The only way one could possibly review this book, without visiting all 4,500 pubs listed, which would take an age, cost a small fortune and shorten one’s life by about a decade, is to look up those pubs with which one is familiar and see if what they say tallies with one’s own experience.
I thought I’d start with a familiar one called the Lamb and Flag, the oldest boozer in Covent Garden, with a licence going back to 1623. No entry. OK, let’s try The Grenadier in Belgravia, a gem of a pub, tucked away in Wilton Mews, which used to act as the mess for the Duke of Wellington’s Grenadier Guards. No entry. What about the Pig’s Ear in Chelsea, previously known as The Front Page? I then had a ‘doh!’ moment, and re-read the title - it was all about beer, and not just beer, but good beer. I quite like a pint of Fuller’s London Pride or Adnam’s Bitter, which they serve at the Grenadier, along with Wells Bombardier (what else?), but that is obviously not good enough.
I read the entry on the Anglesea in South Kensington, which they describe as ‘a hidden gem’, and where they serve London Pride and Adnam’s Bitter, so what qualifies one pub over another? The White Horse in Parson’s Green is there all right, written up in glowing terms, but no mention of the thick pall of smoke, from both cigarettes and the omnipresent barbecue, hanging over the overcrowded patio at the front, like a scene from All Quiet on the Western Front. In my old stomping ground, Hampstead, the Holly Bush gets a good write-up, but no mention of the Duke of Hamilton in New End, the Flask Tavern in Flask Walk, or the other Flask in Highgate. There is an astonishing amount of information, not only about the pub architecture original features like etched and brilliant glass screens, but also the strength of real ales, real fires and real British food, but nought about whether they have accommodation or family rooms. I am off to the Victorian Falcon in Clapham Junction, which boasts the longest island bar in England, for a swift half. Cheers.
908pp. Price £15.99