The finalists for the Evening Standard’s pub and bar of the year have been published.
I don’t have much to say about the bars on the list, because I haven’t been to any of them. Baltic is two doors down from the Ring, and I know where I’d rather be.
Although it’s in my nature to be curmudgeonly about these things, I’m actually quite impressed with the list of pubs nominated. With some I’ve yet to seek out (anyone fancy a few publog outings?), some favourites, some obscurities, it seems like a decent choice.
I work a few doors from the Olde Cheshire Cheese, so it’s easy for me to take the old place for granted, and to snort at the lines of Pentax-toting tourists. Having said that, the few times I’ve actually engaged with tourists who have sat down in there for a drink, I’ve had very interesting conversations. Likewise, the Lamb is a terrific pub (bizarre no-smoking booth or no’) but it seems such an obvious choice. But obviousness and fame shouldn’t be a barrier to winning this award. I’d probably vote for one of these. If I had a vote.
I sometimes go out of my way to go to the Royal Oak, which is a fine place to sit and have a quiet pint. It looks great, in an understated way, and the beer and food are just fine. I sometimes wonder whether it takes its own pub-ness a bit seriously: whether the task of being a traditional pub sits a bit heavily on the place. I suppose I’m saying I’m not sure the place is completely at ease with itself, as the very best pubs are.
The ongoing presence of the Market Porter in these lists of great London pubs bewilders me. While it’s a perfectly good pub, and purveys an excellent range of fare, it’s simply not that great. The d’cor is dreadful (inner city faux-inn woodbeam hell), and it’s one of those places where only a select few ever manage to find a really comfortable place to perch. A sacred cow if ever there was one.