News Pub and Old Favourites #4: The Grenadier, Belgravia

The Grenadier is one of those celebrity pubs, a London institution only a rung or two down from Buckingham Palace, on a par with the inflated walrus at the Horniman.

It’s in every vin­tage pub guide you can think of, from Green & White to Tav­erns in the Town by Alan Roul­stone.

The sto­ry (which we haven’t checked in any detail) is that it was built as a mess for offi­cers in the First Reg­i­ment of Foot Guards, became a pub prop­er in 1818, and has been trad­ing ever since.

And yet, we’d nev­er been.

The last time we attempt­ed a sur­vey of the hid­den mews pubs of Bel­gravia, the Grenadier let us down: being tiny, and being famous, some­body had decid­ed it need­ed to close while the Win­ter Won­der­land event was tak­ing place in near­by Hyde Park.

It near­ly defeat­ed us this time, too, con­ceal­ing itself in one of those folds in Google Maps that send you walk­ing round a place with­out ever find­ing it. Read­ers, we may have bick­ered, but even­tu­al­ly an alley­way appeared that had­n’t been there moments before, and we slipped through the por­tal.

Three Amer­i­cans, one shirt­less, were bel­low­ing at each oth­er: “Bro! Dude! There’s a freak­ing bug on my back! Dude!” One of his friends poured the remains of a pint over his head and called him a pussy. They stag­gered away into the night. The scene was set.

A military jacket at the Grenadier.

The mews was qui­et, but the pub was throb­bing, steam­ing, taut and ready to pop. We strug­gled through a gap in the door and through a gap to the bar and ordered a round of aston­ish­ing­ly expen­sive but very decent Tim­o­thy Tay­lor Land­lord, served with busi­nesslike effi­cien­cy.

We squeezed through the crowd to a rel­a­tive­ly less dense­ly packed cor­ner and leaned against two inch­es of shelf over the heads of a group of Amer­i­can stu­dents, two lass­es and two lads, all too tall to fit their knees under their tiny table.

Near­by, a par­ty of nine Dutch stu­dents (con­spic­u­ous flash­es of orange) had some­how gath­ered around a table for two and were forced to part like the tide every time a fresh par­ty came steam­ing towards the din­ing area, and then away from the din­ing area once they’d realised it was a din­ing area.

Scowls all round: this pub would be per­fect if every­one else would just piss awf.

There is a per­fect pub here, beneath the over­pop­u­la­tion. Like oth­ers near­by, it has­n’t been giv­en a cor­po­rate makeover, or tidied to bland­ness. The cor­ners are still gloomy, the sur­faces are dinged and rubbed, and every flat plane, includ­ing the ceil­ing, is cov­ered with tat. (Supe­ri­or tat, mind – earnest, well-earned mil­i­taria, rather than plas­tic clocks.)

Wax jack­ets, rug­by shirts and piles of shop­ping bags.

Expen­sive per­fume min­gled with wet dog and hot gravy.

Con­ver­sa­tions weav­ing togeth­er, encrypt­ing each oth­er as they pour out into a hot fog around the light­bulbs.

We did not see Madon­na or Prince William.