Some pubs appear in Top Ten lists and pub guides time and again. They are the places that you must visit, according to the experts of Twitter and the Blogoshire.
But what distinguishes them from the many run-of-the-mill, perfectly adequate boozers that sit on corners and high streets throughout the country?
Our first thought was that star quality requires one or more of:
- ‘Cheapness’. This came to mind specifically because of Sam Smith’s and the Blue Anchor at Helston: the fact that the beer is unusually cheap is all part of the fun.
- ‘Character’. Hard to define, but can mean anything from an interesting history to unusual décor. Real character will divide opinion. It is also, we think, hard for a brand new pub to have character: it takes a few years to develop (but not as many as you might think).
- ‘Good beer’. This can mean something unique or unusual; a wide range; or a particularly expert handling of the product. A pub with good beer but no character, and scary prices to boot, had better have very good beer if it wants to be loved.
So, here’s our attempt to map a few well-known London pubs with those in mind. (Note the emptiness around cheapness: though many branches of pub chain Wetherspoon’s could claim to have good, cheap beer, they are rarely loved.)
Looking at this prompts one suggestion for struggling publicans: if you can’t be cheap and can’t sell good beer (for whatever reason), make the most of ‘character’. It goes a long way.