London – Islington (Borough of) – Horseshoe

The Horseshoe on Clerkenwell Close in London has, accordingly to CAMRA, been a pub since at least 1748. It’s a corner pub that was operated by Courage and although I didn’t realise at the time I was there how long it had been trading, it did feel like it had a real sense of history.

This illustration is of a boxing contest that took place in the pub in the nineteenth century and the historical record is littered with events that have taken place here over the centuries. I also quite liked the advert placed by the pub in 1858 advertising for a head barman, with the comment that the applicant must be “a respectable young man whose character will bear the strictest investigation”. Entire books could be written about the history of this pub and I find it slightly magical that it has remained trading for so long.

The bar today.

The Brewdog Pale Ale had just run out (although luckily for Des, they had just poured his), so I went for the only real ale that was available, the Seafarers English Ale. The barman warned me that it might be off as a customer had just complained about it and I appreciated the warning and the chance to try it. It’s a tricky position to be in as a customer, as I felt a pressure to judge the pub’s beer keeping ability. But I remembered that a newspaper had called me a “real ale aficionado” a few weeks ago, so I felt ready and able to judge. Unfortunately, I had just eaten my body weight in chicken wings with a harsh sauce, so I suspect my taste buds were pretty much destroyed. I mentioned this to the barman who said, entirely fairly, that this was a bit of good luck. As far as I was concerned, the beer did have a distinctive taste, but I was content it wasn’t off.

It took me a little while to realise that the television screen was showing the pub’s beer garden rather than some episode of Eastenders or the like. The barman was conversational and welcoming, although it was a shame (for the pub) that it was so quiet inside. I liked the character of the place, this felt like a community pub that someone new to the area could go to and be made to feel welcome. Quite clearly a pub that has a loyal following of customers, it still seemed an environment that wouldn’t scare anyone off.

The pub is well reviewed, but there are of course some negative ones. One person gave the pub two stars out of five on Google with no comments, leading to what I think is a marvellous response from the pub of:

“Many thanks for your insightful review. It’s always a pleasure to get a review like this so we know how we have gone wrong and how to fix it. Looking at some of your recent reviews here on Google , it does seem like you have visited many places in the last 24 hours, well done for fitting us in, it seems like everywhere you went you had a bad time, that’s a shame…Happy Christmas, and keep spreading that Christmas cheer.”

A perfect response as far as I’m concerned, and someone else did the same of leaving two stars and no comment, with the pub on this occasion noting:

“Many thanks for your very interesting and insightful comments. Luckily we are not the only establishment that manages to be blessed with your almost poetic words of wisdom in your reviews. Many thanks.

I like that the pub doesn’t take itself too seriously. Although this isn’t a pub that has the greatest selection of craft beer or real ales, it does have a certain charm and genuineness to it. It hasn’t been modernised to death, so I really quite liked it.