UPDATE: Every Pub In Penzance

The bar at the White Lion.

Last December we made a new year’s resolution to visit during 2016 all the pubs in Penzance we had until then overlooked.

In fact, what we said was that we wanted, in general, to go to…

More and different pubs. We don’t even need to go far afield: there are pubs in Penzance we’ve never been in. This is ridiculous, and we will sort it.

With trips to Birmingham, Bolton, Dudley, Hartlepool, Manchester, Newcastle, Stevenage and a whole bunch of other places, with the specific intention of visiting pubs not necessarily known for their beer, we’ve achieved our broader goal. But the pubs of Penzance remained stubbornly unfinished until the weekend past.

The beer garden at The Pirate.

We started out well, visiting The Pirate at Alverton and The Sportsman at Heamoor in April, liking both enough that we’ve made return visits despite them being out of our way. The Pirate especially has got something about it: Adnams Broadside, a verdant beer garden, a carpeted and cosy old-fashioned interior, and a proper crowd of locals who (all we ask for) don’t look at us twice. It’s become a little treat for us to wander out that way on a lazy weekend afternoon when we’re not on a train or bus somewhere up country.

Bitcoin dispenser at the One & All.

But then it took us until September to make our next tick, The One & All, which used to be the town’s Irish pub until that trend fizzled out. Now it’s a kind of Cornish version of an Irish pub, with national colours and iconography all over. It had never struck as especially inviting from the outside but visiting with friends we got a lovely welcome from both staff and regulars and, having only been able to see lager fonts from the street, were pleased to find very decent pints of St Austell Proper Job, too. (Harder than you might think in Cornwall.) There was nothing about it to make us defect from our favourites but we could easily imagine The One & All becoming our local if we lived round the corner.

But then what stopped us visiting The White Lion, The Seven Stars, The Globe and The London Inn until December? Honestly, it’s been hard to summon the will to use up precious free time going into pubs that we suspected, based on advice from friends and our reading of the runes, were not going to be much good. Why take a risk when we already know we like The Yacht and The Dock and The Lamp & Whistle? Going to the pub is supposed to be fun — why had we saddled ourselves with this obligation? But the resolution weighed on us and so, finally, deadline looming, we got our arses in gear.

Exterior of The Globe, Penzance, on an overcast day.

We started phase two with The Globe which was such a pleasant surprise it spurred us on. It’s got weird, slightly cold nightclub-style lighting, but we were astonished to find Young’s Winter Warmer on offer, in great condition at that. The crowd was excellent, too — a genuine mix of young and old, men and women, who made us feel at home with a few kind words here and there. We felt a bit daft at having not been in before and stayed for several pints.

Seating at the White Lion.

The White Lion isn’t a smart pub despite some vestiges of its once grand status on the exterior. What it is, though, is very pubby with well-aged carpets, low light and basic fixtures and fittings. The whole place is geared up for boozing with loud music blaring at just the right level to create a sense of intimacy. Bailey got slightly emotional: ‘It’s like being back in Bridgwater.’ (If you know Bridgwater you will understand the depth of meaning here.) The only cask ale on our visit was Marston’s Pedigree which we’d been wanting to revisit for a while and it was actually pretty wonderful — obviously a cousin to Bass, faintly eggy as per spec, and certainly not the dishwater we remember from a few years ago.

At the London Inn.

The London is rather similar although there we really were conscious of being in a pub that is possessed by its regulars. Everyone seemed to know each other and there was a serious lounge and public bar dynamic, not to mention the backyard smoking gang. There was nothing special on the beer front but Plymouth sloe gin was a nice find and the bloke obsessively feeding the jukebox had great taste in country music.

The Seven Stars, Penzance.

The Seven Stars was one we’d been putting off because, frankly, we were chicken. It’s famous for its strong home-brewed cider, is somehow affiliated with the Aquila motorcycle club and, not to put to fine a point on it, seems to go out of its way to give off a hard vibe. But mid-afternoon on a Friday (even MAD FRIDAY!) we found it fairly quiet and got a cheerful welcome from the young woman behind the bar, even if the regulars at the bar gave us a bit of side-eye. After a while someone did approach us shouting, ‘You! Yeah, you!’ and we braced for impact but he just wanted to know if we could remember (of all things) what Clint Eastwood’s son is called. (It’s Kyle.) We can’t honestly say we’ll be rushing back — we felt the presence of two middle-aged squares might have been harshing the buzz somewhat — but the hour we spent there was worthwhile.

We must confess to giving ourselves a pass on two others. The Lugger we let ourselves off because, on close inspection, we think that, as appearances suggest, it really is a hotel, though it gets more pub-like in the summer. The Navy Inn was never open when we tried to get in, despite advertised hours, but as it pretty explicitly advertises itself as a restaurant, we reckon that’s OK to write off too.

What have we learned from this exercise? First, that every pub in Penzance has something going for it, even if it’s just that it’s ‘interesting’. Secondly, that our laziness and tendency to stick to what we know has been denying us good experiences and, of specific relevance to this daft blog, good beer.

If there’s a call to action for our readers, it’s this: pop into that pub near you that you’ve always avoided. You never know what you might find.

And for publicans: if you’d like more people to pop in, look at your pub from outside and think about what signals it is sending. Does it say friendly and welcoming, or GO AWAY? At the very least, consider some way of indicating which beers you’ve got. We’d have visited some of these pubs a lot sooner if we’d seen a sign advertising Winter Warmer or even Pedigree, because, if nothing else, it suggests someone cares.

17 thoughts on “UPDATE: Every Pub In Penzance”

  1. Good post, which underlines the point that pretty much every pub has something going for it, and something of interest, even if not to your own particular taste.

  2. Another interesting post for me , as I know (or knew) the pubs concerned.
    The Seven Stars has presented an unwelcoming exterior to the Penzance public for decades, and I’m amazed that it’s still open; it’s hard core of regulars must be serious spenders.
    Moving round the corner to the Globe ( an ex Devenish tenancy ) , the last time I was in the pub was dominated by flashing lights, loud music and a huge flat screen TV. Admittedly it was a Saturday, but it was only about 7 PM.
    The layout, very narrow with quite a long bar, doesn’t really encourage a more user friendly atmosphere so it was interesting to read your comments. Winter Warmer seems a slightly odd choice though?
    The White Lion has always had a slightly dubious reputation and the last time I was in, was running some kind of drunken karaoke competition, never been a favourite.
    The London is perhaps a more interesting building but has never sold any interesting beer to my knowledge.
    I’ve been in the Navy a couple of times over the last year or so and had a couple of nice pints of Rebel ( which hopefully can be rescued from administration). Whilst they always ask if you want to eat, the drinker is not made to feel uncomfortable and it has quite a good relaxed atmosphere.
    Is anything happening at the First & Last or St Johns House?
    On a historical note, the number of ex Courage pubs you refer to in this piece reflects how much the structure of the jndustry has changed; the following were all Courage pubs when I was younger;
    Pirate
    One & All
    Seven Stars
    London
    Farmers
    White Lion
    Navy
    Sportsmans Arms.

    1. The First & Last is trading and has been consistently for a couple of years now after a few stops and starts. Has a good crowd of regulars who seem to keep it afloat. We pop in every now and then but the beer, after a good start under current management, hasn’t been that exciting of late.

      St Johns House? If we’ve somehow missed a pub it’s not too late for us to fit in a visit before Christmas!

      1. Oh, the pub that is now The Humphry Davy, you mean? Opened for a bit under new management, closed, and has been quiet for months. Not boarded up, no ‘to let’ sign, nothing.

  3. Sorry yes, can’t get used to calling it the HD. I had heard that the couple who were running the First & Last had also taken over the HD, but doesn’t sound like much is happening….
    BTW, I understand that the Admiral Benbow (not your favourite I know) is on the market again, I know Alan hasn’t been well for some time.

    1. Someone told us that a while back — there might even have been a sign up in the pub. It’s grown on us especially now we’ve researched it in depth. A good thousand words on it in the new book, in fact.

      1. It’s certainly a one off. I have a soft spot for it; my father fitted a whole set of windows there many years ago.

  4. In August I sat at the bar had a good pint of Rebel’s honey beer (name eludes me) in the Navy while waiting for the take out curry from the Taj – not a bad little pub with a fair bit of (as you’d expect) Naval decor. Was certainly leaning more towards the eating crowd.

  5. There’s an idea for a blogger-group-challenge-type-thing here – “go to the nearest pub or bar to your house or work that you’ve never been in to, then write something about it”.

    1. Or even, as B&B have, all those in your town you have not visited.
      I guess it’s location specific; I live in a village with three pubs, have seen them all, two I don’t like but one is great.
      Visiting all the pubs in Crewe I haven’t seen is not an appealing prospect, although it might make an amusing blog…..

    2. I can only think of five pubs/bars within 20 minutes’ walk that I’ve never been in, even once; still, five is enough to be worth ticking off (although three of them are keg-only). That’s five out of 30, incidentally. There were ten pubs in the same radius when we moved here in 1987 – and four of those have since closed.

    3. Too scared to go in my nearest pub, The Herbert in Morice Town, Plymouth. I’ve lived near it seven years but I don’t think I’m hard enough to go in. I’m 6’3″….

  6. I’m assuming it will be in the new book, but where did you visit in Stevenage, town of my misspent youth?

    I was told many years ago by a Cornish pub entrepreneur that Cornish people don’t like Irish theme pubs, feeling that they have their own Celtic culture and they don’t need someone elses’s fake version

    1. We were there specifically for The Pied Piper but also popped into Our Mutual Friend and Spoons in the centre.

    2. I think that’s right, plus I think the Cornish can spot a fake from some way off.
      I can’t think of any other Irish theme pubs in Cornwall, although I suspect Newquay may have had one or two.
      I don’t know whether it’s relevant, but the One & All, in its incarnation as Flanagan’s, was operated by the council’s ex tourism boss.

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