One of the benefits of living in South London is that there's so much change going on compared to the North. Most of North London has already been built up, gentrified, and is now catering for older types who can afford the ludicrously overpriced houses there, or got in years ago when there was a slim chance of affording them, and these oldies don't particularly like change. Well that's my (most likely rubbish) opinion anyway. Meanwhile everybody else is moving to the South, and new stuff is cropping up all the time. I've only been in SE London for two years and much has changed pub wise. When I first moved to the Mottingham area there was a chronic lack of decent boozers, apart from the excellent Park Tavern in Eltham town centre. The closest pub to me, The Prince of Wales, doesn't serve real ale and judging by the clientele standing outside happily puffing away in their tracksuits, next to a giant van labelled the "mobile tattoo parlor" it doesn't look like the kind of place a middle class Times reader like myself would want a drink.
Over the two years things have got better, with the reopened and excellent Baring Hall Hotel only a 25 minute walk (or five minute bus ride) away, serving all my real ale and decent food needs. The Old Post Office, a grubby booze barn that used to cater to pissed up underage drinkers looking for a reliable source of Blue WKD, closed down and became the Eltham GPO, another decent ale and food pub. Both the Baring Hall and Eltham GPO are owned by Antic, who are opening up respectable pubs all over South London but they do follow a (reliable) formula - distressed chic interiors, vintage furniture, reliable ales and good food. It's good but it all starts feeling a little formulaic after the fifth Antic pub visited.
I've also been lucky to have an excellent micropub open "sort of" near me - well thirty minutes on the bus. One Inn The Wood is a superb little boozer in the leafy suburb of Petts Wood. Now I'm even luckier with another micropub opening a little bit closer to me. The Long Pond is a 10 minute walk from Eltham High Street, in a quaint little parade of shops. The frontage is unassuming, with frosted glass making it difficult to see what is inside. But venture in and you're greeted by a surprisingly big room, with wooden benches and tables down each side, and a small serving area at the back. Unusually for a micropub there is even enough room for a second, snug like room with comfortable tables and chairs. To be honest the size of the place is stretching the definition of a "micro" pub.
Despite the large size the place does adhere to other micropub ideals. There are no fruit machines, no music, in fact nothing to distract you from the beer and real life conversation - speaking on mobile phones is also forbidden. Like One Inn The Wood, The Long Pond sells only local ales from the Kent and London areas, along with a small selection of real cider and soft drinks. There's also a small food offering of sausage rolls, pork pies and ploughmans. The ale is served from a small room behind the bar, and all the ones I tried were in good condition. Mildly Rockin from Rockin Robin was a straightforward and tasty mild, and Powder Burn from the Musket Brewery was a solid porter, although it looked like it was called Powder Bum on the chalkboard advertising the beers. The highlight was Good Sheppard from Goody Ales, an excellent and very tasty best bitter, expertly hopped and a pleasure to drink.
Micros are designed to encourage conversation among strangers but when me and The Lovely Jemma visited in the week between Christmas and New Years Day the place was full of mates of the landlord, presumably in town for the Christmas break. This made the atmosphere slightly awkward as we felt we were gatecrashing a party that we hadn't been invited too. However this didn't detract from the quality of ale and the excellent ploughmans lunch we enjoyed, and I look forward to returning. I was speaking to one punter at the bar who lives across the road from the place and he couldn't believe his luck that a quality pub like this had opened so close to him. Let's hope the quality continues and this place builds up a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.