When I heard that this pub had won a Silver Gilt Award at the Southwark in Bloom Festival 2009 I just had to get myself down there. Nothing quite gets me going like a well tended window box and I certainly wasn’t disappointed with these ample offerings. If this prestigious and much coveted award wasn’t good enough this is also one of Fuller’s ‘Ale and Pie Houses’ a title that helpfully strips away all that pesky ambiguity about what kind of food or drink you might find inside a ‘pub’.
This building was formerly the first ever branch of the National Westminster bank now known as ‘Natwest: Helpful Banking’ (if your definition of helpful is the equivalent of watching a man throw all of his money out of a moving train window and then demand that you give him your wallet). This previous incarnation has bequeathed the current one a rather grandiose staircase, ostentatious Doric pillars and a hell of a lot of space. It boasts an enormous bar which bristles with pumps from which most of Fuller’s extensive selection of beers are on offer. Added bonus of this sweeping expanse of drip trays and brass is that you’re always served damn fast which can admittedly be a pain in some older establishments.
There is a slight leaning here towards the JD Weatherspoons end of the spectrum of pubs; a few too many branded menus lying at the end of the bar and sauce bottles far too prominent on tables where food might be on offer. This is a shame because a little more sensitivity would easily gain this place a few more points in my subconscious and slightly inexplicable rating system.
Another factor holding this back from hitting the heady heights of the 5* rating is the disturbing prevalence of the big screen TV. Whilst my visits so far haven’t really been impacted by their presence I’d be wary of heading down here for a quiet pint if there was a big game on featuring The Arsenals or The Chelseas perhaps…
When push comes to shove this is a decent enough pub; the pies are hearty, the beer is abundant and the atmosphere is warm, nor is it really that expensive by London standards. If that’s not good enough then I suggest you go in search of somewhere that won Gold Gilt at the Southwark in Bloom Festival 2009 but I doubt there’s any pleasing you…berk.