Sunday, 22 September 2013

A couple of gorgeous London pubs

In the back room after the family have gone
Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been? Well, not up to London to visit the Queen, but to London to see my brother graduate. After years of hard study in addition to doing his day job, my little bruv has got a BSc in Social Sciences, and can pursue his dream of being a teacher. He did it through the Open University.

I have massive respect for anyone who studies with the OU. For non-Brits, it's a university where the work is done mostly through home study in the students' spare time, with additional tutorials and summer schools. It's backed up with programmes on the BBC, too. It has the same standards as other British universities, but the way it's structured means people who can't study full time because of work or family commitments, or who might find accessing a bricks-and-mortar university difficult (eg people with severe physical disabilities) can get a degree, masters, even PhD.

Another view of the Fox's back room
Anyway, in addition to seeing Dibbles* get his certificate we had lunch with family in a pub called the Fox and Anchor. I found it via the daily Emerald Street email. I'm not usually one for girly bobbins, but Emerald Street really is good and the email always includes a bar or restaurant review. They send out separate emails for London, Birmingham and Glasgow/Edinburgh – I get the London one, but I wish they had one for Bristol!

The Fox's website says it's in Clerkenwell, but it's definitely round the back of Smithfield Market. Is Smithfield Market in Clerkenwell? I don't know! At any rate, you just need to walk round the meat market to find it. We needed somewhere easy to get to from the graduation venue (the Barbican Centre), as one of the party wouldn't have been able to walk far, with a traditional menu, as another was a fussy eater, and the Fox seemed to fit the bill. It's lovely inside, all dark wood panelling. At the back there are even little mirrored booths, where perhaps once upon a time Victorian blokes entertained loose women, or worked out a dodgy deal or two.

The food was jolly nice, though I hadn't realised you needed to order vegetables separately and my chicken-and-ham pie came all on its own so I quickly ordered some additional veggies. My brother ordered the pork pies with mushy peas, and they looked really good. The beers were excellent.

The bar at the Black Friar – look at the frieze!
After a long meal Mr Robot and I waved goodbye to my brother and the rest of the family, had one more beer, and set off on our photo safari. We were walking round the edge of the City of London, where it meets the City of Westminster. A loop round Old Holburn, Fleet Street and the Embankment meant we ended up in the splendid turn-of-the-20th-century Arts and Crafts pub, the Black Friar. I've just bought a new camera, so hopefully these last two photos will give you a clearer idea of what we love about it - there's just nowhere else like it, with its marble walls and brass reliefs of monks brewing beer.
The back room at the Black Friar
*My brother doesn't read this blog. Good job, eh?

8 comments :

  1. I used to work at Blackfriars but to my shame I never looked in at the Black Friar, despite walking past it every day! (For works dos my colleagues seemed to prefer the newer pubs/restaurants on the riverside, boo!) I will definitely have to rectify that next time I'm in the City. Another pub in the area that I've heard good things about, but again never visited myself, is Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street.

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    1. Congratulations to your brother on his graduation too! I've sometimes thought about looking into an OU course myself...

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    2. You should definitely go in the Black Friar if you get the chance. I've been in two of the Fleet Street pubs, the Old Bell and the Olde Cheshire Cheese. The poor Bell is really historic, and housed one of London's first printing presses, but inside it feels like it's been reworked so much over the years it's quite featureless. The Cheshire Cheese has much more personality. The Bell was probably at its best when full of journos...

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  3. Ass that I am, accidentally deleted that, sorry!

    I am in love with those buildings, gorgeous. And well done that brother.

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  4. Well done to bro ;)
    It's always nice to get a good pub recommendation for when visiting old Londonville, so thanks for this! Rx

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  5. Looks like you found some right nice pubulars!

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  6. I'd classify Smithfield as Clerkenwell! And the Fox and Anchor and the Black Friar are both very fine pubs indeed! I'm also a fan of the Rising Sun and the Hand and Shears near Smithfield Market - both tucked in away on a narrow street just near St Barts Church... (And I'm very jealous of graduating in the Barbican Centre - what a great venue!)

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