The best seat in the pub

The best seat in the Drapers Arms, our temporarily takeaway-only local pub, is at the table tucked away beside the front door.

That sounds as if it might be draughty. It’s not. It’s protected from the door by a short projecting wall, making a corner that keeps out the worst of the breeze.

It’s somehow private, too. Someone might sit to your left, but never to your right, so you can’t get too badly squeezed.

And from this little table you can see every other drinker in the pub. You can see what’s going on, hear the best bits of the conversation and avoid being taken by surprise. (The last thing you want in the pub is to have your fight-or-flight response triggered.)

So that’s why it’s the best seat, as far as we’re concerned, and we had assumed our criteria for judging this would be universal.

That’s why back in those BC days when we texted friends to say ‘We’ve got the best seat in the house and the Gorge Best is good’ we were surprised when they asked us which table we meant.

We’d thought it was obvious.

But then when we think of other regulars at the Drapers, it’s clear they have their favourite tables too, and that they’re different from ours.

Our next door neighbours gravitate to the opposite corner, near the bar. Mr Priddy, who is in his late eighties, seems to prefer a bench midway along the wall. Some people, inexplicably, choose to sit on the pew near the bins, even when they don’t have to. The rack of CAMRA magazines at the other end of the bench from our favourite seat seems to lure lone drinkers. And Big Bantering Lads generally prefer standing along the centre bench.

We wonder what psychological factors impact on where people like to sit. Proximity to the bar? The ease of inviting others to share their table? The appeal of nesting by the warmth of the radiator? Being able to see who’s entering in case you need to escape?

Beyond the psychological, there’s the physical: some people like hard seats, others soft ones, while some daren’t sit down at all for fear of seizing up. If you have to nip out for a cigarette every five minutes, that uncomfortable perch in bin corner might seem more appealing.

In our case, it’s probably that we’re used to going into a range of pubs and have got into the habit of finding the ‘safest’ spot – one where we’re least likely to draw attention to ourselves which gives us some control over interactions with staff and other customers. We’ll end up at a similar seat, at a similar table, almost anywhere.

Which is your favourite spot in your favourite pub, and why? (Any seat in any pub looks pretty good at this point, mind you.)

5 replies on “The best seat in the pub”

interesting question. I bet it depends a lot on the place. In my favourite Pub, i don’t have a favourite seat, although i would say there are certain table where you don’t have the rights to seat unless you are part of ‘the locals’ (luckily i am! ) . What i have seen traveling around, is that usually this kind of places for locals are either next to the publican (so in front of the taps) or in a very good spot, quieter but where you are still able to speak with the owners / bar staff

I always like a stool or high chair – either at the bar or a small high table. I find being able to stretch out my legs more comfortable, but also being up and being able to see everything in the pub also appeals to me.

Our table at the THT is by the door. Bar in front and nothing behind. I sit on the cold side, but I can see everything and everyone. It was where my mates sat many years ago when I was first asked to join the table. Sometimes we don’t get it and that isn’t so good, but it’s not “ours” as such, though locals won’t sit there. What we dislike is two people sitting there, but spreading their belongings so nobody can sit with them without asking. If it is me in first, I just plonk myself down anyway and chat pleasantly to them or everyone else. Passive aggressive? Maybe, but we sit about 8 – and we’ll be there for hours in a very small pub.

Can be cold in winter, but cool in summer. Swings and roundabouts.

I think it depends on circumstances. Following the unwritten rule of “the closer you are to the bar the more willing you are to speak”, if I fancy a chat I’ll position myself accordingly. If I just want to read the paper in peace, or have a quiet conversation, then whatever is the best nook or corner furthest from the bar. If I’m on my own that can complicate things if I don’t want to risk losing my seat when I go up to the bar, which I guess is why a quiet solo pint is best in a quiet pub. Thinking about it, there’s a whole lot to compute within seconds of stepping through the threshold. Unless there’s a seat by a log fire, then the decision is easy.

I certainly have (or had) a favourite spot in all the pubs I regularly visited – ideally bench seat, natural light, view of the bar or the door if in a multi-roomed pub. But people’s priorities differ, so in pubs that still have regulars they all tend to settle down in their preferred place.

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