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!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The law is an ass; The pub is an asset

As mentioned the other day, in the first installment of this year's Pub of the Year competition, the Catford Bridge tavern is once again in danger, following a successful battle to save the place from closure and conversion to a supermarket last year.

Worrying stuff, given the tremendous job the team there have done - I admire the Antic pub company generally but even by their fairly high standards, the Cat Bridge is in a league of it's own. (The final deliberations have yet to take place, but you can see from the scoring that it's got every chance of winning the BV PotY.)

Now, a couple of days on, things have become slightly clearer. Antic were only ever tennants, and despite hoping to buy the pub outright themselves, the building has been sold to another pub company who intend to run it as a pub.

What kind of pub is anybody's guess though, and this, crucially, is where the law spectacularly fails.

It's all very well having legislation that prevents pubs being turned into supermarkets or betting shops because they are 'community assets'. But there's nothing to preserve the very things that make the pub what it is in the first place - the unique combination of the beer, the food, the atmosphere and the people!

Catford needs you

The end is nigh?
Clearly not all pubs are created equal when it comes to being a community asset (which the CBT clearly is). In its previous incarnation as the murky, stabby, crack-denny Copperfield, I'd suggest that this pub was a blight on the local area rather than an asset. And of the few reprobates who might possibly disagree with me, most are probably banged up in Belmarsh by now.

Catford needed a good pub - and they got a bloody fucking great one.

I'm not going to prejudge the new owners and assume that the pub will revert to being a complete steaming pile of poo - but it will be a very, very, very big ask for them to even come close to maintinaing it how it is now. Do one little thing differently, and the perfect balance will be fucked up. Trust me, that's how these things work.

If I were their business advisor I'd be telling them to sub-lease the place back to Antic, keep the current team in place and don't change a single thing, because that's their best shot for making a success of the place.

It's unlikely that their plans involve anything like this though. What is more probable is that they'll try to put their own stamp on the place, the staff and regulars will go to other Antic pubs in the area, and then the new owners will be wondering why the pub isn't as sucessful and popular as it was when Antic were running it.

I've seen this happen before, to pubs I've loved and lost. Sometimes the name is the same and the building looks the same from the outside, but step across the threshold and you'll find the very heart of the place has stopped beating.

We could have an unprecedented situation where a pub that wins an award for being brilliant is no longer around to receive it. And that will be a crying shame.

1 comment:

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