Day 3 cntd (19th Dec 2008)
The Stanhope Arms (Gloucester Road) 3 x ½ London Pride, 1 x Vodka Coke £7.80
What we needed at this point were pubs very close to the stations with quick service. Lo and behold, we came across The Stanhope Arms, a proper boozer right opposite Gloucester Road entrance. A smattering of early evening revellers populated the bar, possibly sipping a quick glass of champagne before heading up to a posh show of some kind at the Albert Hall. Possibly not though.
Service was indeed quick, and the London Pride was in pretty good condition. The staff could obviously see the steely determination in our eyes, and upped the level of efficiency accordingly.
There is nothing hugely surprising about the Stanhope Arms, but what there is, is done well. The usual, wood panelling, chalk board signage, standard range of beers, big(ish) screen tellies and so on were all present and correct, and it could quite easily have been very, very dull, but thankfully just a little bit of charm goes a long way. There are certainly much worse places to stop for a beer in this part of town.
Having noticeably picked up the pace and put a spring in our step (or at least less of a stagger), we saw off our drinks and hotfooted it back underground.
The Hoop and Toy (South Kensington) 2 x ½ GK IPA, 2 x London Pride £6.40
Well, we were most definitely in a hurry by this point, because all of a sudden the notes were getting sparse. Or maybe it was the beer, but I couldn’t be sure. Perhaps I should let you be the judge – this is the sum total of what was written down at this particular establishment:
“Ok pub. Spirit pub. Round the back of Boujis. Didn’t see Wills or Harry though”
In truth the Toy was another one of these big old managed pubs that rely on people not being bothered to look further afield for their custom. Even in this part of town, £3.20 for a pint of standard ale isn’t great value. It had a tattered around the edges sort of look to it that I suspect was supposed to be “scruffy-but-cool”, but actually ended up being, well, just scruffy really. Possibly not quite as scruffy as the Prince of Wales had looked a couple of stops ago (the pub, not Charles), but lets face it, they could both do with a lick of paint and some fresh horse brasses. Actually, can you really still get horse brasses these days?
Oh, and one more thing – according to one reviewer on abeerintheevening.com, they won’t serve tapwater.
The Botanist (Sloane Square) ½ x Guinness, 2 x bt Kirin, 1 x Vodka Coke £12.60
I think Chelsea exists in some sort of parallel universe to the rest of the city, and certainly to the rest of the country. The people there are incredibly coiffured, literally not an expensively highlighted hair out of place, and they guzzle bottle after bottle of Sancerre and Nuits-Saint-Georges as if they’ve never heard of the credit crunch. Which they probably haven’t.
The Botanist is a huge Chelsea success story, owned by the Martin brothers who have a number of pubs across London, all of which offer huge wine lists and some seriously good food. Since it opened last year, The Botanist has been almost constantly busy – the restaurant is nearly always full – and the Friday before Christmas was no exception: They were four deep at the bar, and spilling out on to the street despite the distinctly wintry conditions. Mind you, outside they were probably all gazing through the bottom of a wine glass at the super-expensive looking Christmas lights on Sloane Square.
Despite the fact that it is a long way from being a traditional pub, it nevertheless had a great atmosphere, and some fantastic smells coming from the restaurant section (just about outweighing the smell of money coming from the punters). Not cheap, of course, but by no means hideously expensive considering the style and surroundings of the place. It would be even better if they offered some proper cask ale, but somehow I suspect that its wine and cocktails that are the major sellers here.
A quick photo of the pub, and one more of the Christmas lights and we were on our way. Home straight in sight!