"It's not much but it's ours"

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


In today’s Guardian Word of Mouth blog, I contributed a post about the rapid decline in the numbers of pubs in the UK, at the rate of over 50 a week.

Unsurprisingly it has drawn quite a response, many agreeing with my own argument that, although there are lots of factors that make running a pub very hard and indeed close to impossible, the main reason that so many pubs are closing is that, even if their product is OK, some are simply really horrible places in which to spend time.

As if to prove the point, on Saturday, HP and I went for one of our regular pub sessions and decided to search for somewhere as an alternative to our usual locals, The Artillery Arms and The Wenlock Arms.

HP had been reading about The Bree Louise, a small pub close to Euston Station. It had just won CAMRA North London Pub of The Year and was notable not only for its award but also for the fact that, as well as hand pulled beers, it is one of the few in the city that also dispenses beer using gravity. Beers are jacketed in covers that maintain cellar temperature and allow the pub to store them behind the bar keeping a wider range.

All very promising and, indeed, as we walked into the pub, the sight of the bar with its casks on display, a blackboard with a long list of real ales and cask ciders and the price list, increasing with ABV made us think that The Bree Louise would be a great place to spend the evening.

That is until we began to walk across the room, our feet sticking to the sticky carpet. It was not the only thing that was sticky, in fact everything in the Bree Louise appears to stick to everything else. There was only one young man behind the bar dealing with both the hand pulled beers and the gravity dispensed. He was rushed off his feet and had not had time to collect the empty pots, which littered the tables. I tried to help by clearing the empties from our own high table and placed them on the bar where they remained for the rest of our stay.

If you believe that pubs are just delivery systems for beer, then the range at The Bree Louise might persuade you to stay. However, even though the two pints we sampled were well kept and delivered in a full measure, the general state of the pub was so grim that we felt no desire to linger. And, after one visit to the toilets, which would made the Black Hole of Calcutta look like Pontins, we decided to head back to The Artillery Arms where, the beer may not win awards, but a perfectly decent pint is served in a welcoming environment.

There seems to be a fallacy that, just because you are

a) Male
b) A real ale drinker

you don’t care about the environment in which you drink. While HP and I certainly visit pubs primarily for their beer rather than for their jukebox, certain basic standards have to be maintained and, the truth is too many pubs just fail to meet them to a level that will persuade even those in search of a great pint to linger.

If you want to know why pubs are closing at such a rapid rate, go for a drink at The Bree Louise. It will be a great pint, but I bet you wont stay for two.

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Blogger Chris Pople said...

In my own experience, Pontins (Southport Pontins, at least) is far, far worse than anything Calcutta has to offer.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009 10:39:00 pm  
Blogger Chris Pople said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009 10:39:00 pm  
Blogger Chris Pople said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009 10:39:00 pm  
Blogger kerstin said...

I read your Guardian article. It will be terrible if there are no more pubs. It's a shame that so many of them have been gentrified too...
How do you know if a beer is off?

Thursday, August 06, 2009 9:28:00 am  
Blogger The Ample Cook said...

Oh dear, what a huge disappointment. Like yourselves my husband really enjoys proper ale and indeed a good pub. As you quite rightly point out it can sometimes be difficult to find an establishment which looks after its premises as well as its beer. Great shame. As you quite rightly point out,this will surely only add to the alarming rate at which pubs are disappearing.

Thursday, August 06, 2009 9:34:00 am  
Anonymous tonimoroni said...

It might even be the same with bars to enjoy a good malt whisky. Looking up some of the places mentioned on 'Whisky' magazine's website has led me to conclude that dark wood, no light and boozed-up patrons must be synonymous with 'authenticity'.

Thursday, August 06, 2009 11:01:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If a beer is off, and you drink it, you'll know. It'll be like downing vineager mixed with dishwater.

Thursday, August 06, 2009 4:00:00 pm  
Anonymous Krista said...

I noticed the Wenlock got rid of their carpet about a year ago? Thank God. It was pretty disgusting.

Thursday, August 06, 2009 5:24:00 pm  
Blogger I heart cupcakes said...

Oh dear - we've been meaning to check the Bree Louise for a couple of months and I can't say your write up has made me relish my visit.
We left the gbbf early on Friday as it was just too busy and headed off to the Wenlock instead and were having a discussion about why pubs close and I was saying the exact same thing to my husband - if publicans dont keep their pub clean and pleasant why on earth would I want to spend my money there? I wouldn't eat in a filthy restaurant so why is it assumed ok that just because you have a good range of beers I'll put up with dirty glasses etc.
I shall give the Bree Louise a go and see what its like - however if the ladies are anything like the gents Ill be heading to a back up pub!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 5:28:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went last Saturday. The floor was definitely sticky. We sat outside though where it was very pleasant (apart from a rather persistent wasp) and the other patrons were quite amusing. The ladies' toilets were clean! We got a huge "side dish" of rather good chips for £2.49 that was enough to feed two people, and the beer was so cheap with the CAMRA discount. We decided to go back if it was a nice day and we could sit outside.

Friday, August 14, 2009 8:10:00 am  
Anonymous My Dish said...

Great Blog, We will be visiting the resturant very shortly and will write a review if this is ok, i cant wait...

Friday, August 14, 2009 5:52:00 pm  
Anonymous Alex W said...

It's a shame chaps. I quite like the Bree Louise. I'd agree that it could do with a face lift, but I find it a very straight forward, no nonsense pub... Horses for courses I guess!

Their pies are decent, but nothing to rave about. They are starting a new food menu very soon, which I'm quite looking forward to - plenty of ploughman's, sandwiches and such simple fare!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 1:46:00 pm  
Anonymous newport cigarettes said...

I am impressed with these English pubs. The oak barrel for the beer is something to look forward to.

Thursday, April 19, 2012 12:32:00 am  

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