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Review: The Blythe Hill Tavern, Catford
SHORTLY after the chancellor announced this year's budget it seemed only right to go to the pub.
As well as celebrating the reduced duty on beer I could also drown my sorrows about everything else to do with the economy.
I chose The Blythe Hill Tavern for a number of reasons: it had been recommended on some blogs and has just been nominated for a Campaign for Real Ale south east London pub of the year (according to a reputable local news website).
However the first part of my visit did not bode well.
It looked like it was closed from the outside and when I first entered I couldn’t see anyone else except a smart bartender who said, “Hello?” in a baffled tone.
I asked if they were open and he looked slightly offended before replying: “Well yes, we may not have lots of people here but we are.”
I walked past the bar into the back section of the pub and saw there were actually several people inside and it was not some kind of pinhole-sized pub where I’d be forced to sit on top of the bar staff as I’d originally feared.
However I still felt slightly out-of-place and as though I hadn’t endeared myself to, well, anyone so in many ways it was another typical day.
Luckily my friend – a Bromley schoolteacher – came to my rescue and emerged a few minutes later.
She received the same puzzled greeting from the barman to which she replied she was meeting a friend. He said: “Over there” and pointed to where I was cowering in the corner.
Things started looking up though once the alcohol started flowing and it turned out my friend had been before after reading about the pub’s legendary ales.
As I started to relax, I looked over at the book shelves, the regulars watching the telly and realised I quite liked the place.
I plumped for a Magners Pear Cider with a salt and vinegar crisps and got a coke for my friend – all for the sum of £6.30 so very reasonable and there’s no minimum charge on cards.
However one of the best things about the pub emerged when I asked about hot snacks.
The nice young Australian behind the bar said: “We don’t have any so you can get stuff from outside and bring it in. There’s a chippy nearby and a Chinese...”
I was agog. I may have led a sheltered life (aside from the continual boozing) but I can’t remember the last time I went to a pub which had this policy. The idea of eating some kind of take away whilst sitting in a comfy little Catford pub on a grey weekday afternoon felt revolutionary.
So The Blythe Hill Tavern is not in any way a gastropub but this is no bad thing.
It’s a nice, unpretentious boozer where you can feast on whatever you fancy and pretend you’re helping the economy by visiting the chippy as well as assisting the continually puzzled pub staff by drinking their various ales.
But people will continue to come - mark my words.
Drink *** More beers than you can throw a chip at
Price **** Very reasonable
Service **** Quizzical but friendly
Atmosphere **** Low-key and relaxing
Décor *** Old-fashioned and cluttered in a comforting way
Blythe Hill Lane, Lewisham, Greater London SE6 4