We had a nice afternoon in one of our favourite London pubs soured on Saturday when we were more-or-less asked to leave to free up the table for a reservation. When we queried whether it had to be our table, given that there were lots of others without reservation signs on, we got a very stroppy response from the bar manager.
The practice of moving people or hurrying them along to squeeze in a second sitting is annoying even in real restaurants, however sensible it might be from a business perspective. But the questions of whether you should be able to reserve tables in pubs at all is a sensitive debate for many British people — it’s a level of formality that seems somehow to undermine the very idea of what the pub is about.
People in Germany seem to cope with it, but maybe that’s because there the reserved signs appear (often with profuse apologies) four hours in advance of the booking, so you’ve got plenty of time to finish up, or just choose another table. In the Greenwich Union, we were given an hour — hardly enough time to eat desert and have another drink.
In the couple of hours we were there, we enjoyed cask conditioned Meantime IPA (7.5%, and not as good as from a bottle) and gained a new appreciation for the fruity, sherbety draught Meantime Helles (4.1%).
So, the Union continues to be both brilliant and annoying. God knows we love the beer, but it might be a while before we go back.