Luke Blackall: Man About Town

Where have all the good pubs gone?

In last week's column, I asked for investors for my prospective trendy kebab house, "Doner and Chipson". None of you responded.

But that's Ok as I was, of course, joking (unless, that is, someone actually wants to do it... anyone?).

The move from journalist to restaurateur is not so far fetched, I discovered this week as I went to the launch of the Draft House Charlotte, pictured, in London.

I met for the first time it's affable proprietor Charlie McVeigh, a man who made the move from hack to pub/restaurant owner via management consultancy.

He's created a mini chain of great London gastro-esque pubs with meaty menus and enough ales to bamboozle a beer bore.

I have always shared the particularly British affection for a public house. Weekends during my school days seemed consumed with trying to get into them; at university the effort was more to try to get out of them and do some work.

I have always quite fancied owning one myself one day (maybe I could put the trendy kebab house next door? Ok, I give up). But this is partly down to a blood connection: someone in my family has, for at least four generations, at some point owned a pub. There has been lots of hand-wringing and debate about pubs and the speed at which they are closing in this country. The blame is pointed with many fingers: the smoking ban, tax on alcohol, people drinking at home, drink driving laws, the rise of coffee chains.

So often not touched upon, however, is the fact that many just aren't very good. Don't misunderstand me, I've seen some brilliant pubs disappear like the demographics who used to frequent them.

But it seems that many die because they aren't able to keep up with what people want to eat or drink or the surroundings in which they want to do so. Thankfully, despite the decline, this one stop on my travels this week reminds me that there are more and more bucking the trend, finding niches and helping us to fall in love with the pub again.

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