The allure of the good old English pub should not be underestimated.
This was the message I received loud and clear from a group of cider supping American tourists I had the pleasure of meeting in the Bunch of Grapes (BoG).
The visitors, from Jeffersontown, Missouri told me how much they enjoy our boozers with their winning combination of history and charm.
I immediately heaped misery on these Missourians by telling them that we Brits are busy ripping our pubs to pieces. If not, then we’re closing them down.
When I mentioned that my hometown had recently lost three pubs they let out a collective grown.
Keep it under your hat, but some would say good riddance to these three wretched boozers. They were, to be blunt, chavvy hellholes and examples of poorly run pubs.
Any rate, there’s no denying that the BoG, near London Bridge station, has that old dark and cosy feel to it that tourists and most other pubgoers love so much.
I walked in to the sounds of the Coldplay hit Beautiful World, which was apt because I think whenever I walk through the doors of a pub that I’m entering a beautiful world; one where ale is in plentiful supply and the possibilities endless.
The lighting at this Young’s pub was at an invitingly low level, which was good for me because I think I always look better in the dark.
The pub is peppered with old wooden benches, stools and tables and there are a couple of partitions with frosted glass creating spaces for punters to breakaway from the crowds which tend to gather by the bar and entrance.
The mere mention of a dance tends to send a shudder down my spine and I normally mutter some excuse about a recurring knee injury to whoever tries to drag me under the disco lights. But I make an exception for Waggle Dance and had to cross the barmaid’s palm with gold and silver to the value of £3.45 for the privilege of a wiggle with the Waggle.
Despite being given a fresh lick of paint in recent years the BoG is an oasis of charm amid the hustle and bustle which takes place outside its doors.
The pub is situated close to London Bridge railway station, Borough High Street and the Shard.
Upstairs there is another tastefully decorated area which would probably suit couples and tourists wanting a bite to eat, as well as groups of girls eager to bitch about their fellas, friends or both.
Most lads will just be happy to sit and sup downstairs on their own, which is precisely what I did.
The beer garden is small, but is cunning in it’s design. It’s two-tiers mean it provides a great suntrap during the summer months but, whatever the weather, it’s definitely a smokers’ paradise. Considering the urban environment which surrounds the pub they’ve made the best of the space allowed.
All told, a visit to the BoG can be a rewarding and satisfying experience.
THE INNSPECTRE’S SUMMARY…
ADDRESS: THE BUNCH OF GRAPES, 2 St Thomas St, Borough, SE1 9RS. www.bunchofgrapesborough.com
ATMOSPHERE: *** Lively. But there again, the tourists had just been joined by hoards of thirsty office workers who’d just spent eight hours of their lives wishing they’d rather be in the pub.
DECOR: *** A new cream and dark brown colour combo means it feels cosy, traditional, yet fresh all in one.
PRICE: ** £3.45 is average for London, so deserves an average comment like this.
SELECTION: *** A good selection of beers. Good to see Waggle Dance (5%) on tap. On a more recent visit they had Butcombe Bitter (4%) and Young’s 1831 Anniversary Ale (4.1%) on tap.
SERVICE: *** Barmaid was bright and breezy.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS? The BoG has a quiz night every Wednesday.