A London Miscellany: Clerkenwell

Out of Farringdon station's spaghetti, you seem to have two choices. Un-nervingly, both seem to end up at the choicer end of Hatton Garden. Where there really are fat men with battered suitcases shuttling about. Bet the stones are in belts well hidden beneath those years of gefilte-riddled fat.

Onto Leather Lane and a market. A proper market. A rolls-of-material, odd-hardware-bits, cheap-art-magazines market. Old men with the world under their stubby fingernails drink coffee, sat on squat stools outside their shops. You walk past S & M Tools (honest) in search of a world-class bar. It's here. Really. If you get to the King of Falafal, you've gone too far.

Somewhere with the quality of The Craft Beer Co has no right to be on a market street on the wrong side of Diamond Row. But then, its big sister (CASK Pub & Kitchen) has no right to be shoehorned into a shithole pile of Pimlico flats either. Yet both are game-changing places.

Early doors at Craft there's a half-dozen geeks and a few randoms. In a relaxed, calm, stupendously glass-ceiling-with-ostentatious-chandeliered atmosphere. Tall & squeaky banquettes surround a bar that was designed for beergeek worship. Many casks. Many keg fonts. To some, the number and choice is obscene. I didn't count. Because good beer is where you find it. A half of house lager - brewed by Mikkeller, ffs - followed by a swift Giradin Faro made for two of the finest, refreshing beers I could ever hope for.

A literal sixty seconds away, Gunmakers. For a quick couple of beers, a chat with Des de Moor about his outstanding London pub guide and the sheer theatre of Jeff Bell in full effect. There are few places I encounter where mine host is front and centre; Jeff owns the floor and all points west. And - let's be honest - I wouldn't be stumbling around on t'internet writing this tosh if it wasn't for the likes of Mr Bell blazing that early trail.

Gunmakers is full of hard floors, walls and echoes. Several tables by the bar for topers. A tardis dining room out back. And Meantime Helles on tap which, to be frank, I could drink all the live-long day.

The return to Craft was a blur; next day, many many many beers and hours later. But I know this much is true. There was a jug of Struise Pannepot on the table early on. There were many of the finest people I know in the place that night. There was a jug of Struise Black Damnation VI on the table late on. And we know why it's called Messy. It's a Ronseal kinda name.

In these pictures, you'll find: three of the greatest guys I've met:- Paul Melia, Chris Owen, Tom Cadden;  a huge feck-off chandelier; Angelo "The Machine" Scarnera. If you go to Craft, who knows who'll you'll meet?