“Ale Cider Meat” and “Ale & Cider House” are the two signs which catch the attention from afar and tell you that you are close to the Southampton Arms (I always think it’s closer than it is when I walk to it from Kentish Town tube station, and seeing that sign puts the finishing line in sight). Outside it’s a simple two-door boozer, one of which isn’t used, with a huge waist-to-ceiling window in between, letting light through to the otherwise delightfully dark bar (pubs like this should be dark).
Inside it’s narrow and long with the sort of bare wooden floors that have been blackened and worn with time and the passing shuffles of thirsty patrons. The bar curves like a backward “J” and it’s ruggedly handsome bare wood exterior flows throughout. It’s the sort of pub where you can amuse yourself through a pint just by looking around and taking it all in: the mis-matched bar stools, the close-together tables and chairs which often need people to move to allow others to pass, the small tiled fireplace, the room leading off from behind the bar (what’s in there?!), the piano which gets played a few times a week, adding a wonderful old-time feel, the low-hanging lights, the gold-rimmed clock, the chalk board sign which tells you it’s cash only, or just fawning over the beer choice and the colourful pump clips.
Starting at the curve of the bar a small hot plate keeps the roast pork warm for the rolls they serve, then it’s two Camden Town Brewery taps (the brewery is a 15-minute walk away), then 12 handpulls. Behind the bar are up to eight ciders on gravity plus spirits. The Southampton Arms prides itself on only serving beers and ciders from independent producers and the beer line-up is always thirsty reading as they serve from the top breweries in the UK. The beers are also charged at reasonable prices, with pints under £3.
The food selection is great too, with a choice of simple porcine snacks with your pint: pork pies, pork rolls, sausage rolls, scotch eggs.
The beer is well-kept and the choice is always excellent, ranging from pale and hoppy, to best bitters, to big stouts, to brewery rarities. It’s also a great place to drink with a buzzing, lively atmosphere made up of a mix of young and not-so-young, all gulping the great beer and cider, often sharing tables and stories and suggestions for what to order next.
I’m fairly fickle when it comes to my favourite pubs but the Southampton Arms is currently my top drinking spot in London.
These photos are not mine. You can tell that because they are in focus and well composed. I got them from Travels with Beer, one of my favourite beer websites. You should check it out.
Also, if you were the guy on Friday night in the Southampton Arms who told me you like the blog then thank you, you made my week.