BY BILL LACY
The second week of pub gardens opening and it has been as tricky as ever to get a table.
On something like my seventh attempt at booking one, I managed to secure a seat in the pleasant outdoors of The Conquering Hero in Beulah Hill.
The interesting pub name comes from a poem by Thomas Morell and refers to a soldier returning from war, “See, the conquering hero comes! Sound the trumpets, beat the drums!”, although the second line could just as easily be replaced with “pour the pints” and is, as far as I know, a unique pub name in London – there is a pub by the same name in Wales.
But it is rather two animals, a dog and a pig, that one associates with this pub.
The dog is Pickles, the collie who dug up the stolen World Cup in a spot right near the pub in 1966, and the pig is the Conq’s, as it’s affectionately known by locals, resident Francis Bacon, who on the night of my visit was curled up in a basket in the corner of the pub.
This week, I threw a three-figure sum at a winter coat and, while it looked like something Liam Gallagher would wear, at least it protected me against the elements.
The last two weeks have reminded me why I have never used a pub garden in the evening – the temperature absolutely plummets after 8pm.
The Conq has a few undercover areas outside but the cold was still biting. But at the end of the garden, an open fire lapped and a folksy band played flutes and guitars.
It was a great atmosphere. There were a couple of real ales on, and I enjoyed a few pints of Wadworth bitter, as far as I could do in a chilly garden.
The food is tremendous, proper pub grub served in gargantuan proportions at fair prices. A huge meal and three pints only cost me just over £20.
I hadn’t been to an independent, family-run pub for ages and, while I am being accustomed (and even a bit enthused) by the new world of apps, it was refreshing to be somewhere without the intrusion of the technology of the moment, table service only and checking in for Covid tracing using good old pen and paper.
A pint of proper English bitter, in a pub garden with (very English) weather, listening to a band play the theme tune from film Last of the Mohicans was a balm for the soul, only to be shattered by the next table’s loud conversation about how much money they were making in IT.
It’s great to see this pub buzzing again. I can’t wait to get a table there in the afternoon sun.
The Conquering Hero, 262 Beulah Hill, SE19 3HF
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