Taverns in Town #15: The Builder’s Arms, Britten Street SW3

This was a slightly eye-opening experience because, for the first time since I was a much younger drinker, I felt like I was treated like a second-class citizen in a pub.

The Builders Arms was originally erected to serve the needs of the workers building St Luke’s church, opposite. Taverns in Town informs me that the first rector of St Luke’s was the Duke of Wellington’s brother, Gerald Wellesley and that Charles Dickens was married there. So it is not unlikely that famous people also graced the tavern during the 19th Century.

Described in the 1970s, The Builders Arms was:

“No longer the domain of carpenters and stone masons, it is highly popular among nearby residents, who frequent it in large numbers. The interior is spacious and pleasingly decorated with wrought-iron work. The array of food available at the bar is really extensive, and constitutes one of the Builders’ Arms principal features.”

As it is today, you won't go short of bubbles, as depicted in Taverns in Town

As it is today, you won’t go short of bubbles, as depicted in Taverns in Town

On my visit I was greeted by an incredibly pretentious gastro pub with chalk boards advertising super-premium spirits and a large range of champagne. I had plenty of time to take in the surroundings due to the arrogant and rude bar staff who left me standing for five minutes, with no acknowledgement and then served somebody else before me. It was like I was invisible. Or perhaps my face didn’t fit – I just wasn’t posh enough. This is a Geronimo Inns pub, which used to be a sign of quality in London, but these days I wonder. The pub was pretty busy and I chatted to a few of the locals. I couldn’t get past the nagging feeling that some of them were looking down on me. I felt a little like the confused old chap in Wetherspoons who people chat to in a pitying way. It was very odd.

This pub is slick, it has contemporary décor, a brushed metal bar top, posh bar snacks, with great reviews for the food, and a decent selection of ale (I had Sambrooks Pumphouse Ale at £4.35 a pint). But the clientele are like (or might even be) the cast of ‘Made in Chelsea’. It’s not a friendly and comfortable pub experience. Towards the end of my visit, a very plummy young man, perhaps just of drinking age, ordered a large round coming to well over £100. His card was rejected and his response was to say “Can you put it on my tab? You know I’m good for it.” This was met with meek acceptance by the bar staff, who were suddenly much friendlier. Would I have been afforded the same treatment?

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