29 July 2009
London to Cambridgeshire and back in two pints
One of the great pleasures of London cycling is exploring those quirky places which, for reasons lost in the peasouper of time, have something of the bizarre or paradoxical about them. Savoy Court, for example, where you have to cycle on the right, Continent-style; mystery streets with no buildings; cycle lanes that disappear under parked cars.
Last night we explored another psychogeography curio: a little bit of Cambridgeshire in the heart of London. I'm fascinated by enclaves - Gibraltar, that bit of Russia round Kaliningrad, the Old Soke of Peterborough.
And Ely Place (top right), parallel to Hatton Garden off Holborn, is just such an enclave, technically part of the Diocese of Ely.
Down Ely Court, a narrow alley connecting Ely Place with Hatton Garden, is the Mitre Inn (bottom right), which until the 1970s had its licence issued from Cambridge, and even today is listed in my drinking partner's Cambridgeshire Good Beer Guide.
So, of course, the evening was lubricated by witty aperçus about this administrative anomaly.
There was no cycle parking in Hatton Garden by the alley to the pub (right), so we had to go all the way to Cambridgeshire, to the stands in Ely Place.
We only needed one lock there, this being the provinces.
The high level of cycling, typical of Cambridge, was noticeable.
On a fine day they say you can see London from here.
The Mitre had some excellent beers, but I was disappointed to see London ales instead of local brews such as Milton.
Still, the conversation had that Cantabrigian cultural touch.
You get the idea.
The Mitre dates back to 1547 and is a fabulous little place, oak-panelled, quaint, and full of legal types in suits enjoying a quick pint en route home. It's really worth the journey out of London.
And the pub is Brompton country. I saw two discreetly folded up and stowed inside, one of them owned by an affable chap who turned out to be a judge. If I ever do act on any of my taxi-revenge fantasies, I hope I come up before him - he clearly understands. Luckily, though, my trip had relaxed me; must be that countryside air.