When you come to the eastern end of Oxford Street and cross Tottenham Court Road you hit New Oxford Street which has the feeling of being “a bit dropped off” Oxford Street itself. It enjoys lots of traffic but lacks the tawdry glamour of the main shopping street. It’s a thoroughfare towards the British Museum so perhaps the tourists that walk along it are more cerebral than average and one of the main local businesses is Google so those people buying sandwiches in the local cafe are possibly more geeky than most, but it still doesn’t quite gel as a street.
In Peter Ackroyds biography of London, he describes how this area has been very good at avoiding gentrification and re-energisation almost as if it could not get away from its essential DNA as a very poor area which for a long time was one of the blights on the city. Some of Londons greatest suffering has happened in this area and Ackroyd suggests the ghosts still walk around it.
The Crown is a small pub featured in Alan Reeve-Jones’ book London Pubs. You can enter it from New Oxford Street and leave by Shaftesbury Avenue where it has a small beer garden beside a road toe to tail with traffic gently billowing out fumes and whose passengers gawp at those drinking. Not an especially attractive place to have a pint.
Inside is a different story. The pub is owned by Sam Smith’s which means the beer isn’t that great but it’s cheap and the property is well and sensitively maintained. This one still has the old fashioned wooden partitions that create the impression of separate rooms each containing its own bar – in truth it’s own section of the one and only main bar. The staff are friendly and there are regulars dotted around the bar that they chat with as they serve the tourists who flow through this West End pub and which lend it the air of a proper local pub.
In short a surprisingly good pub in, well worth a visit.