Monday, June 11, 2012

What makes a great pub - then and now

Picking up a copy of Merseyale last week (if you have never read it, it is one of the best Camra mags about) I was reminded of an article written by George Orwell, he of '1984' and 'Animal Farm' fame. The article was written for the 'Evening Standard' in February 1946 and described the 'Moon Under Water'. A fictitious pub that used to describe his favourite things in a pub. I have abridged his article, but have things changed over the years ?

The pub is 2 minutes from a bus stop, and because it is a side street, drunks never find their way there.
The clientele consist mainly of regulars, often in the same place every day, and go there as much for the conversation as the beer. It has 'atmosphere'.
It is unashamably Victorian, with polished wood,mirrors and cast iron fittings rather than sham roof beams, and fake panels. The layout means everyone has plenty of space.
In winter it has a blazing fire serving the three bars. A saloon bar, a public bar, and a ladies bar, games are only played in the public bar.
There is no music, the only sound being the customers talking.
The barmaids know all the staff by name, and are all middle aged. If they don't know your name they call you 'dear'.
There is a snack counter, with sandwiches, mussels, cheese, pickles and savoury biscuits.
They always serve draught stout, often in a pewter mug, but also use china mugs or handled glasses.
They have a beer garden ideal for families with a children's play area, and whole families are encouraged to go to the pub.

For an article written as I said over 60 years ago, Orwell was remarkably up to date. Most of the things he identifies in his 'ideal' pub I would wish to see in mine. Maybe I am just fortunate, but I think I drink in plenty of pubs that George would have approved of even now. 

Next time you are sitting at the bar, listening to the craic, raise your handled glass to Mr Orwell and celebrate the fact that his vision is not that far away from yours !          


ChrisM said...

It sounds very much like the Victoria in Durham - which is absolutely my perfect sort of pub! Mr Orwell would love it.

Neil Harvey said...

Tim - you might wish to watch the new double DVD "Roll out the Barrel" (available from Amazon). I managed to get myself a review copy (review to appear in Tyneside CAMRA mag next edition), and it's a really interesting watch, but you have to be really interested in pub history to appreciate it!!

ArcticFox said...

totally "off topic" but the Shoulder of Mutton in Slawit has a new team in charge and they are trying clean it up and to make a go of it with the cask ales.... I'm sure if anyone was on the "trail" and could pop in they'd appreciate it - (they had the Wharfeside in Slawit before) - I DO know the pub is set for a refurb in the coming weeks. If you could add that pub to your beer map I'm sure they'd appreciate that too. :)

Bailey said...

Orwell was very keen on his beer, of course...