Monday, 23 April 2012

That's More Like It


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.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Have to agree about BrewWharf. I've only been once but such was the "quality" of service I've never returned.

Reading Tom said...

I too had an excellent experience on my first visit to Mason and Taylor recently. Nice chat with the bar staff and manager about the beers on offer, tasters proffered, and what came across as real interest in what I was doing in the area prompted by them noticing the Pevsner guide I was clutching. The beer (Brewsters Stilton Porter) was in tip top form too, and I'll be back next time in the area. As you say, just shows what can be done with just a bit of effort. I occasionally force myself to go to Brew Wharf, because,yes, the beer is generally good, but the overall experience is usually pretty miserable...

Tom

Steve Lamond said...

Loved the motueka too, but £8 a pint does seem steep considering a mixed fourpack was only £12...

Your comments on M&T means it is now on my to visit list next time I'm in that London

Maxwell Power said...

The girlfriend used to live in Bethnal Green so M&T became our go to for a decent Sunday lunch. I must admit, the first time we went in, it did all look a bit 'too cool for school' but the staff were probably the most accommodating I've come across in London.

Gueuzel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gueuzel said...

A good point, well made.

I'm physically incapable of leaving a pub without trying to catch the eye of someone behind the bar to say cheerio - it's an instinctive reaction, like looking right when crossing the road. But on this count alone, in the last ten years of pub-going in London, I've seen a big drop in the number of bar staff looking up to see if you're leaving. It's probably running at about 50/50 these days.

I might have to start keeping a list.

Tandleman said...

Glad on a limited set of responses that my observations seem to be correct.

Phil said...

We had a similar experience at Craft Beer Co a few weeks back which is a real shame as I love the place.
Three staff on, empty bar apart from the three of us that had walked in as a group. After about 5-6 minutes I had shout my order across at them before one jumped into action.

On observation through the night only one guy seemed interested (Kurt Cobain lookalike if anyone knows him), purposely aimed for him for the rest of the evening...

Tandleman said...

Funnily enough, I've always found the service in Craft pretty good.

Cooking Lager said...

Do they not know who you are? Arguably the best beer blogger bar none? If I had a boozer I'd have a picture of you on the wall. Staff training would involve "Know the Tand"