We haven’t had a pub-crawl here at Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service for a while. So here goes.
A few days back Malcolm had little reason to be in Hampstead’s South End Green, but was there all the same.
Since he was really just connecting with the Lady in his Life, he intended idly waiting, browsing the daily prints, and sipping in a pub.
Now, there is a choice (and quite a good one) around here.
There’s the Garden Gate (née The Railway), conveniently located between the railway and the bus stations. A big sprawling mock-Tudoresque monster, it used to have the charisma of a barn. It has improved, has a wonderful garden for those occasional summer Sundays, serves acceptable food, and has a Cask Marque for real ales. Somehow, though, except for the Adnam’s Broadside, to Malcolm it doesn’t quite call. It must be the plethora of Weissbier and Peroni types who frequent it.
Up the hill of Pond Street is the Roebuck, not a bad joint now that Youngs have rescued it from being just another Bass-Charrington house. It is heavily geared to the food market (and surprisingly pricey too, even for NW3), and therefore tends to the chintzy end. Expect any peace and quiet to be interrupted by clinking cutlery and medical bleeps (it’s in range of the Royal Free across the road, and caters to the medics).
A few yards further, in the opposite direction, past Hampstead Heath station, turn right, and it’s the Magdala, which is probably the pick of the lot. It’s just off the beaten track, and tends out-of-season to be quieter and more of a “local”. The days have long gone since coach-parties came visiting, to see the bullet holes where Ruth Ellis (the last woman hanged in Britain) did for her errant lover, David Blakely.
But Malcolm chose to be in the most conspicuous, what he still remembers as G.E. Aldwinkle’s, and is now the White Horse, on the apex of Fleet Road. Among the armada (to maintain the “fleet” metaphor) of Victorian gin-palaces that are scattered across North London, this rates as little more than a light cruiser. Sadly, long ago, it lost its cut glass and dark wood (but kept a magnificent ceiling). Today it is a pale shadow of its former self, in a pale battleship grey, carpeted and tarted up. It retains, though, the proper island bar. The bogs in the basement, and the staircase down, are slick and tiled in recent, if not the latest, “taste”. That omnipresent menace, the internal designer has been this way.
Yet, it is a worthwhile experience. Expect the trendy dad bringing in the school-kid on the way home from school, the kaffeeklatsch of morning mothers (or, more likely, since this is just into NW3, their au-pairs), Boadiceas with baby-buggies. Later, allegedly, it gets more populated and livelier.
But we are here for the beer, and on the pumps is a choice: Deuchars IPA (it’s an S&N pubco lease), Doom Bar and … yowee! … Old Hooky. OK, not quite up to the scratch of the Pear Tree, Hook Norton’s brewery tap, but fair enough. And the Lady was laggard enough for two slow pints.
If this were Michelin’s beer guide, the Hoss would be a two-star “worth the trip”.