By Alex Hawkes.
To celebrate some sort of rebranding exercise that I still haven’t quite got my head around yet, the Punch Pub Company organised for a routemaster bus to take me, a friend and lots of other journalists on a tour of no less than five of its most historic pubs. These pubs have recently been brought under the Taylor Walker name, which is a brewery that dates back to the 1730s and therefore can be marketed with lots of Daily Mail words like 'traditional British'.
Before this evening, I assumed I had never set foot in a Taylor Walker/Punch Pub Company pub before, but turns out I am more than familiar with the brand. Upon arriving at the Green Man (above) on Euston Road, I realise Taylor Walker pubs are instantly recognisable from their slick jet black exterior and proud golden signs. This design, I go onto discover, apparently pays homage to London’s former gin palaces; lavish Victorian drinking holes for the rich and ostentatious.
Sadly, there is very little ostentatious to be found inside any of these pubs today and instead Taylor Walker pubs predominantly seem to be about playing it safe. The menus are restricted solely to the typical fish and chips, sausage and mash, pies etc strictly without any gastro twist, while the deco likes to reference olde England via a few pictures or ornaments sandwiched between wide screen TVs. My first impression perhaps wasn't helped by meeting in the Green Man’s function room, which has about as much character as a budget hotel lobby.
The routemaster bus took us next onto the Marlborough Arms (above) near UCL, where we were supplied with cocktails that taste like fizzy drinks; always the most dangerous sort of cocktail. It was after one or two or four of these, that my friend and I realised we had been trashed off our faces before in this exact pub. Now, this could be perceived as a triumph for Taylor Walker. I have, after all, happily thrown away large wads of my hard earned cash during a full afternoon and evenings worth of debauchery in one of their establishments. On the other hand, though, it really was one of those days when 'just any old pub will do'.
Heading onwards, we take in Ye Olde Cock Tavern (above) on Fleet Street and the Silver Cross (below) in Whitehall. The same thing happens both times. Maybe I should start attending AA sessions, but I had definitely ordered a pint (honest it was just the one) in both these pubs before. One is near my old work place and the other is near the station I need to use to get home. And yes, I nipped in them again with my 'just any old pub will do' attitude.
The tour finished in Mayfair in The Audley (above), which ruined my 'just any old pub will do' theory as this pub was considerably more flash than the others and it was in a neighbourhood where no one really does 'just any old pub will do'. Nevertheless, this essentially was a 'just any old pub will do' tour and I thoroughly enjoyed it; partly because of the routemaster bus, which came complete with a flamboyant tour guide who pointed out places in London that I walk past every day and don't realise are actually quite important, but mainly because these 'just any old pub will do' pubs have played a role in my life and it’s about time that I gave them the care and attention they deserve. I encourage you all to also embark on your very own 'just any old pub will do' tour.
If you want to check out some more of London’s best pubs, click this link to go through to our Top 10 London guides.