In praise of the Star Inn.

In a remote corner of Essex, where very few Londoners ever dare to traipse, is a small village called Steeple (no, not Steeple view or Steeple Bumstead). Located on the northern rim of the Dengie Peninsula, Steeple features a rather beautiful church, a caravan park and two pubs. Wap bang in the centre of the village is the Star Inn, a little pub that has already seen a few centuries of drinking. Now run as a free house, it features four regularly changing guest ales and the usual stable of fizzy beers. It keeps a well maintained wood burner, has pub nosh and a rather mellow atmosphere. Its regulars are a gentle and friendly bunch and the land lord keeps the more boisterous weekend crowd well under control. It also features what looks like a HD based multi media centre in which the Landlord conjures up an impressive array of perfect pub tracks (you name it, he plays it).

It is, in other words, a shining example of rural hospitality, the perfect pub.

A stunt and the subsequent letdown.

Back in 2007, Speights Brewery in Dunedin set a lovely idea in motion: transport a pub around the world to supply the Kiwis in London with their beloved Speights. Indeed, a pub was fabricated out of a container, put on a ship and before you could say ‘Good on ya mate’,  the little pub was plonked on the edge of the river thames, just around Temple station. Speights obviously thought this was a good idea, and later transferred the whole idea of a Speights pub in London into a ‘proper’ building in Essex Street, just around the corner from the High Court. Being an associated Kiwi living in exile I thought it would be a good idea to pop aorund and have a drink. I was dreaming of a nice, cosy place with some kiwi music and spirit where I could sit and reminisce about the penguins on my front lawn in Kakanui.

Well, I was obviously too optimistic. ‘The Southerner’ is a  pub in a basement with cheap looking furniture devoid of character, overlit and soulless. There are some rugby paraphernalia on the wall, and there is indeed the whole Speights range available  (and a Mac’s Gold for 3 pounds).  In the sixty minutes I was there the music was standard fare without any reference to New Zealand’s vast musical heritage.  Barstaff made themselves rare and were not particularly keen to come out and serve. On top of that screens everywhere.

Disappointing, to say the least.