Thursday, 27 November 2008

The Three Lions Pub Crawl

Here's a great pub crawl to consider if you are in the Piccadilly area. The three pubs are all interesting both historically and architecturally, and have a great choice of real ales to boot. What more can you ask?

First off, start at the Red Lion in Crown Passage. Reputed by some to be one of the London's oldest pubs (300 odd years), it still has a slightly Dickensian feel, thanks to the narrow, atmospheric lane on which it is situated. Inside, it feels rather like a country pub, except for the rather more cosmopolitan range of customers. It's often busy with punters ranging from suited and booted types to local builders and foreign-accented tourists. There's another room upstairs if the bar is packed. Beers include Adnams Bitter and St Austell Tribute, so real-ale fans are well catered for, and they serve food, too.

Walking along Crown Passage, it's only a minute or two to the Golden Lion, our second venue. Built in 1897 on the site of a pub with the same name opened in 1762, this pub has a single narrow, downstairs bar, and a covered passage at the side. There's also a dining room upstairs, open at lunchtimes. The decor has a theatrical theme, incorporated into some stunning stained glass and wood panelling. The real ales include London Pride and guest ales, such as Hog’s Back Summer Ale and Sharp’s Doom Bar.

Finally, it's a five minute walk across St James's Square to another Red Lion, and here we really have left the best until last. Tucked away under the shadow of St James's Church, this small pub has what can only be described as a spectacular high Victorian interior (above). It is on both the London and the National Inventories of Pub Interiors of Outstanding Historic Interest. A quick look around, and you can see why: the walls are covered in mirrors decorated with elaborate etched and cut glass, and above is an elaborately embossed ceiling above a decorative frieze. Even the spiral staircase to the lavatories has impressive ironwork, and doors with stained glass.

It's well worth making a special visit, but be warned: it is packed at lunchtimes and with the after work crowd, so aim to get there in the afternoon or later evening to appreciate it at its best. Oh, and they serve real ales too: on my last visit, Fuller’s London Pride, Jennings Cumberland Ale and Deuchars IPA.

Seriously, what more could one ask for?


Elaine Saunders - Complete Text said...

Lions are popular symbols on pub signs and the Red Lion is reputedly the most common pub sign in Britain. The Red Lion originally appeared in the arms of John of Gaunt, the first head of the house of Lancaster.

The Golden Lion might have originated with the wool trade, even though it still forms part of the royal coat of arms. In the 14th century wool formed the basis of the British economy and the crown controlled exports. Wool could only be traded through the "staple" and the merchants running it had a coat of arms headed by a golden lion.

If you know how to interpret them, Britain's pub signs provide an illustrated historical encyclopedia on the High Street

Elaine Saunders
Author: A Book About Pub Names
Complete Text
It’s A Book About….blog

David J said...

Thanks, Elaine - fascinating stuff.