The Newton Arms, Holborn

What a difference an hour or two makes. Squeezing my way in to this pub on Friday at half six I was pretty sure it was the worst boozer I’d been to in a long time. With precious few tables (though a lot of stools) and a narrow bar area it’s a bad pub for an end-of-week crush, made worse by a distinct smell of pie. “Smell of pie? That can’t be bad!” you might say, but when no pies are actually in the offing it’s frustrating and a bit sickly – especially when the smell also lingers in the toilets.

Still after the initial discomfort things began to thin out a bit. The clientele were unkindly described as “giffers” by the FT staff, certainly they were suited gentlemen of a certain age but not especially noisy. The suits were really the only clue we were in central London – in other aspects the Newton Arms has the slightly ratty feel of a passable outer boroughs boozer.

But gradually it started to exert a charm. The punters thinned out to entirely comfortable levels, and we got some seats on high stools, amidst a curious undulating bar arrangement shaped a bit like a kidney. Partly it was the good conversation that made the Newton Arms seem more favourable, but it has an ordinariness which is refreshing in a part of town so given to refurbs. Still best avoided before about 8 on a weekday, but (if it’s open) this has definite potential for Sunday evening central drinking.