The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, March 8, 2019
One of the questions that I am often asked is ‘What makes a great pub’?
It is a question that many people have wrestled with over the years, perhaps most famously George Orwell who addressed it in a column that he wrote for the Evening Standard back in 1946. I don’t agree with all qualities that he suggests are necessary.
I can live without liver sausage and am happy to drink my beer from a glass rather than china, but most of his requirements still ring true, and I had these in mind as I went out to the Crown at Gayton a few weeks ago for their grand reopening.
I have recounted before on these pages that it was my choice of venue back in the 1980s when we had an Australian working with us who wanted to experience a classic English country pub.
While it was wildly successful under the stewardship of Fliss, the new management decided that it was in need of an update. Consequently, major work has been undertaken and this was our chance to see the results. In essence it still remains a village pub.
It is much lighter and seemingly more spacious, with the bar having been moved back.
The rooms and small alcoves remain but have been redecorated, with a lovely wooden floor in the old family room, and the toilets have been upgraded and no longer sport the old prints of the nine half pints of the law and the other faded illustrations.
Greene King still rules the bar, and the IPA was just about as good as it gets, while the snacks that were produced by the pleasant and willing staff tempted one to return for a meal.
And that was our intention. A weekend visit from the Professor seemed like an ideal time to go out to see if the fine impression created on the night could be sustained during regular business hours.
However, fate intervened. As we returned home from a tour around town with Dr Paul Richards investigating the drink trade of Lynn, the highlight of which was a descent into the fabulous wine cellars at the Bank House, we observed flashing blue lights.
Could it be an outbreak of mass hooliganism after the Lynn Reserves game? No it was worse as we saw our car crumpled on the pavement while the police took statements.
Around the corner another car in an even worse condition lay abandoned while further ‘Peelers’ were in hot pursuit of the driver who had abandoned the scene.
Thankfully, no one was injured, the wrecks were soon removed and the insurance process rapidly sprung into action, while the driver was soon ‘helping the police with their enquiries’.
It did mean that our follow up trip to the Crown had to be postponed, and instead we headed to Goldings for Sunday lunch, where we had a pleasant experience made all the better by the excellent Grain beer retailing at almost a pound cheaper than my last visit.
So, is the Crown (or Goldings) up there with Orwell’s Moon Under Water as the perfect pub?
They both have plenty of good things about them. I reckon that two non-negotiable attributes of a great pub are the quality of the staff and great beer, and both scored highly on those counts.
The rest is more down to personal taste, and I agree with Orwell’s conclusion. The Moon Under Water doesn’t exist – but we can still keep searching.