In the last few months another Sydenham pub – the Woodman – has closed. Some relief from this dire situation, however, can be found by heading for Sydenham Station and boarding a north-bound Overground train. In twenty minutes you are in Shoreditch, where there are good pubs and good beer in abundance. It’s an area unfamiliar to many Sydenhamites, and it is rich in Victorian architecture and history, and has something for everyone.
Before heading to our first pub, it is worth stopping off briefly to look at LES TROIS GARCONS (1 Club Row), just north of the station. Although now an up-market restaurant, this was originally a grand purpose-built Victorian pub called the Knave of Clubs. If you peer through the windows you will see evidence of its former glory: huge gilded mirrors on the walls and elaborate woodwork around the servery.
Head north and within a couple of minutes is THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT (34 Redchurch Street). This mid-terrace Victorian pub may be well hidden in a back-street but is definitely worth discovering. It has been refurbished in a pleasing mock-old-fashioned style and there was a real fire blazing at the time of my visit. A good food menu is available and, for those who enjoy the traditional drink of Britain, there is a choice of real ales at the bar. My Ringwood Boondoggle was in excellent condition.
One of the delights of the Shoreditch area is that this is all former Truman’s Brewery territory. The old brewery was located in Brick Lane and the company built numerous pubs in the area. Truman’s pubs are renowned for their unique architectural features and interior décor, and there are plenty of good examples in Shoreditch. A few minutes walk north-east from THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT brings you to THE BIRDCAGE (80 Columbia Road), impressive green tiling on the outer walls, and a traditional, well-kept interior. A similar walk west finds THE OLD KING’S HEAD, Holywell Row, also adorned with eye-catching green tiling. Not to be missed is the fiercely traditional GOLDEN HEART, south of the station (at 110 Commercial Street). High up, a huge neon Truman’s sign still beckons thirsty passers-by (probably still there because no-one can afford the expense of taking it down). Inside still boasts original Truman’s brick fireplaces and other interesting features.
Other pubs which are well worth visiting include THE BARLEY MOW (127 Curtain Road), which, with good reason, prides itself on being a proper, unpretentious boozer and THE GRIFFIN (93 Leonard Street), another fascinating survivor from Victorian times boasting many interesting features as well as some good beer.
Neil Pettigrew, Pub Preservation Officer for South East London branch, CAMRA
This is one of a series on pubs along the East London Line. For Neil’s article on pubs in Dalston see http://www.sydenhamsociety.com/2010/10/it%e2%80%99s-not-grim-up-north-a-guide-to-some-of-the-pubs-on-the-east-london-line/