Whilst many pubs decide to hang on to original features like a wobbly floor or an elaborate bar, most of the smart ones update themselves with a healthy overhaul once in a while. Not so much with the Palm Tree which seems to be stoically refusing to update so much as a bar stool and is inexplicably still hanging on.
Replete with gold wallpaper, magic eye drawing carpet and the remnants of someone’s Nan’s china plate collection on the wall; the red lit interior is simultaneously a time capsule and a source of bafflement to the uninitiated. A large elliptical bar swoops into the centre of both of the drinking areas, although it’s not entirely obvious how you access one side of the pub. Behind it stands a till which looks like it’d be more comfortable with shillings and guineas; it is ‘contactless’ only in the sense that it probably ought to be in a museum and never touched by human hands.
One of the various myths surrounding the pub is the (almost certainly true) story that it was the sole surviving building of an aid raid during the Blitz. This explains why it stands, looking somewhat out of place, in the midst of an ecology park, overlooked from the other side of the canal by a sprawling mass of soulless new built flats.
It’s this lonely quality which intriguing about the Palm Tree. Gifted with an abundance of outside space it’s fantastically busy in the summer months; thronging with the young, trendy locals whose usual demands and expectations of a hostelry are so far departed from the time warped Palm Tree has to offer. At any other time though it’s as if no one thought to let the pub or its custodians know that the last 60 years has happened and that it has simply been left behind.
When it comes to being fed and watered the options are few and simple. Expect a couple of ales, Guinness and the odd lager; supplemented by some (unrefrigerated) bottled options from behind the bar that’s your lot. Food is more of a concept here than a reality; there are bar snacks and rumours of sandwiches although it’s best not to get your hopes up as staff are legendarily easily riled.
Sadly that brings us to the real Achilles heel of this stalwart. Numerous Pub Raider trips have yielded welcomes from the bar person(s) ranging from monosyllabic semi-aggression through to good old fashioned indifference. They may be jaded by the continual hipsters or tourists making ‘ironic’ visits to a pub which has a reputation for being novelty, but there are some things which are inexcusable. It’s also especially vexing given that those visits surely comprise a good chunk of income.
The Palm Tree is the very definition of defiance; although as its myriad band of regulars evaporates it’s not likely to remain time locked for much longer. Enjoy it whilst you can.