Hare & Billet
Many times had I passed this ancient-looking pub on the heath, never had I entered it. It looked fantastic from the outside; a local pub for well-heeled regulars, across the road from a willow-fringed village pond, surrounded by dinky mis-matched houses, each of equal charm if not building style. Much of Blackheath, after all, could be some rustic village in the Home Counties if one didn’t know that Lewisham was a few streets one way, Kidbrooke a few streets the other. The Hare & Billet, dating back a couple of hundred years at least, is part of that olde English charm.
It was an early Sunday afternoon. I was certainly right about the regulars. This isn’t a pub for tourists or out-of-towners. Not that it’s unfriendly – the vibe’s perfectly pleasant – but people keep to themselves, reading the paper or chatting quietly. At least no one looked at us as we walked in – if a piano had been playing, it would have continued. That I can’t remember whether there was music or not means at least that if there was it wasn’t of an offfensive level.
We’d actually come in for food, but despite a number of notices all over the place announcing the food, menus on the tables and our being there well within the time speicified, the kitchen was closed. Some kind of crisis, they told us. Fair enough – these things happen. We settled for drinks instead. The beer’s absolutely fine – a good, sturdy selection and a pleasant place to drink it. Absolutely no complaints. Then came the wine.
Now there are people who would argue that wine has no place in an English pub and even having the choice of red or white is a concession too far. And they may have a point. But if you’re going to move with the times and actually have wine in a – let’s face it – posh area, and charge upwards of a fiver for a glass of it (some glasses were well over six quid) then personally I’m going to expect something a bit more exciting than supermarket crap. These were all the usual suspects – unexciting boggo plonk that you really can get in Sainsburys for £3.99 a bottle.