Pub enthusiast and CAMRA stalwart Neil Pettigrew takes you on the first of a series of trips to the best boozers along the new rail line.
Part 1 – Dalston
Sydenham pub-goers, often less than thrilled by the pubs on offer locally, are finding they have a feast of new pub experiences to enjoy, now that the recently re-opened East London Line goes all the way to Dalston. There are good pubs to be found near all of the stations on the new line (including Wapping and Whitechapel), and this article, the first of a series, will begin by looking at just those that are an easy walk from Dalston itself, the end of the line.
The previously-uncharted (at least by a southern softy like me) territory of Dalston is a goldmine for those who, like me, enjoy the endlessly fascinating architecture of London’s Victorian suburbs, and in particular the faded grandeur of our capital’s purpose-built nineteenth century pubs. And, a bonus for real ale lovers, all of the following serve traditional cask-conditioned beer by hand-pump.
When you emerge from Dalston station you will immediately be confronted by the sad sight of two impressive Victorian pubs that have seen better days. Look slightly to the right and you will see the Railway Tavern – now a William Hill betting shop – and then walk left to the main crossroads where you will see the Crown and Castle – now a noodle bar. For both pubs, look up to see the evidence of their former glory.
Have no fear, though, a short walk west takes you to The Duke of Wellington (119 Balls Pond Road, N1). This handsome Victorian corner pub still displays, rather magnificently, an old Watney’s sign outside. The original Victorian features inside have been sympathetically retained by the current licensees, including some old dark wood and etched-glass screens. A selection of real ales is offered and kept in excellent condition. Here one can sample beers from Sambrook’s, a small and relatively new London brewery based in Battersea. Food is offered daily, and so too are Saturday brunch and Sunday roast are also available. See their web-site for more information: www.thedukeofwellingtonn1.com
Head south from here to the Scolt Head (107a Culford Rd, Dalston, N1), another elegant Victorian corner boozer. While musing over the meaning of the pub’s name, you can admire the green-tinted leaded windows, which are trade-mark remnants of its days as a Charrington-owned pub. And on the day of my visit, there was another reminder of pub heritage: a bitter called Truman’s Runner was available, thanks to some enterprising locals who have started a new brewery in honour of the old company.
The Stag’s Head (Orsman Rd, Hoxton, N1) is a splendidly traditional 1930s back street boozer, included in CAMRA’s inventory of London pubs with interiors of special interest. For those who object to the gentrification and gastro-ization of many of our pubs, this place will be more to your liking, and it has even retained an old spittoon trough around the base of the bar (present-day usage not recommended).
The Prince George (40 Parkholme Rd, E8) is a short walk to the east of Dalston station. Inside is still pleasingly traditional, and outside is a seriously faded pub sign atop a pole (still advertising ‘Whitbread’, although they haven’t owned any pubs for two decades), and depicting the Prince himself with a lady of low morals sitting on his lap. Real ale fans will enjoy the selection available in here.
The Prince Arthur (95 Forest Rd, E8) is just a couple of minutes walk from the Prince George. Architecturally, it’s another good-looking Victorian corner pub, looming over its neighbours by a good ten feet, and with the name of the pub and the year 1861 engraved high up in stone. Inside is still traditional, and above the back of the bar is an eye-catching display of old lettering advertising various drinks.