Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Harp in Covent Garden

The Harp in Covent Garden is a famous prize winning pub and part of our tour of London Top 25 pubs. Unfortunately we found it quite disappointing. The location is the most central you can get, just a stone's throw from Charing Cross, Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. And perhaps it may have been the best real-ale-oriented pub in the West End for a while, but newer, more comfortable pubs in the area may offer a similar selection.

This strikes me as a pub that would have performed a lot better when people could smoke inside. At least, the familiar smell of tobacco would have covered the reek that welcomes you when stepping in. There isn't much space where to move or sit; spilling some beer because of other guests' elbows is to be expected. The upstairs is quieter, but is damp, dirty and smellier than downstairs. We looked at the large amount of dust on the ceiling fans and were horrified when someone came up and switched them on. Our beers just ended up changing taste. This just isn't a good place where to spend a night. Perhaps it may be good for a quick pint before getting the train from Charing Cross, if you have a cold.

Nonetheless, the beer selection was great, with some local beers on tap. Though it doesn't beat previously visited Top 25 pubs. The staff was competent and keen on giving short and accurate tasting descriptions, which is always helpful, especially to someone who's moving his/her first steps into beer tasting like I am.

These are some notes about the beers we tried.

My pints:

Sambrook's Junction: Dark amber bitter, mild honey smell. A hint of pine at first taste, more hops can be tasted at swallow, while the pine taste gets in the breakground. Well rounded especially at the swallow, great session ale.

Darkstar the original: Very dark caramel colour. Mild liquorice, burnt smell. Fresher notes at first taste, more coffee like at swallow, with bitter aftertaste. Strong flavour, but not at all heavy, which is a good mix if one wanted to have more than a pint of this.

...and GB's pints:

Titanic Plum Porter: very dark opaque red, almost black, with sweet ribena aroma. Slightly bitter first taste, some hop and malt flavors, but all completely overwhelmed by tart but sickly prune juice. Undrinkable, I'm afraid.

Sussex Bitter: dull amber ale without much of a smell, weak watery first taste with a hint of fennel; then more woody, malty bitterness and finally a bit of elusive hops in the swallow. Not bad, if not very interesting.

Dark Star Hop Head: a light, clear blond beer with a honey and hop odor; some sparkly green fruit in the first taste, followed by a very bitter and composty swill; it's slightly fetid but nevertheless satisfying on the swallow. Some of the wet dog aftertaste is probably just the stink of this minging pub.


  1. Raffaele, your comments on this pub are incisive, well-considered and fair. I, on the other hand, would have said that I am absolutely flabberghasted that The Harp was included in De Moor's Top 25 bars in London. Okay it has a reasonable beer range, but it's such a crappy little joint, overcrowded, badly laid out for the (dis)comfort of customers, poorly cleaned and upkept. In contrast, a pub like the Edgar Wallace just ten minutes away in the Temple district, has an even better and more reliable real ale selection, a nicer atmosphere, professional staff and great food. In fact I can think of at least half a dozen better ale pubs within spitting distance of Covent Garden. It's a mystery.

  2. Thanks for the warning about this one. I too am a fan of the Edgar Wallace which is well worth the walk.