“It’s a bit pricey, It’s £4.30 for a pint of cider, but it keeps the riff-raff out,” those aren't my thoughts on The White Hart, but those of a man who steadfastly attempted to befriend me as I sat nursing my drink.

And, do you know what, it’s not a bad summary.

In trendy Crystal Palace, surrounded by thriving independent shops and fine-looking places to eat, the White Hart still stood out.

Positioned prominently on the corner, its black fascia and large deer stencil on the outside were bold and the spattering of well-groomed people drinking outside were certainly a decent advert.

Fairy lights, chalkboards and an open kitchen with a busy chef all made the inside inviting while the White Hart is a perfect illustration of how to do mismatched well. There were all kinds of influences and furniture but they went together and the place was spotlessly clean.

The acousticy, jazzy music over the sound system made it feel a bit like Later with Jools Holland. Apparently they have regular live music (and a Monday quiz).

Now we get to the really impressive bit: there were more beers on tap than I could count. And I can count to more than seven.

By and large, they were all exciting and different with the more standard end of the range being the excellent Meantime London Lager, Camden Hells and Brewdog.

As my new chum observed (more on him later), they don’t come cheap though most of the pints seemed to cost between £4 and £5, which isn’t exactly earth shattering either.

Posters also announced a rotating Beer of the Week, this week Orchard Pig’s Reveller cider, at a good value £3.

Thankfully, the bar staff were adept – and friendly - at helping me choose.

Spurning the cosier red sofas at the back, I sat myself alone on a table with a flower on it, by the thankfully for this time of year, unlit) fireplace under a cardboard cut-out of a stag’s head.

It was here I made my new friend.

It took me a little by surprise, when there were plenty of free seats, that someone would come and sit on the next table but he wasn’t uncomfortably close and if you can’t chat to a stranger in a pub, when can you?

Certainly, it was better than the recent occasion where an elderly woman broke the silence - and commuter protocol – on a train to declare, gesturing to me,  'I wouldn't like to bump in to you in a dark alley'.

I’ll admit I was disconcerted at first when he started to tell me about his cash point woes. My plan to nod along and not engage was torpedoed when he started to fire questions at me.

What do you do? I couldn’t ignore the guy. So, slowly, he tempted me into some banal conversation. And do you know what, in hindsight I’m glad he did.

The world’s too miserable a place not to make idle chit chat. Sometimes we forget that – and if I hadn’t been to the White Hart maybe my day would have been just a little bit, almost inconceivably worse.

So, go to the White Hart. Talk to strangers at pubs. Maybe even combine the two.

The White Hart, Church Road, Crystal Palace

How it rated:

Decor ***** Impressive yet comfortable

Atmosphere **** Friendly folk

Staff ***** Helpful and happy

Drink ***** Amazing variety

Price *** Steep-ish prices offset by Beer of the Week deal