Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase 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. And as a critic 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!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What next for the pub?

So, it's official. We have a date.

July 4. Independence Day. The day everything goes back to normal and we can all go to the pub again...

Well, maybe. If your definition of 'back to normal' includes a bunch of rules and conditions that will, at best, make things different from how they used to be, and in a worst case scenario could sap all the enjoyment out of going for a pint.

Fancy a pint?

I've mentioned it previously and it still holds true: The loss of the pub has been the thing that has hit me hardest during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

(That and the loss of all the beer festivals - GBBF, Ealing, Chappel, Wandsworth Common, even Spring #SpoonsBingo... I'm welling up just thinking about it... Hmm, has the Welling beerfest been cancelled too?...)

Yes, some pubs have kept going during the last few months by offering takeouts and/or delivery services. And this is great, but it's not really the same. Not for me.

I'm just not the sort of person that drinks much at home. I never have been and, at 43, having recently celebrated a #LockdownBirthday, I probably never will be.

Normaller Times!
I like going to the pub. I like popping in for a quick one. I like staying for a long session. I like talking to people. I like drinking quietly on my own. I like being in a place I haven't been before, noticing a nice-looking pub with interesting beers on and wondering how many I can drink in the time I have before I have to go. I like the spontaneity of deciding to go for a pint simply because I feel like one. Or more.

Pubs. I like 'em. A lot.

And that's why I'm a bit apprehensive about what pubs will be like when the on-trade - or at least some of it - reopens a little over a week from now.

Table-service and ordering via an app really isn't appropriate for most British pubs. Yep, it'll work in Wetherspoons and similarly large pubs with lots of tables and the tech already in place. It's fine for food-oriented pubs too (a category in which I just can't bring myself to include Spoons, despite them selling a lot of it!) but for ordinary boozers where people go to drink beer? For micropubs? For specialist alehouses where the range changes every couple of hours and everyone wants to get to the bar to inspect the pumpclips? No chance.

And maintaining social-distancing? Really? When people have had a few? Face masks? Big plastic screens? No opening up bags of crisps for sharing? Really? Having to book in advance? Signing in every time you go to the pub? Even when you walk straight out again because they don't have any beers you want? Really?

It feels a bit more hopeful in that pubs are expected to have some discretion as to how they go about things. But of course, this discretion extends to making the decision that it's all too much and not bother reopening at all. Which would be horrible. And for me as a ticker, the prospect of 'limited beer ranges' is almost as bad.

So, we await to see how normal the 'new normal' is. But, by God, I'm gasping for a proper pint in a proper pub!

Oh, and if you're wondering what Lockdown has meant for our 2019-2020 London Pub of the Year competition, stay tuned for an announcement very soon. It's not going to be happening quite as per normal, because that wouldn't really be possible (or fair) but the award will be given out, after a fashion. So keep it here.


  1. Not even sure I feel like going back to the pub now. Right that it will kill the enjoyment of it.

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