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Where to go for a pint this St Patrick’s Day

18 March, 2019 — By The Xtra Diary

Colin Taylor gearing up for St Patrick’s Day at the Toucan


Raise your pints of Guinness please in honour of Soho’s famous Toucan pub, in Carlisle Street, just off Soho Square.

No doubt it will be mobbed on Sunday for St Patrick’s Day – but let us remind ourselves to visit as often as we can and not just join the crowds on a pub crawl after the parade, for it is truly a West End institution.

Owner Colin Taylor – who readily admits to having no known Irish heritage at all – first set up the Toucan in 1993, for the simple reason that he was a fan of Ireland’s Black Gold.

“It was a sandwich bar when I took it over,” he tells Diary. “Guinness is my favourite drink and I just couldn’t get a really good pint of Guinness in the middle of London at all.

“I just wanted to serve a really good pint, so I set this place up.”

‘I just wanted to serve a really good pint, so I set this place up’

The pub goes through at least 35 kegs a week, and with each holding 88 pints, that’s a serious amount of Guinness (3,080 to be precise – ed). And this high turnover, coupled with a lack of cellar space, is another reason the Toucan Guinness is renowned.

“We have to have at least two deliveries a week,” adds Colin.

“It means it is also fresh and that is one of the key things for a good pint.”

He prides himself on such matters while he has travelled to Dublin and enjoyed the tipple in its home environment, he says, the Toucan can match the best.

“There is a difference between Irish Guinness and the drink sold over here,” he explains. “They use a different gas mix in Ireland to deliver it, they use more nitrogen and that gives the Irish Guinness a thicker, creamier, head.”

The enduring popularity of the drink has numerous reasons, stemming from the brilliant marketing the company has always had through to the simple fact it is a unique (and for Diary, delicious) way to drink.

“Since the 1920s it has been very recognisable as a brand,” adds Colin. “They had the great artist John Gilroy produce their campaigns and draw the famous Toucan. Guinness also spans age groups, youngsters drink it, and so do older people.”

From the bowls of free Tayto crisps on the bar, to the cramped and specifically undone-up basement, to the most excellent Guinness – the Toucan continues to fly the flag for real pubs. And so Happy St Patrick’s Day to all those who work and drink in there, and Diary will see you next week when the Emerald Green fuss has died down for another year for a couple of the finest pints known to humanity.

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