BY BILL LACY
It’s great to see so many pubs open again.
Campaigners are urging people to support pubs and it’s true they need it more than ever.
Thankfully, I don’t need much encouragement.
Neither do the patrons of Claret & Ale in Addiscombe, who looked like they had picked up where they left off before the pandemic.
It had a locals’ feel, and everyone who came in seemed to know other people.
There were a lot of shaking hands and meetings that looked like reunions.
But this is not an exclusive pub. By the end of my first visit, the friendly barman was using my name, a nice little touch that definitely guarantees I’ll be back.
It really is worth factoring in a bit of extra time to visit a good pub.
So many people just dive into the nearest pub when the moment comes, but a little further afield and there is a new world out there.
The Claret & Ale is only three tram stops from East Croydon, and a stone’s throw from Addiscombe stop.
The 10 minutes it took to get there was no sacrifice at all. At first I thought it was a micropub.
Somehow the location – in a normal shop unit – lent itself to that perception, but upon walking in it is most definitely a pub, albeit a small one.
It is one room with a long parallel bar and uses space well. But it’s not trendy. It has that cosy, living room feel of a good pub – black painted wooden beams and red carpets.
I was plonked in a little nook pending the arrival of the person who had booked it.
The barman sounded apologetic when he explained that I would have to vacate the seat when the booker arrived, but I still had more than two hours.
Clearly this is a place where people are used to settling in. A blackboard on the opposite wall listed the current and future beers.
There are always beers from Palmers, one of the UK’s oldest breweries, as well as those from around the country, including locally.
A pint of Westerham’s 1965 Special Bitter Ale was so good that I had three of them.
I was opposite a giant TV showing the Sunderland-Lincoln playoff semi-final, which made for a rhythmic, dreamy backdrop.
TVs in pubs are a mixed bag. Sometimes they are a distraction but here it added to the atmosphere.
Perhaps it depends on what they are showing, or perhaps it depends on the pub.
But this is most definitely a pub where the conversation flows and the kind of place where even if you’re not talking and don’t know anybody you still feel part of it.
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