Sandwiched between New Oxford Street and Shaftesbury Avenue, The Crown, part of the dirt-cheap Samuel Smiths chain, is a pub defined as much by its location as its interior.
If you approach The Crown from New Oxford Street then you’ll see the time-honoured pub facade that blankets so much of London's streets, but if you make your entrance from Shaftesbury Avenue then you'll see the pub in a whole different light. The facade on this side is hidden by tall trees with drooping leaves hanging over damp pub benches. These benches, however, do little to accommodate the outside drinkers and instead they spill onto the large brick ledges adjacent to the pub, creating a very merry meeting point. In colder months it's the inside that’s most appealing. Here you'll find traditional decor twinned with dim lighting and plenty of seating (although it fills up quickly by night). The pub has an upstairs lounge area to escape to when downstairs is heaving, but the close proximity of the tables on the ground floor creates a livelier social environment.
Many people treat The Crown as their local for their central sojourns and with its cosy character it's easy to see why. There is always a simmering buzz of voices but in the evenings it bubbles over as friendly mobs descend on the pub and squash around tables barely big enough for two. As it becomes busy the best option is to spill out onto the paved area (weather permitting as the only shelter comes from the trees), where the atmosphere fizzes with a continental feel. Although this expanse of space can't rival the plazas of European cities, it has its own charm and it’s a pretty place to drink, where you'll encounter all sorts of people. Unfortunately, restrictions to the levels of people outside are enforced so it often takes a crafty drinker to remain free in the open air while still in possession of a drink.
The menu is a carbon copy of Samuel Smith’s other pubs. Prices are low and the dishes are fairly standard. Fish and chips (£5.95), steak and ale pie (£4.95) and other traditional favourites are the norm.
This is a Samuel Smith pub, so you won’t find any big name brands. But, don’t let that put you off as the Alpine lager (£2.21 a pint) is a refreshing pint at an extremely good price and although the spirits may be nameless, they're still perfectly fine and much cheaper than their famous relations. There is also a wheat beer (£3.02 a pint) and Samuel Smith ales (£1.94-£1.99 a pint). It really is hard to understand complaints on the exclusive sale of Samuel Smith's drinks in their pubs as it makes a change to sample beverages with an organic rationale from a relatively local brewery.
The Last Word
Due to its cheap prices and excellent location, The Crown attracts a diverse range of Londoners and tourists alike, all of whom are keen to sample both its inner cosiness and Bloomsbury alfresco drinking. Perhaps best of all, a visit will save you a lot of money every time you go to the bar.