We only managed one round at The Dodo but it was enough to get a sense of its powerful personality.
The Dodo is a micropub in Hanwell, West London – a suburb beyond Ealing where various of our university contemporaries have ended up living.
People have been telling us to go to the Dodo for ages, every time we pass through West London. The time has never been right, though: either it was closed, or we had somewhere else to be.
On this occasion, we approached the Dodo at the end of a long walk, ready for a pint, just as the light was dying. Its fogged windows glowed an inviting yellow.
We entered and found ourselves at once in a crowd of weary well-to-do parents, their children carpeting the floor.
Squeezing our way to the bar, we had a moment to take in the décor. Pastel colours, bright light, handwritten signs, party balloons. (The Dodo has just turned six.)
Our first instinct was that it felt like a café rather than a pub.
One of the signs warned that children had to be gone by 7pm. Another, we noticed, told us to sit down and await “informal table service”.
Making our way to the back, we found a table reserved from 6pm. Grumbling quietly about the idea of reservations in a micropub, we took a seat.
Lucy Do, the proprietor, appeared moments later. Having followed her on social media for years, it felt like meeting a celebrity.
We watched with admiration as she whizzed up and down the length of the pub, from bar (front) to cellar (back), dodging precocious Archies and Annabelles, while carrying multiple pints, and taking orders for cans and glasses of wine on the way.
Yes, it is like a café, in the French or Belgian sense.
That is, an expression of an owner’s personality, calibrated over hundreds of hours of service to work for this particular crowd, and this particular guv’nor.
Warmly chaotic and sharply efficient at the same time.
This is what micropubs make possible: new ideas about what a pub can be, and which rules of the game it is obliged to follow.
Is the Dodo designed for us? Probably not. We increasingly lean toward trad trappings and dark corners.
But it doesn’t need us, because it’s already found the right people, who book out every table, and are known to each other by name.
And, anyway, the way you get more people to go to the pub is surely to have pubs for a broader range of people – not just pub bores.