The Trafalgar Tavern
The Trafalgar is an imposing building indeed. Beautifully Regency in design and a real landmark if you’re travelling down the river. It’s one of Greenwich’s most famous buildings and has been so for literally centuries.
Dickens wrote about its whitebait suppers with equal amounts of joy and misery “There is no next morning hangover like that which follows a Greenwich dinner” he grimly noted – presumably with his head upside down in the new-fangled water closet. He mentions it with a little more decorum in “Our Mutual Friend.”
The Victorians loved it – and the entire cabinet would meet in the upstairs rooms of the Trafalgar (well the Liberals, anyway – the Torys preferred the Ship) and guzzle whitebait whilst discussing affairs of state. Artists adored its classical looks – there are several famous paintings either of the place itself or the view from it.
It’s floodlit at night and there are few pleasanter places to spend a lazy summer evening outside, chomping goodies from the barbeque, even given the creepy new sculpture of Nelson, which resembles a curiously well-endowed amphibian.
The Tavern’s still in pretty good nick inside too, though in my opinion it has lost a lot of the joy it used to have in favour of being a tourist trap and venue for dull corporate events.
Downstairs the original iron stoves and huge fireplaces are offset by big squashy armchairs (almost impossible to find an empty space in one of these) and the giant bay windows afford splendid views of the river (it’s almost impossible to find a space there, too.) The restaurant part is adorned with maritime portraits, mainly of Nelson and his captains, though a bust of the man himself was stolen a year or so ago. A reward for its recovery still stands.
Upstairs there’s a fabulous ballroom, complete with columns and giant chandeliers. There’s also the Admiral’s bar – much more intimate and very cute indeed.
The food’s ok, though please bear in mind that this is a Greenwich Inc. establishment so always ask your waiter about the tipping policy. The fish and chips are not as good as next door in The Yacht, though this is offset by the surroundings at the Trafalgar. If you can deal with the environmentalist guilt, you can even still buy whitebait.
Since Greenwich Inc took over, live music has virtually ceased at The Trafalgar, save for the odd “special” night that they’ve been embarrassed into. I remember when there was a jazz club every week (well-attended) and sundry classical recitals. Forget that – it clearly doesn’t bring in enough cash for Greenwich Inc.
Nowadays the only way you’re really going to get any interesting entertainment is by hiring the venue yourself, and you had better start saving NOW. It is seriously pricey – a friend of mine recently looked into a party there for his 40th Birthday. He was prepared to push the boat out – and he’s not short of a quid or two, believe me, but even he went off with his tail between his legs. Your best bet is to ingratiate yourself with a dull city financial institution or tedious ad agency and blag yourself into their do, though all I can guarantee is the view – the entertainment might not be so much fun…