Beer Guide London Visits 14 – Central
On the 24th February what most of the world hoped wouldn’t happen happened. Russian forces rolled in to Ukraine. A couple of days later I decided to head in to London to see what, if anything, was happening at the respective Embassies and elsewhere.
I made my to Notting Hill and walked to the Russian Embassy where a large, noisy, crowd had assembled to protest. The Wall of the Embassy, and the pavement, were covered in slogans and messages of support for the Ukrainians. I stayed here for half an hour, soaking in what was happening and occasionally adding my voice to the volleys of insults and abuse directed at those inside, and by extension their boss thousands of miles away.
In a subdued mood I decided it was time for a drink so took the short walk to the Mall Tavern, an imposing corner pub, sister to the Stag in Belsize Park and a great place for good beer if you find yourself in this part of London. I settled down with my drink for some quiet contemplation, but the rugby was about to start on the TV and it was starting to get busy so I decided to move on and walk down to Holland Park to see what was happening at the Ukrainian Embassy.
I had to walk past the Russian Embassy again en route, and the crowds, if anything, were getting larger and more vociferous. I continued down the road and on the corner where you turn for the Ukrainian Embassy I discovered that there is a statue of Saint Volodmyr, Patron Saint of the Ukrainian People. In stark contrast to earlier the scene outside the Ukrainian Embassy was one of calm, there was no crowd, just piles of flowers left at the gates and a trickle of curious people, like myself. I stood in quiet contemplation for a while, thinking back to my time there in January, and the realisation that it will never be the same again.
I decided to jump on the Central Line and do a couple of pubs in the centre before heading to Whitehall to see what was happening there. The first stop was the Queen Charlotte, formerly part of the Draft House chain but now fully absorbed by BrewDog, and recently totally rebranded as such. As with the other Draft Houses this rebranding has finally seen them become a sort of BrewDog light, but thankfully there were still a couple of interesting beers available and I ended up on a 9.0% Liquorice Stout from recently closed Weird Beard. It was that kind of day. Then I found that I’d had it before. Yep, it was that kind of day!
I carried on down the road to visit what is probably the poshest entry in the Guide, the Wigmore, the bar attached to the adjacent Langham Hotel. I always feel self conscious when I enter but, and I cannot emphasise this enough, I have always been made to feel welcome. The bar was packed, a sign that tourism is slowly returning to London, but I managed to find a seat at the bar and was pleasantly surprised that they had a house saison available brewed by the excellent Yonder Brewing and Blending.
The walk down to Whitehall took longer than expected as tourists really are beginning to return in numbers, much to my annoyance! Once I started walking down towards the Cenotaph it became clear that this was where the largest protest was taking place, outside Downing Street. The road had been closed and it was packed, a sea of blue and yellow. I wandered around here, barely taking in the chants and banners as I was lost in my own thoughts about the situation.
In a very subdued mood now I made the decision that I would spend the night working my way through the taps at my favourite Dutch bar. When I arrived I discovered that it was closed for a private event. It was definitely that kind of day.