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This will probably be one of many I will write on Catford Bridge Tavern.

Apologies for the lack of good pictures of the inside of this pub -I’m terrible at taking pictures inside at night…. I’ll try to give you a good description about why this pub is so exciting to me. And hopefully some of you reading will live locally enough to venture in and see what I’m talking about.

There’s no question Catford was ready for a change.

There are not many pubs in the area, and none of them have looked particularly welcoming to me.

Every day we passed the Copperfield, a pub next to the train station, which has an infamous reputation. Know for gangs, Cocaine-toilet-seats, stabbings, raves, intoxicating smell of cannabis within a half a mile radius, booming music at all times of the day and night, drunken women driven around on car bonnets, sexual exploitation allegations, and ‘rivers of urine’ at closing time….. the Copperfield slunk away from massive debts just before a Licence review last December.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Excitement has been brewing in Catford since early January when we heard Antic Ltd took over the licence for the Copperfield. It’s name has been changed to one more in tune with it’s roots: Catford Bridge Tavern.

(Used to be called the Railway Tavern back in the days of black and white photos).

‘Catford Tavern’ has been followed by a snowballing number of locals on Twitter in the period leading up to opening with around 400 followers before Opening on 1st March.

The pub was packed on Opening, last Thursday night, and I had work to do so I didn’t go in this night. Instead I went in on Saturday and Sunday nights when the pub was much quieter. Considering my expectations were heightened by all the pre-opening buzz, and my semi-delusional ideas that this new pub would save the community of Catford and bring it together, one would imagine I might have had a climb down…. but no. I was really pleased to see the pub has even more going for it than I’d anticipated, and much more to come even (they open another section of the building soon for food).

Firstly, yes it is a beautiful old building and there was a lot of original charm to work with. It now has a shabby chic appeal to it with lovely old books in nooks, a fire place, tea lights, mismatching comfy chairs, old tables, lamps in corners, second-hand props such as old mirrors, dressers and suitcases make you feel completely transported to a haven. Right by a main road and a busy bus-stop and yet no outside noise, or intrusion.

I’ve also never been to a pub with so much variety. There was the Devonshire Cat up in Sheffield that was always packed full of punters, as it had a huge array of ales, ciders, lagers and wines. The Catford Bridge Tavern is similar in that there is a huge, huge amount of things to try on tap (and in bottle too). However it goes one further: they are offering really good bar snacks. So far I’ve tried the pork pie with home-made (chef-made) piccalilli, sausage roll (never knew how good these are with a pint!) and the Rosemary-Chilli Nuts (a-mazing : all different kinds of nuts in this and the chilli isn’t too strong -very addictive snack). There’s more I’ve yet to try, and believe me, I will be. All I can say is with this variety and quality a mere walk away from my house, my wallet’s going to be very light from now on….

Another key part to this pub’s success is the feeling of being a part of something exciting, new and special. The pub has a well-used twitter account, where they’ve set up a listening culture from the word go. Sometimes soliciting opinions from us-with questions like would you like a quiet space away from the main room? Suggestions for drinks? And they’re currently in the process of having a beer brewed specifically for our pub -and we get to offer names for the brew -which lots of people have participated in.

People also make suggestions to the pub, and they truly seem engaged and interested in giving them a go -as long as the suggestions aren’t too out there!

This is a new experience for me. Most organisations have so much bureaucracy that it is impossible to make changes or feel like you make any impact at all on the business. Clearly the owners and managers have a good idea about their ideal pub and a great eye for friendly bar staff, but they also aren’t averse to taking on the ideas of their customers too.

I hope this pub will reap the rewards of their efforts, and that lots more people visit in the coming days and weeks to try out the place, because once you’ve gone through the doors, you will be truly smitten.

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