12. The Market Porter, Stoney Street, London, England

Near the big pointy thing, there’s a market where one can buy all sorts. Thirsty work as that undoubtedly is, The Market Porter is a saving grace.

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But location is all it’s got. The exterior has such promise, but the inside has befallen the same fate as all too many old pubs- a refurbishment that basically strips the character right out. Monotone painted walls and cheap furniture replace eclectic collections of souvenirs and tat proudly amassed by the owners and thick, worn tables that have supported countless pints and heard just as many conversations.

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If the sign (below) is to be believed, the pub opens exceptionally early to cater for the morning market workers, which is a nice touch. Perhaps that is why it is so renowned.

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One of the few personal decorative touches is the extensive collection of pump labels from previous guest brews. But these hide just a small part of the bland red paint throughout.

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Whilst the labels are indicative of a high turnaround of guest ales, this is true of many great, characterful, places in the UK.

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Venue: 2/10

Looks better on the outside. Recently refurbished (read: ruined).

Beer: 4/10

There seems to be a decent rotation, but not a wide range at any one time. One for the regulars.

Worthy? No

There is nothing remarkable, but if you are in the area, it’s probably worth popping in to cast your own opinion.

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77. Belgo Centraal, London, England

Belgo Centraal is the flagship venue of London’s growing Belgo franchise. It’s hard to be nice about them. I’ve no moral objection to bringing fine, world-class Belgian beer to London, I merely dismay at their execution and style.Belgo

With two of their five outlets within 100m of Covent Garden, it is fair to say they are playing the numbers game, which couldn’t be much further from how their imports are imbibed in their motherland: bars in Belgium are chthonic caves of tranquility; walls adorned with both relevant and inexplicable memorabilia; inviting isolated corners and alcoves; ‘gezellig’ ambience created by wooden panelling, insufficient lights and a bearded beer guru behind the bar. Belgo is a large, cold industrial space- in particular the Bierodrome, which is a hollow, soulless metallic shell.

There are roughly 60 beers which superficially sounds impressive. However, SEVEN of these are different Floris fruit flavoured beers; this strikes me as odd, as they also take delivery from Achel and Rochefort, yet only stock one variety of each. Compare this to an average bar anywhere in Belgium and you wonder if Belgo has made the list because of location rather than quality.

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Warming.

Venue: 2/10

Bleak, uncomfortable, industrial, soulless.

Beer: 4/10

With Rochefort 10, Kwak and Straffe Hendrik, the beer list is remarkable for London. In Brussels, Brugge or Amsterdam, this is typical.

Worthy? No.

Maybe it is the best in town, though that’s not a compliment to Belgo, but an indictment of London.