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April 14, 2010

Stockwell Easter Crawl Pt 2: The Landor / The Surprise / The Cavendish

Moving on from the Marquis we headed for the Landor. Promising from the outside this North Clapham theatre pub had all the atmosphere of a bends chamber. This is the danger point of any crawl. You are 4 pubs in, and maybe 6 pints or more down. Spirits waning we necked them quickly and headed on before the will to carry on deserted us..

Crossing Clapham Road we made our way to the Surprise, just off Larkhall Park. A Youngs’ pub, it fits the tag of a local boozer right down to the tumbleweed moment as the door creaked open and all eyes turned to us. Could this be another killer blow to the crawl?

A few locals sat in the small front bar and despite the initial tumbleweed we got a friendly enough reception. Well we made it out intact after another swift pint, though unlike the Landor I will probably return to the Surprise, even its just to find out what the Surprise is.

Heading on to the sixth and final pub of the crawl there wasn’t any doubt as to which pub it would be. Set at the edge of a Stockwell estate is the Cavendish. You write this pub off as another estate. pub at your own peril. In fact it should itself be called the Surprise with the backroom Ballroom showcasing new comedy, music and on occasion burlesque. Added to which it’s probably the only pub in London to have an occasional house organist. The on tap selection isn’t huge with Greene King being the choice to round off the crawl. Standing at the bar chatting with the staff, there is a thought that if we started the crawl here we wouldn’t have made it far. We’ll defintely be back here for a full entry as it rightly deserves.

So 6 pubs down and the pint count pushing double figures, there is no thought of the head related sonsequences in the morning; thoughts more reserved for the pubs we missed (notably The Priory and the Canton). Surely an excuse for a second annual Stockwell Crawl. Or perhaps just next week.

April 14, 2010

Stockwell Easter Crawl Pt 1: The Grosvenor / Queens Head / Marquis of Lorne

A good night can often can turn into an impromptu pub crawl and planned pub crawls can in turn be mundane tick box exercises; dictated more by the proximity of the first to the second to the third pub. With this in mind Captain English and I set out on our Easter Crawl knowing only the starting point: The Grosvenor, Stockwell.

Set amongst council blocks and displaying posters for thrash metal gigs many would have second thoughts about our starting point. Having downed plenty of pints there in the past we had no such hesitation. Slightly down at heel and with a well used pool table its a reminder of student days spent in smokey pubs playing pool badly and feeding the jukebox. The crowd at 6pm on the Thursday was a mix of Portuguese tradesmen playing pool, a couple of old Irish pensioners sat supping at the bar and a group of students putting the world to rites as well as a barrel of cider. Being Cask Ale Week and feeling nostalgic I went for a Moorhouses Bitter, a hoppy session beer. A great start. Two pints down and we move on towards Brixton and the The Queens Head.

Formerly The Far Side, The Queens Head as it is now is far removed from The Grosvenor. Superficially it’s nicely renoavted, as premium lagers and one token ale. Adnams. My heart sinks at the sight of it and we opt for a cool pint of Erdinger. Large Gorillaz canvases adorn the walls, and although they are now on their third album, its still a touch that you would expect in about 2000. My thoughts overall would be that its nice. Not exceptional. It’s proximity to the Brixton Academy would probably make it a good stop for a pre gig drink but otherwise I wouldn’t make a point of stopping by. With that in mind we declined a second round and moved on.

It may be cliched to say that stepping into the Marquis of Lorne is like stepping back in time but in this case it is fitting. Approaching the pub you notice the original ornate tiles outside. It is hard to think many breweries or pubco’s today would lavish money on something so ornamental. Much more likely to invest in a Sky subscription and a Big Screen. Thoughts of an interior to match are dashed as we get inside. This is pub three in our crawl, and as much a change from the Queens Head than is possible. On the inside its a faded boozer with character (or characters as the case may be). Looking round the pub seems to be pretty much exclusively regulars. The pool table is in constant use and there are signs that the dart board gets its fair share also.

After five minutes I take a call a call from Lou and step outside as I feel that along with a smoking ban phones should be next. I peer through the window to see that Captain English has made a new friend. Stepping back inside I am intoroduced to the Landlord, who’s sat at the bar. He tells us about his improvements and plans for the pub, the area and how its changed. He’s a South Londoner through and through and proud of his pub. It has to be said that he’s had a few at this point but amiable with it. As he launches into a passionate description of his Garden he reaches over to his cigarettes tapping one on the box, lights up and casually chuffs away, waving the fag around as he talks. Now in saying its a step back in time you could date this as anywhere before 1st July 2007, when such a simple act wouldn’t raise so much as an eyebrow. The barmaid, gave a concerned look toward the guvnor but he was plainly oblivious. Two pints and it was time to leave Summer 2007 and venture back to a cold 2010 and the next pub…

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