Pub/Bar of the Month April 2015: The Buckingham Arms, London, UK
The Buckingham Arms, London SW1
My continuing quest to visit all the pubs that have featured in every edition of the Good Beer Guide leads me back to central London.
The Buckingham Arms, on Petty France, stands just a couple of minutes' walk away from Buckingham Palace, making it, I suppose, one of the Queen's locals.
And it does have a pleasant locals' atmosphere – even if many of the regulars are nearby office workers (hence the restricted weekend opening hours).
It was also once popular with those waiting for their passport applications to be processed but the Passport Office moved out early in the new millennium.
The single-bar Victorian pub began life as a shop but had adopted its present usage by 1840. For a while it was known as the Black Horse but was renamed in honour of Stuart-era statesman George Villiers, the first Duke of Buckingham, in 1903.
Deep and Narrow
Behind its leaded, mullioned windows, the pub is deep and narrow, broadening out only slightly towards the rear, but the skylight in the ceiling and etched mirrors behind the bar brighten things up and trick you into thinking the pub is bigger than it is.
Above the bar, redundant old casks now serve a decorative purpose, matching wood for wood with the bare board floor, while a drinking shelf runs along the opposite wall, allowing customers to perch on stools and cast their eyes around the old framed pictures, the vintage clock over the window and, this being a Young's pub, the customary photograph of the late Queen Mother pulling a pint.
As all this will tell you, The Buckingham Arms is not a particularly remarkable pub, but it is very homely and the separate drinking corridor that runs the length of the premises around the back of the bar is a real magnet for regulars.
Here five small tables are squeezed into a passageway that is half painted brick and half wood panelling. It's an atmospheric little area in which to down a beer or two.
Young's may no longer be a brewery, having closed its Wandsworth site and also withdrawn from the subsequent brewing arrangement with Charles Wells, but its beers are still on sale.
The 'Ordinary' (aka Young's Bitter) remains consistently popular, served here alongside Special, London Gold and Wells Bombardier on cask, with keg options including the Wells/Dogfish Head collaboration DNA and Meantime London Lager.
Prior to my recent visit, I was last in the pub the day CAMRA launched the fortieth edition of the Good Beer Guide. A few of us former editors were summoned to mark the occasion and to applaud the ever-declining number of establishments that had maintained their place in the book for the full term.
We caught up on gossip, exchanged memories and sank a few excellent pints. It was a really enjoyable occasion and, with its simple pleasures and long-standing commitment to fine cask beer, there really was no better, or more appropriate, place than the Buckingham Arms in which to gather.
Buckingham Arms, 62 Petty France, London SW1H 9EU
Tel. (020) 7222 3386
Opening Hours: 11–11; 11–6pm Saturday; closed Sunday