Since reading about the renaissance of brewing in London last summer, I've had Southampton Arms on my short list of pubs to visit. I spent the evening there (now that I've gotten back on Chicago time after sleeping nearly 12 bloody hours), and I have decided it is, quite possibly, the best pub in the world—Duke of Perth excepted.
First, it has everything I look for in a pub bar one: good atmosphere, great beers, a regular crowd, and no televisions. I only wish it had WiFi. Instead, it has Fred:
Of course I don't mean to make Parker jealous, but Fred—a true bar bitch, despite her name—is astounding not only by being a sweet and calm bar hound, but also by not weighing two hundred kilos. Seriously: the amount of food I watched her Hoover off the floor would have swollen Parker up like the Graf Zeppelin.
Fred must have decided that I had good hands, or at least that I was a pushover, because she spent about two hours keeping my feet warm and hoping that I would drop something resembling food for her. That, and I kept scritching her. Everybody won!
The pub also had some top-notch English independent brews, especially Marble Pint APA and Lagonda IPA, the two best English-brewed beers I've ever had. It's almost as if the quaint island of Britain has discovered that beer tastes better with hops, damned be the old men drinking their real ales. And yet, these two beers topped out at perhaps 60 IBUs and under 4.5% ABV, putting them well within the category we Americans label "session beers." (In the UK, one must remember, all beers are session beers, so these two are actually near the top of the bitterness and alcohol scales here.)
I will absolutely return to this pub the next time I come to London, which, barring injury or war, will be shortly after the new year. And in the spirit of a true English public house, let me thank Joe, Laurie, Martin, Hester, Beatrice, Lewis, and the rest of the crowd with whom I shared many rounds on a rainy, cold Sunday in October.