Individuality is disappearing as our pubs go gastro

THERE was a superb piece by Ed Vulliamy in the Ham&High this summer (Pub campaigners rail against the march of greed and mediocrity, H&H June 26) My Vulliamy stated that pubs had gone in one of two direction: either I was scared of getting my teeth knoc

THERE was a superb piece by Ed Vulliamy in the Ham&High this summer (Pub campaigners rail against the march of greed and mediocrity, H&H June 26)

My Vulliamy stated that pubs "had gone in one of two direction: either I was scared of getting my teeth knocked in, or it was hard to negotiate a beer without being offered today's special of sea bass on a bed of bloody fennel'. In short the latter sort of pub has been made smart, well-lit and bland.

With friends in Muswell Hill, I recently went to The Clissold, where The Kinks used to play. You could tell instantly it had been done over or refurbished. Bare floorboards, wide spaces, dull pictures, and a sallow youth behind the bar itching to get me looking at the menu. I was called 'Sir'.

Where once was a pub where the locals could go for a drink and discuss the news, sport, politics, gossip, it was now mainly a huge room with tables, all looking like a furniture showroom. The hint is clear: this isn't where people come for a drink, but to eat. If this is so, why not call it a restaurant? And I haven't come to a pub to be called Sir. It reminds me of someone in an Indian call centre trying to sell me a mobile phone I don't need.


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The same has happened in Winchester where several pubs and Indian restaurants have been refurbished. They all share this - they have lots of space, polished light wooden floors and boring abstract pictures on the wall. There is little sense of place and you could be anywhere. One Indian restaurant just has Indian writing on a red background.

Strangely there is an example they could follow, that of the Wykeham Arms in Winchester, which has 74 beer mugs hung from the ceiling and lots of pictures about England, ie Nelson, along with ships, old prints, etc.

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It was pub of the year in 1998 and has won 12 awards. It pays to have some individuality.

I quite agree that many pubs should be refurbished. The Wetherspoons pub in Jewry Street, Winchester is a particular horror. But pubs and bars don't have to look like an upmarket furniture store. Well done, Ed, on the excellent reporting about the developers Spaces, and how they have secret plans to really close down one of the good pubs, Kentish Town's Torriano.

RUPERT PITT

Itchen Stoke, Hampshire

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