Friday, January 18, 2013

Pub Secrets

Pub Secrets

Executive summary by darmansjah

Roxy Beaujolais, landlady The Seven Stars

GORGE Orwell wrote that the ideal pub should have ‘uncompromisingly Victorian’ fittings, be always ‘quiet enough to talk’ and be staffed by barmaids who ‘take a personal interest in everyone’. He may not have added that the landlady should have bright pink hair, but there can be no doubt that The Seven Stars would meet with his approval.

A snug, squat trio of wood-paneled rooms tucked away behind the Royal Courts of Justice near The Strand, The Seven Stars lays claim to being one of London’s oldest pubs, dating back to 1602. Tables are neatly covered in checkered cloths and walls in old movie posters, pictures of Bertolt Brecht and books on literary hoaxes. And in Roxy Beaujolais, a former TV chef turned landlady supreme, it’s blessed with a whirlwind of energy and laughter at its very core.

‘The Secret to a real London pub, ‘she says, ‘is clean lav, good beer, no music, no fruit machines and no bores. It’s a place where people tell secrets and lies. It’s egalitarian, anyone can come in. until I say they can’t.’

Roxy is a veteran of the 1980s Soho scene, having worked at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in an era when the likes of Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud would stumble from pub to drinking den. The Seven Stars is a much quieter propositions: ‘A mellow place to sit – an elegant home from home,’ as Roxy puts it. Its location in a somewhat overlooked area of central London means that it is a pub you have to seek out – and therein lies  its appeal. Walk in the door and you feel like you’ve found something special.

‘This is a lovely par of London,’ says Roxy. ‘On one side you have the thieves and stewpots of Covent Garden, on the other, the  ice-cold Corporation of London and the City. This is the land in-between, up to Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Bloomsbury, and it’s a terrific area. It’s hidden, and that makes it magical.’ Regulars include legal clerks from the courts, ministers and musicians from St Paul’s, and the more discerning students from King’s College. ‘Get them in the first year and you’ve got them for life. I get former students bringing their babies in to show me years later.’

Places like The Seven Stars justify the mythology surrounding London pubs – it’s welcoming, eccentric and, despite Rocy coming from Australia, very English. ‘London would be miserable without its pubs. We provide a home for the bewildered and a place where people can meet. You could meet the man of your dreams in a pub.’

The Seven Stars, 53-54 Carey St, WC2A More classic London Pubs...Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

A glorious rabbit warren of a pub, rebuilt in 1667 after the Great Fire. The wooden beams and low doorways almost transport you back in time (145 Fleet St, EC4A; 020 7353 6170). The Wenklock Arms

A reak ‘knees-up-round-the-joanna’ pub with a veteran band playing music on Friday nights, a roaring fire and a great selection of real ales (26 Wenlock St, N1;

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