Issue 1, 2017
Let that sink in for a moment. Because, yes, you read that correctly,
and yes, that’s exactly what I’m getting at.
There’s a possibility that some of the 102 Pilgrims (and more likely
the 30-odd crew members) who sailed west in 1620 to settle the New
World stopped in to what’s now known as The Mayflower for a bever-
age before they raised anchor and unfurled the sails of their
Decorations are properly nautical. There are tanker mugs on the
tables and model ships on the shelves. Yet, simply saying the place
has a maritime atmosphere is an understatement. With the dark wood
flooring, flickering lanterns hanging overhead, and fantastic view of the
river, it’s more of a full-blown time capsule, and while sitting here, sip-
ping on a Darkstar Hophead or Mayflower Scurvy, it’s hard not to feel
a bit overwhelmed by some of the historical scenes that surely played
out here.
There was a time (probably back when the aforementioned Pilgrims
frequented these parts) when you could walk into a pub and simply ask
for ale. The bartender would grab a glass and pour you a pint of the
house brew, whatever flavor and strength that might be. Happily, that’s
not the case anymore. Every establishment will have at least a handful
of choices — some more than others — that could range from local
craft brews to world-renowned classics to seasonal varieties.
Of particular note is the “real ale,” which, according to the Campaign
for Real Ale, an organization founded in 1971, “is a natural product
brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask
(container) from which it is served in the pub through a process called
secondary fermentation.”
The key distinction of real ale is that it remains a living, breathing
product. Unlike typical keg beers, the yeast isn’t filtered out, and it’s not
pasteurized. So the flavor and body of the brew continues to develop
and evolve right up until it’s in your glass.
The Southampton Arms has become a local favorite in part
because of its dedication to real ale. It features a diverse cask selection,
and because of the popularity of both the beers and the place itself, it’s
not uncommon for some of the taps to change out every two or three
days. So if you visit for a late lunch on Monday, by Wednesday night,
there might be a couple new real ales to sample. (Just be sure to bring
cash; credit cards aren’t accepted.)
Ale, real or otherwise, isn’t the only thing to drink at London’s best
pubs. The Southampton Arms, for example, has an array of ciders on
hand, too. And while The Crown Tavern keeps an impressive rotation of
five different real ales available among its 16 draughts (remember, with
no pasteurization, conditions have to be just right so the batch doesn’t
spoil), it’s also well-known for serving a hearty breakfast bloody mary.
If you’re interested in other spirits, The Dog and Duck — along with
their lineup of quality brew— specializes in top-shelf gin. Selections run
the gamut from Adnams Copper House to Opihr Oriental Spiced to
Williams Great British, and can be served with a simple garnish — an
orange or lime — or fused with ginger ale or a variety of tonics.
The biggest change to London’s public houses in recent years is the
increased selection of food. Peanuts and pork scratchings (cracklings
or rinds) were always on the menu, but many places now offer snacks
and meals that are much more substantial — and appetizing.
The Spaniards Inn, a truly historic spot that is said to have been
established in 1585, has embraced the cuisine revolution as much as
any of the city’s more modern establishments. Yes, you can still go tra-
ditional and order fish and chips or a British Isles rib eye. Although,
before you do, peruse the other options. It might be difficult to pass up
the seared scallops with pancetta and red pepper puree or the home-
made sweet potato gnocchi in a sage butter sauce.
Or what about a bowl of pad Thai or roasted duck curry? In
what has to be one of the most interesting
gastronomical combinations anywhere, The
Churchill Arms houses a cooked-to-order
Thai restaurant. And it’s not just some novelty
experiment carried out as a blatant attention grab.
They’ve been serving spring rolls and
pad nahm prik
o alongside a vast collection of Winston Churchill relics
and other bar trinkets for more than 25 years.
As tantalizing as the Thai food–British pub juxtaposition might
be (and there’s no doubt it seems like something you really should
be exposed to), the real reason to stop in at The Churchill Arms —
or The Crown Tavern, The Mayflower, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, or
any of the dozens of other lounges around London — is because
they’re such a deep-rooted part of the community.
Public houses got started so that folks could gather in one
place and converse about what was going on in their world. In
London, that’s still the central focus, and the pubs are still where
you’ll find local business people and artists, students, and even
families coming together at the end of the day to reconnect. It’s not
about neon lights, loud music, or 74-inch flat screens. It’s about
sitting down and sharing a story with your people. So often we
want authentic travel experiences, and just as often they’re hard to
find. Not in London. Simply stroll over to the nearest pub, sit down,
and ask for a pint of real ale.
Markus Lange/Image BROKER/Glow Images; Deposit Photos/Glow Images
Bangers and mash
(aka sausages and mashed
potatoes) are quintessential
British comfort food and a
pub menu classic.
A multitude of memorabilia decorates The Churchill Arms, named for the late
prime minister. His grandparents were frequent visitors of the establishment.
Getaways start at
The Getaway price is valid July 1 through
December 31, 2017.
1...,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14 16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,...51