Friday, 16 July 2010

Nicholson's Pubs

One chain of London pubs that has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years is Nicholson's, part of the M&B empire. They have always owned some (most ?) of the most historic pubs in London but traditionally had a reputation as tourist traps with warm, badly kept beer served by inexperienced staff at high prices.

Well, someone is now doing the right thing with these great pubs. A few years ago a decision was made to make these pubs a haven for fine ale. Firstly the quality improved, the staff were all made to be trained by leading brewers, cellar to bar fittings were updated, the beer was given a major focus so throughput increased and some old hardy favourites such as London Pride and Timothy Taylor Landlord were made permanent beers at very keen prices for the Capital.

More recently things have improved again. A much wider choice is now available in many of the pubs and those in charge are obviously right on the button as far as consumer choice is concerned.

Lately, beer lists of the Summer Ale List have appeared outside the pubs with the pub's current offerings ticked on the list. Passing the Princess of Wales in Villiers Street WC2 other day day, I was enticed inside by a tick in the box for Thornbridge Wild Swan. One of my current favourite beers, very pale coloured with a distinct flavoursome hop character and only 3.5% - perfect for a summer evening.

Inside, supping my fresh and cool pint, I discovered the list in booklet form. The beers for summer are listed in their categories, session ales, blondes, IPAs, dark and speciality beers and the choices include Rudgate Viking, Adnams Regatta, Morrissey Fox Aussie IPA (hope to find that one), St Austell Proper Job (another of the finest around) and Brian Turner Golden Ale, a beer created by the celebrity chef together with Thornbridge.

The wine list is in its rightful place at the rear of the booklet together with the seasonal offerings such as Pimms and Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer.

So another of my recommendations for the rest of the summer is a London Nicholson's Pub. Not only some of the finest pub architecture in the world but now some of the finest beer too. Cheers.


Brew Wales said...

M & B have threatened to turn the Cardiff CAMRA Pub of the Year - the Pen & Wig, into a Nicholsons - much to the disgust of locals who organised a petition against it. I feel having the Nicholson's Brand move outside London will be a bonus to all real ale drinkers

Reluctant Scooper said...

I think the beer board outside each pub is a genius move.

DaveL said...

Do Nicholson's count as 'food led' pubs which the M & B Chairman said earlier in the year that they were going to concentrate on? If not do they have a long term future within M & B?

Bailey said...

Interesting. I hadn't realised they'd improved so much. On your say so, I'll give them a second chance.

Leigh said...

Nicholsons' pubs in Leeds are great. The beer lists are wonderful (Otley, Purity, Thorbridge, Oakham etc) and the pubs are usually in good nick. I'm a fan, to be honest.

The Beer Justice said...

Arfur, My message would be do not be afraid.
RS The key to the boards is keeping them up to date, only a tick in the box when a new beer comes on but it looks lazy at those pubs who can't be arsed.
Dave I too was concerned to read this. Although they do have a decent food offering I too would classify them as wet-led. Given what the chairman said the future could be uncertain. The London pubs would make an appetising mouthful for Fullers or Youngs though.

Kelly Ryan said...

We did a 5 year anniversary tour for Jaipur last month and visited half a dozen Nicholsons pubs in London as well as some in York, Leeds and Edinburgh.

As brewers we always worry about our supply chain, who is serving our beer, how are they serving our beer etc. (yeah, we're precious, I know!).

These guys are great to deal with, they warehouse the beer properly prior to getting it to the pubs and I can say I never had a bad Jaipur anywhere!

So we're stoked too!!!


Thornbridge Brewery

Anonymous said...

There are a couple of Nicholson's pubs (that I know of) in Manchester. The Wellington is a bit hit-and-miss - last time we were in there they only had two out of five ale pumps working and they were both serving identical, dull 4% session bitters. But the Bank, just round the corner from Piccadilly Square and just along from the Art Gallery, is generally excellent. Have been genuinely impressed with the selection the last few times I've been in. Found a great pint of Jaipur in there a couple of visits ago as well.

ketty said...

Nicholson's Pub is like an American version of a Scottish Pub. the scotch selections are outstandingly impressive, but the food quality is not so good.

historic pubs of london