FIRST VISIT: MONDAY 16 JUNE 2014
The Harp is a bit of a London institution. And rightly so. It was designed by Chris Wren way back in 1666. The original blueprint was sketched out on the back of a Rothmans King Size fag packet, which he’d bought from a tobacconist that was located next door to a bakery on Pudding Lane. Thankfully, the original design wasn’t lost in the Great Fire but sadly Wren’s favourite box of Scottish Bluebell matches was never seen again. Chrisso, as he was known on the city’s buiding sites, and a couple of his mates built the pub during the lunch hour of some big job they were doing on Ludgate Hill. The Harp opened it’s doors on the 16th of March 1710. It’s first day line-up featured ten cask beers but nothing on keg. Some of the pump clips from those early crazy days still adorn the beams of the bar to this day – see if you can spot Gordgano Porter, McTen’s Tartan Sweet Stout and Beaveray Pale. The walls of the pub are adorned with paintings of people who I originally assumed were former proprietors of the place but a little bit of research has revealed they were all stolen from the nearby National Portrait Gallery and used to pay off bar tabs. These days the NPC high heid yins have forgiven the minor indiscretions of some of the pub’s former clientele and now considers the Harp to be an official-unofficial annexe of the Gallery proper. Former landlords and landladies include (in no particular order) Karl Marx, Max Bygraves, Florence Nightingale, Florence & The Machine and a bloke who played in defence for Leyton Orient once or twice sometime in the 1970s. The Harp has won countless awards including CAMRA’s Best Pub in the Entire Cosmos every single year since 10 years before CAMRA was founded, which may have something to do with the time machine located beanth the sausage machine. The current day line-up still features ten cask beers but now there’s also something on keg.
NB: The above paragraph might not be entirely true
I hadn’t planned on going to the pub. The plan was to get the train from Lewisham to Charing Cross then take the Bakerloo line to Paddington. But I arrived at Charing Cross and walked out of the station without even thinking and I was practically outside the Harp before I realised that my plan had inadvertently been sabotaged. It was only eleven thirty but I could see the door was open and through the stained glass window I could see the silhouette of someone knocking back a pint. Oh well, may as well pop in for a swift half. I scanned the cask offerings – there was nothing mind blowing but there were some perfectly acceptable offerings. But then I spied the Kernel tap. It was home to IPA Galaxy Mosaic Summit. With an ABV of 6.9% it seemed like the perfect breakfast aperitif – but just a half because I’m not a total mental! I like beers with Mosaic – it strikes me a damn fine hop. The Kernel slipped down super easy so I returned to the bar for a second drink of the morning. This time I opted for something from a brewery I’d never encountered before. Sadly, the Amarillo from Clarence & Fredericks wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be. It wasn’t exactly bad but it wasn’t good enough to make me want to spend the rest of the day scouring the city hunting down the rest of their range. Midday had arrived so I decided it was time for a Sausage sandwich. I almost went for the Fiery Mexican but at the last moment I decided to go trad and ordered and Beef & Guinness. I also ordered another half of the Kernel. The sausage sandwich was great and the Kernel was great, which I believe adds up to pretty much perfect. It was time to depart. But I departed content in my new found knowledge that the best time to visit the Harp is at 11.32am on a Monday.