This site was once a tawdry, tired and transient tanking house showing big-screen sport, but it’s now been transformed into a great little neighbourhood pub.
The new management has overseen a revamp that’s retained the faded Victorian splendour and kept things careworn yet classic – worn tiles, well-trodden wooden floors, stained-glass windows, original cornicing and an upright piano. New additions include art nouveau lamps, an absinthe fountain and a table-top chessboard.
There’s no television or fruit machines. The soul-destroying sound of the Sky Sports swoosh has been replaced by mellow music. There’s no cutlery laid on the unclothed tables, just candles and enough space to place a pint and a Melton Mowbray pie or, if you’re properly peckish, a platter.
The cheese boards (Oxford Isis, Colston Basset Stilton, Ragstone goat’s cheese) and meat boards (chorizo, Parma ham, salami) are substantial and good value at £8.50. There’s also a ploughman’s lunch and a chunky cheese sarnie consisting of mature Cheddar, chutney and two doorsteps of bread.
The broadminded range of craft beers spans several styles with some sourced locally; Kernel, Meantime, Redemption and Camden Town are all championed on draught alongside esoteric ales and the odd accessible lager. Quirky craft curiosities can be found in the fridge (check out the delicious De Molen beers from Holland) and the staff knew all about what they were serving.
In addition to a wine list that’s within the means of most wallets there’s a selection of spirits weighted strongly towards whisky – Caol Ila, a pungent, peaty dram from Islay, was thoughtfully served with a small jug of water.
A laid-back, local crowd is drawn in by weekly comedy open-mic sessions, live music nights, a weekly quiz and a big pile of board games.