Recommending Wetherspoons – and five worth traveling for

I’ve been scratching my head lately about where to meet someone for a morning work meeting in Greenwich. A coffee shop? Too small, too noisy. Outside of it? Risky, to say the least, given British times. Pub? It may not be wise at that time. A greasy spoon? Tempting, but it is difficult to chat with a mouthful of fried food.

Then the answer hit me clearly. Wetherspoons. As useful for a morning coffee as an afternoon drink, it’s the most versatile venue on the British high street, home to “Curry Club”, funky carpets, good-value beer, app-based table delivery antics, family-friendly food and a clientele that accepts punters from all walks of life. Always spacious, too.

In its ability to be different things to different people, Spoons has become the Woolworths of the 21st century, except with a £1.59 pint of Doom Bar.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that enterprising holiday company MyUKTour has started offering two separate seven-day tours of some of the UK’s most iconic Wetherspoons – one in the North of England, one in the South .

Have you ever dreamed of a tour of The Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds (“the best Spoons in Britain”), The Golden Lion in Rochester (“the best carpet”) and the Royal Victoria Pavilion Ramsgate (the biggest Spoons of all) ? Then you are in luck.

The outdoor seating area at the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate

The outdoor seating area at the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate, the UK’s largest Wetherspoons

It sounds like fun – and at worst, it’s a good way to get to know England (the Scottish and Welsh tours are probably still in the planning stage). My local Spoons, the Brockley Barge in South London, draws a truly representative cross-section of the local community: young and old, black and white, ale drinkers, cocktail lovers, party animals and old lads with nowhere else to go. Nothing else in the neighborhood is as diverse in terms of clientele (even if, I have to admit, I had one of the worst pints of cask in my life last year).

Founder and chairman Tim Martin owes everything to Wetherspoons’ success. At 6ft 6in tall and never opinionated, he has been a lightning rod for criticism – plenty of people who have never been to Spoon have vowed to boycott him on the basis of his widely broadcast Brexit views – but he is very annoying. , an unrivaled knack for running British pubs.

Tim Martin, founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, at the Metropolitan Bar in MaryleboneTim Martin, founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, at the Metropolitan Bar in Marylebone

Golden touch: Tim Martin, founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, at the Metropolitan Bar in Marylebone – Jamie Lorriman

The company has recently been closing a number of lower-turnover venues (including one of my favourites, The Capitol in Forest Hill), choosing instead to invest in high-traffic venues like The Lion and Unicorn, a huge new pub at Waterloo Station, that is. to open later this year. This approach seems to be paying off. At a time when many Britons are under financial pressure, Wetherspoons is thriving: profits are increasing, to the extent that Martin claims he is planning around 200 more pubs.

So while Spoons isn’t perfect – a good independent pub will always be better, if not cheaper – they’ve got plenty going for them, especially as they’ve kept so many attractive and historically significant buildings in public use. Buildings worth traveling for? You are the judge.

Five Wetherspoons worth traveling for

1. Caley Picture House, Edinburgh

Caley Picture House, EdinburghCaley Picture House, Edinburgh

The Caley Picture House went from a cinema, to a music venue, to a nightclub, before becoming a pub in 2016 – TOM FARMER THE SUN GLASGOW

Several former cinemas have become Spoons over the years, including the Picture Playhouse in Bexhill and the Prince of Wales in Cardiff, and for good reason: they make very atmospheric, attractive pubs. The Caley Picture House is an elegant and fitting venue for Britain’s most beautiful city.

An art deco structure that opened in 1923, it was a cinema and then a music venue and nightclub before becoming a pub in 2016. The award-winning restoration was intended to showcase various original features, including trumpet-shaped pendant lighting and diamond-shaped mirrors. in the loos. The best seats are on the upper mezzanine level, with views over the rest of the pub.

2. Hamilton Hall, Liverpool Street

Hamilton Hall, Liverpool StreetHamilton Hall, Liverpool Street

Elegant interior: Hamilton Hall, Liverpool Street, has elaborate rococo plasterwork

Of all the Wetherspoons station pubs, this is probably the most iconic, which is no surprise when you consider that it was the ballroom of the Great Eastern Hotel that opened in 1884. Named after Lord Claud Hamilton, the railway chairman who built the station, it is still an elegant place for a drink, especially if you sit in the upper bar, where you can almost reach out and touch the rococo plaster elaborate on the ceiling.

There are TV screens showing train times, and opening time is 7am, for breakfast and pints: no wonder this is one of the busiest and loudest Wetherspoons in London.

3. Royal Victoria Pavilion, Ramsgate

Royal Victoria Pavilion, RamsgateRoyal Victoria Pavilion, Ramsgate

Wetherspoons rescued the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate from decay and reopened in 2017 – Christopher Pledger

Kent has many quality Wetherspoons. The aforementioned Rochester branch and its carpet; Tunbridge Wells, which is housed in the town’s former Opera House and attracted a highly branded petition against it when it opened as a pub in 1996; and this one, the cream of the crop.

The Royal Victoria Pavilion, a classic French revival structure that opened in 1903, had fallen into disrepair before being rescued by Wetherspoons and reopened in 2017. Ramsgate is a town of excellent pubs – the local brewery, Gadds’, being one of the most better in England – but any visit here should include a drink over the sea at The Pavilion, Britain’s largest Wetherspoons.

4. Trent Bridge Inn, Nottingham

Trent Bridge Inn, NottinghamTrent Bridge Inn, Nottingham

William Clarke created Nottingham’s famous cricket ground on a meadow behind the Trent Bridge Inn

Some Wetherspoons pubs, like the Trent Bridge Inn, were pubs long before Tim Martin blew the drink out of a pint of cask ale. This is a very historic pub, although much of the history took place before the current iteration, built in 1890, was around.

The Inn played a central role in Nottingham’s rich sporting history: William Clarke, captain of the All-England team and husband of Mary, who ran the Inn, created the famous cricket ground on the meadow behind the pub. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is one of the more traditional Wetherspoons pubs, with a variety of rooms and some attractive dark wood panelling.

5. Winter Gardens, Harrogate

Winter Gardens, HarrogateWinter Gardens, Harrogate

Winter Gardens, Harrogate: The sweeping stone staircase leading up to the bar is a striking feature of this pub – Dean Atkins

Sometimes you have to laugh at the historical irony of Wetherspoons pubs – places like the Sedge Lynn, a former Temperance billiards hall in Manchester, or this venue, built as part of the former Harrogate Royal Baths, where “treated ” variety of health conditions. .

In the Winter Gardens visitors were able to walk among the trees and plants when the Yorkshire weather wasn’t playing ball. Plants have now been replaced by pints, making this one of Britain’s most elegant pubs. The highlight is the sweeping bifurcated stone staircase that leads down from the main entrance to the bar.

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