For us, the pubs with the best atmosphere sit in a sweet spot between characterful and grotty.
Some pubs are so clean, so perfumed, varnished, polished and ‘on-brand’ that they start to feel they’re made of plastic. Others (often, sadly, some of those with the greatest commitment to decent beer) have torn carpets, ripped seats, grimy walls and smell like stables.
The pubs we’ve enjoyed most in the last year or so have been clean without being buffed to a shine. They’ve been lived-in but not soiled. They’ve shown evidence of being run by a human being — hand-written signs, personal mementoes– rather than by a Regional Quality and Brand Manager.