ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
ʼʼ

Monday, October 8, 2012

Save the CBT!

Like the Renegade Master, I'm back once again - this time from a short trip to Switzerland (and, briefly, Liechtenstein).

I ate some interesting things there, but my review thereof will have to wait for another day as there are markedly more important matters to deal with closer to home.

Like saving the Catford Bridge Tavern.

I'm sorry, Heidi Country, your sausage platters, Röschti and Raclette will all have to wait for another day.


A pub worth saving


Now, I'm not by nature the sort of person who jumps on bandwagons to save things. Not even pubs.

My considered view is that the future of the pub may well be best served by having fewer, but better pubs in this country. If a decrepit boozer serving undrinkable beer bites the dust I shed few tears. Fuck them and their crappy food and manky piss-ale.

I find it all a bit hypocritical when some CAMRA branches get all upset about a pub closing that their members hardly ever went to anyway because there are so many nicer pubs around.

Save this pub!
But I do care, passionately, about good pubs, and the Catford Bridge Tavern is a very good pub indeed.

It was a no-go shithole until a few months ago, mind. I visited just once in its former guise as the 'David Copperfield' and didn't stay long. It was a pub with 'a reputation', and not one for fine ale, food and civilised companionship.

But as soon as Antic started running the place, it instantly became the best pub in the area. Good enough even to come third in the inaugural B-V London Pub of the Year contest.

How many pubs are there in Greater London these days? 5000 or so? Becoming the third best one in a matter of weeks was a monumental achievement for the CBT. And yet, it seemed so effortless because they're just so good at getting the basics right.

It's an interesting initialism actually, CBT. Also stands for 'Cognitive Behaviour Therapy' and 'Cock and Ball Torture', in case you didn't know.

As it happens, I might well be the only person in the world with experience of all three CBTs, and the Catford Bridge Tavern is definitely the best of them!

CBT - better than CBT and CBT!


So why the fuck is the CBT in danger?


Like a teenager's Facebook relationship status, 'It's complicated'.

As I understand it, they're sub-leasing from Punch taverns - a big company who generally run not-very-good pubs. This means that Antic have little long-term control over the building and could theoretically be forced out at very short notice. (A few weeks back an Antic pub in Hammersmith closed very suddenly, possibly in similar circumstances.)

The owners of the property want to convert the floors above the pub to housing, and then, potentially convert the ground floor - the actual pub - to retail.

A planning application has been submitted, and so the future of the CBT hangs in the balance.

The housing part of the proposal is fine - who wouldn't want to live in a flat above such a fine pub? - but the obvious danger is that flats above pubs are considered less desirable (and profitable) than flats above supermarkets, and the next stage of the process becomes a sickening formality.

People power sometimes works. Earlier this year I went to the St Jude's Brewery Tavern in Ipswich on the night it closed. A few months later and it's on the verge of reopening, along pretty much the same lines as before. The customers were unrelenting in their support for bringing the Jude back and the landlord saw it as an opportunity to get involved.

This year I've also been to the last night at the Grid Inn, a former Wetherspoons pub in Southfields which they scandalously surrendered to Tescos, leaving the area with no decent pubs. People power didn't work there, obviously.

But it sometimes works. Let's not lose sight of that.


Do your bit

And so, I urge everyone to get involved to save this excellent pub where the beer is always excellent and varied, the chef is some sort of kitchen-wizard from planet Umami, the background music is great but not loud, and where you can just chill out at midnight on a Saturday night with a cool pint of Oxymoron and a bag of Soffle's pitta chips, listening to Midlake with an air of blissful insouciance.

Also I can honestly say that I've never been in a pub quiz where the winning team gets to pocket a few quid and draw their own trophy on a plate on the wall. (We drew a cock and balls when we won, obviously!)

Look, there's nowhere else like this in Catford, and there aren't many places like it in the world! (No, there weren't any in Heidi country either).

So, under threat, tragic, blah blah, great loss... What can you do?

Well, you can:

And if you've never been to the CBT before, for the love of beer, get yourself down there and find out just why this is an indubitable gem worth saving!

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