The atmosphere in a pub is as crucial to its success as the quality of its beer, but the recipes and methods are frustratingly opaque.
It is easier to reference a place that so perfectly illustrates an atmosphere; Kelham Island Tavern is that pub.
Despite bordering an empty lot and varies industrial units but very little housing, there is a robust set of locals who the bar staff know by name. Far from being alienating, I was welcomed casually and affably, by the staff and regulars alike.
Kelham Island Tavern is a regular CAMERA Pub of the Year winner (except in 2013, where The Shakespeare down the road stole the title). These were not won on the back of expensive and needless renovations, glitter and ball balls, but because it so thoroughly embodies what it means to be local pub, and why this is so important in the British culture. None of this success has gone to their heads; an understated, casual Northern attitude runs through the staff and locals.
No ridiculous renovations, plenty of old things.
Exceptionally maintained local beers, served with true passion and expertise. A small but well-chosen international selection of bottles, too.
Publicity is the last thing this pub needs; it’s tiny. Ye Olde Mitre Tavern is a rare hidden gem, nestled in an alley…somewhere in London.
The current incarnation was forged in 1772, although there has been a tavern of sorts on this site since 1547. And that is brilliant. It also belongs to the Crown. Where else can you drink in such good historic company?
The decor is a Tudor-style wood panelling with grand fireplaces, snugs and greying old men. Hard as it is to find, the secret is out and I recommend avoiding the post-work crush. Classic pub food is also served, such as pork pies and pickled eggs.
This is a quintessential British pub. No sports, no music, no advertising; plenty of bitter and bar snacks. The exterior is also very picture friendly.
I love British ale. It travels awfully, so I really appreciate it when possible. For me, the beer choices were fantastic, but the scores reflects the limited range; no foreign muck, as it were. However some of the 7 real ales an tap are award winning, and complemented by varying guests.
The pubs of Great Britain are world-famous and very much part of the heritage. Unfortunately, a lot have been painted white and taken over by bland chains. The Old Mitre Tavern has firmly resisted change, and remains a stellar example of the quaint British tradition.