Statistics show that if you live in Britain for your entire life, you will spend an average of £50,000 on booze—even more if you live in London. This may have something to do with the fact that the capital is home over 7,000 pubs. And presumably, a fairly high number of raging alcoholics keeping them all afloat.
Some of these pubs are fantastic. Some, not so much. But every Londoner has their favourite pub: the one with the nice garden or strong beer selection. The place with the friendliest staff, good Sunday roast, best music, best ambiance … Equally, they also know which pubs to avoid like a pint glass to the head.
But as for visitors less well versed in the capital's boozer lore, it can be tricky to know which pubs to count on for a good pint or y'know, just a functioning Ladies toilet.
Sam Cullen wants to fix that.
In March 2013, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, the 28-year-old politics researcher made it his mission to complete London's longest pub crawl, setting out to visit a pub close to every single station on the Underground. That's 270 pubs in total.
Since beginning his mission at Paddington Station, Cullen has been reviewing each of the pubs he visits on his blog in the order the stations opened to the public. This Saturday, he's hitting up the very last one on his list: The Defector's Weld near Wood Lane station in West London. MUNCHIES caught up with Cullen ahead of his final stop to find out what trawling drinking establishments in the nether regions of Zone Two can teach us about London pub culture. MUNCHIES: Hi Sam, thanks for talking to us. So, what made you want to embark on London's longest pub crawl? Sam Cullen: I always wanted to do something where I could review pubs. I already knew quite a few good pubs in London so that was the start. But then again, that wasn't much of a hook—I didn't want to just write about pubs I know at random. It was around the time there was a lot in the news about it being the Tube's 150th anniversary so I realised I could do a pub for every Tube station. And go to them in the order the station's opened. How did you schedule your pub visits? I'm guessing you didn't go somewhere every single night. No. At first, I racked them up pretty quick because most of the first pubs I visited where in Zones One and Two, so they were close to one another. But then as you get further out, getting there becomes a bit more of a trek so it took a lot more organising. Plus, it got more difficult to persuade people to come—I didn't go on my own, I'm not that sad! It's a lot easier to get your friend to come for a pint in Southwark than Harrow-on-the-Hill.
Which has been your favourite pub so far? Oh God. There've been so many that have been good for different reasons. There was one I really enjoyed going to in West Brompton called The Atlas. It's pretty chilled, I went there one of those early days in April when it's starting to still be sunny past 6 PM. That sticks in my memory as a nice one.
Have you discovered the Holy Grail of London pubs—somewhere that isn't packed at 6 PM on a Friday? I'd love to tell you I have, but no. But what I have definitely found is that you're much better off just sticking where you are, even if it's busy. If you try to trail round from one place to the next looking for an empty table, it's never going to happen. But stay put and you might get lucky. So, what's your drink? I'm an ale man. I like a nice solid bitter. Obviously some pubs I go to don't have ale—the further out you get, you just have to make do with what you can get really. Do you think there are more ales around in London than there used to be? It's definitely changing. The only problem I have is a lot of places have a lot of the sweet ones, you know, the amber ales. You can't really do a session on those sweet ones, after three or four it's a bit like, Urgh. I like a Doom Bar or a Tribute, or a London Pride—you know where you are with those beers.
Did you find anywhere with a really cheap pint? This place called The Trinity in Harrow-on-the-Hill do this thing called £2 Tuesday. But that was back in 2013 so it might be more like £2.50 Tuesday by now! What's next? Would you do another huge crawl in another city, or maybe another country? I'd love to do crawls in another city or country, for sure. I think especially when you visit a place and you don't know it, it's so hard to find those great little pubs. It'd be great to help people out with that!
The world is your Oyster card. Thanks for speaking with us, Sam!