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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