So what does DonQui mean by a ‘proper pub’?
He would say it should be a place where you feel at home, where you can drink good beer (proper cask conditioned ales alongside decent continental imports) and wile away the hours chatting with friends.
The Ship and Shovel on Craven Passage near Charing Cross is just such a pub. In central London such places are sadly becoming a rarity. It does serve food and DonQui vaguely remembers having a decent lunch or two here in the past. But that is not the point. This is not where one goes to for a gastronomic experience, not that DonQui has the slightest problem with gastronomy as regular readers will certainly know.
Nor is this a place where one might be offered the latest trends in oddly mixed concoctions sold as over-priced ‘cocktails’. It is a place for companionship, good conversation and a decent draught or two.
The Ship and Shovel serves Badger beers, which come from Dorset and are not that widely available elsewhere. DonQui fondly remembers his first pint of Badger at the late lamented Angel in Paddington which the current landlords of the Ship and Shovel used to run. It was where he first met Duchess, but that is another story.
So back to the Ship and Shovel.
On one side of Craven Passage (on the north side) is the Ship…
…and opposite is the Shovel.
Smokers can puff away to their hearts’ content out of the weather in the connecting passage despite the best efforts of the Puritans who would like to ban such sinful pleasures.
On an early Thursday evening the place is heaving. The nearby Ministry of Defence generally supplies a good number of after work regulars but the crowd is eclectic. Groups of males predominate but it is not unfriendly to women nor are the men loud, boozy or unpleasant. For the most part they are catching up with friends over a pint or two and this is exactly what DonQui was doing.
Meeting up with an old friend he had not seen for a while, the Ship and Shovel was the perfect place to reminisce, discuss politics, the state of the universe, and generally catch up. After a pint or three, followed up with a whisky, DonQui and his friend had throughly put the world to rights.
This is the whole point of a proper pub.
Long may they survive!