If you’re looking for a pub that hasn’t changed in years (and frankly can’t be bothered to) then the Nell Gwynne is the place for you.
There’s holes in the walls, the decor’s still smoke-stained and if you want a cider, well, it’s Strongbow or, err, some other synthetic Bulmers brand.
The Saturday night we paid it a visit it was moreorless dead: a group of kids played pool and Oasis on the jukebox, and some miserable looking local sat at the bar by himself. The usual crowd, we’re guessing.
Add to that the grumpy bar staff, grotty toilets and the household appliances left hanging around the tables and it’s not exactly the place you’d take the Queen to (although the car park was big enough for a firing squad so maybe).
But we’re not slagging it off: the grimness of the place is exactly its selling point.
It’s refreshing to have a drink somewhere where everything isn’t the same: you know, the same slightly mismatched, faux-posh, upholstered chairs; the same smell of cleaning products; the same crap-trying-to-be-nice-microwaved food… No thanks, let’s have a bit of life back in the pubs!
Don’t get us wrong, it could do with a little smartening up, and a rough cider on tap wouldn’t go a miss either. But this place is a gem. Soon enough all we’re going to get is soulless refits along the lines of the Booth, Wye Inn, Rose & Crown etc; all dull as dishwater.
But the Nell Gwynne (and its ilk) is your old-fashioned boozer; a quiet place where you’d go for a beer and a chat with your mates instead of the high-octane music in places like the Litten Tree, encouraging you to drink yourself into a coma.
We’d rate it for an interesting night out. And the more people that go, the longer authentic British pubs like these will stay open.
If you’re up Commercial Road trying to get drunk enough to go to Play or Fusion, go and have a pint in the Nell Gwynne.