Sausage and mash comes with ‘jus’ in this Triangle of pubs

Crystal Palace Triangle is thriving with pubs, but it has only two types of pub, as KEN TOWL explains.
Photographs: SIMON BENTLEY

‘The Multi-Coloured Hart’ doesn’t have the same ring to it

“You should write a piece on the pubs in the north of the borough,” said the senior local Labour figure to me back in December, as we knocked on doors trying to identify the voters who would support Sarah Jones in the General Election.

“Crystal Palace has some excellent pubs,” they added.

“They” shall remain unnamed – Labour councillors have been ordered not to talk to Inside Croydon – but I was grateful for such a heads up and, finding a rare window in my busy diary, headed up to the Crystal Palace Triangle to sample the beer, the decor and the ambience.

The Crystal Palace Triangle is made up of three streets about 300 yards long that sit atop the Norwood Ridge on one of the highest points in Greater London, hence the proximity of the Crystal Palace television transmitting tower and views over the city to the north and the Downs to the south. Westow Hill runs along its north side, Westow Street its south-west face and Church Street connects them both.

The Alma, a traditional name from the Victorian era, for quite a modern pub, where they have a ‘beer menu’ and a pint will cost you £6.25

You can get there easily, a 410 bus will take you straight there from East Croydon, or you could travel by train from West Croydon to experience the height of Victorian grandeur that is Crystal Palace Station. It was built to accommodate passengers arriving for the Crystal Palace itself, which had been transported there after the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, as any fule kno.

Crystal Palace appears to have kept up its aspirational heritage, if its pubs are anything to go by. And pubs – like supermarkets and elections – are usually a very good indicator of a neighbourhood’s changing demographic.

The mirrors in The Alma, so the beautiful people can check

There are many pubs on the Triangle, but only two types of pub.

The first type is represented by The Alma and The White Hart at the southern tip, and Westow House at the eastern point. The clients are good-looking and the bricks are exposed. Mirrors are plentiful (presumably so that clients can easily monitor just how good-looking they are). The furniture is antique-chic and the menus – for there must be menus – are full of useful ideas for disposing of surplus wealth.

At The Alma, the pork chop (£20) is “Iberian”, the squid (£9) is “sticky” and (of course) there are grilled Padrón peppers for a mere fiver.

A pint of Purity in The Alma was £6.25. They also have a “beer menu” with 330ml and 440ml bottles ranging in cost from £5 to £8.9. They don’t bother with the final “0”. It’s so passé these days. 

The Alma is an attractive enough venue, though, a couple of Victorian shops knocked together, light, airy and when you fancy something different (or as it turns out, similar) there is the White Hart just over the road. At the White Hart, the cured meats (£14.50) are “Calabrian”, the pork belly (£15) is “sticky” and the sausage and mash comes with a red “jus” for jus’ £12. As at The Alma, for someone’s convenience, all prices are rounded up (or, to be generous, down) to the nearest 50p.

The (micro-brewery) beer’s the thing inside the somewhat sparsely decorated Craft & Courage

It doesn’t look like anyone is quibbling. I didn’t try the food but I have to concede that the sight and the smell of the dishes coming out of the kitchen almost made me want to.

After my drinking partner Simon had taken a photo of the multi-coloured hart on the outside wall of the White Hart, we headed up Westow Street and found The Sparrowhawk on the corner with Westow Hill.

It looked like something in between The Alma and the White Hart. The pub self-identifies as a “chic setting” for “refined pub dining”, so there was probably something sticky on the menu. There were certainly exposed bricks.

We carried on along Westow Hill, passing the Faber Fox (even more exposed brick and a menu boasting a sourdough loaf served with oil, balsamic, confit garlic, thyme and olives for “£5.5”). Sick of bricks and aspirational pub gastronomy, we crossed the road to No28, the Craft & Courage, one of these new-fangled micro-pubs where decor is not a thing and the beer is made in small batches and served by a friendly man with more than his share of facial hair.

The Craft & Courage has been crafted out of a single shop front and feels a little cramped, despite the fact that when Simon and I arrived we doubled its number of customers. Much of the space is taken by a huge range of bottled beers.

Westow House is an Antic pub, and so serves up a reliable, Croydon-brewed ale and a certain style of decor

The draft beer that I had was very good, full of that fresh taste associated with small batch beers. My bank account was debited £10.80 for two pints in the Craft bar. A gem, and something a bit different for the Triangle.

At the eastern end of Westow Hill, we had a look inside Westow House, an Antic pub (like the Shelverdine Goathouse in up-and-coming South Norwood) and so serves the excellent Croydon-brewed Volden range of beers, and a pint comes in for less than £4.

Westow House had a bit of a buzz for a weeknight and a decor that leans more towards the eccentric than the shabby-chic irony of most of its neighbours.

If you fancy a change this weekend, jump on a 410 and head on up to the Triangle. You never know, you might meet a Labour councillor who has stopped for a drink before being sent to Coventry.

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5 Responses to Sausage and mash comes with ‘jus’ in this Triangle of pubs

  1. Ebenezer Crutton says:

    A good informative piece, Ken – but with a few omissions. I’m sure that as a responsible drinker you wouldn’t have tried to drink a pint in every single pub on the triangle, but three others are surely worthy of a mention. The Urban Cellar on Church Road is smaller than the Craft and Courage, but has a good range of bottles. The Royal Albert on Westow Hill is a traditional old pub, so must be a third distinct type. And of course let us not overlook the Postal Order, a Wetherspoon pub on Westow Street, where those who cannot afford the more trendy places can still get a good pint.

    • Ken Towl says:

      Yes, it was a school night and there’s only so much research my liver can take anyway. Thanks for the info, though. I’ll give your suggestions a try next time.

  2. derekthrower says:

    Has there been some form of censorship in this article ? The Wetherspoon on Westow Street would constitute a third kind of pub in the neighbourhood, but to be frank from the article couldn’t tell the difference between the two types of pub that are alleged to be identified here. They just appear to range from rip off to mega rip off.

    • How many pints do you get through in one night, Del boy?
      As Ebenezer observes above, there’s only so many pubs you can visit in one evening and no risk losing your review notes.
      So no censorship – just a look at some of the more interesting boozers on the Triangle. And a ‘Spoons is a ‘Spoons, after all…

  3. Coincidentally, the current addition of London Drinker (the magazine of the London Branches of the Campaign for Real Ale has an article on the pubs around the triangle.

    (page 38)

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