Prince of Wales (Kilburn Park) 3 x ½ Strongbow, 1 x Lime and Soda £4.70
Oh, we were cooking on gas now. A lean, mean, four-part, tube station pub devouring machine. We were always going to knock off Kilburn Park fairly quickly, and this was made easier by the fact that The Prince of Wales had very little to recommend it.
Which is a shame, because it is housed in a lovely early 20th Century corner building and is situated right next door to the tube station, which in itself is one of those stunning terracotta-red brick constructions (built in 1912, apparently). The pub probably deserved to be a bit better given its surroundings, but I guess you can’t have everything.
What we got was a fairly bland, empty looking, vaguely Irish pub with little shamrocks over the door. There was a nice garden area at the front dotted with tables and parasols, but that was where the good stuff stopped. The decor inside amounted to a few pictures of old blues musicians around the wall, and three big TVs spread around the pub. One was showing the racing from Lingfield, which was to be expected, one was showing Gaelic football, which was also not unusual, but the third was rather oddly showing Bear Grylls being a Born Survivor, albeit without sound. I guess the feeling was that even if you were strange and didn’t want to watch sport, you’d still need to view something manly, and apparently watching a man make a bandana out of a t-shirt covered in his own urine to keep his head cool in the desert fits the bill nicely. Each to their own.
The Elgin (Maida Vale) 3 x 1/2s Pedigree, 1 glass water £4.35
We moved on to Maida Vale, and The Elgin, with barely a pause to admire the beautiful London Underground mosaics around the station walls. “This station has clearly been around since the Roman occupation of Britain” I said, wisely. The Elgin was another corner pub, and was probably quite a traditional one in its time, but what with Maida Vale being so gentrified these days there was always going to be a move towards modernising – trendifying, if you will – the licensed establishments of the area.
The Elgin was one such lucky venue, and it had been given the full Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen treatment. The side windows had been turned into full folding glass doors to give it an al fresco feel, there was lots of exposed, but meticulously clean brickwork and then a giant picture of a lakeside scene down one wall, and there was what looked like stone cladding going up the wall alongside the stairs behind the bar. Exposed pipe work and lighting rigs and lots of low and high seats and tables around the room completed the picture. The best feature by far was the giant pair of chrome antlers adorning a mounting board on one wall – clearly a trophy from the world famous Hyde Park Robo-Stag Hunt of 2007.
The aforementioned stairs led to the “Elgin Upstairs” bar where they were advertising a regular comedy night for new talent called “Stand Up and Coming”. Very good. Despite our usually well founded suspicion of any pub that only puts one hand pump on the bar, the Pedigree was actually in pretty good condition (Look, we’re not beer snobs, but more often than not it comes down to one of two simple equations: 1 hand pump = no interest in real ale = no care taken = bad beer; or 1 hand pump = very low volumes = beer sits in pipes/cask for far longer than it should = bad beer). Thankfully the Elgin seemed to be the exception that proved the rule.
I think we arrived at The Elgin fully prepared to be underwhelmed, but as we left, inhaling the intoxicating aromas of some lovely looking food on the way, we had to concede that it was actually one of the nicer pubs of the day and the posh folk of Maida Vale shouldn’t be too dissatisfied with their lot. Partly because of the Elgin, but mainly because they can afford to live in Maida Vale.
E-Bar/Enigma (Warwick Avenue) 2 x bt Corona, 1 x Millers Gin, 1 x Coke £14.47
We continued our huge and detailed discussions about the workings of the Lions party to South Africa as we got back on the Tube – including the fierce debate about who should actually start the First Test. We did of course eventually settle on a team that was unquestionably the right one to play, but strangely the management didn’t seem to agree with us entirely.
No matter though, as we had reached Warwick Avenue and it was time to find our next boozer. There is a nice pub just around the corner from the station called The Warwick Castle – a proper old London pub – but on this occasion we were destined to go modern again, as mere yards away from one of the station entrances you will find the posh looking Colonnade Hotel and its subterranean bar.
What an oddity it was too, with an upstairs garden area looking out towards the Warwick Road church, and then a staircase descending and curving under a very new looking glass roof into the main bar itself. We ventured into this boutique underworld and searched for our next drink. No English/British beer was forthcoming, and so we waited for five minutes whilst Laurence – the extremely knowledgeable barman – extolled the virtues of Millers Gin to Mr Lewis. Any connoisseur of the old Mother’s Ruin will tell you that a good Gin is all about the botanicals it contains, and Millers certainly has its fair share. Laurence wasn’t lying either, it did indeed taste fantastic just served simply over ice.
But what else of the bar itself, I hear you cry? Well, according to Rhino, who is basically a structural engineer in real life, “Well it’s the old cellar complex of the original building, dug out and extended into the garden. The current ventilation system they have is covering up the main structural beam.” We believed him. The decor and furniture was definitely aiming for classy, and only just missed – mainly due to there still being a big screen TV in one corner blaring out Sky Sports News. The food however, looked very classy with a tantalising looking “World Tapas Menu” being recently introduced by Vijay, the new chef. This is of course fantastic because you can pig out on hundreds of dishes at a time from all styles and origins, and yet still pretend you aren’t greedy because they are only small plates. Great concept.
We sat down by the bar and relaxed for a couple of minutes with our drinks, and Laurence plonked a bowl of peanuts and spicy broad beans in front of us. Cue one of the oldest pub based jokes in the world (with apologies):
“You look fabulous today” say the nuts to the customer.
“What the hell is this?” says the customer to the barman.
“Oh, don’t worry” says the barman, “They’re complimentary”