It's no exaggeration to say that the London Underground is the circulatory system that keeps London going. Chances are you've seen one of the many news articles or documentaries regarding January 2013 being the 150th anniversary of the first trains running between Paddington and Farringdon on the Metropolitan Railway. Maybe you've even seen some of the special services that ran to commemorate the occasion. If you did, consider me jealous.
Earl's Court is a busy station serving both the District and Piccadilly lines and carries it's fair share of passengers on a normal weekday, before you even consider events at Earl's Court exhibition centre. In 2011, the station saw annual entry and exit of just shy of 21 million people. Think on that.
The history of the station and the line is documented in plenty of better sources than this blog, including at the London Transport Museum, so I'll concentrate more on my experience.
My first impression as I hopped off the train was the light and airy feel of the station. Mention of the Underground usually conjures up images of a maze of tunnels leading to a hot, stuffy platform full of Metro wielding commuters trying to push you on to the tracks so they can get to their favourite door, but Earl's Court is different. This is in no small part due to the train shed style overall glass roof that lets the sun stream in. The roof underwent restoration from November 2007 to December 2008 and in 2009, the Railway Heritage Awards recognised the quality of the work with a certificate of merit. The station is also Grade II listed.
The spacious nature continues into the ticket hall. Granted this was at a quieter time of day, but even in busier times there's plenty of room to weave.
The staff were also friendly, and more than willing to help people whose wheely suitcases get stuck in the ticket barriers as they pass through.
As you leave the station, one of the first things you'll see will be a pub.
The Taylor Walker owned Courtfield is a proper Victorian style pub, complete with high ceilings, chandeliers and mouldings. A former hotel, the pub offers the usual food deals you'd expect in a tourist orientated part of London. You can't walk down Earl's Court Road without noticing that every pub is offering fish and chips.
Anyway, the Courtfield, whilst certainly appealing to tourists after the authentic British pub experience, also has plenty to offer the local. On a sunny evening, the pub spills out onto the street with a mix of tourists, locals and commuters giving the place a nice atmosphere.
Six hand pumps provide plenty of choice and the Woodforde's Wherry, St Austell Tribute and Marston's EPA slipped down a treat. The Adnams Broadside is usually a must for me, but on a warm evening something lighter seemed in order.
The staff knew their onions in the Courtfield, and were on hand to offer friendly advice to anyone unsure of what to go for.
Turning left out of the Courtfield and heading a few steps down the Earl's Court Road is our next stop, the Blackbird. The Blackbird is one of Fuller's Ale and Pie houses, something I've only ever encountered in the big smoke.
The building was actually a branch of Midland Bank and was converted into a pub as recently as 1994. The interior, whilst not original has certainly been tastefully done and there isn't really anything to suggest there has ever been anything but a pub there.
Whilst not having the full range of Fuller's beer on, those on offer were in great condition. Not to mention available in handles! The 3.6% Gales Seafarers Ale is always worth trying if you see it on the bar and the Summer Ale, 3.9% is light and refreshing on a warm London evening.
I felt sorry for the tourists as the sun was detracting from the authentic British June experience.
As with all the pubs in the area, food is available. You won't be surprised to see fish and chips advertised.
Following Earl's Court Road further south you'll come to the junction with the Old Brompton Road. A right turn here and a few hundred yards on the left, you'll find the Pembroke.
A pub since 1866 and originally named the Coleherne, the building has had a turbulent past. A gay pub since it opened, the Colherne has witnessed social unrest, serial killers, and a number of famous customers. That's almost politics though, and that's not why we're here.
In 2008, the refurbished Colherne opened as the gastro pub you see in the picture, the Pembroke.
As the appallingly digitally edited photo shows, the Pembroke had three ales on. On the left we have Kohinoor, a 4.5% IPA brewed for the Queen's jubilee. As well as being a good quality IPA with the hoppyness and bitterness you'd expect, there's also some interesting flavour from a number of different ingredients including cardamom and coriander. This is only available in May and June, so keep a sharp lookout.
Next up we have the 4.2% Hound Dog golden ale from the Growler Brewery. From what I can make out, Growler was originally Nethergate. Following a change of ownership rebranding is happening and beer styles seem to be expanding, as well as retaining the old favourites. If you know more, please get in touch.At the far right is Twisted Wheel from Greene King. Brewed to celebrate the the 50th anniversary of the eponymous mod club in Manchester, the beer has a curious ginger flavour too it. Worth trying to tick it off the list, but I'm not sure I could go more than one.
What is should of mentioned earlier is that the Pembroke offers beers in that finest of mediums, the thirds paddle! Make sure you make a good mental note of the order they go on in, as it's pretty easy to get mixed up. I imagine.
So that was an evening spent in Earl's Court. We had some laughs, killed some time and tried some nice beers.
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