Beer Guide London Visits 21 – Waterloo
The destination of choice for Easter Saturday was Waterloo, easy to get too and easy travelling between venues. It’s a short walk from the station to the South Bank Food Centre where, tucked away in one corner, you will find Hop Locker which conveniently opens at 11:00. Don’t be fooled by the market stall appearance, this place regularly has one of the best beer lists in London, and there is a always a fantastic selection of packaged beers to take away. Plus you have the best selection of food to accompany your drinking.
From here it is only a short stroll along the South Bank to the National Theatre and it’s attached bar, the Understudy. This is a bar and coffee shop and is always a popular place for people to meet by the river. This is an easily overlooked venue but it is worth seeking out. The beer range is always better than average and you will often find an unusual gem lurking on one of the taps. It’s riverside location makes it a great place to sit with a good beer and watch the world go by.
It was now time to head away from the river and back in the direction of the station and stop three at the Waterloo Tap. Part of the same family of bars as Euston Tap etc you know that you are going to get a good beer selection and it rarely disappoints. Situated in the arches between the station and the river this is a great place to grab a beer before your train. Or as soon as you get off your train. Or if you just want a good beer.
Head just a few streets away from Waterloo Station and you will find yourself in another world, quiet terraces of old workers houses, unchanged but now significantly more expensive! Amongst all of these is another of the great London back street boozers, the Kings Arms. A cosy corner pub with a large room to the rear where food is available. The beer range is always good and the cask ales are always in fine condition. A favourite haunt of commuters seeking a pint before the train home it can get busy in the early evenings but on this holiday Saturday it was busy with locals, a good sign in a time when a lot of establishments are struggling.
Leaving here it was less than ten minutes walking through the quiet back streets to get to stop five for the day, Fountain & Ink. This imposing corner bar was a former member of the Barworks group but on this visit it seemed not to have gone downhill like all of the others. There was still a decent selection of beers and the Vocation beer that I had on cask was in very good condition. Unfortunately subsequent visits have seen it fall below the level that we try to keep for the Guide and it has been removed.
A couple of minutes around the corner to my second bricks & mortar presence of an online beer seller in two days, this time Beer Hawk Southbank. This is a very smart, small bar with a good range of beers showcasing their wares. It can be a bit AB-InBev heavy, given that they own it, but there are usually other options as well. Plenty of beers in the fridges with a discount for taking them away, but you always have the option of online ordering if you don’t want to carry them around with you!
It was an enjoyable 10 minute stroll on a nice day for a first visit in a long time to MC & Sons. I always enjoy my visits to this Irish bar where you can usually find a couple of interesting Irish beers to tick. But not anymore, the beer range has gone downhill since my last visit, quite probably as a result of the pandemic. It tells you all you need to know when I say I had a Czech lager in here this time instead of my usual two or three new Irish beers. It’s always sad when we have to do this but the changes were impossible to ignore, it had lost it’s unique selling point, and as a result it has been removed from the Guide.
A short walk along the road brought me to my eighth stop of the day, The Tankard. This is one of the former Drafthouse group that was bought out by BrewDog. Initially there was very little change and they were still distinguishable as a subgroup in their own right, but they have now all been rebranded as xxx a BrewDog bar and the beer list has subsequently taken a turn for the worse. They are effectively BrewDog lite, but if you are lucky there will be an interesting guest. This particular bar has a large airy interior and when the weather is good there is a roof terrace from where you get a good view of the park housing the Imperial War Museum.
Another short stroll through Kennington to my next stop, Oaka at the Mansion House. This is an Asian restaurant that also serves the Oakham range of beers, the only guaranteed place to find them in London as far as I am aware. Despite being a restaurant there is a large drinking only area so it is fine to go in just for the beers. Range and quality didn’t seem to be quite as it was on previous visits, but that is the case for a lot of venues following the pandemic, the Oakham beers mean it is always worth a visit and I will return at some point to see if it is back to it’s best.
Footnote : In checking the website for this entry it now makes no mention of Oaka so it is possible that there have been some changes which will need to be checked.
From here I made my way to Vauxhall and my final stop of the day, Mother Kelly’s SE1. The first thing I noticed as I entered was that the fridges had gone. It turn’s out that the decision has been made to turn this railway arch bar in to a draft only venue. But, it is Mother Kelly’s, so although there is a reduction in choice what is left is pretty much guaranteed to be top notch. Situated in a railway arch, like so many others in London, but this is the only one I can think of that allows entry at either end. This, is far and away, the best place to get a beer in this part of London.