When is a pub not a pub?

The Adam and Eve pub in Westminster, London

If you ask most peo­ple to define a pub as opposed to a bar, restau­rant or club, the con­clu­sion will usu­al­ly be a state­ment along the lines of: “It’s hard to say, but I know one when I see one.”

After our irri­tat­ing expe­ri­ence in the Green­wich Union a cou­ple of weeks back, we’ve been giv­ing this some thought.

Could the defin­ing fea­tures of a pub be infor­mal­i­ty and the dom­i­nant pres­ence of beer?

  • Table reser­va­tions are one thing: pubs where you have to reserve a table stop feel­ing like pubs.
  • Food in pubs is a good thing, but table cloths, can­dle­sticks and cut­lery laid out when you arrive prob­a­bly mean you’re in a restau­rant.
  • If you’re expect­ed to eat,  then that’s not very pub-like.
  • If there are bounc­ers then it’s either a bloody rough pub or some kind of club or bar.
  • Dress codes (when actu­al­ly enforced…) are not very pub-like.
  • If the wine list has had more thought put into it than the beer, it’s prob­a­bly a 1980s wine bar dis­guised as a pub.
  • We’re fans of con­ti­nen­tal-style wait­er ser­vice, but is it some­thing you’d expect in a pub?

It’s tempt­ing to add that places with more chrome than wood are bars, but that’s entire­ly super­fi­cial.

If you can wan­der in wear­ing jeans and train­ers and just order a pint at the bar, then it’s a pub, regard­less of the decor.

The Betjeman Arms, at last

Almost a year after it opened, we final­ly made it to the Bet­je­man Arms at St Pan­cras sta­tion.  It’s run by the Geron­i­mo Inns lot and, like the oth­er Geron­i­mo pubs we’ve vis­it­ed, there are a lot of glossy but dull Euro-brands, togeth­er with some nice cask ale.  In this par­tic­u­lar case, they have com­mis­sioned their own house brew from Sharps.  It’s called Bet­je­man Ale and is pleas­ant enough, but unchal­leng­ing.  They also run the odd beer fes­ti­val now and then.

We gath­er it’s sup­posed to be a bit ‘gas­tro’, but we didn’t eat there.  It’s cer­tain­ly very good by the stan­dard of lots of sta­tion pubs and we loved the roof ter­race – even though it over­looks the busy Euston Road, it felt very peace­ful up there, and the view made us feel a bit in love with Lon­don.

Lots of oth­er blog­gers have reviewed this place; see Stonch, Pete Brown, Lon­don Ran­dom­ness,  and Tan­dle­man for more.