Saturday, February 9, 2013

On Pubs

To be honest, since I've been in Australia which is nearly 8 years I haven't been a frequent pub goer. Perhaps I'm a different person to the one that left the UK in 2005, or perhaps the pub culture here is just different to that which I left behind? Ok, let's stop beating around the bush, I think the pubs in Melbourne are crap compared to those in England! Actually that's a slight generalisation as there are some pubs in England I wouldn't dream of going into, and some that I've been in and then left pretty quickly. But generally, pubs as I know them are much better in the UK. Here in Melbourne, pubs are too often dressed up gambling halls with pokies machines, and betting on horses/dogs. To add respectability there are often restaurants in the pubs, but I find the buildings more like big social clubs rather than pubs.
The Cat and Fiddle
One thing I especially miss about the UK is the country pubs. When I was back over Christmas we went to a few including the one in the picture above, the Cat and Fiddle which is an isolated building sitting on the Western fringe of the Peak District not too far from Manchester. It is the second highest pub in England, and a favourite with motorcyclists, cyclists and walkers. They serve decent food and real ales (I was designated driver that day so couldn't sample any) and if you're lucky you can sit next to the open fire.

UK pubs have a rich history and are often named after people such as royalty, places and animals, but there are many different pub names, and some with a great sense of humour. When I was growing up there was a contest to name the new local pub in my area, and the winner was the culturally pleasing Brahms and Lizst. Of course, this was rhyming slang for "pissed" so the name never was chosen, though the 2 bars were called the Brahms Bar and the Liszt Bar! And some of the pubs are old, very old. For history lovers, we are talking over 1000 years old in some cases! Just the architecture alone makes a tour of great pubs a worthwhile thing, let alone the interior, ambience and the real ales. (by the way, I've been in 2 of the pubs in the link above, wonder if you can guess which ones?).

England's oldest pub
The Olde Fighting Cocks is in the Guinness Book of Records s the oldest pub in England. How could anyone walk past this beautiful pub and not stop in for a drink? Of course, pubs in towns tend to have a different feeling, some of which are quite rough, but these are places I would avoid. A summer's evening, in a beer garden, with real ales and chatting happily to friends is an unbeatable experience. Let us visually compare this with an Australian offering!

Outside terrace of the Black Swan, Stratford Upon Avon
Possibly the best pub in Melbourne, The Rose Hotel in Fitzroy
I might be sounding a bit of  beer snob here, but Melbourne's best pubs are a long way off matching the quality of their English counterparts.


  1. No problem with you using my photo in your blog...what were the chances of you actually being in the picture!! And while we're on with coincidences, I lived in Melbourne for 3 years in the late 80's/early 90's and completely agree with you about the pubs there! It took me a while to realise why, but I think its because their layout is so stark, whereas English pubs create their own intimacy by breaking the room up into smaller 'alcoves'.

  2. Thanks Peter, you've also just gained a new follower to your will be the closest I get to good pubs for a while!

    The Melbourne pub has a social club feel to me. Some are better than others, but many are just massive buildings taken up mostly by gambling which is a huge problem here. The atmosphere is lacking, and as a real ale drinker, I'm having problems finding something good to sup.