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!

Monday, August 3, 2020

BV London Pub of the Year 2019-20 - a special award

The past few months have seen the pub and brewing industry hit spectacularly hard. It's almost spitefully trivial to even be thinking about a best pub competition at this time.

But my London Pub of the Year award has been going for quite a few years now, and it feels right to do something this year, for continuity and because no virus can stop me recognising a fucking good pub when I see one!

Can you tell where it is yet?
The award 'year' runs from July to June, which means that most of the serious decision-making inevitably takes place during the months of March, April, May and June... when of course everything was locked down tighter than a locksmiths chastity belt.

Therefore a full and fair contest just wouldn't be possible. However, a few weeks ago I came to a couple of decisions.

  1. Assuming everything gets back to normal, the competition will make a full return for the year 20-21, and will include the five finalists from last year, plus a further five pubs. It will be open to all e.g. the five long-listed non-finalists from last year will not be excluded.
  2. A 'special award' will be given out for 2019-2020, to a pub that went the extra mile during lockdown.

And that special award goes to...

The Kentish Belle, Bexleyheath

An outstanding pub at the best of times, the Kentish Belle was last years Runner-Up, and has continued to set the standard for what a (largeish) micropub can be when it wants to.

Yes, it's the Kentish Belle!
But during these uncertain times, Nick was extremely quick to respond to the changing situation with innovative and sensible plans.

As soon as the pub had to close, the Belle began a delivery service, with a focus on a varied and delicious range of cask beers, and top quality cans, ensuring that the local community in South East London wouldn't miss out on good beer just because they couldn't go out.

Social media was kept bang up to date so everyone knew exactly what beers would be on sale, and they even ventured way off their home patch to deliver delicious fresh cask beer to me and my chums in the Caterham and Whyteleafe area, during the darkest point of lockdown when there were very few options available.

As soon as pubs were allowed to reopen, an outdoor area was reconfigured to serve as a temporary beer garden. Keykeg beers, including some very exciting stuff, were introduced alongside the cask range in response to changes in turnover. Measures were taken to ensure that the best possible service could be provided given the situation.

The 'new normal' in Bexleyheath
And, crucially, they haven't gone down the route that so many pubs appear to have taken, and retreated to an ultra-conservative range of 'big name' beers. Since pubs reopened a month ago I've visited a few and it's fair to say that the Kentish Belle is literally the only place where I've been able to drink new cask beers on the premises.

Beer ranges elsewhere have been so uninspiring that the beer-ticking community has essentially given up. But all hope is not lost. Get your arses down to the Kentish Belle.

I envy the good people of Bexleyheath having this place on their doorstep, and, while everything feels a bit different this time, it's a great pleasure to name the Kentish Belle as my 2019-20 London Pub of the Year!

Well done Nick and your team, and I'll see you for a beer very soon!


  1. wow. Is ticking beers really that important dude?

  2. Well done the Belle! Bravissimo!


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