16
Dec 05

The Beauchamp Tavern, Knightsbridge

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 292 views

Knightsbridge may not strike you as the happiest hunting grounds for a good boozer and in the case of the Beauchamp Tavern you’d be right. Why mention it at all? Because it’s such an object lesson in how not to do a hybrid bar/pub. Its hybridity was why my colleague picked it – something to satisfy the bar types and the pub types, right? Wrong. The Tavern is pub-shaped and has a (meagre) selection of beers on tap and recognisably pubbish tables but the bar-style decisions it has made show no understanding of how pubs – or bars for that matter – work.

The interior of the Tavern is a big square space dotted with large pillars but with no dividing walls or partitions to create booths or nooks or subdivide the drinking area. This makes it seem bigger than it is, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Cavernous pub spaces are often said to ‘lack atmosphere’ which means both that they’re not particularly cosy but it also means that it’s hard to create atmosphere – such places tend to have pretty bad acoustics. Without subdivisions and partitions everybody’s noise tends to mingle and it’s hard to have any kind of non-shouted conversation: loud music obviously adds to this. This puts a strain on the kind of group conviviality one associates with the pub: you have to lean in close and shout to be heard.

In a bar there are generally good reasons to make the space noisy and demand this kind of intimacy – bars are often designed as places to meet strangers (& cop off with them) whereas pubs are mostly not. So the open space and close contact works in a bar. The Tavern makes a second big mistake with its choice of furnishing – very large chairs which each take up a lot of space. So a table of seven or eight people occupies a huge chunk of the pub floor. In itself this isn’t a bad thing, the chairs are actually very comfy. But the extra length of each chair – opposed to a normal pub chair or a stool – makes moving around the Tavern between tables quite difficult. Which wouldn’t be all that much of a problem, except the Tavern has table service – another bar import – and so is employing people to move around in exactly this way all the time.

None of the decisions the place has taken is a bad one in and of itself, but together they make for a stressy, irritable drinking experience. Though some would say that if you insist on going for a drink in Knightsbridge you can’t expect much better.

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