The Tabard Inn, Southwark, with a sign that reads 'Talbot Inn.' The Tabard is famous as the place owned by Harry Bailey, the host in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. (Photo by Fotosearch / Getty Images)
We have all of us at one time or another gone looking for That Pub. It is always just around the next corner, we feel: a dimly lit, dimly recalled memory, the kind of place that only exists at a certain unworldly hour, that can only be seen from a specific, magical angle, but that is clear as day to the mind’s eye.
Perhaps it’s purely a cultural phenomenon, some peculiarly English thing born of hazy imaginings of Flastaff and Prince Hal eating capons and drinking sack in the Boar’s Head in Eastcheap, or of Chaucer’s Tabard Inn where, whatever the quality of the bar snacks, the chit-chat wasn’t half bad.
It’s That Pub to which we would repair, we fancy, on a long, dark and wintry Sunday afternoon to find a fire, some convivial (and preferably low) company, and perhaps some simple but delicious food. The tables and benches are burnished to a warm, burnt sienna glow, just like the bar from which That Pub serves beer and cask cider in those jug-type mugs with waffly sides alongside pork pies and scratchings.
Perhaps it's merely an ideal: one of those things best consigned to history like the soggy-carpeted, smoke-stained, sour-smelling, flat-roofed dives of Nigel Farage’s dreams. But perhaps – just perhaps - this happy fiction is not merely based on a true story. Perhaps it’s out there, just as it has always been and always will be, frozen in time and waiting for us to start its eternal clock ticking once again.
If one finds oneself near Marylebone, for example, one might go looking for The Carpenter's Arms: https://www.thecarpentersarmspub.co.uk Or, if in or around Notting Hill, one could seek out The Uxbridge Arms: https://www.theuxbridgearmskensington.co.uk Then again, if one is a little tired and trapped in the middle of town, Mayfair’s Red Lion should restore the spirits: http://www.redlionmayfair.co.uk Maybe, however, That Pub wouldn’t have a website. Maybe, like the Nag’s Head in Belgravia, it would simply have an address and a strict, sound and thoroughly sensible policy on the use of mobile phones: 53 Kinnerton St, Belgravia, London SW1X 8ED.