Experiencing the charms of the pub garden at the Dulwich Wood House

BY BILL LACY

At the time December felt depressing, with even the imminent arrival of a ‘normal’ Christmas in doubt.

Looking back now it was a period of relative freedom bookended by two lockdowns.

It was then that I visited Dulwich Wood House with a group of friends (throat-clearer: a legally compliant party of six) in what now seems like a different era.

Even in the best of times, the pub isn’t the easiest pub to have a drink in – it is immensely popular and is essentially built for groups.

In that sense, it is almost like a restaurant. Booking is essential.

The draw here is the pub garden, whose official name, the Birra Moretti Winter Garden, does somewhat make it lose a bit of magic.

Young’s claim it is the best pub garden in South London and it very possibly could be. I must admit I was a late convert to the charms of pub gardens.

Partly this is because I grew up with pubs whose gardens consisted of a small alley and a dustbin, with perhaps on old fogey puffing away against a wall.

But the Winter Garden is something to be proud of. We arrived and navigated our way through the usual airport-style security (this is not a criticism of the pubs; this is what is required of them and pubs and customers have overwhelmingly done what has been asked of them).

We were lucky enough to obtain a small private hut called Chaffinch, resplendent with a top quality heater.

Halfway through our evening a chap appeared and asked whether he had left his bag there.

It took us a good few minutes to rifle through all the cushions and blankets looking for it.

Even though it was a cold December evening, we were snug. It was wonderful, a coveted spot.

I often play a strange mental game. I picture the perfect pub composed of features from the different pubs I’ve visited; the brass work of a King’s Arms, the wooden beams of a White Hart, and so on.

I would add the Dulwich Wood House’s heated beer garden to this fantasy.

The fayre was the usual Young’s range and I ordered a scotch egg (of course) to comply with the strange food requirement.

The staff were extremely welcoming and friendly, which in my opinion is even more important now that we’re in environments where we’re being told what to do.

For once the experience of a Covid-world pub visit was not diminished; perhaps beer gardens are the future.

The pub is open for bookings from March (pending the hopeful easing of restrictions).

It has been estimated that 10,000 pubs could be at risk of closure and the need to support pubs is more important than ever.

It is also the Year of the Local, which Dulwich Wood House is championing, although this great pub is a destination pub as well, which makes me hopeful that it is in rude health.

Dulwich Wood House, 39 Sydenham Hill, Sydenham, SE26 6RS.


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