Thursday, November 3, 2011

This Old New England Beer Examiner examines the new Old London Pubs III

This is a series of my impressions of the very highest rated London Pubs according to CAMRA, Cask Marque, Time Out London and (along with some other very pleasant surprises along the way)

See part one for the criteria for a New Old Pub;

My wife, Kathy and I set out from Boston with the plan to meet with eleven friends from five different countries, nine whom we’ve never actually met in person (just Face Book) to attend a play at The Hampstead Theater. The job of finding a place where we could all meet beforehand fell on me (I wouldn’t have it any other way) It turns out several worthy pubs were within walking distance of the theater, but only one kept jumping out at me as the best option for such a large, diverse group, where we could have a an attractive, authentic pub space to stretch out in and chat comfortably before the play. Oh, and I might mention The Washington was listed on CAMRA and Cask Marque as having cask-conditioned beer as well as several varieties of beer and cider tap selections. Like a crow to glass beads, I’m attracted to real pubs.

The Washington, is a straight walk down Eton Ave off the Swiss Cottage Tube station exit. The Hampshire Theater will be to your right. Past the theater about four blocks down, you will see The Washington come into view at a busy 4 way crossing.

Stop for a moment to admire the subtly-Victorian building. The light pastel cream and green-trimmed exterior doesn’t catch the eye as much as it soothes the eye. Hanging flowers adorn the entry. A framed portrait of Washington (not George) keeps watch over the intersection below.

Step inside. Glance around to see if you might recognize any of your old and/or Face Book friends. But Oooo, spy the lovely pump handles atop the sturdy u-shaped oaken bar. Tap handles to either side are

spaced so that you can read them without straining your neck. Take in the cool chandeliers and the fancy etched mirrors and cozy, comfy seating arrangements. Check out the fancy logo tile work. Now THIS is a PUB!

Our friends hadn’t yet arrived, so it was a fine time to peruse the cask handles. I asked the young man behind the bar about a few of the selections. He admitted that he was in his first night on the job and would get someone more experienced to assist me. Rather than bullshitting, he was trained to defer to someone who actually knew the beer. This was a good sign.

A lovely woman bartender answered my questions and gave proper advice on which beers to try first. Examining my perfect pint, Landlord, Kate Tidey came over and introduced herself. This pub is run by Kate and her husband Terry Tidey, the great, great, great grandson of the original 1865 owner. The pride and care for the place and its history is evident throughout.

Our group finally arrived and we spent the next hour catching up and sampling the lovely beers in a roomy corner nook large enough for 12.

The Washington has a downstairs bar where music, quizzes and comedy nights take place, but it’s the upstairs bar that has captivated our group.

On the night we visited, Timothy Taylor Landlord, UBU Purity, Oakleaf IPA, Sharp’s Doombar and Itchen Valley Godfather’s were the delightful cask options. As mentioned, there’s also a fair selection of ciders plus an assortment of familiar Euro taps.

A mighty fine pub, The Washington!