Thursday, 7 February 2013

My very own ‘Moon Under Water’

George Orwell once wrote a brilliant essay about his perfect pub, full of Victorian fittings, porcelain tankards and an upstairs dining room servings British classics. Well I feel it is high time we kicked this old beast into the 21st Century and if I were to give my own take on the ideal pub it would go something like this...

For a start this would be a London pub, situated on the banks of the Thames, much like The White Swan in Twickenham or The Dove in Hammersmith, with a small garden on the banks of the Thames which would invariably flood in times of adverse weather or tidal inconvenience. In the spring a bitter festival might be held on that sodden lawn  and summer Barbecues, Pimms parties and would populate the parched turf. 

Concentrating on the building, it would be late Georgian/Regency - not in keeping with Orwell’s Victorian obsession - with lovely latticed windows, slightly warped from age. the walls, whitewashed every year, would have heard a few stories in their time from a few merry locals wending there way home. Heavy flagstone steps would lead up to the oaken door which creaks gently on the opening of both regular and stranger, from whence you are greeted by a few strange coves. Who are these fellows to you but faceless goons and one-time bar pundits who tell you about the quality of the pork scratching or the provenance of the beer you are supping from a brew tapped at Modwen’s Well? They are my regulars who come to the bar day in and day out to make merry at this very traditional pub. 

The floor would be of polished, herring-boned wooden tiles, leading up to a heavy oak bar populated by six sturdy stools topped with stuffed Kilim cushions. Light would pour through the large bay windows during the day and in the evening low lighting would add a convivial air to the place.

In the main area there would be no armchairs just squat stools topped with Kilim surrounding low tables where people could huddle in to wax lyrical about all manner of nonsense - as all great pubs should offer the freedom to do. In one corner would be a dart board and in another a traditional game (not-oft seen outside the pubs of East Sussex) called Toad in the Hole, there would be no fruit machine in sight. This is the first room and it is here we shall first concentrate our attention. 

The next thing that would strike the ears would be the earthly tones of murmuring conversations, non of that loutish shouting and crass language heard the length and breadth of every Wetherspoons up and down the land. Rather like the Sam Smith’s franchise there would be no music other than a live band every fortnight who played such diverse things as covers of ‘The Darts’ and ‘Squeeze’ and finished promptly at 23:30. 

We now approach a well stocked bar, including:
  • A few regular bitters: Youngs Special, Sambrooks Junction (the first two as an SW19 native), Black Sheep Ale, Old Peculier (As an alumnus of Leeds University) and Adnams Broadside (one of my favourite drops) as well as two guest ales.
  • Lager would be a couple of pilsners and sold as they do on the continent in presse and demi-presse measurement from glasses washed and doused in cold water in front of the customer and could be taken with shot or shot-less - There would be no bottles. 
  • Whisky: There would be one blended whisky (either J&B or Canadian Club) and a couple of changing single malts: one peaty and one smooth. 
  • Vodka: There would be Chase, Sipsmith (given the pub’s location in West London) and Grey Goose’s delicious Orange Vodka. 
  • Gin: This is an easy decisions as Sipsmith’s would have to feature in addition to Blackwoods 60% and Plymouth Naval Strength for the hardier customers. 
  • Rum: No white rum on the premises! This would be the reserve of golden rums like Angostura 8 year old, the peerless Diplomatico and Montecristo’s (as in the cigar) own offering. 
  • Brandy: Dare I say it, in addition to the vintage Armagnac there would be a bottle or two of 10 year old Vecchio Romagna a mild and eminently drinkable brandy. 
  • Eau de Vie: Some Gilbert Holl Eau de Vie as a fiery nightcap or a brisk kick start to the morning. 
  • Premium liqueurs and bitters: Cointreau, Aperol, Campari, Dubonnet, Drambuie, Cherry Brandy, Khalua, Gran Marnier, Kamm & Sons. 

Premium mixers and some well priced soft options would be also be available. Like any pub worth its salt there would be no wine on the menu, that, after all is what a wine bar is for. All drinks would be served in appropriate glassware including glass mugs for the ale! 

In terms of snacks there would be a very basic choice of Walker’s crisps: Ready Salted, Cheese & Onion and Salt & Vinegar. To keep them company there would be Bacon Fries, Mini Cheddars and KP salted peanuts. On the bar there would be a large, home-made pork pie from which customers could purchase a slice with a dab of grain mustard furthermore there would be: a bowl of cold sausages; a truckle of cheddar; a jar of gherkins and a jar of pickled onions again to be apportioned on purchase. This would be the only food available in the pub. 

Did I mention that no children are allowed in the bar? No? Well let me make it quite clear. In this pub of mine I have provided a family room with door leading from the bar but also a separate external entrance door so that drinkers at the bar are not disturbed as they sup their pints in peace by the kids. The family room would be well equipped with board games, card decks, story books and other such entertaining things - of course adults would come through to the bar to get theirs and their offspring’s drinks but that’s as far as it goes. Children could use the beer garden and as such there would be a swing set and a slide. 

Stringent, but a necessary rule to emphasise the purpose of the establishment as a place where ‘adults’ come to relax, escape and make merry. Moving to the garden, it would be surrounded by a large stone wall keeping the wind at bay. In the summer espaliered apple and pear trees would climb its height and length of the far wall. Other than that there would be a few benches, tables and the like for supping a light sunshine offering like Hopback’s Summer Lightning. It would not be an immodest garden and should have room for a sizeable ‘structure against’ the right hand wall - this would be the icing on the cake. 

‘The Smoker’s Shed’  a massive two-fingers to the smoking ban and might provide a haven in the cold for cigar and cigarette smokers alike - although I would prefer it were used by the former. Entry to this domain could be purchased for the price of a good cigar which would be provided on payment (£15-20) whence using a key card you at your liberty to use a snug room full of Chesterfields, Kilim rugs, an honesty bar (basic: brandy, whisky, gin, vodka and premium mixers) and a small hatch at wall adjoining the structure to the main pub where you ring through to purchase another cigar...

But sadly, the mists of my dreams clear and I am sitting in a dank pub in Covent Garden. It will never exist but the above, in short, would be my ‘Moon Under Water’, as naff as it sounds. I’d love to know what would make your perfect pub so please feel free to let me know your thoughts! 

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