What shall we do now?
Let's go down the Pub!
Being a guide to the traditional British Public House for the benefit of our esteemed cousins across the Pond.
The traditional British pub goes back all the way to Roman times when the Romans built food and wine houses in every town. The term Pub, which is short for Public House, comes from the Victorian era. The Pub was a community centre where people gathered to do business and talk about everything that was going on in the community. Pubs were territorial and in London during the industrial revolution, it was common to ask someone what Pub they drank in rather than where they lived. Nowadays it's hard to find examples of the old community pub as large companies have created chains of theme pubs all over the country.
An organization called CAMRA, the campaign for real ale, lead the resistance to this trend and celebrate pubs that keep the old atmosphere of refuge and community spirit alive.
Some of London's pubs are deeply historic. Among the most famous is 'The Cheshire Cheese' on Fleet Street. Fleet Street was the press district of old London and many writers drank here including Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson. You can still get a pint of ale at the Cheese now. The pub was last rebuilt in 1667 after the great fire. That makes the building over 300 years old.
'The Anchor' in Park Street was the ale house that Samuel Pepys took refuge in when London was burning down. It's just round the corner from Shakespeare's globe.
Another of Charles Dickens' favourite pubs was The George Inn in Borough road. It's the only remaining coaching Inn in London, left over from the days when the coach and horses were the main mode of travel. The George still has a gallery and courtyard. There had been several pubs and inns in this area as far back as the fifteenth century until the great fire. The Tabard was nearby, famous for being the pub that Geoffrey Chaucer wrote 'The Canterbury Tales' in, back in the 1390's.
If you're interested in Jack the Ripper's gruesome story then you can head for a pint at the Ten Bells pub opposite Spitalfields market. It's a little off the tourist trail but it's a fascinating area of London and the pub itself is where one of the Rippers victims had her last drink the night she died.
So if you want a real British Pub experience then skip over the shiny modern theme pubs and keep an eye out for a proper ale house! Once inside keep in mind the basic rules of pub etiquette. Gentlemen do not drink half pints. Half pints are for ladies from the south of England. Lager is for young roustabouts. The discerning gentleman will order an ale, bitter or stout preferably from the barrel.
The new licensing laws mean that Pubs can apply to be open later than eleven pm. The idea being to try and foster a more relaxed drinking culture in Britain. The dreaded eleven o clock bell often lead to scenes of people drinking two or three pints in quick succession.
The downside is that it's now harder to get a live music license for a pub. But looking on the bright side, pub food is generally much better than it's ever been and there are now a lot of pubs where families are welcome during the day. If you're lucky you may even stumble across the weekly pub quiz or even a karaoke night. Enjoy.