Sparkling service

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The firework display last weekend on Blackheath was, as always,  a great event.  The display itself was spectacular – and for us, all the better for the lack of accompanying music (I think we can all do without Coldplay at full blast, as per last year) – and the occasion was great for the village and surrounding area.  Indeed, the extra footfall caused by the fireworks provides an interesting perspective on the pubs and restaurants in the village and on their readiness to cater for such an increase in demand (80,000 people by all accounts).  Here are the Revolt’s reflections having covered a good number of establishments over the course of the afternoon/evening (and as mostly reported in Tweets at the time).

The Crown:  first port of call and a very good impression overall.  Even early doors the place was busy but service was efficient and friendly.  Extra bar staff and an outside bar helped a lot.  They moved pretty rapidly to plastic glasses, which is understandable, and as the evening progressed the Crown became as busy as we can ever remember it being.  Thankfully it was mild enough to stand outside.  Having left following a couple of pints we returned later (disappointed with subsequent visits – see below) and though now absolutely packed, the bar staff worked hard, and – importantly – in an organised manner, to ensure everyone was served.  Top marks.

IMG_1378The Princess of Wales: after a quick trek round the village taking advantage of the closed roads (which always feels slightly naughty/thrilling to do) we headed up to the Princess.  Like the Crown they’d sensibly put on an outside bar; and, like the Crown, it was, unsurprisingly, very busy (see picture, courtesy of the bar itself).   Your entripid Radicals entered and one dutifully took his turn to go to bar and secure some ales.  Not long after getting to through the crowds to the bar, that most wonderful of all questions was asked: ‘what can I get you’.  But, being sticklers for such matters, the response that came was ‘Thank you, but I think this lady was before me’.  So far, so good.  There then followed a long – very long – wait during which more people arrived and bar staff swapped positions and generally did their best to cope.  But what about our ales?  Eventually one member of staff asked the nearest person, who’d arrived a long time after your Radical, what they wanted.  When, politely as you might expect, the point was made that in fact that question should be directed elsewhere (i.e. to us) the response was an infuriating ‘oh, well I’m working down the line’.  We left straight away.  This really is an annoying feature of a lot of bars these days – the inability of bar staff to keep track of who is next, combined with some punters’ unwillingness to observe such niceties.  Now, you might say that on a busy night such things are inevitable and that really it isn’t the end of the world.  True.  But to be honest the service at the Princess has always suffered from style over substance, even when half as busy.  Poor show.

Hare and Billet: and so it was that we stomped across the Heath, glad of having taken our own advice earlier on Twitter to wear sturdy shoes given the dampness of the ground, and determined to get a pint at the Hare.  No such luck.  The large, mostly drink-less, crowd outside might have been a clue but it was only once we reached the door that the bouncer said it was ‘one in one out’.  What?  This is a pub not a night-club.  How can it be one in one out?  Sure it was very busy.  And no doubt there were safely concerns at play.  But still, a bit of a shock as you might imagine – especially as by this stage it was getting on for half an hour since our last drink .  Very odd.

Le Bouchon: following a return trip to the Crown and a swift pint stood on the road in front, we crossed said road to have a pre-fireworks glass at Le Bouchon.  Again, it was very very busy but as usual the service was impeccable and we secured both table and drink in next to no time (it helps, of course, knowing the menu by rote!).  Patron Jean-Philipe had sensibly hired in extra staff and the place was a buzz, with the sound of samba music streaming in from outside thanks to the excellent South London Samba.  We polished off a glass and headed happy to the display.  Tres bien. 

…there then followed the firework display, which was full of ooos and ahhhs and all very jolly.

The Dacre Arms: finally we hot-footed it through the village (at the head of the crowds leaving the Heath) and up the hill towards Lee and to Revolt favourite, the Dacre Arms.  Ah, the Dacre.  What a relief it was to make it here and to be greeted by its cosy interior, its real glasses and its lack of music.  Not to say that it was quiet – far from it, the Dacre was very busy and it was only our forward-planning and fast walking that meant we arrived before the firework crowds and bagged a table and a packet of scampi fries.  Needless to say that with this set-up we didn’t move till well past last orders.  Superb. 

So, what to make of all this?  Well, its great that the village and surrounding area was so busy.  A positive lesson to all, we’d argue, about welcoming events that attract outside crowds.  And, that with a bit of thought and hard work it’s perfectly possible to accommodate this additional demand and give a good impression in the process.  But, most of all, it’s prove if prove were needed that lessons in bar etiquette should compulsory.