An afternoon in Marylebone

For this afternoon’s little adventure I got the tube to Oxford Circus, aiming to visit some pubs in the Marylebone area. My main target was a pub that I had visited some years ago and now features in the Good Beer Guide, along with any others that I might come across. Heading up Regent Street North I took a left turn and, on the next corner, found a Greene King pub called the Finery. This would do for starters, I thought. It was built in 1996 and was previously a travel agency, hence its original name the Old Explorer. It is part of an office block, with one dark blue and one light blue framed windows and entrances.

Inside it is open plan with the bar running along the back wall. The floor is dark wood and the walls dark blue and grey with some exposed brick pillars in the centre. The seating is mainly high chairs and tables but there is also a settee and a round table with a bench. At the bar I had the choice of IPA and Abbot. I went for the IPA at £5.45, which, with my CAMRA card, came down to £4.91. I was impressed that the barman knew straight away what it was and where it was on the till. The beer was good and the pub itself was inoffensive enough with several customers in.

The next pub, the Phoenix, was just across the road and is a modern three storey square building, backing on to an office block. It was built in 1958 as a replacement for an earlier pub on Princess Street. The pub frontage is black with the pub name in large gold lettering. Inside it was similarly dark, with a centre three sided bar and a dark tiled wood floor, dark grey green wood-panelled walls and lots of old photos.

The ceiling is quite low and pale in colour. For seating there are light brown leather benches along the wall on one side and high seating on the other. This is an M&B pub and it was serving Timothy Taylor Landlord and the inevitable Doom Bar which I went for at £5.35 and it was good. I had visited here twenty years previously when the range was Adnams, GK IPA and London Pride, all very mainstream, even then. It was busy enough now, being 5.30, so time to wander off.

I then headed to New Cavendish Street to find the Kings Head. This is a small locals’ corner pub on the ground floor of a four storey brick building. Its signs say Greene King but it may be independently operated. I had been to this pub twice before, in 2002 and 2010. On the first occasion I had GK IPA at £2.26 and on the second there was IPA again, along with Abbot. On this visit I also had the choice of St Austell Tribute, albeit at £5.80 although it was good. I thought that it was a bit sad that this small locals’ pub was more expensive than the first two I visited.

The pub was first licensed in 1765 and rebuilt by Charrington’s in 1939. It rates one star on CAMRA’s register of historic pub interiors. There is a central three sided curved bar, the floor is carpeted, and there are upholstered benches all around. The walls are pale green and adorned with lots of old photos. It was very quiet here; I was almost the only customer, although this allowed time for the landlord to sit and chat with me. He mentioned that he did know some of the local CAMRA branch, especially one from north of the border.

Finishing my Tribute I bade farewell and proceeded along Weymouth Street into Weymouth Mews for my final visit, the Good Beer Guide listed Jackalope. One of Marylebone’s two remaining mews pubs, it was built in 1777 and is Grade II listed. It was previously called the Dover Castle and was operated by Sam Smith’s. It is now a Bloomsbury Leisure Group outlet. I had been here in February 2002 and again in December 2008, indulging in a pint of OBB at a very reasonable £1.88. Under the current ownership, the ale range is somewhat more ambitious, although I had to return my first choice as it was the end of the barrel. There was no hesitation in replacing it and the barman allowed me tasters to be sure. The ales available came from Kirkstall, Thornbridge and Marble. I went for the latter’s Pint at £4.90 and it was good. There are etched windows and the bar area has a wood floor and full wooden wall panels. There are several seating areas and a small curved bar with a clear mirrored bar-back. Deservedly the pub was busy and seems rather popular. Well worth a visit.

Just four pubs today but three distinct styles, despite being in the West End. It does demonstrate that there is variety around, even in West One. Another interesting afternoon, so back to the tube and home.
Clive Taylor
Editor’s note: Clive’s visit was in October 2022. I have checked the pubs on WhatPub and they are all still open, although there may be differences in the beer ranges. This is, sadly, Clive’s final article for London Drinker. I wish to thank him for his many contributions over the years. They have been greatly appreciated and will be missed.