Sally Shalam’s Britain

Have you noticed how pubs have changed? Recently I was asked to write about modern travel trends for a glossy magazine and I called one of those trends, ‘Pubs for Girls’ (the whole article is in April’s Red, out Wednesday 7th March). I have a theory that one reason why coffee chains such as Starbucks have been so successful is that people – and women in particular – feel comfortable sitting in them alone, while the same cannot always be said of that great British institution, the pub.

Pubs have been closing at a rate of knots while those chains proliferate, yet there is nothing aesthetically pleasing about sitting in a Costa, Starbucks, or any of the others, and if you have ever stepped into the din of one at the weekend, you will know the bunfight which awaits you.

Some publicans have cottoned on. They are playing up the not inconsiderable advantages which the pub enjoys – nice building, rustic interior, time-imbued ambience – and adding the things we want, such as decent coffee, wiFi, loos which won’t traumatise, staff who don’t pull a face when you order tea and coffee, and sometimes even a selection of glossy magazines.
In the modern pub you are more likely to find freshly baked pastries at the bar first thing than a bunch of old soaks.

‘No one ever went to Starbucks for the interior design,’ someone might have said, when re-doing the Village Pubin Barnsley, Gloucestershire (main picture), The Garrison(pictured below), the coolest spot right now in Bermondsey, south London – an easy walk from London Bridge tube and Borough Market if you are considering pub lunch this weekend, or the George and Dragon at Clifton, a short detour from the M6 near Penrith, to name just three in which I could happily let a morning slip effortlessly into lunch.