Food & DrinkLifestyle

Who needs a Crown when you have a Rusty Bucket?

I have two abiding memories of a pub called The Crown in Eltham.

In one, I am a kid, and my dad has just nipped inside for a drink while we were out shopping, or possibly shopping was the side-event to the pub.

I was too young to drink, but I have vivid recollections of good cheer, red carpets and a proper wooden bar.

Much later, I went again, but it didn’t look or feel the same.

The bar was in a different place, it was dark and dingy and menacing characters kept emerging from the toilets.

Third time lucky I thought. Well, kind of.

The Crown isn’t there anymore, but it has been replaced by a new craft beer place called The Rusty Bucket.

The frontage is still the same, although they’ve replaced the horrendous black with a turquoise blue, but everything else is completely unrecognisable.

Step inside and it is night and day different from the old Crown, and the most pleasant surprise I’ve had in Eltham since my dad followed up that 1999 shopping trip with a McDonald’s.

The grumpy and frightened barman has been replaced by knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, the menacing characters by a diverse mix of customers and instead of watered-down Carling with a foamy head I could try the likes of Kernel’s Export India Porter or Beatnitz Republic’s Riding East New England IPA.

I think a pub is a pub, and the only distinction we should make is between good ones and bad ones, but the likes of places like The Rusty Bucket simply didn’t exist when I was a kid – we have the ‘craft beer revolution’ of the past 10 years or so to thank for that.

There have always been good pubs of course, but even good ones weren’t quite as well-stocked as some are today because the diversity of beer is simply so much greater now.

Add passion and innovation to the right economic conditions and the results are transformative.

It’s still a tough time for hospitality, but hopefully the roadmap out of lockdown and Rishi’s recent Budget proposals are a lifeline, even if some longer-term challenges, such as sky-high rents, remain.

Young and passionate IT-savvy publicans have perhaps done better than most to weather the storm (Rusty Bucket has even diversified by serving good-quality coffee from “the Hatch”) but places cannot rely on takeaway beers forever.

We wouldn’t want to, anyway. At the moment, I’d even settle for a watered-down Carling in The Crown, but would be delighted to go back to The Rusty Bucket.

The Rusty Bucket, 11 Court Yard, Eltham SE9 5PR

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