Day 3 cntd (19th Dec 2008)
The Shakespeare (Victoria) 4 x ½ GK IPA £5.40
Well, this was nearly enough to make us give up and go home. Another Spirit pub, this one with badly kept beer, and quite frankly we were getting sick of the sheer volume of Greene King IPA we were being forced to drink by this stage.
This is really in the mould of a classic Station pub – basically just as crap as most Station Bars, but a bit more traditional looking. The Shakespeare really does have virtually nothing to recommend it other than its proximity to the station itself – there is apparently a “Sapphire Lounge” bar downstairs, but we never had any desire to go that far. If I found myself in Victoria with an hour to kill before catching a train, I would probably be tempted to buy a cheap bottle of wine from the Whistle Stop and sit on one of the station benches rather than drag myself over to this place – it’s just so dull and tired totally lacking in any sort of TLC in the way it is run. Bog standard food offering, lack of any atmosphere or anything resembling “cheer”, and annoyingly disinterested staff. It’s certainly not the sort of place you want to walk into when you are 23-odd stations into the day and flagging ever so slightly.
But we were strong. We had the finish line on the horizon, and our eyes firmly focussed on the prize (survival, I think). The challenge of more crap beer would only make us stronger. St James’ Park Station was calling…..
The Old Star (St James’ Park) 4 x ½ GK IPA £6.10
No respite on the IPA front then, however, at least this time it was well kept beer served at the right temperature. Then again it is a Greene King owned pub, so if they can’t get it right, who can?
I think we were all slightly bewildered as to why The Old Star was so empty on the Friday before Christmas. There were no more than half a dozen punters in there other than us, but it is actually a very nice pub. Clearly had a bit of modernisation recently, but definitely still a boozer rather than a bar. The staff seemed to be as bewildered as us.
Very nice staff they were too, courteous and efficient. There are a couple of levels to this place, with a cool little room called the “Vault Bar” downstairs to one side, which was unfortunately just as empty as the main room.
I think we had half a mind to go back to the Shakespeare and try and shake some sense into the punters there before sending them here to a proper pub like The Old Star. There’s just no accounting for taste sometimes. Of course, in reality we had no time to consider going back anywhere, because we were creeping towards 11 O’Clock at this point and we still had 3 stations to go…..
St Stephens Tavern (Westminster) 4 x ½ Badger £5.60
Look out the window! Look, see? It’s Big Ben! Right there, no more than 50 yards away! You can see the big clock face and everything!
What a rubbish lot our politicians are (a statement that now seems doubly relevant considering our current drip feed of creative expenses stories). They hide themselves away in their stuffy, old fashioned, subsidised bar (alright I admit that last bit is a plus point) inside the Palace of Westminster, not realising that they have a fantastic boozer just over the road. I don’t think you’d call it a large pub, but it is all the more interesting for its bijou and compact nature. Plus it really does have a spectacular view out of the side windows as mentioned above.
Hall and Woodhouse beers were the order of the day, which made a very refreshing change from the sea of Greene King we had been drowning in up to this point. The Badger was very good too, in excellent condition which of course lifted our spirits and helped to gird our loins for the final push.
Hilariously, at this point we also met a group of chaps who were also undertaking the Circle Line challenge today, albeit going round in the other direction from us. Much whooping and high fiving ensued. I’m not sure how far they had left to go, but I do remember them bemoaning the fact that they had been “unable to pull” on their trip so far. Because of course, spending 15 minutes at a time in each bar whilst on a mammoth 27 stop pub crawl is clearly the best way to attract the opposite sex on a Friday night.