True story. Once upon a time there was a racecourse in Alexandra Park, a horseshoe shaped one just down the hill from the Palace. It shut in the late fifties, when gambling was not quite as popular as now – these days the nearest tracks are all outside the M25. It was this racetrack though which gave the pub The Starting Gate its name – and it is that name which The Gate has now stripped down to a meaningless set of two words in its attempt to aim at the nebulous 25-35 cool, bar chic.

After leaving the depressing environs of The Phoenix I had hoped to reacquaint myself with the Starting Gate. Not that The Starting Gate had been a particularly good pub, it just did the basic pub stuff properly in addition to having a very nice original central bar (snob screens ahoy). So the renaming and in appropriate font which greated us was cause for alarm. The low tables, church seats and uncomfortable poufesque cubes which we presumed were for sitting was equally worrying. The place at least had some draught lagers on though so it was three pints and a glass of tap water (nicely appointed with ice and lime). Admittedly the pumps for the lager had that All Bar One anonymity – but the beer was two quid a pint which was welcome.

So The Gate was now halfway between being a bar and a gourmet pizza gastropub (woodfired pizza oven, not that anyone was eating). At least the conversion had been done with sensitivity. For which read the bar and lovely plate windows had been left alone and just a few light backlight wall panels and the unfortunate seating had been put in. Round the back a bunch of lads were watching the rugby, whilst round the front were a bunch of drunken old people who possibly the refit had been designed to dissuade who were not taking the hint.

I don’t know what the local denizens think of the place now. It certainly wasn’t packed and the music policy seemed a little bit out of whack with its pretensions (this is the noughties – we don’t listen to Sting any more). Still in a world of poor bar makeovers the fact that this was so half arsed suggests to me that it may all revert to type in ten years. As long as they keep the intriguing ‘Bowl Of Sweets’ on the menu as a bar snack it should be fine.