The Cross Keys, Hammersmith.
This is a bit of a strange one for us commando writers, but actually the Cross Keys is possibly one of the most ‘local’ pubs in West London (that I’ve been to, obs!) in spite of being surrounded by the millionaire dwellings of St Peters Square.
In spite of being a ‘corporate’ (Fullers) pub it reflects its area completely though. This small part of Hammersmith is perhaps remarkable for being hugely creative yet completely unknown. All the external shots for the blockbuster film, Miss Potter with Renee Zelweger were filmed there. Bob Marley recorded his first album here, as did Amy Winehouse. Mark Knopfler owns a recording studio nearby and the Rolling Stones recorded their 2016 album in British Grove, next street over, although you’d never find it unless you knew where it was. Occasionally the Knight of the Stage who directed ‘Les Miserables’ drinks in another pub up the road. A James Bond is a regular visitor, although he won’t thank you for saying so. There’s a famous TV presenter who often ends up on the dart board with the locals. It’s a Fullers house and we know how clever Fullers are at creating different pubs for different people. But over my years in London this boozer has been consistent. And its not particularly glamorous, because as well as the odd famous name drinking in here, there’s the usual pub sprinkling of Shepherds Bush bigots and loud-mouth bar flys. But the stars mainly come because they know it’s a local boozer and their novelty soon wears off with the locals. To the point where the locals almost become defensive for the other locals - no matter how famous they are. The Keys deals with this all.
As they do with the ‘pigeon lady’, Zoe, a young woman who occasionally brings her tame pigeon into the pub in a pigeon harness. Really. In a cage and on a leash, the pigeon usually sits quietly on her shoulder while she reads the newspaper. It’s also a (Fullers) pub that knows where it it and resists millionaire prices. For the last few years, for instance, they’ve done the cheapest Christmas lunch locally and in spite of selling out every year, they have resisted raising their prices. London booze is expensive, but the Keys is one of the more reasonably priced taverns in West London.
The Fullers wi-fi is strong and reliable and unusually for a managed house the success of the Keys, I think, is down to the current manager who has publicly stated that unlike his average four year tenancy colleagues at Fullers, he “wants to be carried out of here feet first in 20 years.” A real throw back to the Soho landlords of old!
And best of all, sometimes, when you are writing, the bar staff will approach you, without prompting, and fetch you a beer, waiter stylee. There are nearly always quiet areas to work, including a 'barn’ at the back, with plenty of power points. On one occasion, I was asked if I would like a free meal, as the kitchen had got an order wrong and they didn’t want to waste the food! Needless to say, I accepted!
It would be crass of me to mention some of the star names that frequent the Keys and, in the spirit of full disclosure, I know this pub well, because I live nearby. Although in a distinctly non-millionaire one-bed flat in the back garden of one of the big houses.
It’s not all utopia - as most pubs do in London, they’ll chase you out at the end of the night. But there’s no pretension, the staff are universally friendly and put up with all sorts and if you go in more than a couple of times, not only will they know what you want to drink, the chances are they’ll remember your name too! I’m a fan!
Never, ever change. In fact I’m not even going to post a link to the pub. I don’t want to publicise it too much. Find it if you can and say Nick sent you. I’m sure they’ll make you welcome!
🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷 Bo-ho Heaven. Live. there. That is all.
Tags: hammersmith pubs renee zelweger bob marley amy winehouse. mark knopfler rolling stones james bond tv presenters london review.
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