple - festive gear but as a minimum - Santa hats. Could I find a Santa hat? No. So ended up buying a small Santa toy from Tescos and pinning that to my jacket.
On the way, late already
Unfortunately Will and I were running late, and on arriving at Elephant and Castle spotted the main crowd getting back on the tube to head to Fenchurch Street. We said hello then dashed out to find a beer! The Elephant and Castle, the traditional starting spot, was closed, however the Rockingham Arms provided a more than suitable replacement, and it was heart-warming to see all the classy types already a pint or two into their morning lagers, lovely!
The Rockingham Arms, our first port of call
There's something repulsive about having alcohol before lunch (or dinner I'd say in most cases), although our pain was eased by there being a fairly respectable set of ales available on tap including several interesting guests.
First beers of the day: Banks and Taylor's Bat's Hat and Ringwood's Filly Drift.
Cheers! So we had decided on a couple of our own ground rules for the day in addition to the group ones as defined by Mr Cresswell. Firstly - we would take a photo of every pub we went into, as a record of the night. This, I can say from the evidence of the photoset, lasted about 3 pubs before I forgot it!
The next rule was that if a pub didn't have real ale, we would seek out an alternative elsewhere. This rule was broken in pub two, when the dearth of pubs around Fenchurch Street on a Saturday morning meant we ended up in the Isis hotel bar. Newcastle Brown Ale, yuck, and a horrible bank-breaking 9 pounds for two!
Jim (aka Rosie) and Will (aka Matthew)
Remarkably discipline is required to get the whole route in - we had 15-20 minutes in each pub, plus travelling time. No eating, no hanging around, no breaks. To be honest if I were planning it again, I think I'd build in some eating spots and look for late pubs that will let you finish slightly later than 11pm.
The core crowd
So the sensible thing would be to have halves all the way round. Unfortunately for the first ten pubs or so, I found a reason in every place why I should have a pint and switched to halves at the next place. This I was to regret later on in the evening.
Halves already, Herrington!
The Aldgate Exchange
Of course around Aldgate is an old work patch for me, so knowing the area well I pop along to the famous Tubby Isaacs:
This place has been there since 1919 and indeed my Grandfather Cliff remembered it from his days too. Of course it's no longer Tubby himself who runs it, but I believe it has stayed in the family.
What else to have but a pot of their "world famous" jellied eels?! The perfect accompaniment to large amounts of ale!
To the general disgust of the group I tuck in on the tube. Not exactly lining the stomach, plus I notice that the two plastic forks I had been provided with were horribly dirty!
So up to Angel, and the weather is improving as we head round towards King's Cross.
At this stage I realise that a rather grotty pub has been chosen around Euston and so take things into my own hands, steering the group to the marvellous ale paradise that is the Bree Louise.
They have marvellous pies but there's no time for that nonsense today!
Barrels stacked up behind the bar
A local London beer, named after the river Wandle
Ok things are starting to get fuzzy
Will had made the very silly mistake of bringing along a knitted hat that his mother had made for him when he was a mere 1 year old! I naturally had to confiscate it so that he would still have it by the end of the evening!
By now we were in the Betjeman Pub above St Pancras Station, smart and with decent ales. The group seemed to have swelled up and was in fine form.
I found a nice poem on the door to the bathrooms:
And when all the horrible roads are finally done for,
And there's no more petrol left in the world to burn,
Here to the Halt from Salisbury and from Bristol
Steam trains will return.
This is a verse from "Dilton Marsh Halt" by Betjeman.
From here it was tube down to Green Park to tick off the pubs around here, including Mayfair and Park Lane.
This was the stage of the evening where one tends to lose interest in the whole exercise, and I do vaguely remember staying in the Red Lion off St James' and reading the paper, not feeling the urge to troop off after an undignified 15 minutes drinking time!
Pleased to get a Routemaster in on the trip
Into Soho and I'm sorry to report that Will was broken! I hope you'll forgive me but the remainder of the evening is somewhat vague for myself too, but I can report that Will was refused entry to one pub, slept through the others and managed to vomit in one of my favourite pubs, the Ship and Shovel! Of all the grotty pubs we passed through, why oh why in a nice one?!
Finally, we head for the last pub.. the Nell Gwynne off the Strand. A nice tucked away place, I hadn't visited before, but I do approve. The core crowd were here already, was good to be back together again after 12 hours of non-stop drinking!
In remarkably good form!
And with that, it is done. Never again I will say! It was an effort, it was fun, I am grateful to Mr Cresswell for organising, and now I can say, it is over!