Postcards from London

The Craft Beer Co., Clerkenwell

Somewhere to drip-dry on a relentlessly damp afternoon. The bar buzzing with ticker types, beautiful people, New Money Geezers and lost tourists. A snatched chat with the boss fellah, the ever-effusive Tom 'The Cad' Cadden. The house cask beer, Pale by Kent, does what you need it to for a first capital pint: drink easy, drink quickly, be refreshing, be moreish.

Gunmakers, Clerkenwell

Room at the bar. Christmas lunch parties all around. Jeff beamingly happy as one party service segues into the next with no hassle. Alessio telling me that no-one apart from me has ordered a whole pint of Windsor & Eton Conqueror 1075. Never mind two. At the table behind me, Secret Santa between courses: comedy boxers, a clown horn and, uh, this. Which is Not Safe For Work. In fact, it's Not Safe For Many Places. Apart from maybe a brothel or a gynecologists's leaving party.

Queen's Head, King's Cross

Sign on the door says they'll be closing at three for a private party. It's quarter-to. I want a beer here. A swift Camden Pale, an appreciation of taps along a long bar, a hankering after pies & cheese, a love of studded Chesterfields, chunky tiling and slender barstools. A promise to return.

Brew Wharf, Borough Market

Knots of drinkers seem unsure as whether to have another; jaded diners toy with their last course. Meantime fonts shine brightly before bored staff. The place seems caught between a hectic lunch and an expected onslaught. London Pale suffices; Angelo arrives and we QC a few of his latest brews. There's an awkward moment when, staring up at the blackboards above the bar, I realise this brewpub is pushing discount Budweiser.

The Rake, Borough Market

As small as it ever was. Glyn being as Womble as he ever was. Chilly hipsters outside, ragtag boozers inside. I probably had a beer but beer here is somehow less important than having a good time with friends.

Crown and Anchor, Brixton

Nuclear heat blowing from heaters not needed. Flabby Camden Ink, underwhelming Kernel Porter. And no other memory apart from the puddle-cum-pothole that swallowed my right ankle and put me down on my knees. Brixton owned me.

The Falcon, Clapham Junction

Doing what Nicholson's pubs do so well; plenty of brass, smidgens of stained glass & interesting tiles, a comfortable buzz about the place. Tip-top Bitter Californian by Bristol Beer Factory. And a picture window to gawp out of, where gospel choirs sing on street corners, where jets heading for Gatwick turn and fly straight toward you, where you can still see the scarred shops that last year's rioters ravaged past.

Euston Tap, Euston

A warmed table outside; a corner snagged inside. Comings and goings of occasional Tweeters. Applause for the couple emerging from the unisex cubicle. Over-extended criticism of Ian Bell's Test record. For a small small bar there seemed to be fewer and fewer drinkers as the night wore on. And then there was Moor's Amoor. More and more of it.

Barrowboy & Banker, London Bridge

Sat on a stool by the door facing the bar affords the greatest view of all; parties of six looking disconsolate that there are no tables available. At lunchtime. In a pub by the Thames. On a Sunday. Half a dozen old boys at the far end of the bar ignore everyone else; I drain Bengal Lancer slowly and savour the sweeping staircase, the narrow columns climbing to an adorned ceiling, the curve of a bar suggesting Rubenesque curves.

The George Inn, Borough

I tried. Really, I tried. To imagine Shakespeare sat next to me, quill a-quivering. Dickens peering through the window. A place maybe "wide enough and antiquated enough to furnish materials for a hundred ghost stories". But, sat inside, there was just a fright of Jocasta's on the Grigio and a view of old dogs on string sat in a cobbled yard squared off by drab offices. Maybe someone ought to write a book about the place and help me change my mind.

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