5 pubs and bars I could call locals

The Old Quay House, Dock Road, Connah’s Quay, UK

If The Yacht wasn’t my local (click here to go to my previous post about The Yacht) then maybe the Old Quay House was. It was the closest pub to my home in Garthorpe Avenue in Connah’s Quay and I did drop in often when I was at home in the early 70s.

The building dates back to the late 1700s but was rebuilt in 1906 and would have served the port which was a loading point for coal exports which came in by rail along the Buckley Line. There was also some local ship building but slowly business declined and although the Old Quay House survived it eventually closed its doors in 2013. Sadly it was converted into ‘housing of multiple occupation’ and ran into trouble with the owner being heavily fined and featuring in the national press because of the appalling way it was being run.

I would have visited in the 70s when it was still a well run pub with a small but loyal clientele. It was a one bar pub with just a single room which managed to squeeze in a dart board and a bar billiards table. There was bench seating and that’s where the locals sat and chatted.

There was a sad story connected to the dart board. The pub was the base for a successful ladies darts team. It was returning by car from an away match one evening. There was a collision and there were fatalities.

One of the locals was a neighbour whom I called Uncle Dick. He was the father of my childhood best friend Gareth Williams and had been a local headmaster. In fact he’d grown up in Stone Row, only a couple of hundred yards away. As I walked home within him one night he told me that his wife worried that he’d get mugged as the route took us along an unlit road under the railway line.

The Mitre, St Mary’s Grove, Richmond, UK

I shared a flat with Frank Fuller in Richmond between 1970 and 1972 when we both worked at Shell Centre in Waterloo. It was convenient for work; it was either an easy enough drive or a quick 15 minutes on the train.

Richmond itself was, and I guess it still is, a reasonably affluent London suburb with a bustling high street, shops and restaurants. It’s frontage on the Thames gives it a certain cachet. It’s not quite Twickenham but it’s close.

However there are always places which don’t conform to the local stereotypes and just around the corner from our flat down St Mary’s Grove there seemed to be a more down to earth community with its own pub, the Mitre.

It was a standard pub with public and lounge bars neither of them very large. Of course we would have gone to the lounge bar, I don’t know why it just seemed natural at the time. The furnishing in both bars was pretty utilitarian.

There was no food in those days, just beer (Youngs of Wandsworth), and the only entertainment would have been a television. One Saturday evening, early on when it was quiet, we asked if we could watch Rugby Special in BBC2. Of course it was allowed and the landlord joined us as we watched and afterwards asked if it was on every week. It became a regular feature.

It was friendly enough and I even dared to cash a cheque there one weekend. Afterwards Frank pointed out the notice behind the bar ‘we have an agreement with the bank, we don’t cash cheques and it doesn’t sell beer’.

The Mitre is still there but it’s moved on. There’s a beer garden, you can eat pizza and on Sundays there are music events. But the ethos seems unchanged. Although the decor is a little more leather and prints and there’s a range of cask beers on offer it still claims to be a ‘traditional ale and cider house in a classic West London Boozer’.

The Tankard, Blok M Jakarta, Indonesia

I lived in Jakarta for two years in the mid 70s. I was still single so naturally I spent a fair time, probably too much, meeting friends, drinking beer and propping up bars. There weren’t many options but the Tankard served a purpose. It was a part of a cinema/shopping complex in Kebayoran Baru and maybe 2 or 3 miles from where I lived. It was close enough to get a becak home but that sort of begs the question of how I would get there.

The Tankard was little more than a big square bar with a few tables, a pool table and a pin ball machine. I guess it served a full range of drinks but I drank beer. You could also get basic food: hamburgers, chicken, pizzas and the like. Most of the time it would have been pretty relaxed and certainly I never felt unsafe there but one night someone was knifed. It was that sort of place. Surprisingly it was not shut down.

It was frequented by guys like me and very few locals beyond those women who would be plying a trade. Two regulars were reputed to be Chuck from the CIA and Ivan from the KGB who eyed each other across the room. I remember chatting to one local which was a rare event. He asked me where I came from, it’s the first question you’d generally get asked, and I would have given a standard and pretty vague response. But he persisted ‘where exactly?’ “Connah’s Quay’ I replied. ‘Yes’ he said ‘I know it. I’ve been to Mostyn Docks.’ His name was Ahmed, he was a sailor and looked like a character from a Joseph Conrad novel.

The Bull and Bear, Connaught Road, Hong Kong

Hong Kong in the late 70s was very different from the Hong Kong of the 50s and 60s on the one hand and that of today on the other. With hindsight it was a Hong Kong in transition: still a British colony, no MTR and lots of expats enjoying an artificial life sustained by a laissez faire economic system and over 4 million industrious Chinese.

The Bull and Bear probably summed it up. I was told that it was started by people who’d made money on the stock market, hence its name, and it presented itself as a ‘typical’ English pub close to the centre of Hong Kong’s business centre. The South China Morning Post described it as ‘the drinking den of lawyers, squaddies and financiers’. It’s clientele was in fact much wider and drew in expats in general who would have been happy to fork out HK$10 for a pint of San Mig in such a contrived ambiance.

I worked in Gammon House at the time, no doubt it’s changed its name since, and the Bull and Bear was in the next building on the right as you exited. That meant I’d have been a regular because it was an easy place to drop in to meet someone or to wait for the end of the rush hour before heading home.

However I can’t say I visited that frequently. I would have used it more often as a meeting point on Saturday afternoon’s in the rugby season where we would gather to share transport to the day’s game. It’s likely that we’d have ended up there afterwards and that would have been convenient for me because I lived not too far away on Magazine Gap Road.

In those days there hadn’t been the explosion of English pubs and Irish bars that’s been seen since. There were excellent bars of course but other than the Bull and Bear there were only the pub downstairs at the Excelsior in Causeway Bay and the Galley in the basement of the Connaught Centre but that was perhaps more of a restaurant. But that didn’t matter. At least local bars had an essentially local, or perhaps international, character. Why bother with the artificial one of a relocated English pub?

Ristorante Herrlisberg, Untere Bergstrasse, Herrlisberg (Wadenswil) Switzerland

We lived in Switzerland between 1979 and 1992 when I worked for Dow Chemical at its European headquarters in Horgen on Lake Zurich. The office was just outside the town and as you headed up the road away from the lake and across the motorway you came to the village of Herrlisberg and the Ristorante Herrlisberg.

It was a pretty standard Swiss village bar/cafe/restaurant. It served good honest food from a standard Swiss German menu and local beer and wine. There was no decor as such, just plain wood and a solid finish, and in one corner there was a Stammtisch where you could sit and talk to whoever else was there.

Once in a while a group of us from Dow would drop in on a Friday evening and occupy the Stammtisch. Most of us were Brits, but we were not exclusively so, which meant we would be giving whoever else was at the table at the time a little free English conversation practice.

I’ve checked on Google Maps and sadly the Ristorante Herrlisberg is no more. I guess the passage of time and changes of fashion have made such establishments uneconomic but for me that’s a pity. They would very much fit the bill of what we’d call a local: just a convenient drop in place where you could be confident of finding some company, having a drink and getting something simple to eat.

Any one of several pubs, Histon & Impington, UK

I’ve lived in Histon & Impington since 1996 and enjoy its seven (yes that’s right 7 and we’re a community of less than 10,000 people) pubs. They all survive, even thrive, mainly because they’re all different so they’re a bit of a magnet for people from outside as well. I visit them all but would admit that one or two are more like locals to me. But as a local politician it’s really not very wise for me to go public on which ones they are. Maybe later when I’m no longer dependant on the public vote.

For the record Histon & Impington’s seven excellent pubs are:

The King William
The Red Lion
The Barley Mow
The Boot
The Phoenix/Urban Shed
The Coach & Horses
The Railway Vue

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