Greater London

   
                                     Tower Bridge                                                                           Putney Bridge                                                     The Harp  

What can I say about sporting events and enjoying the pre and post-match experience in London? It's enormous, and so much there to go and see, and to experience! However, I will continue to suggest places to go to for specific sporting venues, that's the point of this site, but also, there are some excellent bars in the centre, and a visit to London should not just be limited to attending just the one sporting venue and it's immediate environs.

How to deal with the centre of London? How many ways are there? My first suggestions are based around Borough Market in Southwark, by Southwark Cathedral (where my Great Great Grandparents on my paternal side got married, consequently, I have a personal interest in this superb building which provides peace in the centre of a very busy area).  This is a great area to drink in before going to Millwall or Charlton too, as you can travel via London Bridge station.

   
                    The Market Porter                                   The Rake                                 The Wheatsheaf                                            The George Inn                

Walking along Borough High Street from London Bridge (and the associated station) and on the left hand side, just set back from the road, is the courtyard of The George Inn, 77 Borough High Street, SE1 1NH (0207 407 2056). This 17th century inn is owned by the National Trust and is the last remaining galleried inn in London. The beer is good, with 6 ales mostly Green King and the occasional guest, the latest 'guest' being a seasonal ale, the 6.5% Greene King Abbot Reserve, and eating in the restaurant above the main bars is a pleasure. I spent a fantastic evening here with my contemporary girlfriend for my last visit before moving away from London to Exeter in 1985. I have since visited many times when back in London, the building is majestic; heard my favourite version of the Sex Pistols "Pretty Vacant" here in the late 1980s, played by 3 lads with 2 acoustic guitars, it was repeated for at least 2 encores as the pub was closing. This wasn't even a planned musical interlude, it was a purely spontaneous event; I love this place!

If you come back out of The George, cross the road, and you're on your way to the Borough Market, an atmospheric area with another 2 great pubs I can recommend.  However, before you head up Stoney Street, The Wheatsheaf, 24 Southwark Street SE1 1TY (0207 407 9934) is an interesting new find for me.  This used to be around the corner, actually in Stoney Street, but was relocated due to the Thameslink Railway building project for London Bridge station.  The Wheatsheaf is a basement or cellar bar, big and airy, 'minimalist' even, which was a surprise.  The walls are bare treated bricks, a whitewashed ceiling and black and white portrait photographs adorn the walls, apparently of regulars from the original pub round the corner.  It's actually very tasteful, and with up to 10 real ales on sale, very welcoming.  The friendly barmaid served up a very drinkable pint of Bowman's Swift One, much enjoyed.

Then, just around the corner, and past the original Wheatsheaf, is The Market Porter, 9 Stoney Street, SE1 9AA (0207 407 2495) a great pub looking straight towards the market, which sells a great variety of beers. I've been here before football matches as far apart as Millwall in South East London (you can reach this easily from London Bridge by overland train) and Queens Park Rangers in West London (has to be by tube), and I have drunk with fans of QPR, Sheffield United, West Ham, Spurs and Arsenal here, very welcoming. Next door is a shop cum (not so) fast food outlet with very tasty sausage sandwiches, which is owned by the pub and you can bring your food in to eat with a pint, when they aren't serving up food themselves, which is every lunchtime, except Saturday; there is also a restaurant upstairs which serves meals well into the evening. In addition, the pub is not far from from the Globe Theatre, brainchild of Sam Wanamaker, and completed under the stewardship of his daughter Zoe. Indeed, The Market Porter is a great place to drink before watching a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre, as I do regularly, and my last pint supped here, from the 10 ales and Westons Traditional Cider, was St Austell Proper Job, a nice hoppy bitter. 

Finally, for this area, and around another corner, and you reach The Rake, 14 Winchester Walk, SE1 9AG (0207 378 9461) which only has 3 handpumps, but tries to provide a good variety of beers even so, last time I visited there was the Scottish brewery, Inveralmond's 7% Blackfriar available, a bit too strong for lunchtime, the Welsh brewery Otley's Croeso (4.2%), and what was my choice for the session, the more local Berkshire brewery, Butts Barbut Barbus (4.6%), a cracking bitter. So, there's real ale, a beer garden, and Belgian beers (up to 120 specialist beers from around the world!) available. They also run a stall in the market that sells about 600 bottled beers too, how good is that?   

    

                        The Old Coffee House                                       The Cross Keys                                             King Charles I     

My final suggestions may sound horrific to someone trying to look for unique local food and ales, but this is about the buildings and their interiors, Sam Smith's Brewery, from up North, have an excellent selection of pubs of historical and aesthetic interest and, mostly, the cheapest beer in London, and drinkable, and with food as well, always good value.

   
                       Swiss Cottage                                                    Cheshire Cheese                                                 Princess Louise

If you are going to Lord's, the obvious choice is Ye Olde Swiss Cottage, 98 Finchley Road, NW3 5EL (0207 722 3487), this is the 'local' Sam Smith's pub to drink at. This serves the regular beers and home cooked food you would expect in their pubs. However, the centre of London has the more interesting Sam Smith's houses.

In Fleet Street, the old newspaper headquarters of the UK, is a 17th century establishment called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, 145 Fleet Street, EC4A 2BU (0207 353 6170), OK, yet another Ye pub, very touristy, but what a great pub. As with the rest of the Sam Smith's pubs, you get the usual Sam Smith's fare and beer, but what a historic place this is. It's a very atmospheric building, built just after the Great Fire of London and full of nooks and crannies. It's fame is brought about, not just because of the great building and interior, but because numerous literary greats have imbibed here, Dr Johnson, Boswell, Voltaire, Tennyson, Thackery, Dickens, Mark Twain, they've all put back a pint or three here.

My favourite Smith's pub is The Princess Louise, 208 High Holborn, WC1V 7EP (0207 405 8816), a 19th century grade II listed building with an excellent interior, needs to be seen.  This place has great cubicles around the bar, encouraging conversation for those in the cubicles, but also encouraging you to talk to the staff, and there was a very convivial young Australian behind the bar, she just missed the photo opportunity!  The Louise also has historically interesting male loos, recommended visiting (no, really!), from top to toe a great building.

Other linked pubs, and there's more than just the ones I mention here, include The Angel, 61 St Giles High Street, WC2H 8LE (0207 240 2876); The Champion, 13 Wells Street, W1T 3PA (0207 323 1228), another pub with an excellent interior and very fine sport-related stain glass windows; and the Fitzroy Tavern, 16A Charlotte Street, W1T 2LY (0207 580 3714), a fine example of a Fitzrovia public house where, in the 'Bohemian' times of the 1920s through to the 1950s, regular attendees included Dylan Thomas and Augustus John.

 

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