A couple of weeks back, I was having a pint in the pub. As is my wont, I was belly-up to the bar, supping on a well-kept Dark Star APA.
To my left, a couple of middle-aged ladies in red cagoules were sipping halves of Guinness. As I drank, I was aware my neighbours were aiming to order another beer. They were German, from Berlin, unfamiliar with 'our' beer but keen to learn, and wanted something sweeter than their Guinness. The landlady was busy (the pub was packed) and asked if I'd help them out. I got them on Dark Star Sussex Stout and we got chatting. One of the ladies asked if this was a typical English pub, and I, reflexively, said yes.
An hour or so later, I wondered if I'd been honest with our visitors from the Mauerstadt. I wondered because I was in The Harp in Chandos Place.
Not typical? Well, I'm not sure I know of another pub in London selling upwards of 3,500 pints of cask a week. A pub with grub that consists of a choice of sausages or crisps and pork scratchings, a pub not the slightest bit family-friendly on the tourist track to Covent Garden.
A former Punch house bought out in 2009 by landlady Binnie Walsh and now selling a shitload of Dark Star beer through three of its eight beer engines as well as Sambrooks and Redemption, this is a pub with a reputation for good beer that could have played safe. Instead, Binnie has grown her business by bringing in beers from some of the best of the new generation of cask brewers.
So, I can't really say whether it's a typical English pub. I'm not even sure it's a template for success, and these days I'm not sure whether a CAMRA accolade like this makes me care enough about their mission for this to mean anything. I do know that, as an 'irregular', the staff are always friendly, service is prompt and beer is invariably in good nick. I'd like to think it is typical, but I get around and hear enough to know that many pubs in London struggle to keep a good pint - the head brewer from Texels told me he had a pint of cask served at 18 degrees, while Tandleman is never without his probe while on a trip Darn Sarf - and that's never been an issue in The Harp.
So, congratulations to Binnie and her team, and good luck for Pub Of The Year. I feel good about London and beer at the moment, and The Harp is one of the reasons why.