Taverns in Town #12: The Zetland, Old Brompton Road SW7

Some pubs will never die and The Zetland is a prime example. It is the quintessential meeting place pub near the tube station (in this case South Kensington). Pre-event or post-museums, this is an ideal place to come, either to meet up or wind down with a drink.

Taverns in Town picks out a key feature of the 1970s incarnation:

“This is essentially an active pub; and for the stranger who wishes to sample first hand a little typical London life as manifested in the bonhomie of the pub, this is the place to come to…its patrons do not visit it, they use it, it is a positive part of their lives. People come to a pub such as this to while away an evening in conversation; but for some reason they do not as a result cause it to seem a private club.”

On my visit I was somewhat less impressed. Unfortunately this is now part of the Taylor Walker chain. This is a company who seem hell-bent on removing the individuality from their pubs. At the same time they can be an attack on the senses. If you like ‘pubs-R-us’ piped music, gaudy fake chalkboards and encouragement to drink Coke with your burger, rather than a pint, this could be the place for you.

As depicted in Taverns in Town, as it is today, the bar was an attack on the senses

As depicted in Taverns in Town, as it is today, the bar was an attack on the senses

Not that you’d want to pay £4.50 for a pint of flaccid, over-warm St Austell Tribute. It was a rugby day when I visited too, which meant it was particularly busy and it was hard to find a spot to perch.

This summed up the pub. Doing a roaring trade, due to its location, but not quite knowing what it wanted to be. The Zetland is like a teenage girl. Not comfortable in her own skin and lacking the confidence to let the inner beauty shine through, then in some way over-compensating with a lot of unnecessary noise,  make-up and baubles.

I left the pub to hurry on to my next destination. As I departed, a flash chap in a Ferrari, not paying attention, did his best to knock me down as I crossed the road. It was an early sign of what an interesting place the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea was going to be.


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