Looking for a pint while you wait for your train? This series takes a look at the pubs found in London's mainline stations.
There are two pubs inside Victoria station. Everyone knows the Wetherspoons, which roisters above the concourse in a permanent state of loco-commotion. But for a much gentler affair, head to the western end where you'll find the Beer House — one of a small chain across London that are 'proud to be the happy medium between out-and-out craft houses and city bars'.
Mid-afternoon on a weekday, almost everyone has a laptop out. This place is really setting out its stall to attract freelancers. Charging points decorate the walls at every other table. Wifi is fast and free.
We're sure the bloke with the beard in the corner is also here to write a review, judging by the way he keeps looking around and then typing. London has no shortage of novelty concept venues. Has it finally produced a bar where every customer is a reviewer?
Not quite. Two gents in the corner are discussing Christian doctrine — presumably they've hopped over from Westminster Cathedral for a quick pint. Cardinal sins. Meanwhile, Aunt Muriel arrives — late — for a rendezvous with her niece.
Otherwise, we spy the usual mix of randoms, waiting for trains, meeting friends or avoiding hometime. In the minutes it has taken to type this, the two Christians have stopped talking and withdrawn their laptops from matching satchels.
What's the vibe?
This is a pub of two halves — stacked on top of one another. The downstairs bar area is the more lively, with a decent turnover of customers. Upstairs on the mezzanine, things run a little slower.
If the Wetherspoons feels like an airport bar, upstairs at the Beer House is somewhere between a library and a small-town diner. It's quiet in here, at least outside rush hour. Everyone stares down at some kind of screen.
The background music is sub-Sheeran soporific. Then Coldplay comes on. This isn't the place to come if you're looking for fun, fun partytimes. That said, if you're seeking to escape the pandemonium of Victoria, there are few quieter booze retreats.
There's also a food thing going on. Tables with benches, clipboard menus and a fetch-up of ketchup are sure signs that this place means burgers. Sure enough, the menu is subdivided into 'Burgers' and 'Not a burger', with options on both sides for vegetarians.
How's the beer?
Considering this place is called the Beer House, the choice is meagre. Just three real ales are available on draught, all very familiar. The keg taps offer the usual run of fizzy tipples. Nevertheless, our pint of Greene King IPA was well kept and did the job. You might be better served by the bottled options, which do come in reasonable variety.
'Happy medium' perfectly sums up the place. This is not a venue that's going to make it into any 'best pubs' compendium. But it does tick all the right boxes for those looking to relax rather than rage or rally while waiting for another Southern rail delay. And it's much, much quieter than Wetherspoons.
Also in this series
- Hamilton Hall at Liverpool Street