The Plume of Feathers
Park Vista, SE10
This must be one of the oldest pubs in Greenwich. It dates back to 1691 – I’m not sure how much of it is actually from 1691, and how much is from the refit in George III’s time but it certainly looks old, with its green tiled walls and low-lying feel and what’s great is that it’s still a cosy, popular pub, but being set just that little bit off the tourist trail, business tends to be 90% locals despite its being opposite the Park.
Well, ok, maybe not quite opposite the Park. The Dwarf Orchard (for another day…) gets in the way, its tall sycamores (read “weed trees” but don’t get me started on that one) looming over that intriguing Secret Garden wall, and keeping the Plume of Feathers’ country-in-the-city feel.
Not that it always had such a grand name – it was at first, just The Feathers. It only became The Plume of Feathers in the Regency. I haven’t read this anywhere, but it does occur to me that maybe it was in honour of the Prince Regent, who was also Prince of Wales. If it was it would have driven poor Caroline of Brunswick potty – she was a local and by that time very much estranged from Prince George.
The old pub’s dissected by the Meridian Line – a complete coincidence since the ML is a much younger feature. I’ve never noticed the metal strip I hear marks it outside – I’m always too busy crashing my way towards (or from, ahem,) the low, dark door, but I shall definitely (possibly) look out for it in future.
There’s a great history of the place here, so I won’t bore you with any more detail and instead I’ll just move onto what it’s like now…
What I love about the Plume of Feathers is that it’s cosy in winter and fresh in summer. I love sitting outside with friends on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Those straight, no-nonsense benches are perfect for the age and style of the pub – any other kind of seating would be wrong – and though the garden out back’s lovely, I would still choose to sit on the street if there’s a bench available.
Inside is like your gran’s parlour. Actually, I say that, but many grans are quite funky these days. Strike that. Inside is more like one of those pubs you hope to encounter after a day’s hiking on the Yorkshire Moors and that really only occur in am-dram whodunnits. Low-ceilinged, low-lit, low prices. I may be lying about the last one. Squirly, trifle-topping artex walls are covered with pictures of old Greenwich – many of the Plume itself – and strange glass cases filled with olde-worlde nonsense and which are just perfect for the situation.
Little wall-lights with tassel-trimming and thick curtains are just part of the reason I love the pub in winter, The two open fires are another part. But what I really love is the welcome. Everyone is nice (well – I’ve never known anything else.) The staff are friendly and chatty but not overbearing or worse, too chummy, and even if there are things ‘off’ the menu (a regular occurrence – it’s a popular place) the way they tell you is so charming you can’t be frustrated.
And that brings me to the back, restaurant area. Wooden panels and open fire, thick curtains and candlelight – winter is definitely the best time to eat here (unless it’s nice enough to eat in the garden of course.) I’m told they do a mean roast, but I’ve not tried it. The regular menu is very good – basic, no-nonsense pub food – fish & chips, pies and “famous-burgers.” The wine list is not bad, and there is plenty of real ale choice. Don’t miss my favourite picture on the wall – a cartoon of the Plume including, Dionysus, Sappho, Argos, Pan and, ‘customers…’ Oh – and the loos have pictures of Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton. Ahhh….
I read on one website that the Plume of Feathers has a ghost – a friendly old gent who sits in the window and raises his glass to you before disappearing. True? Who can tell. It’s amazing what you see after a few glasses…