Some of my favourite pubs are, on the face of it, a bit crap. The King’s Arms on the riverbank in York, aka ‘The Pub That Floods’, springs to mind. A Sam Smith’s pub with a single boring cask offering and a decidedly mixed clientele doesn’t add up to much on face value, but when I’m sat with a cool pint in the sunshine, with legs swinging over the high (but obviously not high enough) river walls, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
Other pubs, like the The Exmouth Arms near Kings Cross and Russel Square in London, have a much more obvious appeal and seem to tick all the boxes. Well chosen, well kept, well served beer from around the UK and further afield, a well stocked beer fridge with plenty of big sharing bottles and a short, sharp pub grub menu executed with an awareness of current trends (posh American junk food) all add up to create my sort of place.
Last time I was in there I wolfed down one of the best pub burgers I’ve ever eaten. High quality beef served ever so slightly pink, with pickle, mustard and a little topping of pulled pork, all served in a properly shiny n’ squishy brioche bun - Washed down by glass after glass of great beer.
We worked our way through the draft offerings and onto the bottles, wobbling away towards King Cross some hours later, catching the last train home.
But thinking about it on the train afterwards, there was something I liked about The Exmouth Arms which went beyond the great beer and food, it was the sheer normal ‘pubbiness’ of it. People were there to enjoy a few drinks and the company of their mates, not to tentatively sip a third of an uber-rare beer while scribbling notes. The excellent beer and food was secondary to the atmosphere and enjoyment of the place, just as it should be.
But here’s the problem, I’ve only been once, and I’m certainly of the opinion that you need to visit a pub a fair few times before you really make your mind up about it. Was it love at first site with The Exmouth Arms, or a fleeting fling?
Only my visit this Saturday will tell.
Photo from the excellent Travels with beer