Sitting in a beer garden with the sun beating down on your face is a wonderful experience. Being surrounded by middle-aged cigarette-puffing chavs who use such outdated terms as ‘lovely jubbly’ and ‘pukka’ while swigging a lager top, is not.
The banal banter of this boozy bunch left me wondering if I’d been beamed back to 1988, a time when Delboy and Rodney’s antics in Only Fools and Horses had us glued to our 14-inch portable televisions. But no, this was my experience at the Famous Green Man, Ewell, Surrey, in 2013.
I started to fret even before I set foot in the place. Why was it ‘famous’? This self-proclaimed declaration of popularity seemed a little odd to me.
If I were to slip the Famous Green Man of Ewell into conversation to the good folk of Aberdeen, Blackpool or Newcastle for example, would they know where or what the hell I was talking about? I think not.
In fact, they’d probably think I’d had a lager top too many, call me a shandydrinking southern bastard and pack me off back to London on the next available train.
In my experience, pubs with the word ‘famous’ in their name normally end up being pretty poor or worse still, boarded up.
The Queen Vic in EastEnders is famous, so is the Woolpack in Emmerdale and the Rover’s Return in Coronation Street.But the Famous Green Man in Ewell? No.
The fame of this pub probably spreads as far as the boundary of Ewell and no further.
The beer garden was full of rosie-cheeked bald geezers wearing sports gear wallowing in the unseasonal mid-autumn warmth like seals on a sun-drenched beach.
Make no bones about it, this is very much a boozer for blokes, and the putrid smell of aftershave bought from the 99p Store only served to emphasise that point.
Inside, punters were glued to coverage of football and horse racing, apart from one maverick who was content watching a repeat of BBC2’s Bargain Hunt.
When the sports fans averted their gaze from the screen for a second it was to peruse the sporting memorabilia on the walls, the sports pages of the Daily Star or the sports news on their phones.
Yes, they sure do love their sport here.
The irony is that these punters are anything but sporty. This out-of-shape shambles can barely walk to the loo without pausing for breath.
Any rate, I was pleased to see Triumph Stag (4.7) by Cottage Brewing on tap, so thought I’d give that a go. This creamy, smooth-flowing beer was a first for me.
It’s the kind of beer which gives you a big white moustache when you take the first few swigs. I was indebted to the good lady InnSpectre for pointing this out and saving me from becoming a laughing stock.
However, my ale alienated me from the crowd. Let me tell you why; everyone seemed to be supping lager top. It really is the drink of choice for the ageing chav.
There should be a sign on the way into the village which reads ‘Welcome to Ewell – Lager Top Country’ because that’s exactly what it is. I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if I’d found the words ‘lager top rules OK’ scrawled somewhere on the walls of the gents’ toilets.
I felt a proud man as I stepped out into the beer garden carrying my glass of real ale as if it were the Olympic torch.
Chavs wearing gold Argos chains and Lonsdale sweatshirts gave dismissive looks, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t help but feel that the CAMRA big-wigs would applaud my stance supporting a small brewery against the lager-loving masses.
And it was so worth it. I’ve got to say Triumph Stag is a pukka pint.
THE INNSPECTRE’S SUMMARY
ADDRESS: THE FAMOUS GREEN MAN, 71 High Street, Ewell, Surrey, KT17 1RX. www.famousgreenman.co.uk
ATMOSPHERE: * It was all very geezery. Not the kind of place you want to bring your missus if you’re looking to earn some brownie points. One half of the pub nails it’s colours to the mast quiet clearly, it shows sport, sport and when that’s over, it shows sport analysis. The Saloon Bar isn’t so bad and I even saw the a woman in there.
DECOR: ** Bold colours and sporting memorabilia such as framed rugby shirts on one side, and a more neutral colour scheme in the the Saloon Bar featuring the obligatory pictures from Ewell’s yesteryear.
SERVICE: *** Lovely jubbly. The girls behind the bar were bright and bubbly.
PRICE: ** £3.60 for my Triumph Stag is average.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS: The pub hosts regular live music nights. Oh, and you might wonder why it’s so ‘Famous’. Well, your guess is as good as mine.