Thank god for mobile phones. Without them the barmaids at the Nell Gwynne would have had nothing better to do than admire the pub’s paintwork, watch Russian ice hockey on the tele or worst still, talk to me.
I was the only punter in the pub at that point and, while my pint was being pulled, a few tense moments followed as the two lasses faced spending some of their valuable texting time talking to a rather dull pub reviewer.
The pair of them breathed a huge sigh of relief when I scuttled off to a dark and distant corner of the pub with my precious pint of Tribute (4.2%). I know my place.
By the time I took my seat, the girls had already picked up their mobile phones and resumed texting with their fingers moving faster than the speed of light.
Finding a dark corner to drink in the Nell isn’t difficult, the lighting is set at a low level, but to say I sat in a distant corner would be pushing it. This is an intimate pub with bearly enough room to swing a terrapin.
Nell Gwynne pub takes centre stage
The pub is set just off that most famous of bustling London thoroughfares, The Strand. If you find yourself dazzled by the bright lights of the big city then there’s every chance you’ll blink and miss this little gem of a boozer.
It’s almost as if the pub is shunning the limelight, unlike Nell Gwynne herself – the 17th Century actress and mistress of Charles II – who loved taking centre stage. and after who this boozer is named.
The walls are lined with pictures of bygone actresses and street scenes of London, including Nell’s old house on Deity Lane.
The red painted ceiling and dark wooden floor are complimented by candles and dim lighting. So, if you’re suffering from acne or having a had hair day, then rest assured there’s little chance anyone will notice you in this boozer.
There is a small raised seated area to the right, a couple of small partitions to the left which help create intimate areas for drinkers and a modest sign above the bar proudly proclaiming the Nell to be the ‘Friendliest freehouse in the West End.’
Beware of the stairs at the Nell
I risked life and limb by going for a wee. The descent down the stairs is akin to walking down a lift shaft. Bow your head and hold on tight to the handrails as you prepare for a journey to the centre of the pub for the kind of adventure which inspired Jules Verne to put pen to paper.
Resurfacing from the toilets gives the drinker a sense of achievement the like of which I imagine was shared by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing when they conquered Everest back in 1953.
I’ve been to this pub many times over the years. It can be nice and quiet at the weekend – if it’s open – but so busy during the week that the barmaids have to down phones and pull pints. Shocking.
THE INNSPECTRE’S SUMMARY
ADDRESS: THE NELL GWYNNE, 2 Bull Inn Court, London, WC2R 0NP
ATMOSPHERE: ** Quiet early evening, but cranked up a notch later.
SERVICE: ** Pleasant enough barmaids but didn’t interact much.
SELECTION: *** Tribute – a classic light golden ale. Bombardier, Deuchars. One tap off.
PRICE: ** £3.60 for Tribute is reasonable.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS: The Nell Gwynne is just a stone’s throw away from the Adelphi and Vaudeville theatres on the Strand and is just round the corner from the ever-popular Porterhouse.