Great London Pubs No.4: The Albion

London

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The curse of the cupcake afflicts certain affluent areas of London – perfectly respectable pubs and restaurants are turned into frilly creches for the chattering classes. Trendy Canonbury is infested with them. Gone are the flatulent pub dogs and dimpled pint mugs, the kind of pubs where pork scratchings count as a main course, and in come macaroons and smoked salmon salad a la plancha for nannies, babies and a certain breed of blonde mum who did two years in publishing before producing a baby and filling in the time before her first divorce mooning around cushion shops and taking tea in converted pubs.

There’s an odd residential area very close to the centre of London that people overlook – Barnesbury is so hidden that there are signs to it – but why would you go there? Well, for a start there are two excellent pubs, the Crown – and the Albion, with its superb wisteria-filled garden.

Barnesbury was little more than a run-down adjunct to the formerly dismal Caledonian Road for years, but always held special interest, not least for the strange Egyptian sphinxes that grace the front gardens of its houses. There’s a gigantic children’s park that I’ve never seen a child use in 20 years, and some gas-lamp-and-honeysuckle cobbled streets that look like they’re in the wrong century. Now it’s prime real estate, which means that nobody lives here anymore.

However, people do visit the Albion, and with good reason. It’s a Georgian boozer left over from a time when Islington was fields and farmland, and where the regulars would take afternoon walks out of the city. Now it treads a fine line between pub and award-winning restaurant – but thankfully it’s not one where yakkity nannies and screaming anklebiters have pushed regular drinkers into an Alamo-style siege. The staff are hardworking, the service can be a bit crazy (beware of the sunny Sunday lunch-rush!) but as a good example of London-rural (a style you’ll also find in places like Turnham Green and Wandsworth) it’s pretty hard to fault.

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5 comments on “Great London Pubs No.4: The Albion”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    I have a fine wisteria tree (stand-alone bush) that looks great and smells wonderful. It is filled with great, long blooms and we have a pre-dinner glass of wine or beer of an evening when we can, but there is a downside, too. The wisteria puts out shoots faster than you can trim them back and the sap will stain your clothing a dark brown in the wash, so it takes care in clipping and presoaking clothing is required. Weekly trimming is also required, unless you have to clip twice or can weave the shoots backinto the bush itself, not possible of the top though.
    I will name my wisteria the Albion and use pub glasses from now on.
    Prosit.

  2. Vivienne says:

    Have always meant to get round to planting wisteria against my south wall, but now not so sure. Maybe this is when it’s best to appreciate others’ efforts, which is another good reason to put The Albion on the list.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    I would have loved to have had the meeting here but two weeks away almost and what are the odds of it being nice? It is certainly lovely, though, – the pub.

  4. steve says:

    Top pub and area. I grew up around there millenia ago. The sphinxes are in Richmond Avenue- when I was a kid that was part of my paper round. If I remember correctly former PM Blair lived in Richmond Crescent for a while although Hi de Hi star Sue Pollard was probably the biggest name when we were living there. House prices around that area started shooting when I was a kid, my mum blamed the “Chelseaites” moving in, obviously they picked up big houses in a central area at cheap prices. Maybe £1.4m a house on Richmond Avenue these days. Formerly dismal Caledonian Road? Still at least it still has Pentonville Prison, and the very faint memory of a cattle market.

  5. jan says:

    Aren’t there some weird Egyptian type park benches in little corner open space parks near this pub.? I do like the Albion didn’t Ray Bryant and Mays governor go for a drink there or to meet his masonic buddies in one of the B + M books?

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