The Central London Sam Smith’s pub crawl

Sam Smith's pubs are London's best kept secret: cheap pints and a great atmosphere to boot. Photo Credit: Kathrine Anker

In the heart of London, from the small alleys of Soho to the larger boulevards of High Holborn, lies one of London cheapest pub crawls.

The Samuel Smith old brewery, popularly known as Sam Smith’s, was established in 1758, in North Yorkshire and is now well known all over the UK as it operates over 300 pubs scattered around Britain.

A good way to have a taste of Sam Smith’s pubs is to start your journey in Oxford Circus. Going down Kingly Street, stopping at number 14, you’ll find the Red Lion pub.

Going into a Sam Smith’s pub always procures a mixed feeling. At first it feels like entering a western saloon, with swinging wooden doors and large glass windows, but the wooden tables and the red carpets matched with dimmed lights give the sensation of being in a mysterious Irish joint and an 18th century Wild West brothel at the same time.

All Sam Smith’s pubs are built the same way: the counter being the most important it is always located in the middle, carving the spaces around it in different compartments. Sometimes you can’t even go from one compartment to the other without having to step outside. It has to be said: Sam Smith’s pubs are dazzling puzzles.

At the bar, apart from the usual drinks, you have a choice of two Ales, a few lagers and ciders brewed by Sam Smith’s. The flagship drink of the Sam Smith’s brewery is the Old Bitter, which has a taste of dirty water, but nobody complains because it’s only £2 a pint.

From Oxford Circus to Carnaby Street

See if you can find Brian, one of the regulars of the Glasshouse Stores. Photo credit: Vincent Huck

After the Red Lion head to the John Snow in Broadwick Street. On your way you’ll cross Carnaby Street where the lights are so bright that you’ll swear it’s daytime even in the wee hours of the morning.

To fully enjoy the John Snow it is better to head directly to the second floor. Firstly, your drink will be served in a proper glass and not in a plastic cup and secondly, the staff turn out to be less stressed and therefore more accessible.

The next stop is Brewer Street, a five minute walk towards Piccadilly Circus. There, one after the other, you’ll find: The Glasshouse Store, the Duke Of Argyll and the White Horse (turning right on Rupert Street).

The Glasshouse Store looks small at first but if you wander downstairs you’ll discover a large cellar and a second bar. On a lucky night, Brian, a regular, might be sitting in the corner of the counter. Even when drunk and rowdy, Brian is always keen to share all the latest news about English football, politics and general gossip.

The Duke Of Argyll looks more like a gambling house than a pub: large round dirty tables with lots of people running around. The bartender even looks as if he’s 12 years old but apparently nobody seems to mind. It’s important to know that the Duke Of Argyll takes cash only.

By the time you get to the White House, the taste of the Old Bitter might have turned from dirty water to sweat. Fortunately enough the next stop is out of Soho which offers an occasion to walk the alcohol out.

The Crown and the Princess

Walking out of the White Horse, turn onto Old Compton Street, one of Soho’s lively streets that will cheer up even the moodiest of spirits. Turn left on Charing Cross Road and carry on until you reach New Oxford Street, where you’ll find the Crown. It’s one of Sam Smith’s smallest pubs, built as a long corridor leading to a back door and an outside area. It is a nice space to enjoy a beer under the stars on those hotter nights.

The Princess Louise

Sam Smith's pubs are also known for their eclectic architecture. Photo credit: Vincent Huck

The last two stops are situated in High Holborn, the Princess Louise near the Holborn tube station and the Cittie of Yorke next to the Chancery Lane Station.

They are probably the two most interesting pubs in terms of architecture: the Princess Louise is built like an elegant glass spider: the bar is an island in the middle of the room from which blurry glass walls escape to divide the room in different smaller spaces.

The Cittie of Yorke on the other hand is built as if a train had crashed into a brewery. At the top of the room the walls are decorated with barrels and a small balcony running along the room. Downstairs around the tables small train compartments offer more private spaces.

Sam Smith’s pubs can be enjoyed one after the other or one at a time, but the interest lies in their architecture and decoration, as well as their prices rather than in the quality of their beers.

Sam Smith enthusiasts can also visit the Sam Smith’s forum, the unofficial place to chat and find out more about this intriguing brewery and pubs.

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