i’ve often been surprised by the fascination of people from overseas in our pubs. When I was in Italy, in the backwaters of Milan, I was amazed to see young people flocking to a mock-up of an English boozer, which felt more like a Disney-creation than a real pub. When in Sofia, Bulgaria, I was looking to catch up with some European football only to learn that the best place was in a cavernous Irish bar down an obscure alleyway.
People travel a long way to see the real thing, that so many of us take for granted! For me, an hour or two in a good old-fashioned pub is a simple pleasure within my week.
Take for example the Shipwrights Arms, built in 1884, an archetypical London pub which retains the classic Victorian features including grand windows, high ceilings and original mural tiles of shipbuilders at work. At the centre island bar, a feature of the great British pub, people love to gather to swap tales and stories or even just to compare the typical working day. Over the main doors projects a stunning masthead figure and the nautical theme continues throughout, right through to the newly refurbished function room on the first floor with stunning views across Tooley Street and the more contemporary architecture that surrounds.
Situated right in the hub of London Bridge the Shipwrights is convenient for commuters and tourists enjoying a steady flow of people all day and a special buzz in the evenings just after work. Bustling with conversation and the low sound of cheer that can be heard coming from the sports channel playing in the background.
“People travel a long way to see the real thing, that so many of us take for granted!
At the other end of Bermondsey Street and around the corner on Long Lane, is an altogether quieter and more intimate pub called Simon the Tanner. Here you’ll find customers that have been drinking here for generations and still hold traditional nights around ‘The old Joanna’ (piano – for those not familiar with Cockney rhyming slang). On Wednesdays real Bermondsey veterans get the evening going with great tunes and old London favourites being lovingly tinkled on the ivories.
The interior at Simon’s has been stripped back to reveal the original wooden floors and panelling, interesting decorative touches also add to the character. You will always find someone to chat with or have an impromptu game of backgammon while you enjoy a pint. The quiz night on Tuesday is a great way to get to know everyone and binds the customers together in a humorously competitive evening. Those with a passion for general knowledge would easily find this an almost tantalising experience.
Both of these places offer classic pub grub at realistic prices. Famous for their Fish & Chips is the Shipwrights who serve up other favourites such as Ham, Egg & Chips, Bangers & Mash and Cottage Pie, each of these competitively priced at under a tenner.
Simon the Tanner source a lot of their ingredients locally including Mrs Kings Pork Pies from Borough Market and a variety of Spanish produce from the well-known Brindisa. Their Sirloin steak (with all the trimmings) is a great deal at £13.50 and the homemade Fish Pie is just £10.50. A typical Roast Rib of Beef with Horseradish, Roast Potatoes & Yorkshire Pudding is a lovely Sunday treat at £11.50.
Perhaps what makes these pubs so popular with their clientele is that they are each run independently by landlords who are free to make choices based on their knowledge and understanding of their regulars. Picking beers and setting menus that they know will work as well as choosing the functions and features that go down well with their customers.
In 2013, with all the developments going on at London Bridge, the Shipwrights will be last man standing and will enjoy a prestigious place amongst its new architectural surroundings. An old piece of London’s history sandwiched between the glass and steel of a new aged and contemporary London.
Simon the Tanner is perfectly placed to capitalise on the increasing popularity of Bermondsey Square with its pub dining experience and is well worth seeking out if you are visiting London for a traditional experience.
THE SHIPWRIGHTS ARMS
Mon-Thu: 11am-12 midnight
Fri & Sat: 11am-1am
Sunday: 12 midday-11pm
Mon-Fri: 12 midday-3pm, and 5pm-9pm
Sat & Sun: 12 midday-4pm
88 Tooley Street
t: 020 7378 1486
SIMON THE TANNER
Friday & Saturday 12pm-12am
until 10pm Mon-Sat
and 9.30pm on Sundays
231 Long Lane
t: 020 7378 1486
TWO CLASSICS: The Shipwrights Arms and Simon the Tanner
Taking a look through the doors of our favourite local pubs
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