The pleasure of the random pub

From Norman Garstin's 1889 painting of Penzance promenade, 'The Rain it Raineth  Every Day'. (The Bath Inn is up the road on the left before the red brick hotel.)
From Norman Garstin’s 1889 painting of Penzance promenade, ‘The Rain it Raineth
Every Day’. (The Bath Inn is up the road on the left before the red brick hotel.)

When we lived in London, we were always wandering around the city, either for fun or because public transport had collapsed, and used to visit new pubs all the time as a result: “This looks nice, let’s pop in.”

But even in Penzance, where we’ve lived for nearly two years, and which isn’t quite as big as London, it turns out there are still good pubs to be found. We must have walked past the Bath Inn a hundred times but never thought to go in, until last night, when the north wind had us seeking shelter just off the promenade.

There was the usual moment’s hesitation on the threshold (once you walk into a pub, it takes some nerve to turn on your heel and walk straight out, if its particularly hairy) followed by relief on entering: all the signs were good, from the polished brass to the homely atmosphere and sounds of murmured conversation. The woman behind the bar — surely the landlady? — gave us a smile and a bit of chat, even though she’d never seen us before. (Apparently, some publicans think you have to earn anything other than a scowl over time.)

It’s a huge building, it turns out, with two rooms at the front, a large beer garden (not a crappy yard) and, at the end of what you might call a banqueting hall, another bar. Despite its size, it felt warm, cosy and, yes, properly pubby.

We drank the new St Austell seasonal, Ruck and Roll, which, thankfully, didn’t taste too strongly of rugby, and Sharp’s Own — both in good nick — and watched Friday evening get going.

Darts players, fifteen or so of them, colonised one section, bantering and knocking back vases of lager; a few older chaps installed themselves at the bar and did some serious contemplative drinking with bags of crisps for dinner; a few young couples found quiet corners to flirt in; a party of middle-aged northerners, perhaps on an out-of-season break, ordered pints of “smooth” (for the men) and white wine (for t’lasses).

This pub seems very much alive, because it does its thing well, with confidence, and people come. Simple.

5 replies on “The pleasure of the random pub”

Despite Mudgie’s constant smoking ban doom-mongering good pubs are thriving all over the country.
The cheery welcome you received was probably the key factor in the success of this pub – it never ceases to amaze me how many inhospitable people pursue careers in hospitality.

Visiting new pubs is a favourite pasttime of mine, or it was up until a baby arrived on the scene. Even so, managed to get out of London today and thus experienced some new-to-us pubs for the first time in a while – The Weavers in Southborough (two real ales, good quality proper pub food, lots of ancient wood and fireplaces) and The Duke Of York in Tunbridge Wells which had four real ales and again, a proper pubby atmosphere.

Sykobee, glad you enjoyed your forray into this neck of the woods. The Weavers was good when I called in, back in the autumn. Haven’t been in the Duke of York since Fullers bought it, but it always used to be a good pub and I’ve heard reports that it still is!

The original is on display at the Penlee House museum/gallery. If/when we move on from Penzance, we’ll definitely want to take a print of it with us.

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