We are traveling to London in March. My partner is a botanical painter and she is participating in a Royal Horticulture Society exhibit, so we're staying in the Victoria/Westminster area near their halls. We are looking for recommendations on pubs with hand pulled ales and more importantly, good pub food, ie a ploughmans lunch. On our last visit, 5 years ago we were so thirsty and hungry we ate at a pub near Parliment, the ale was OK, the food not so. I should have known when the menus were laminated with pictures of the food on them. Any help would be appreciated. Will
What you get when you ask for pub recommendations is chasing yourself all over hell's half acre trying to find something that somebody else liked. The best pub is the one staring you in the face when you want a beer. Too much is made of hand-pulled ales. All that means is that there's no CO2 bottle in the system. Since carbon dioxide is odorless and tasteless, the worst it can do is stick in some extra bubbles - - wait a few minutes and they'll go away. That being said, most pub ales are hand pulled anyway - - except in a few of the chain pubs - - gag - - (probably the ones with the plastic menus). If you want grub, walk out of the commerical area into a residential area and eat where the folks that live around there eat. I'd also skip a ploughman's since you can pick up the stuff to make that at the local 7-11 - - - along with a moon pie and an RC cola. Two other things the Brits have really screwed up (in addition to Yorktown) are bangers and damn green peas. Otherwise, they do just about everyting as well as it can be done.
To get good pub grub, get to where the locals live and work (not westminster/Victoria) go at lunch time and find a place you cant get in because it is so crowded. In tourist areas the few good ones tend to be away from the main drag; to find real authentic pub lunches (probably not what you are thinking of) go to the City, you will find it in the lanes behind the Bank of Engalnd. what used to be called "bad English cooking". suddenly its all the rage. however, to be realistic, find somewhere off the main tourist drag (away from Victoira station) that looks popular. Much better chance of having something good
I'm not sure I'd put a "ploughmans lunch" in the same category as "good pub food." Somehow, I'm not too excited about a meal of bread, cheese and pickles. Rick's book has some recommendations for London pub grub but he seems to encourage a lot of London ethnic eating. I'm sure some people will have suggestions. You might want to consider a trip to Greenwich or Oxford for a closer equivalent to pub grub. When I was in London, I don't remember seeing anything I'd classify as a pub after seeing Irish pubs.
Use http://www.fancyapint.com/ to find pubs. You can search by area, rating, etc. I like The Grenadier in the Knightsbridge-Hyde Park Corner area as well as the Red Lion on Duke of York St. The latter doesn't serve food, but is very attractive.
I just knew someone would soon respond with the link for fancyapint (the name of which I couldn't remember) and I'm glad Tex came through. You'll find many options there, maybe too many! Another great possibility is to take one of the pub walks offered by the Official London Walks company. http://www.walks.com/London_Walks_Home/Pub_Walks/default.aspx While they move quickly from pub to pub (too fast to enjoy a meal) you will get the chance to try some excellent hand pulled ales. You'll also get some great stories and see some neighborhoods. If you like a particular pub, you could always go back for a meal on your own. (PS I agree that a ploughman's lunch isn't my first choice for "good" pub food, but do try to get an authentic bangers and mash somewhere.) Cheers.
One of our favorite pubs is Lamb and Flag in the Covent Garden area. It is on a tiny street-Rose St I think. The food is very good and meals are served upstairs. Downstairs is always busy with those coming in for ale. Also good are The Grenadier and Nagshead which are located in the Knightsbridge/Mayfair area-a bit hard to find but worth a visit.
Oy, Ed - I'd mow good people down to get at a hand-pulled ale!!! (of course, they're a bit rarer in these parts...) Same thing goes for a great ploughmans lunch ;-) William, the best place to drink is the busiest place - cask-conditioned ales change over time because they are exposed to air as the cask is emptied (since the keg isn't pumped full of CO2), so you don't want to drink at a pub that looks dead or offers way too many casks. If you really want to understand what you're drinking, you can look into things like 'sparklers' and 'swan-necks'...just like studying up on your art before heading to the museums. Makes drinking more fun, and I'm all for that (heh-heh). In the US, hand-pulled is sometimes referred to as 'gravity-fed' or 'beer engine'. Not entirely/completely accurate, but close enough. If you've had beer 'on nitrogen', the texture/mouth feel is similar... The Royal Horticulture Society exhibit sounds fascinating...Are you required to purchase a 'simply smashing' hat for the occasion ;-) (if so, PLEASE don't embarrass yourself and wear the same hat to The Wedding...it's simply not done!)
Across from Victoria Station is pub named Shakespear's. Well worth a stop. Don't know about their Ales. But their pies (as in Cottage, Shepherd's, chicken and ham, steak and ale, etc.) are excellent, as is the fish and chips. I can also second the Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden and there is another across the corner from it- can't remember the name. And in the other direction from the Covent Garden Tube station, in the Neal's Yard area there is one across the street from the Mountbatten hotel- also blanking on its name- that the locals seem to favor.
When in doubt as your landlord. But since I'm here I'll tell you my favourite pub is the Sherlock Holmes on Northumberland street near Trafalgar Sq. It also happens I like bangers and mash but often skip the mushy peas. You can eat in the bar or the restaurant upstairs if you want to spend more money. Avoid the Spotted Dick.
Actually, the way to get good ale is to go to some village with a singe pub in the middle of Nowhereshire and fight your way to the bar through dogs and kids. There'll be a couple of pumps for something I don't know what is, one for cider, and three for ale. One of the ales will be something you've heard of. The other two will be completely unknown and brewed within thirty-one miles. Get one of those.
William A couple of good places in the Victoria area are the Plumber's Arms in Lower Belgrave Street and the Star Tavern in Belgrave Mews West http://www.pubs.com/main_site/pub_details.php?pub_id=225# Both have connections to famous English crimes which are detailed in the entries above. For beer I like the Prince of Wales in Wilton Road, but I've never eaten here. http://www.fancyapint.com/pubs/pub2123.php There is, however, a very good middle eastern restaurant next door. I should ignore Ed's comments about CO2 and stick to your preference for hand pumps. Live ales are only ever served this way. Cheers Alan
Now then, as this is a gentlemanly (and ...womanly) discussion, let me belly up to the bar (those of you who know me can vouch for the belly) and put my tuppence in... First, Ed ...... what's wrong with you, man? There is nothing wrong with a day-glow green, pressure cooked to a complete paste, tasteless, overly hot (yet with that cold centre we so adore), pile of mushy peas next to your pie or fish. Its nutritious and we all love it. Yum. Second, Laurel ........ What have you possibly got against that delightful pudding, the poor Spotted Dick? Seriously, I really don't see it. I love it. Can I have yours? For those who may be unaware, Spotted Dick is a steamed suet pudding full of sultanas. It is a longish cylinder, about 3 inches diameter, served hot with lovely yellow custard all over it. Its lovely. At least give it a try. Now, the "Ploughman's Lunch". Not ever defined definitively, the Ploughmans is as different as the pub or country house it is served in. Should have a good wodge of nice, often local, cheese, a larger wodge of lovely, should be local, bread (not sliced), some salad stuff and chutneys or pickle of various (should be homemade of local produce) sorts, and maybe a hunk of some meat like ham or scotch egg or somesort. Just because you have been palmed off with a poor substitute in a tourist trap or by a landlord who thought he could make money out of a sows ear is no reason to condemn the lot. So, for those of you Real Ale drinkers (I'm not one - don't drink), how to pick where to go, and what's on? The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has a wonderful website http://www.camra.org.uk/ where you can get reliable information. Their Good Beer Guide is well respected by local British Ale drinkers. Stepping off soap box...
(pumps hand and shouts "Go Nigel! Go Nigel!") Ok calming down..... I don't 'do' Plowman's lunches (hate pickles, don't like cheese.....I know, I'm weird) but I do like a pub that makes good pies. Especially steak and ale pie. And that takes good ale... I'm like Nigel, I don't drink the stuff, but I can tell when a pub has good ale by the pie. And hubby loves a good pint, though he usually drinks lager in th UK. He did like the ales and beers made by the microbrewery in Aviemore Scotland- the Caringorm Brewery. Especially Caringorm Gold (lager) and Blessed Thistle (ale). Me, I'll stick to really good single malts when I induldge. Can't beat it with warmed with a bit of honey, a bit of lemon, and a large piece of Scottish shortbread by a pub fire..... ah well..... You won't get that in London, but almost every pub we stopped in had good food and good beer. Just watch the people for a bit, and read the menu (all UK resturants post them outside). One of the best meals I ever had at a pub was homemade tomato soup, and a jacket potato (baked potato) one summer. Absolute perfection.
Nigel, Bless you. Avoid the Spotted Dick at The Sherlock Holmes.
I have a couple suggestions. I stayed on Belgrave Rd. in 2007 and had a nice meal at Kings Arms at 77 Buckingham Palace Rd., Victoria a pub 5 minutes away from Victoria Station. As I always drink Guinness in the UK (tastes so much better than in the states.) The fish and chips were good. Although not a pub I also ate at Chimes Restaurant, 26 Churton St., Pimlico and is a wine and cider bar. I had wine and a beef and mushroom pie and the food was very nice. If you do have your heart set on a ploughman's lunch I did have one at Gordon's Wine Bar. You could pick your own cheeses and accompniments. It is on Viller's Street (go to Charing Cross, see the large blue sign on the side of the corner building and go down what looks like an alley, this is Viller's Street). I returned later in my visit to have a port from their wooden casks (okay I returned two times). Have a wonderful time in London, wish I were going back soon. Pam
Hi William, I would like to second the opionion of using the Good Beer Guide: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Beer_Guide), which as has been mentioned has been above. Generally any pub that is in the Good Beer Guide has good food. You can also get the guide as an app for your iPhone if you have one (search for CAMRA on the iTunes App Store). It has the great ability to find the CAMRA listed pubs near you via GPS! Lastly a point about cask ales. Normally I agree with Ed's postings but sorry Ed you're wrong on this one :-) The taste of cask ales are affected by many things including the shape of the glass it's poured into (!) When it is done right (as in a CAMRA pub) proper British ale is up there with the best drinks in the world bar none. There is more variety in Real Ale than wine but it doesn't travel well (unlike the excellent bottled Belguim beers), it accompanies lots of foods well and it is is not called as the "champagne of beers" by CAMRA for nothing! Enjoy! Cheers