At first glance, John Warland’s ‘Liquid History’ looks a tad undernourished. This pub crawl in a book is a handsome little hardback filled with scrappy pen sketches and only seems to feature a handful of over-familiar boozers. Ye Olde Chesire Cheese, check. The Grenadier, check. the horrendously overprice George Inn, check. But dig a little deeper and there are real gems to discover here – the kind which are only familiar to born Londoners.
The George is a former coffee house that Samuel Johnson is supposed to have used as a postal address. It’s near Temple tube so that means your crawl can incorporate The Seven Stars and the Edgar Wallace. The Lyric hides in plain sight in Soho. I worked around the corner from it for three decades and never once set foot inside it. Its connection to body snatching and strippers has not passed unnoticed by Mr Warland.
There are plenty of nicely offbeat pubs here, like the Tipperary, an Irish pub squashed into an unusually narrow space which was built from monastery stones and subsequently survived the Great Fire of 1666. The Jamaica Wine House is known as the Jampot and is almost impossible to find in the City’s maze of alleyways. The Holborn Whippet is a newbie on the corner of Sicilian Avenue, but feels as if it opened in the 1920s and has quickly established itself as a great pub.
‘Liquid History’ is a top-notch pub crawl of a book you could keep with you as a trusted guide. I’ve tested it out on a few favourites and it’s been a delight to rediscover them. For years, grubby-fingered developers worked with breweries to buy out their ‘unproductive’ pubs, and right now the British boozer faces its biggest-ever threats. The hollowing out of cities as workers stay home has killed whole areas, and the young prefer not to risk the social interaction demanded by a public house, perhaps not spotting the clue in its name.
Hopefully this book will bring some new visitors, although by focussing so much on the Square Mile it’s perhaps aimed more at returning workers. The capital’s great social pubs could easily fill a second volume – if any of them survive the coming year.