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Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

Charlotte, North...
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Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

I haven't seen this question, so hope it's not one of those constantly-asked ones.

Rather than memorizing names and locations of specific pubs, I'd rather pop into a place at hand when we're ready for lunch or a beer. Are there any telltale signs that a pub is a tourist trap vs. a place that's earned its place in the hearts of the locals? Or are mediocre pubs ubiquitious enough that we're better off taking a list of recommended places?

We're interested in good pub grub as well as beer.

Winchelsea, United...
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1. Re: Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

Ok, I'll have a go...

First, the best explanation of "what is a good pub" is included every year in the introduction to "The Good Pub Guide". There's no link I'm afraid, but do try and find a copy somewhere.

The reason for the GPG's existence is that we still have so many pubs in this country - there's so much choice. Even self proclaimed so-called "experts" like myself get it wrong quite often and find ourselves in somewhere with no atmosphere, uncaring staff, poor beer and unfriendly locals. So what chance do you have ?

It also depends what you mean by a "good pub". For me that means floorboards, good beer, old features, a friendly landlord and locals and simple food - pork pies, pasties etc. But for others it might mean a cool outdoor space, leather sofas, sports TV, gourmet food, live music etc. And you can get great pubs with the latter criteria and rubbish ones with the former...

Not very helpful so far, I know. Well some of my favourite London pubs are those found off the beaten track, or at least hidden away - The Old Mitre of Hatton Garden, The Star in Belgravia, Seven Stars in Carey Street - which you have to look for and which will therefore be missed by less discerning tourists than yourself. If the pub is obvious to you, then it'll be obvious to other tourists.

So I'd still suggest you get a decent pub guide. But if you're still keen to try your luck then for my criteria :

- Look out for the words "Free House" on the signage

- Avoid anywhere that looks too refurbished (less likely to have atmosphere and locals)

- Try anywhere with a blackboard outside listing 3 or more real ales

Have fun !


Ottawa, ON
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2. Re: Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

65 years ago, George Orwell wrote an essay on the characteristics of a good pub, which he called The Moon Under Water. Much has changed since, but much of what he wrote is still relevant. Wetherspoon's has appropriated the name for a number of its pubs, which do meet a couple of Orwell's criteria, good beer and no loud music.

Interested folks can read it here, netcharles.com/orwell/…moon-under-water.htm

Charlotte, North...
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3. Re: Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

Argyle Mikey, I think my idea of a good pub is pretty close to yours...we can find the leather sofa-sports tv kind here in the States, so a pub with some history and pasties is what we're travelling for. And your tips are just the kind of thing I was hoping for--perhaps not failproof, but at least something to look for.

Ronw, going now to read that essay.


Hitchin, United...
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4. Re: Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

I'll sum it up for you much more easily:

Bad pubs are on the main famous streets where tourists are easily tempted in.

Good pubs are on backstreets where you wouldn't think to look.

Get off the main streets.

London, United...
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5. Re: Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

> a pub with some history and pasties <

Aren't pasties what burlesque ladies use to cover their nipples?

Dallas, Texas
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6. Re: Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

Maybe it's just me, but I do a lot of research before I venture into a pub. The wife plans the sightseeing schedule and then I plan the pub visits. Being a tourist, I don't know if I could, just by looking, tell whether a pub is any good.

If I based my pub visits on external appearence, then I probably would not have visited the Nag's Head and missed out on what I consider an excellent pub. As the pub is located down a small mews (Kinnerton St.), I would have never even seen it in the first place. If you are limiting your visits to pubs you can see along the main roads in the tourist areas, then you have missed a great many pubs.

Liverpool, United...
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7. Re: Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

I find it easier to spot a bad pub at first sight!

County Dublin...
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8. Re: Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

If you see a telly, or a fruit machine walk on.

Thumbs up for the Seven Stars, just be careful on the stairs.


Daydream Island...
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9. Re: Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

........my uncle used to say that any place worth drinking and resting your shadow in the Southern part of this country should:

>have as few windows as possible to the outside.

>fewer women the better.

>knuckles, sausages and chips should be the only food available.

>any place that had a dog or two out front waiting for their owners was a good place.

>jukeboxes were tolerated. The sadder the songs earlier in the evening was an indication of early trouble. No hippie or long hair music.

>there should be a prominent sign advising credit was not extended and selling or trading pistols or long rifles was frowned upon with in the bar.

>bars were for drinking and pool tables were for billiard halls.

>don't talk about how miserable your work is. Everyone else has the same miseries.

>no cutting cards at the bar. sit at a table.

>do not comb your hair at the bar. belching was alright if you said "excuse me".

>money under ashtrays belongs to someone. leave it alone.

>the dimmer the lights, the better.

Edited: 21 May 2011, 05:06
Portland, Oregon
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10. Re: Can you tell a good pub at first sight?

One good free guide is to search these forums for "TALF pub meet".

Adamhornets always arranges for these events to be in good authentic pubs. Ok I've only been to one but it was an excellent choice and I'm sure the others are too. If any are in the area you are that day, then drop by.

Edited: 21 May 2011, 05:12