It’s a mere 20 minutes from Sydenham and is another area of London that is packed with places of architectural and historical interest.
Many of the area’s pubs have been lost in the last twenty years, and the streets are full of ‘dead’ pubs, i.e. once-proud purpose-built Victorian pubs that are now used as shops, offices, restaurants, etc. The white working-class population that once characterised the area, and which filled the pubs, has been largely replaced by immigrant populations for whom pub-going is not a part of their culture. But pub enthusiasts still have plenty to enjoy.
As you emerge from the station on Whitechapel Road, look up and to your left and you will see the faded pub sign of the Lord Rodney’s Head above what is now a shoe shop. After silently paying your respects, walk east a few more yards and you come to the legendary Blind Beggar (337 Whitechapel Rd, E1 1BU). Photos of Reggie and Ronnie Kray adorn the walls of this still-traditional 1894 pub with an opulent arched and pillared frontage.
For food and drink, however, you may be better served by walking east a further fifty yards to The White Hart (1 Mile End Rd, E14TP), another grand building, this one topped with a flamboyant cupola tower. A good selection of real ales is matched by a good pizza menu in here.
Retrace your steps west along Whitechapel High Street and you will come to another pub called The White Hart (89 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7RA). Much smaller than its grander namesake, this is a deliciously traditional pub that is well worth a visit. Pubs that have not been modernized or turned into restaurants are a rarity today, but here is fine example of one that has had the courage to stay true to its roots. The beer is good too.
Head a few minutes south to Leman Street and you will find two more pubs which, while less interesting than the two White Harts, are still worth a visit. The Old Dispensary (19a Leman Street, E1 8EN) is housed in a grand early 19th century building although its multi-roomed interior has been given a modern refurbishment. Just around the corner is The White Swan (21Alie Street, E1 8DA), a smart and traditional pub owned by the brewer Shepherd Neame.