Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Last orders at the Wenlock?

There's no shortage of fine pubs about the place, but within that number there's a handful that are nearly mythical in their fabulousness. Is there a pub that sits almost on the beach in the shadow of Golden Cap in Dorset? Yes there is. Is there a pub hidden away by a canal in Staffordshire where jugs of beer are carried up from the cellar by the umpteenth generation of the same family? There is indeed. Is there one in the heaving heart of North London that dispenses probably the widest and most interesting variety of beers on the planet? Yes, but maybe not for long.

The Wenlock Arms is mythical not only due to the quality and variety of its beers, the thickness of its sarnies and its rare atmosphere, but also because its very existence seems pretty unlikely. As you turn off City Road and make your way down a dim, quiet and faintly unsettling street, the chance of finding one of the world's finest pubs seems slim. But it's always there in the end, a warmly lit jewel with more levels of delight than a blogpost has space to describe.

But, after 16 years of doing the world a very big service, the owners of the Wenlock have decided they've done their bit and are selling up. And hats off to them. But the question is what happens now. The pub sits in a corner of London that, being close to the centre of things and graced with a network of canals, has undergone intense development in recent times. Things have slowed a little in the last couple of years, but the Wenlock is a site that must have developers licking their chops.

Whether the Wenlock remains a pub or not appears to be up in the air, and some concerned locals have valiantly begun a campaign to try and ensure that it does. Whichever way it goes, it's worth heading down there sharpish for a taste of this genuinely unique place. It may be your last chance, and if it's not, it's an opportunity to tell future punters how you remember it in the old days, and that's always worth taking.

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