Book review: The Search for the Perfect Pub
There's a moment in most drinkers' lives where they come over all introspective and glassy-eyed. Often after their eighth pint. But sometimes it's when they think about what makes the perfect pub. Thoughts turn to an Orwellian Moon Under Water: defining the essence of that ideal watering hole. I've certainly tried to pin such thoughts down on occasion.
Paul Moody and Robin Turner have gone several steps further. And then some. Having already visited some of the nation's most idiosyncratic boozers in their book "The Rough Pub Guide", they've been on the hunt for not only what makes the perfect pub but also why places have been marginalised and monetised, how "one of our most loved institutions have become so unloved and undervalued".
Their journey takes them from Edinburgh's side streets to islands off the Devonian coast, sharing a drink with the likes of Wetherspoon supremo Tim Martin and Manics frontman James Dean Bradfield along the way. It's a book of two halves and one theme; beginning with conversations about the state of the British pub with the sector's great and good (Bridgid Simmonds, Greg Mulholland, Pete Brown) before concentrating more on time at the bar in places such as Cardiff's Vulcan, Lundy Island's Marisco Tavern and The Butchers Arms in Herne.
Like all good pub-based arguments, Moody and Turner's is passionate, rambling, repeating, sometimes over-laboured, sometimes opaque but always engaging. I like a book that I can shout at, both in agreement and decrial, particularly as I read most of it in the pub and like it when people stare back at me like I'm about to go off on one.
Do they find the perfect pub? I'll leave you to find out. It's a very entertaining journey with plenty of input from the kinds of characters I'd love to spend a pint or three with. And I highly recommend you buy a copy. It's the ideal book to make you think as you drink in that pub that you love on a wet afternoon in winter.
The Search For The Perfect Pub is published by Orion. Many thanks to them for the review copy.