I believe, and have believed for some time now, that there are only two things I need to enjoy a pub: I must feel welcome, and I must feel anonymous.
Allow me to explain.
The best pubs are the ones where you walk in the door and see a roaring fire. It’s warm and inviting. You’re greeted by the just-busy-enough bartender but it’s obvious you needn’t apply for a table. You pick the spot where you feel most comfortable – maybe off to the side, under a framed photograph of some Englishman no one remembers the name of. You’re ignored by the staff, but in a way that makes you feel comfortable nipping to the loo without having bought anything, and it means you’re free to roam around, eventually ordering at the bar.
Met with a smile and a swift pour, you clink a few glasses together in a bunch and find your way back to your spot, carved out just for you, for as long as you want it. You’re left to your party; no one is clearing the plates in a hurry or asking if they can get you the bill. You notice time has passed when someone throws another log on the fire, or when the sun begins to set outside.
In the best pubs, it doesn’t matter what your name is or whether you live 5 or 500 miles down the road. You’re welcome to stay, and they’re happy to have you.
There’s nothing like a good pub. It’s not the food – most pub food is easily replicated or, frankly, isn’t very exciting. It’s not the drink; obviously one can pour a beer at home. There’s a certain magic that can’t be replicated elsewhere and for which there simply isn’t a replacement. And I for one can’t wait until we can go back.