BY BILL LACY
It was the last week of outdoors-only pub service and the proximity to normality has definitely shifted behaviour.
I cast my mind back to last year when someone reprimanded me for being too near them in a queue, even though you could drive a bus between us.
That zealotry is now disappearing, people seem more at ease with each other and it feels like we’re almost home, just over that next hill, you can already see the house.
Come on in, dinner’s ready, no need to stand outside on ceremony.
My trip to The Trafalgar Arms, in Tooting’s main thoroughfare, certainly felt like the nearest pub experience to normal I’ve had this year, albeit still, for one more week, confined to the outside.
The weather, predicting the nation’s mood, was a little brighter. The atmosphere of the pub was lively and chatty.
There are still a few Covid-era inconveniences.
Despite being thoroughly organised and booking many days ahead, I still found myself sitting behind a masked-up girl reeling off the names and numbers of herself and her seven friends.
As the booking lady typed the anonymous Sophie’s details into her system, I perused the bar, still spooky and empty.
Hoping to spot some Trafalgar memorabilia, it was instead a bright, smart, modern design.
Instead of a portrait of Nelson, there were sketches of fruit and vegetables.
The pub is part of Young’s Geronimo stable and is an exemplar of the Young’s empire upgrade, with a less pubbish look.
The food is decent, but quite expensive. A £13 hot dog and chips was good, but still a hot dog and chips. Even the Young’s London Special, a cask ale, was over a fiver.
It didn’t seem to put people off though. Bookings were hard to secure and the clientele, no doubt reflecting the upwardly mobile local area, was what one might call “aspirational”.
The pub garden is at the front and is separated into two sides with the path to the entrance through the middle, with almost 100 covers.
The building is actually quite impressive and reminded me of Marlinspike Hall, Captain Haddock’s mansion in the Tintin comics.
When I went to order another pint the cask beers were all off. I got the impression that, a week before inside opening, the pub was keen to flog all existing stock.
The menu was limited to its burger “shack”. There were no heaters, apparently due to a national shortage of gas.
I can understand all this, but at above-average prices and bold claims that it is a “gastronomic wonderland” I don’t want the short-cuts to be detectable.
Maybe I will come back in a few weeks. We are all longing to be inside a pub once more after all.
The Trafalgar Arms 148-156 Tooting High Street, Tooting SW17 0RT
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.