Monday, 30 May 2011

Flattering to deceive

A commenter suggested that I should do a post of “worst pub awards” where you come across an attractive traditional building, but on venturing over the threshold find an appalling, knocked-through, chrome-and-glass monstrosity. It’s certainly happened to me, but I can’t think of any in the local area that are quite that bad. Very often, if they haven’t closed down, they have ended up being remodelled in a slightly more conventional style.

However, I will mention two that I have experienced in recent years. The first was a pub in a Cheshire market town which had gained a reputation for its cask ales and I vaguely remembered having appeared in the Good Beer Guide. The “modern” signage outside gave a clue that all wasn’t well, and inside it was all chrome bar stools and low, glass-topped tables. Needless to say, we took our business elsewhere. The second was a handsome, four-square, stone-built hotel on the main street of a small Scottish town, which inside had been thoroughly knocked through and done over in a self-consciously modern style. I think apart from me there was one middle-aged boozer sitting at the bar.

Edit: I recall being very struck by this phenomenon on visiting the Bear in Oxshott, Surrey, in the early 1980s. I also recall the beer being unusually expensive even for that expensive area.


  1. Not bad pubs but bad management.
    Yesterday I went to a South coast festival (just down the road). This festival attracts thousands of visitors each year and is a high spot for local traders to make up on the grim days of winter.
    The place was heaving with choirs, clog dancing, plays etc.
    Enter first pub, very busy as one would hope but just one bartender serving dreaded coffee's etc with a large queue building. Exit pub.
    Next one was exactly the same, many people waiting for a pint, lots of moaning and some walking out and just the one poor sod serving yet again poxy coffee.
    Exit pub again.
    These are pubs that truly struggle in the winter and this was a perfect opportunity to rake in the cash in a pre planned yearly festival but once again the punter gets poor service.

  2. Poor service is a different issue from an architecturally disappointing experience - but one I may need to return to in a future post.

  3. Surely "a bad pub- architectually" is one that either disappoints from the outside (so we don't venture inside) or is so horrific inside we (usually) turn and leave. Judging a book by its cover I know but there's a lot of pubs to get through in this life. Poor service well..................

  4. One pub I drank in the 80s had several small rooms, and was knocked through to make one big bar. It lost a lot of atmosphere and regulars. A few years on, the brewery reinstated small rooms and people began coming back. Four or five years ago, the PubCo knocked it through into one big bar again, which is how it remains, and it's struggling.

    And the people behind these decisions, faced with criticism from the likes of us, would tell us patronisingly that they know best.

  5. Would that small Scottish town have been Mallaig? If not, there'll be another to add to your list.

  6. Not Mallaig, it was in the South-West.

  7. Another pub in this category is the Plough in Upton-on-Severn in Worcestershire, a Marston's tied house. Externally, it's an old-fashioned, rather shallow, brick building, but internally it's an utter knocked-through monstrosity, with trendy pine dining tables on one side and sofas on the other :-(


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