There is little by the way of welcome in pubs these days. Eye contact by bar staff is kept to a minimum and attempts at conversation, even in an empty pub, are often met with blank indifference, or even looks of amazement. A simple smile and "hello" often seem too much to ask. Staff seem happiest when gossiping amongst themselves. Recognise the picture? When I worked in the pub, I was taught always to acknowledge your customer, have a word if possible and unless actually serving someone else, always,repeat always stop what you are doing and serve the customers. Nothing,it was emphasised, was more important than that. Oh and always say goodbye and thanks. I was taught a lot more besides, by a true old school landlord. It is why I have such high standards when I visit pubs. It really is just as easy to do it well as badly and, oddly makes the job itself way more satisfying.
This was particularly noticeable in Brew Wharf where,in an almost deserted pub, the bar staff seemed happier to be chatting in what I think might have been Spanish, than giving a smile and saying "Hello". Nonetheless, the beer, a cask Wheat IPA, was excellent and moreish, even at £4 a pint. As I left, the heavens opened and I stood outside on the covered deck hoping it would pass. It didn't, instead intensifying into a downpour. Being a man, I had no umbrella, so retreated inside for another pint. I remarked to the barmaid that I had come back due to the rain, but somehow, despite me being there for half an hour, just minutes ago, I got the impression she was seeing me for the first time. Still, the beer was good.
On Saturday we had an East End wander and intended little by way of beer as we were going out for dinner later, but we did call into Mason and Taylor. I wrote positively about it here, some time ago. On Saturday it was quiet, being around two in the afternoon, but the contrast couldn't have been greater. Young enthusiastic staff all said hello as we walked in. My choice of Saltaire Rye IPA (£3.90) brought an immediate offer of a taster and I was asked if I knew the beer. We were advised that other samples were freely available. "Just ask.". Brilliant. A blues ensemble with New Orleans touches, struck up and we thoroughly enjoyed two more pints of the excellent Saltaire beer. I did try a couple of BrewDog keg tasters and quite enjoyed them. Motueka seemed good, but £8 a pint is too much for my sensibilities.
This was a pleasant interlude, made all the more so by the entertainment which was appropriate and may even have been impromptu, but above all, the warm welcome from cheerful and attentive staff, combined with excellent beer, made us want to stay. Isn't that what it's all about?
Pubs can still do well, but it really is about the offer.
How often are you made to feel welcome when you visit a pub? What was brilliant about Mason and Taylor was that the staf were still brilliant, over a year after our last visit. We won't be waiting a year for the next.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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